Category Archives: England

The Sycamore of Sycamore Gap

The sycamore of sycamore Gap along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumbria is the most photographed tree in all of England. No surprise since it is perfectly framed by the dip in the terrain, which allowed it to grow by protecting it from the sometimes brutal winds of the area. The day we were there was a little blustery, giving us just a little taste of reality.

Here are my takes on this famous tree.

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Hadrian’s Wall Walk: Steel Rigg to Housesteads Fort

We took an extra day on our walk in the middle of our trip, an area which is remote and therefore more intact sections of the wall and forts. If you ever do the walk think about it. It give you lots of time to enjoy the area, and to take a break during the storms.

In this area the wall is built along the edge of cliffs. It is fairly vigorous walking, and some of the steep, rocky areas are a bit treacherous when wet.

This section contains a lot of lovely scenery, even on a cloudy day, including the most photographed tree in England: the sycamore of sycamore gap. It is a striking site: a large healthy sycamore tucked into a gap in the cliffs.

The walking part, for us, was from the Steel Rigg visitor center to Housesteads Fort.

We took the bus from Housesteads past Steel Rigg to Vindolanda. Vindolanda is not to be missed. If I had it to do over I would have opted for 3 nights at Henshaw Barn so we had a full day there.

Vindolanda is a very large fort and the civilian settlement that built up around it, still under excavation, along with a well done museum of the finds. Including personal letters, miraculously preserved and located that give insight into daily life.

 

Traces of the Past

Our recent walk along the Hadrian’s Wall National Path in north England was a bit of a scavenger hunt for traces of the past, specifically sign of Roman Britain.

Sometimes it could be seen in the shape of the land, with lines just a little too straight to be natural, or bumps and lumps where there were none others nearby of the same shapes.

At other times jagged stone piles jutted out.

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Poltross Barn, a milecastle in Gilsland.

 

At the easiest times the National trust provided outlines of what was where and informative signs that made it easy.

For Paula at Lost in Translation’s Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past

A coddiwomple to Whitby

Great new word from the Ragtag Daily Prompt: Coddiwomple. It means “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.”

I coddiwomple through life, especially when I travel. I tend to be very business-like and organized, but I am often a little (or sometimes a lot) vague on exactly what I want to accomplish. I’ve become more comfortable with it as time goes on, might as well not stress on my own goals when I keep getting hit with sudden needs to spend hours collecting documents for Grandma’s VA and DSHS reviews or take Dad to the doctor, etc.

When traveling I like to get out and be where I am and that often means hustling myself ready and getting out, then deciding which direction to head. Usually I make a list of possibilities for each location so I can adjust for weather, transportation snafus or just feeling a bit lazy.

On our recent trip to England we took a couple of day trips to places chosen because they were the end of the line for train rides. One of these was to Whitby. We were staying in York to get to the Esk Valley line we had to change twice, in Darlington and Middlesbrough, which meant planning well since the Esk Valley line only has a couple of runs a day.

The Esk Valley line is a small, two car train, more like a tram. It runs from Middlesbrough through the North York Moors National Park to the coastal town of Whitby.

We didn’t know what to expect, but learned that Whitby is basically a tourist trap. Very picturesque and very crowded on one of Yorkshires hottest days. You have about 4 hours to explore if you aren’t going to ride the same train back that you came on.

We sat on the opposite side of the train going and saw a bit more of the river than we had on the trip out.

 

It was a nice coddiwomple in many ways. We both enjoy train travel and the scenery was lovely. Whitby is a charming town.

Even my careful planning couldn’t cover everything: the day we had for the trip was exceptionally hot for Yorkshire so a lot of people were headed out for a day at the coast, including a very large school group. The kids were well behaved, and the adults had the outing well organized, but the kids were, understandably, excited and chatty and the train was very crowded. They were also on the train coming back, again well behaved, but excited and even more chatty from a day of sun and sea and sugary treats. The silence when they got off was welcome.

Advice for if you ever get the chance to take this trip: on weekdays, even if there are no school groups, the train back is used by students of the local schools on their way home so it is normally more crowded than the one going out.

