Day 35 – Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Slaggyford to Greenhead

A strong wind blew all last night but the day dawned peacefully, a bright sunny day with plenty of clouds in the sky. I enjoyed my 2 nights at the remote B&B outside Alston and the owner, Susan Younger, looked after me. On Friday when I appealed for food and beer, she threw an extra jacket potato in the oven for me and served it with lashings of cheese and baked beans and two bottles of cold beer. She washed all my clothes too.

Before I set off this morning I called tonight’s B&B and was told not to arrive before 4pm because they are all out for lunch. Useful information if you are planning to arrive cold and wet at a remote farm in Northumberland National Park at 1pm.

It’s a strange thing to see a sign saying Northumberland. It’s only five weeks since I left Weybridge and now I’ve reached this empty wilderness in the extreme north. And I’ve not exactly been rushing. Tomorrow it’s Hadrian’s Wall.

Today’s walk almost looked like a day off until I realised it was a day of boggy moors without the luxury of paving slabs. It looked beautiful in the sunshine but cold wet feet are uncomfortable and there is no obvious path to follow in the bog so progress is slow.

Many of these moors are managed for grouse shooting. It’s nice to walk along and accidentally disturb a grouse which panics and flies from the safe coverings of the heather. Many other little birds also fly out of the moors as you walk. The bird songs are brilliant. I’ve seen the occasional convoy of Range Rovers heading out for a bit of sport and there’s always a girl at the back with the hampers. Jolly nice! Moorland management basically means burning patches of heather to generate fresh growth for the young grouse to eat. But it also means killing predatory birds like peregrine falcons, tick carrying hares etc. That’s where the argument starts. When you pay all that money you want plenty of grouse to aim at and you certainly don’t expect to return empty handed because the wrong type of bird ate some of the chicks.

I saw a distant figure approaching who was Katie from Liverpool. She is camping and told me she didn’t get much sleep last night because of the storm. I told her about the railway track which cheered her up. It’s always nice to meet another walker because you don’t feel quite so alone.

The pub at Greenhead was fully booked for lunch which, while disappointing, was expected. My plan B was a pack of yesterday’s sandwiches from Spar, washed down with some water.

I spent the afternoon in the Roman Army Museum. Not really my cup of tea but this area is rich in Roman remains so it was good to do some revision before tomorrow’s walk along Hadrian’s Wall. There were attractive espresso cups and Frizzante glasses on display. That was surprising because there weren’t many Italians in the Roman Army.

My B&B owner tonight has risen to the top of the list. She produced two cans of cold beer and a chicken casserole dinner with loads of fresh vegetables. There was a map of Cambridgeshire and another of Cheshire on the wall. She said only a few words and I did too and there was a glance and we seemed to know quite a lot about each other. It’s odd when that happens.

Guess where the grouse live

A useful navigation marker as you squelch your way through the moss

Katie heading south

4 comments on “Day 35 – Friends, Romans, Countrymen

  1. Did you see any hares Tim or have they all perished due to the grouse grabbers? One of my child hood memories is seeing two hares boxing. I haven’t seen hares since. I would love the chance to see them again. Glad the weather has been better for you.

    • Hi Suzi, I’m not sure I know a hare from a rabbit but I’ve seen plenty of them running around and I’ve seen plenty of dead hares/rabbits and birds of prey. The problem occurs where moors are managed for the beaten grouse shooting as opposed to normal grouse on normal moors.

  2. The Romans probably gave up there because of the bog. Or perhaps because the B&B’s were not so welcoming in those days. And they probably built the wall to keep the Range Rovers out.

    • I think their little Fiats got bogged down. Their forts were a riot of fun by all accounts. I’m off to see for myself.

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