Time for our annual pre-Christmas get-together with friends, this year, for the third year running, at Ninebanks Youth Hostel in the northern Pennines, near Alston.
It’s a lovely cosy spot, nestled in a pleasant valley, with great views from the living room windows. Crucially for us, at this time of year it can be exclusively booked by groups, and it has enough bedrooms for each family to bag one of their own.
On our last two visits there has been snow and therefore sledging in the field opposite the hostel, and so the kids haven’t wanted to venture too far. But our friend D has been itching to investigate Hadrian’s Wall and this year, with no snow, he was to get his way.
For A and B and I this would be our first return to the Wall after our long(ish) walk along it this summer. We suggested the section from Steel Rigg car-park along to Housesteads Fort, which includes the walk along the crags above Crag Lough and the climb over Hotbank, and which I remember as my favourite section of our summer walk.
It was a mixed sort of day, some blue-skies and sunshine, but some black clouds and a bit of drizzle too. A rainbow day.
The worst rain shower coincided with our visit to Milecastle 39, where we stopped for lunch.
Leaving Milecastle 39
From the cliffs above Crag Lough we watched a roe deer bouncing away through the boggy looking terrain beyond the water.
By the time we reached the top of Hotbank, the sun was already low in the sky.
At Housesteads we only really had time for a fairly cursory look around. I did manage to find the latrines, which I remember well from my first visit here (circa 1978, on a Geography field trip/holiday with school), but which we missed in the summer.
The kids had almost all of them disappeared into the warmth and shelter of the little museum, to dress in Roman style garb and to watch a short film.
It was just a short descent from there to where we’d left the cars (thanks to the Madman ferrying the drivers at the start of the walk). Back to the hostel then, and straight into cooking a veggie korma and a chicken rogan josh for a communal supper. I was only slightly hampered by the fact that I’d neglected to bring the recipes with me, but despite my ineptitude it all seemed to go down well – probably due to the healthy appetites everyone had mustered out in the fresh air.
A few tipples, a quiz, a few stories rehashed. A great day.