 

 

Hadrian’s Wall Walk-Gilsland to Steel Rigg

Gilsland to Once brewed wasn’t the original plan. We were supposed to go to Housesteads Fort, another three or so miles. After looking at the weather report (wind and rain) and studying the terrain (turning to the steep side) and maps I proposed that we shorten the day and use the following day (supposed to be a rest day where we just visited Vindolanda) to do just the section between Steel Rigg and Housesteads Fort. Boy was that a good call!

View of Poltross Barn, Milecastle 48, on Hadrian's Wall.
Poltross Barn, a.k.a., Milecastle 48

In Gilsland there is a ruin of a mile castle, number 48, it’s called “Poltross Barn”. The marked trail had a detour around this mile castle but the woman who ran our bed and breakfast told us to ignore the detour because it was passable and the “barn” was worth seeing. It was.

You can see the Roman’s effect on the landscape…and the current guardians.

This stretch has a lot of wall…and a lot of hills. But the hills are unusual: from the south they rise gradually then drop down abruptly. The Romans deviated from the straight shot across the narrowest part of Britain to take advantage of the unusual landscape running the wall along the crest of the hills. The military road was to the south where the landscape was easier to navigate and travel was both quicker and could be done on horseback. Frodo is played by my husband.

The scenery was beautiful and I was glad that we cut the day shorter, especially when a rain squall came at us as we started the steepest segment. We could just wait it out. By the end of the day the sky was looking innocent with a lot of blue and fluffy white clouds, as if there had never been a storm.

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Hadrian’s Wall Walk: Lanercost to Gilsland

Our fifth day going east from Bowness-on-Solway took us from Lanercost Priory to Gilsland, the county line between Cumbria and Northumberland.

It felt a bit like the real wall walk started as we headed east from Lanercost. Before that it was a lovely walk through English countryside. We finally got to see Hadrian’s wall, not just stones from the wall used in other buildings. That is because we were moving into  less populated, more rugged terrain: Fewer buildings that needed stone (like the Priory) and harder to take the stones far.

 

 

 

Carlisle to Lanercost Abbey

Most people “do” this 14 or so mile stretch in one day. The walking is pretty easy and even I could have done that (although it would have been a stretch), but we took two: Carlisle to Crosby-on-Eden, then Crosby-on_Eden to Lanercost Abbey.

We did this in order to backtrack a bit and spend the morning at the Tullie House Museum in Carlisle. This was a very worthwhile stop because we learned quite a bit about how to recognize the wall and the earthworks near it when un-excavated-which is most of the way. It made the walk into a sort of scavenger’s hunt.

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On this stretch you start out walking along the Eden River in Carlisle, the main charm of this stretch is the wildflowers along the way.

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It is a nice walk through Cumbrian countryside. The tower in the picture below is a folly, not an ancient fort.

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The weather was okay until we got to Crosby-on-Eden, then the wind came up. Overnight it really blew, and the next day was blustery–good English weather with lots of atmosphere. It was in the stretch between Crosby-on-Eden and Lanercost that you start to see the signs of the earthworks and un-excavated wall. The only parts of the wall itself that you see are the stones re-purposed in churches, manor houses, etc along the way.

The end of that section, Lanercost Abbey, a lot of the stones for the Abbey were initially part of Hadrian’s wall.

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Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge

Solway Firth to Carlisle City

Since life is moving fast and my ability to process the pictures from our last trip is not, I’m hoping to, at least on and off, work through our experiences walking the English National Hadrian’s Wall Trail day-by-day. Maybe life will slow down or I’ll speed up…but I’m not banking on it. Walking the wall was a major accomplishment for me, I am not well balanced or athletic, so I feel a need to spend some time reflecting on it.

This small gallery shows the variety of walkways that make up the national trail.

On our second day of walking Hadrian’s Wall Walk was about 9 miles from Boustead Hill through Burgh-by-sands (pronounced Bruff-by-sands) and other smaller villages, then along the Eden River into the city of Carlisle, we walked along roads (both paved and dirt), through cow pastures, beside a river and on narrow nettle and blackberry lined walk ways.

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge