Leaving Greenhead we retraced our steps up to the Walltown Quarries which are just beyond Carvoran and the Roman Army Museum. We were into the iconic section of the Wall now, where it dips and climbs along the hard basalt reef of the Whin Sill.
There’s a fair bit of up and down. In retrospect, I realise that the kids coped very well with it.
In one particularly steep-sided trough we were overtaken by a fast-moving, jocular group of four guys. Or rather, a group of three and one straggler. Sweat was pouring off the unfortunate tail-end-Charlie as he pounded past us.
“In a hurry?”, I asked.
“Trying to do the Wall in two days”, he panted.
I suppose that’s one approach.
The clouds had become increasingly dark and threatening through the morning and when we arrived at the car park at Cawfields Quarry it finally began to rain. Although we had a fair accumulation of snacks between us, we had no clear plan for lunch, so it was a great relief to find two ladies selling tea, soup, sandwiches, sausage-rolls and cake from the back of their car (The Pop-Up Cafe). They seemed to be doing a roaring trade.
Their dog joined us whilst we ate, sitting at the solitary picnic table. Apparently there used to be more tables, but they were swept away in a flood. Which was a cheery thought given that it just begun to rain, but by the time we were ready to leave it had stopped again.
Whilst I was faffing about, taking the photo above a weasel, or stoat, ran across the gateway in the background.
Cawfields Crags Milecastle.
Pretty soon the cloud was breaking up, the sun emerged and from that point on it was a glorious day.
The Whin Sill is not particularly high, but it’s a great vantage point and the walking from here was truly magnificent. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves….
I think that this….
…is a whinchat (but as usual, I’d be glad to be better informed). It was unusually calm about our proximity and let us get very close before finally taking to the wing.
…is the trig point on Winshields Crags, at 345m the highest point on the Wall.
Incidentally, Watson’s Dodd in the Lake District is 789m. Has anybody thought of listing hills with consecutive digits spot heights? Baggers everywhere would love it! There must be a book in the idea. Hills of this sort would have to have a name….., hang-on, talk amongst yourselves…..Got it: Consecutive Ordinal Digits Found In Spot Heights.
The views ahead to Crag Lough were enticing, but that would have to wait until tomorrow.
We headed down to Once Brewed and after a deal of muppetry involving standing at the wrong bus-stop and compounded by a dodgy timetable, we finally managed to catch the AD122 service to Vindolanda. (AD122 is the year that work on the Wall began. The AD122 bus is a shuttle which serves the Wall and various places nearby through the summer months. Very handy.)
Vindolanda lies on the Stanegate Road and like the road it predates the Wall. I came here once before, when I walked the Pennine Way with my Dad, but in the intervening years I’m sure that a great deal more had been uncovered. Since the place was occupied for Centuries what’s here is not one town and fort but several superimposed.
It’s a live archaeological dig and what’s really impressive is that the treasures which have been unearthed here are all on display in the Chesterholm museum which is adjacent to the remains.
The museum really is stunning. Some of the coins, pottery and jewellery in particular, have been so well preserved that it was hard to believe that they weren’t fresh from the mint, the kiln or the smithy.
I think what the kids most enjoyed however, were the replica sections of wall – one of stone and one of timber and turf.