You really can’t take Coals to Newcastle

The walk across Hadrians Wall was always going to be one of my favourite parts of this journey, its a part of the country I had never visited apart from a few visits to the North East which usualoy involved cious ampunts of alcohol and very little sight seeing. I left Carlisle and first made a shortish journey up the A69 to Brampton which is the first stop on the Wall trail which would stretch for the next 50 or so miles til I reached Newcastle. Its only when I arrived I realised I hadn’t actually organised any accomodation so I sat in the Howard Arms and contemplated what to do, as luck would have it the place was also a Hotel and the rate was reasonable so I checked in. I was given the Fagin room and quickly realised the Hotels connection with Charles Dickens, he was said to have stayed there a night or two on a trip and he also being a son of Portsmouth I felt honoured to have stayed in the same place.

From Brampton I was headed to Haltwhistle and first had to walk along the A69 again until i could get off at Low Row and follow what I thought was the line of the Wall but I didnt see any evidence until I reached the village of Gilsland where the Wall itself runs right through the village and I stopped for a well earned breather on a section of the still standing stone wall. Its amazing to see it still so well preserved 1800 years after it was built so I draped my flag across it and took a picture to commemorate the most northerly part of England I would visit. Haltwhistle calls itself the Centre of Britain, I am not sure if geographically that is correct or not but it was another landmark on my Walk as I had also walked through the Centre of England too.

I faced a tough stretch the next day again along the route of the A69 but I could use a parallel road until I hit Bardon Mill and then turned North and hit a climb up to a road called the Stanegate, for about a mile it was just about the steepest climb I had attempted to date and the weather got steadily worse as the morning passed, drizzle and mist turned into a heavy downpour and the higher I went the porer the visibility got, down to around 50 yards. It was a shame because below me was a complete Roman Fort called Vindolanda, except it was almost completely obscured and I couldnt take any photos as I wanted to. The last 3 miles to my digs in Newbrough was made a bit lighter because I met a fellow walker who was a local, he virtually talked my ears off but it was nice to have some company for the final stretch.

The following day I hit the Military Road proper and that was to take me up a couple more steep banks to the highest point in Northumberland, the views were again spectacular and it seemed to me I was on the top of Britain! the descent was hilly but I could tell I was coming down from the highest point in my Hadrian walk and I trudged on to my last stop before Newcastle, the Robin Hood Inn.

I had a couple more climbs to negotiate before the blessed relief of the descent into Newcastle, I was staying in a Hotel to the West of the Toon and if im honest it was more of a doss house really, the room I was given was nice enough but it was placed on the ground floor by the Fire Exit that was used as a smoking area and also the stairs to the first floor, so there was constant noise. I awoke the next day pretty grumpy ahead of my visit to St James Park, I was meeting a chap from the NUFC Trust called Tony who had been a touch nervous about me inviting him on the Tour of the stadium with me, the relatioinship between the club and the Trust, as always, has been fractious. We were given the tour by Bob, whoh pad worked at Newcastle in various jobs throu various ragimes and eras, if he didnt know it, it wasnt worth knowing. He was once Sir Bobby Robsons chauffeur and looked after the great man whenever he came to SJP in his twilight years. The stadium is very imprssive, only the Emirates, Etihad and Old Trafford have a larger capacity, on a matchday they serve over 4,000 silver service dinners and employ 70 chefs! A huge operation.

Next to SJP there is an open cast mine where the old Brown Ale factory once stood, when it had been demolished they found a seam of coal. So, even in this day and age, you still shouldnt take Coals to Newcastle! Following the tour Tony and I had a chat about Trust stuff and I walked along the south side of the Tyne to make my way to the Stadium of Light and Sunderland.

After another sleepless night at Hotel de Doss I took the Metro to the SOL and met a lovely chap called Chris Waters, he is the Supporters Liaison Officer at Sunderland and as the SLO role is something I am very interested in it was a pleasure to chat to him about the role as he took me round the Stadium. Being a bit of a thicky I had never made the comnection with the Stadiums name and the areas Mining heritage, the light of course being a Miners Lamp. Feel free to point and laugh at me if you ever come across me on my travels. Chris was very enthusaistic in meeting me and learn about my travels so far, it has always been fun to meet someone at a club I am visiting that takes the time to ask real questions and listen to the answers.

Both North East clubs had been a joy to visit, the Premiership clubs are certainly surprising me with their support, with one exception of course.

Next stop was Hartlepool, the weather was vicious on the way down the North Sea coast which was to be expected. Before i went to Hartlepool though I had a detour to make and complete a personal pilgrimage to a place called Castle Eden which is where my Grandfather on my Mothers side was born over 80 years ago. Nowadays the village is right by the A19 and the railway line that the cottages were named after was probably a casualty of Dr Beeching in the 1960′s but it was nice to stand and look at the family house of Arthur Reid.

I found a nice cheap B&B in Hartlepool for two nights but the weather continued to be really foul and when I went to Hartlepool the next day the wind and rain continued to get worse. I was shown round by the groundsman Ian who, despite the rain to come was confident that the game on Saturday would go ahead. I was pleased about that because the game in question was against Portsmouth!

I also met the CE Russ Green who was a larger than life character and we spent a good 90 mins talking about football and in general despairing about the modern game and its excesses. I was going to look around the area but the weather was absolutely brutal by now so I retreated to my digs for the day once I had eaten lunch.

The next update will cover a trip off the route and a unique Christmas. Bye for now!


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