Section four 15th august, after a break of 3 weeks, we finally picked up our rucksacks and set off for Greenhead. (With my third set of sunglasses) The weather forecast looked good, so leaving the car in Greenhead we set off on the footpath alongside the Newcastle to Carlisle rail line, meeting up with the trail and crossing the Tipalt burn on its way to meet the river South Tyne near Haltwhistle, from now on all rivers head east to the North Sea.
We now began to climb out of the valley passing the castle which dominates the valley Thirwall castle, built and owned for many centuries by the Thirwall family, one of the most notable being sir Percival Thirwall, who was the standard bearer of King Richard the Third, at the battle of Bosworth Field he fell still holding the standard despite having his legs cut out from under him. The castle is now under the care of the Northumberland National Park Authority.
Now we began the first climb of the day, walking the long slope up to Walltown a town in name only, being a disused quarry, now a nature reserve with walks, car park and a small shop, picking up a filled roll we walked on and climbed up onto Walltown crags, the view from here is tremendous. Looking West to Gilsland, North to the Cheviots, south towards the Pennines and the Tyne valley, and Eastwards our path, looking towards the Winsill crags, after a couple of photo opportunities, we set off eastwards. This is the most popular part of the wall with some well preserved sections of the wall, at some points over six foot high giving you a glimpse of how it must have looked when fully complete.
The construction skills of the roman legionaries is there to see, built without machinery just there own labour as well as pack animals, (no slaves were used in the construction of the wall), three legions were employed to build the wall as well as units of the Roman Navy, taking between six and eight years to complete the first phase of the wall, an amazing feat of construction.
Moving along the wall we passed many people walking westwards greeting all of them as we passed by, some stopping to talk about their day walking, we met all nationalities; Americans, New Zealanders, Hollanders as well as our own Brits, it gives you an idea of how many people come here to experience walking the wall. As we walked along the crags each one higher then the last going up to the top of one then climbing down into the gaps before climbing back up to the next height, it felt as though we had climbed Skiddaw twice, dropping down towards Cawfields we passed through the remains of the old Roman fort of Asica, or Great Chesters, this fort has not been fully excavated by archaeologists and with a farm buildings built on the Northern ramparts, even today it still looks impressive, we walked down to Cawfields with its car park and picnic site, where we stopped for our sandwich and hot drink from our flasks.
Changing our socks to freshen our feet we set off again, we were now heading for the highest point on the wall at Winshield crags 345mts above sea level, once at the top we looked back westwards to the Solway glinting in the sunlight, looking eastwards we knew from here the view west would be blocked by the crags, the view now is eastwards to Newcastle, walking on we reached our destination (but not the end of our walking) Steel Rigg, leaving the wall trail we walked down to the military road and across to the Twice Brewed Inn, (legend has it that the designer of the military road General Wade stopped here for a night and when presented with a pint of ale brewed in the inn demanded that it should be brewed again because it was too weak for him, hence the name twice brewed).
This is a popular inn for walkers serving a good range of real ales and food, ordering a pint of Twice brewed beer we ordered our meal, for me a Northumberland burger and chips, Babs ordered the veggie version, while the burgers were tasty filled with salad and onion rings unfortunately it was let down by the chips although well cooked they were of the frozen variety, does not go down well with me. We then walked along to the bus stop to board the AD122 back to Greenhead, unfortunately this was the bus that only went as far as Walltown then back to Haltwhistle so we were dropped off in the car park and from there we walked back to the car via the cycle way alongside the road.
Feeling tired we set off home planning the next section.