Written March 30, 2023, at Gilsland England.

Once again the day opened with rain but by the time I was mere steps down the road it had stopped.

The skies were mostly overcast throughout this 10 mile, 27,500 step day. The rain held off until shortly after I arrived at our destination, Dacre House in Gilsland. I don’t know how long this good fortune can last.

Today I no longer had to use my imagination to visualize “the wall“. It was everywhere!

But first I detoured to see the ruins at the Lanercost Priory. Founded in the 12th century it flourished until King Henry VIII closed all of the Catholic churches and Abbys throughout England. Most of Lanercost then fell to ruins, however the roof was restored on the main church and it remains in use today as an Anglican parish church.

The path that I walked today followed closely along Hadrian’s Wall. This was aside roads, through fields, and once again I flirted with livestock who flirted back.

These sheep followed hot on my heels across an entire meadow.

The wall was constructed with large fortresses every Roman mile (approximately 1.48 km), with two smaller fortifications located in between each of the larger ones.

At Birdoswald a major garrison was established, one of 16 near identical garrisons located along the length of the wall. This site, covering approximately 5 acres, housed 1000 soldiers, granary and weapons storage, and training facilities. Birdoswald has been partially excavated by archeologists.

This was a challenging day with significant climbs and descents. Tomorrow promises to be even more difficult. Our destination of The Twice Brewed Inn, located in the town of Once Brewed, is at the highest elevation along Hadrian’s Wall.

I find that walking in solitude brings me into conversation with my thoughts. The overwhelming beauty and historical significance of this land leaves me both humble and grateful.

Peace Everyone. Pete

P.S. Our good fortune is not just limited to the weather. We have again found ourselves hosted by wonderful people in an exceptional facility.

Dacre House B&B’s proprietors, Clare and Stephen, have created a charming lodge that borders on elegant.

Their skills also extend into the kitchen.

We enjoyed excellent dinners, mine a lamb stew, and Christine‘s a vegetable tagine.

Sleep will come easily tonight, breakfast will be welcome in the morning, and then I will be back on the trail. In 48 hours I will celebrate my 71st birthday. Another reason to be grateful.

In the meantime, here are some of the sign boards from today for those who are curious.

Written March 29, 2023, at Walton, England.

Before I begin, I hope you will honor the memory of two dear friends who each drew life’s last breath yesterday. They are mentioned in my postscript.

Today began (literally) as a walk in the park. By day’s end I had counted nearly 12 miles and 32,000 steps.

Last night’s weather report predicted a 90% chance of showers throughout the day. At breakfast there was a steady drizzle but by the time that I set foot on the path the rain had stopped. It did not resume until I had reached my destination.

Not more than minutes from the start a gentleman strode to my side and began providing me with information on the history of the surrounding area. Stephen is a retiree who walks a lengthy circle route three days a week. He enjoys company and sharing pride in his city. He encouraged me to join him on a brief detour where we approached the bank of the river Eden and a Stonehenge-like structure.

Each of these monoliths is of a different stone found in the area. Each displays a carved explanation of their respective origins. Stephen bemoaned that the display is not better known or appreciated. I certainly appreciated Stephen.

The recent rains and the overcast skies brought the green of the fields into eye popping vibrance.

These saplings will one day be an impenetrable hedge dividing the fields.

The paths, roads, and fields better favored walking than on my first walking day, but there were exceptions.

Today I encountered four other people walking “the wall”.

Joe and Julie are a couple from Bend Oregon. We spent a mile visiting and soon learned that we shared the same end-of-day destination, the Old Vicarage Brewery bed and breakfast. More on that in a bit.

The other two were young men who were laden like pack mules as they struggled up the path.

There were the occasional encounters with dog walkers. This hound pranced and danced circles around me dearly yearning for me to find a ball for him to chase.

Other livestock and wildlife included sheep, goats, swans, and horses.

As I stopped to snap the picture of these horses in a field one turned head-on to me and began a slow approach. I stood stock still, my anxiety rising. Was he “friend or foe”? He continued toward me until softly giving me a head butt, soliciting pats and scratches on his forehead and behind his ears. Priceless.

The vistas and views included everything from grand estates to “glamping pods”.

There were churches, and of course I stopped.

Christine had transported to our final destination, the Old Vicarage Brewery, by taxi. She was able to track me through our iPhone “find me“ applications. Just as I turned the lane for the final 100 feet she was standing there before me, arms open wide.

The brewery is a bed-and-breakfast with two amazing suites in the old caretakers cottage.

Christine looking out the window of our suite

Owners, Graham and Charlotte renovated the buildings in 2018. Graham is an accomplished brewer, to which I can now personally attest.

Shortly after I arrived, Joe and Julie joined us for drinks and later for dinner, courtesy of the Brewery.

The Old Vicarage Brewery’s two rooms are booked solid throughout the hiking season. We are incredibly fortunate to have successfully made this reservation.

