Hugh & Dunc's Hadrian's Wall trip started at Segedunum aka Wallsend and followed the Hadrian's Way to Newcastle Quayside having been first read our fortune by an imperious cat. The route is impressive through the Tyne gorge and into the stunning architecture of Newcastle and Gateshead and its linking bridge collection...which seems to grow with every passing year.
The urban - rural boundary is a strange and often neglected place but vast in its potential for providing healthy fresh air and outdoor exercise in a sustainable way. It is close to where most people live...surprise, surprise and therefore should be the most well used. The Hadrian's Way taps into this potential and is used by thousands of people. We met horse riders, cyclists, walkers of all ages (such as the Walbottle Wanderers) and older groups just out to enjoy the sun on an interesting, offroad and flat surface...no cars...no danger...just time to stroll, ride or chat. We said hello to everybody...and everyone said something back.
Diem Duo turned out to be a struggle against the elemental forces...the unholy trinity of hills, rain and wind beat against us from the start and slowed progress across the Northumberland National Park and the most significant sections of extant Roman remains on the whole length of the World Heritage Site. Huge decided to set off from Chollerford at pace; saw a Roman road and went for it even if it was up a 1 in 5 hill and the wrong way! Crikey! damn there goes 2 months of planning on digital OS maps doing elevation profiles and 3D route modelling to find the most untrafficked and easiest country lanes. But hey...that's what the Romans did...straight up. So began our wet day on the Military Road which ended very sweetly in sunshine at the Centurion Inn, Walton in front of a roaring log range with some haaf-netted local wild Solway salmon to eat and local beers to quaff with excellent company.
The end of Diem Duo saw a lessening of the wind after a vicious sleat squall near Birdoswald Roman Fort...and the welcome sanctuary of an English Heritage tea room. A long straight walled section to Banks and then a rapid descent to the valley floor marked the end of the grey and gritty Pennines and the start of the softer red sandstones of the Eden Valley. The buildings and farming abruptly changed as did the wind and rain leaving us to gently potter towards Walton on dry roads with only the crossing of swollen streams to remind us of the squelchy bogs of the Northumberland National Park. The hard stuff lay at our backs and just the final flatter leg to Bowness to complete in the morning. Easy!
Diem Trio started in rain outside the Centurion Inn, Walton but ended in sunshine at the end of our epic ride doon tha' Waal. However, we first had to negotiate a safe passage through Carlisle. We looked at the map, found an off road route through the City, studied the guide book but still ended up in a morass of mud, potholes, missing signage and broken glass strewn tracks. However, Huge found 3 border terriers and made his day.
Leaving medieval Carlisle for Roman Maia aka Bowness on Solway was a cheerful transition. For a start the mud, muddle and mess of Carlisle was replaced by sunshine, saltmarsh and seaside as we neared the end of our epic east-west crossing of the Pennines. Bowness was a perfect place to end the trip despite the only pub being shut! However, because of that we found 'the Banks' and a wonderful view of the Solway Coast AONB and the Galloway hills in Scotland. Perfect!
It was a joy to finish at 'the Banks' at Bowness on Solway but ahead lay another 14 miles to our overnight sanctuary with our Mossyard camping chums Kirk & Alanna. The trek against the wind over Glasson Moss National Nature Reserve and then through shit 'n' silage dairy country to the foothills of the Cumbrian Lake District was tiring against the still vigorous wind. However, once we arrived at the farm Kirk set about cleaning the grit and grime off our bikes with his power hoses and airline whilst Alanna cooked a delicious and very local trio of Cumbrian sausages. We enjoyed a fine evening of craic and cognac around a warm log fire to restore our strength. On Diem Quatro we scoffed farmyard eggs fresh from the hen cooked to one of Kirk's special recipes then cycled to Aspatria to catch a short train link to Carlisle and thence to Newcastle retracing some of our steps through the Tyne Valley before heading back up the coast to Alnmouth and Dunfordinium. The agony of rail travel with a fixed wheel bike is never far away though despite Perfect Planning. A touch of pleading finally Prevented Piss Poor Performance.