I was very anxious to visit Hadrian’s wall and follow in the Roman’s footsteps, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. This would be my fault – I think to appreciate this wall one needs to walk the length of it, but we did only a very short section.
The wall is basically reduced to a low stone wall, and I was surprised that we were actually allowed to walk on it, with handy steps provided to get up there!
Much of it has been reduced to a grassy mound, which was lovely to walk on. Lots of stiles to climb over and funny gates to manoeuvre.
I did enjoy seeing this rather incredible engineering feet in reality. Apparently every Roman mile (just less than a modern-day mile) had a small fort guarding a gateway. There are a few ruins of these punctuating the route, and we managed to see a few, but they don’t photograph particularly well. This photograph was taken at Simonburn-Humshaugh.
Apart from the wall, there are lots of other interesting places to visit. Quite by accident we came across the Causey Arch and stopped for a look as I love old bridges. The bridge is near Stanley in County Durham and is the oldest surviving single-arch railway bridge in the world, and an important part of the industrial history of England. It was funded by coal owners to take coal to the River Tyne and 900 horse drawn wagons crossed the arch each day using the Tanfield Railway.
At the time of completion (1726) it was the longest single span bridge in England, and sadly the designer, Ralph Wood, was so terrified it would collapse that he killed himself! If only he could see it today.
There was a lovely walk at the bottom.
But at the top was this rather wonderful old wagon, which has been restored as part of the Waggonway Project, and is a relic of those horsedrawn wagons carrying coal.
This is part of the Tanfield Railway which is the world’s oldest railway, and is a remarkable feat of engineering. The railway tracks were wooden and the wagons had wooden wheels and they carried coal from the collieries at Blyth to the ships on the coast. Apparently the use of canals was impossible in this part of the country and this solution was considered to be a staggering innovation. It’s well worth a look.
We were on our way to Newcastle and had to stop to look at the Angel of the North, nicknamed the Gateshead Flasher (very amusing!) which is a massive winged structure looming over the A1. The wingspan is wider than a Boeing 767, and this is another, albeit modern, feat of engineering. If you look closely at the bottom you can just see me.
Apparently structures such as this are doing wonders for the local economy and we noticed mention of others.
Newcastle is an interesting city. It has a large student population so the coffee shops are buzzing and the nightlife is, by all accounts, pretty hectic. We had a lovely walk in the park, but I had left my phone in the car so you are spared the photographic details.
We travelled on to Newbiggin-by-the-sea to look at another installation but it was difficult to see as it was in the sea and quite small. When I put the photograph on here it looked ridiculous so I took it off again. We did notice that the town is famous for having the last pub before Norway! An important fact that is my pleasure to bring you!
We moved up the coast to Warkworth which is dominated by a ruin of a 14th century castle. I would have loved to have seen all these castles as fully functional buildings swarming with traders and soldiers!
It has a very nice entrance with a moat and drawbridge, and we enjoyed a gentle stroll in the grounds.
You can also take a walk down to the river whereupon a boatman will collect you and row you to the other side to visit the chapel. I would have liked to have done this as I wanted to ring the bell to summon the boat, but we decided that time was a bit against us, which is a shame as it looked like quite a romantic thing to do.
The bridge over the River Coquet at Warkworth is well worth taking a look at as the view back to the town is really pretty.
From Warkworth we wended our way to Alnwick, which, in the way of the English, is pronounced Annick. This is another lovely town worth visiting with its maze of narrow cobbled streets sitting beneath the gaze of the medieval Alnwick Castle.
The castle starred as Hogwarts for the first couple of Harry Potter films, as well as Blackadder. The gardens of the castle were gorgeous and I was pleased to see bluebells and snowdrops growing in a wildflower meadow, which I’m inflicting on you because I can!
Alnwick is the home of the amazing Barter Books, set in lovely grounds with an inviting archway.
The shop is huge and takes up part of the old railway station.
When they were renovating they found a set of the now iconic WWII posters and turned them into a successful industry.
The shop should be on everyone’s must visit list. It has open fireplaces, velvet sofas, reading rooms and even a coffee shop. The bars between the bookshelves are filled with lines from poetry.
And, as a nod to the beginnings of the building and something my Dad would have loved, and I loved too, was the rumble of the little trains running along the lines above our head in the main room! Even the mural above is exquisite.