Today included the first visible evidence of Hadrian’s Wall and the related defensive fortifications. Here the central flat area is what would have been the base of the wall. To the left is the Vallum (ditch) situated on the north side of the wall. The depression on the right further enhanced the apparent height of the wall. The grassy area on the right was an where the Romans quarried stone for the wall’s construction.

Tomorrow I press on 8 miles to Gilsland. It is probable that there will be a detour that will add a mile or two to that distance.

Peace Everyone. Pete

P.S. yesterday I lost two dear friends. Jason Christensen and I met in 2010. We were among 12 bicyclists who rode 5100 miles across the United States as part of an initiative on behalf of Catholic Charities to draw attention to the crisis of poverty in the United States.

We were accompanied by four support drivers, Christine among them. Jason was a deeply spiritual man, a powerful bicyclist, and a devoted father. He and I enjoyed friendly competition throughout the ride and an enduring friendship for the rest of his life. Pancreatic cancer ended his life at 53.

My dear cousin, Samuel “Nelson“ Elliott, passed suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 67. He was a pillar in his West Virginia community, a revered high school teacher and coach. His passion was such that he chose to forego retirement and continued in his profession, literally to the day that he died.

Nelson was prominent in his church community, freely giving of his time to those in need. He was a model husband and father. I can not imagine the depth of pain that his family, siblings, and 95 year old mother are now experiencing.

I hope that both of these very good men have found eternal peace and look down with love upon us.

Written March 27, 2023, at Carlisle, England.

Today was a day of good fortune. It was the first dry and sunny day we have had since arriving in England.

My transport to the coastal village of Bowen on Solway, at the west end of the Hadrian’s Wall site, was ably executed by driver Eddie on behalf of Carlisle Taxi and Hire.

The shelter marks the starting point of the west to east trek along Hadrian’s Wall.

And… The tide was out!

I learned from Eddie that at high tide the roadways I would be walking on are often covered with 2 or more feet of water. Hikers are then forced to pause the journey for the 1-2 hours it takes for the tide waters to recede.

Had I stayed strictly on the route the distance today would have been 15 miles. I did a bit of wandering which added at least another mile. In any case, I totaled nearly 45,000 steps and my feet feel every one of them.

I have walked farther in a day, but there have usually been some break-in days. Today was a “cold start“, both literally and figuratively. It was the longest one day distance on this trek across England, and the temperature at start hovered at freezing.

Hadrian’s Wall can be hiked year-round, however this is discouraged because of the mud and rain sodden condition of the trail in late winter. The “unofficial“ start is recognized as being after the spring change of the clocks. By that measure I was hiking on “opening day“.

Most of the day I had the trail to myself. Until I neared the city of Carlyle I had seen fewer than six walkers, only three of which were actually “hiking the wall“.

This included a delightful couple of my generation who were enjoying a shorter segment today before returning home tomorrow.

About two-thirds of today’s walk was on paved roads and seldom used farm lanes. Neither of those were optimal. The pavement was hard and jarring. The farm lanes were a mess of muck and puddles.

The other third of the journey was across pastureland. These occasionally became grassy swamps that sucked at the soles of my boots.

The public paths cross private land. These wooden turnstiles allow hikers to cross from one field to the next without risking the escape of livestock

Nevertheless, it was a surreal experience. Me, solo, striding west to east across England, along the site of fortifications populated by thousands of Roman soldiers nearly 2000 years ago. Wow!

But where was the wall? The answer: preserved in the local houses, churches, and roads.

Saint Michael’s Church dates to the 12th century. It was built upon one of the Roman fortresses. This fortress was garrisoned by African troops, believed to be the first Africans in Britain.

For nearly 2,000 years Hadrian’s Wall was a convenient “stone quarry” that was 16 feet high, 8 feet wide and miles long. Understandably, the locals couldn’t resist using the readily available construction materials.

I was on the trail at 8:30 AM and made it back to Christine in Carlisle at 3:30 PM. There were some brief stops for water and to enjoy the leftover pizza that I packed in a Ziplock bag from the night before.

Here are more images from the day, some of which include captions. I am also presenting photographs of some of the sign boards on the hike for those yearning for greater detail.

We are staying in Carlisle tomorrow. The second day on the trail will be this coming Wednesday. Unfortunately, the weather is predicted to resume the overcast and showers that marked our first days in England.

Peace Everyone. Pete

An inviting pub along the route. It was not open as I passed by.
This statue of King Edward I is erected near where he died in 1307 during his campaign against Scotland’s Robert the Bruce.
Carlisle and its Roman predecessor were built along the shores of the river Eden. This river was incorporated by the Romans into their planing for Hadrian’s Wall as a natural defense barrier.
An abandoned railway bridge crossing the river Eden.

Written March 26, 2023 at Carlisle, England.

A good day. No rain, just cold.

Breakfast was “Full English“.

Confirmed 8AM transportation arrangements for the morning to Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria. It is on the west coast of England, 15 miles from Carlisle. This will begin my eastward hike along Hadrian’s Wall.

I revisited Carlisle Cathedral, this time with Christine.

These painted panels which appear on the back of the choir chairs, depict saints and the Apostles. They date to the 14th century. At the time of the Protestant Reformation they were defaced and hidden by lime wash in an effort to hide and destroy them. Fortunately, the lime wash acted as a preservative and aided in the eventual restoration of the panels!
The small reproduction which aids in interpreting the original dates to the 1800’s.

We visited Carlisle Castle.

No good castle is complete without a bad dungeon.
Christine, Queen of the Universe.

The 12th Century fortress was used as recently as 1918 as a training camp for British troops in World War I. It still houses a British military museum.

Garry and Kathleen Clifford drove down from Glasgow and spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with us.

What a joy to reconnecting!

A Very Good Day. Peace Everyone. Pete

Written March 25, 2023 at Carlisle, England.

With two pleasant days in Manchester under our belts we awoke this morning fresh and ready to go. No backpacks on this trip, our two bags are packed heavier than typical for us, and each is larger than our usual “carryons”. The challenge was to accommodate a wide range of weather conditions and activities. Ahead of us is a truly multidimensional experience.

We taxied to the Oxford Road Train Station to catch the 11:35 Transpennine Express to Carlisle in the northwest of England.

Manchester‘s Oxford Road train station. This has been a train station since the 1840’s.

Susan was working at her ticket window but upon seeing us rushed out to gift us with hugs and warm wishes for safe travel.

Susan and Christine at the Oxford Road Train Station

We have grown accustomed to the fast friendships of travel, however Susan’s warmth and graciousness are in a league all their own. We will miss her!

The journey to Carlisle took two hours and included only five stops.

The Transpennine Express to Carlisle.

The ride was smooth enough to allow pictures of the countryside. Unfortunately, the intermittent heavy showers limited the photo opportunities, drops on the windows marring what could have been some stunning images.

Dense briar fencing.
Look close and you will see an old country bridge. There were also miles upon miles of dry stacked stone walls dividing fields.
Beautiful, even through the train window and rain.

Speaking of stunning, Carlisle is wonderful! From the delightfully classic rail station…

Arrival at the Carlisle train station.
The outside main entrance of the Carlisle train station.

…to the old central city which is accessed by walking through ancient fortification towers.

Carlisle’s city gates.
The pedestrian area in front of our hotel.
A side street near our hotel.

Our hotel, The Crown and Mitre, absolutely oozes 19th century Edwardian charm.

The Crown and Mitre Hotel has hosted many dignitaries over the years. In 1918 United States President Woodrow Wilson was one of them.

It features an elegant dining room, bar, and even an indoor swimming pool! Stained glass and polished wood abound. Perhaps most remarkable is the price, $135 a night.

Hotel reception area and main staircase.
One of the interior staircases in the hotel. There are many of them. At times we feel like we are rats in a maze.
Christine in the hotel lounge.
Our hotel room.

Not more than 100 yards around the corner from the hotel is the historic Carlisle Cathedral.

Carlisle Cathedral.
A side view of the cathedral.
12th-century ruins from the Carlisle Cathedral Abbey.

The use of the grounds as an abbey and Cathedral date back to the early 12th-century. In holding to my promise to Christine, I will let the images and brief captions speak for me.

A side aisle (ambulatory) in the cathedral.
A beautiful side altar and stained glass windows in the cathedral.
This is the “celestial ceiling“ of Carlisle Cathedral.
The main aisle (nave) of the cathedral.
The cathedrals magnificent pipe organ. The organist was playing as this picture was taken. He is in the small lighted area immediately beneath the pipes.
A view of the cathedral choir chairs.

Our plans for Carlisle seem to be evolving on their own. I received a communication from Garry and Kathleen Clifford of Glasgow Scotland. We met them while traveling through their city in 2018 and have stayed in touch ever since. They are driving the one hour down to join us tomorrow afternoon for dining, drinks, and to just catch up.

This picture is from May 2018 when we first met Garry and Kathleen along with son Sean, daughter-in-law Julie, and friends Mr. and Mrs. John Curran in Glasgow Scotland. Garry stands to the left of me and Kathleen is seated to the left of Christine.

On Monday I plan to hire a cab to Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria on the west coast. This is the western extreme of Hadrian’s Wall. I will hike the 15 miles back to join Christine in Carlisle. In total we will be at the Crown and Mitre for four nights before continuing on our eastward trek.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. Two weeks ago we adjusted our clocks in the United States for daylight savings time. I assumed that everyone did it then. Wrong! We get to “spring forward” again tonight in the UK. Here I thought I was done messing with time zones and “jetlag”.