Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Hadrians Wall and An Idiot Abroad.

The Great Wall of China -

You can see it for miles. Like, it goes over the hills and stuff ….but so does the M6, and that has a job. You can drive on that”.

"It's not the Great Wall of China, it's the alright wall of China"

Whenever I go to Haidrian's Wall I always think of Carl  Pilkington's quotes on the Great Wall of China in An Idiot Abroad and they always make me smile. It must be so dispiriting to have that outlook on the achievements of mankind. As Ricky Gervais says though, everyone knows a Carl somewhere or sometime in their lives and I'm no different.....you know who you are ;-). Fortunately I am more impressed by historical man-made monuments and the natural world than he is!

My little drive out started at Lanercost Priory. I headed this way because the weather was foul again in the Lakes. There seems to have been a dark cloud hanging over the fells for weeks. I thought about a drive up to the Trossachs but I find the drive up the M74 and then the A/M80 rather tedious these day, especially if you have to drive back the same day. I can be in Hadrian's Wall Country in under an hour.

Lanercost Priory is set in the beautifully quiet and hidden valley of the River Irthing, not far from Naworth Castle with which it has historical links.The foundation date for the Priory was 1169 and it has had a dark and troubled past. If anyone is interested in it's long and sometimes violent history of Lanercost Priory  they should go to this link 

As I arrived early morning, the place was quiet and I could have heard a pin drop in the Priory Church of St Mary Magdalene. I love visiting old Churches especially in the Dales and Cumbria because they are so quiet and peaceful inside and are seeped in history. The priory has an unusual medieval stone carving called the Lanercost Cross with an inscription dating back to 1214. Originally the cross was set just outside the entrance to the church. Today the stump of the cross remains, but the main shaft is housed inside the priory.

My next port of call was Birdoswald Roman. It is situated in a commanding position on a triangular spur of land bounded by cliffs to the south and east overlooking a broad meander of the River Irthing. In Roman times, the fort was known as Banna (Latin for "spur" or "tongue"), reflecting the geography of the site. The view down into the valley was just sheer perfection.

Some kind person or family had placed a Memorial bench overlooking the Vale which I would have missed if it wasn't for a kind, dear old lady in green wellies who, after seeing my camera, insisted that I followed the track by the side of the fort so I could photograph it. It was obviously one of her special places which she was rightly proud of and she just wanted to share its beauty with everyone. She talked about the place with real passion.

It was then a nice little drive through Gilsland and Greenhead to Walltown Crags. 

This section is probably the best preserved section of the whole wall and was constructed between AD 120 and 128, coast to coast from Bowness on Solway, just west of Carlisle, to Wallsend on the River Tyne estuary- a distance of 73 miles. 

 It survived as a formidable frontier barrier for 300 years, until the Roman legions withdrew from Britain in 410 AD, after which time it fell into decline. Originally some 12 feet high and following natural fortifications and steep escarpments on the northern side, it was subsequently pillaged for its stones over the succeeding centuries. The majority of this section of the wall is build in the Whin Sill layer if igneous rock.

I parked up at Walltown Quarry and walked up to one of the best preserved part of the wall which also has far reaching views north over Northumberland. You can walk along the top of the Whin Sill for a mile or so and return on the farm road with it's woods on the left which at this time of year are ablaze with colour. 

Cawfiels was my next destination which again has a history of quarrying and lends itself easily to exploring another fine and well preserved section of the wall which includes the famous Sycamore tree that appears in the film Robin, Prince of Thieves.

Steel Rigg was to be my final stopping off point as the weather was beginning to cloud over and I could see showers to the south. I just parked up, had a short walk down to the Rigg and took some photos before heading off to the Visitor Centre at Housteads. I really had wanted to carry on up to the Housteads Roman Fort but the weather was really starting to come in now and the skies were darkening dramatically. 

I had a cappuccino at the Centre before looking around the tat shop and came away with a fabulous book called Spirit of Hadrian's Wall . The photographs in it are just superb with most of them being taken in either early or late light. Also it had been reduced from £20 to £9.99 and what Yorkshireman could turn down a bargain like that.    

I think the next time I pay a visit up here I will start at Housteads because my day usually seems to run out here. The last time I came I was rushing to get up to the fort and wall and again, on that occasion, the light had disappeared.

I will finish the blog off with some more fine Carl Pilkington quotes.

In India and the Taj Mahal -


This is where Diana had her photo taken when she was having her problems with Charlie. Everyone said this is why she looked so miserable, but to be honest I think she was just sick of being in India.

If you’re having a low moment in your life, India isn’t a great place to come. I’d have suggested Center Parcs over this place

 On the Pyramids in Egypt -


“It’s like a massive game of Jenga that has got out of hand.”

On the The Mayam tribe in Mexico

“I was looking into it when I noticed I was surrounded by lizards. Big ones. I gave one of them a bit of a Hob Nob. It seemed to love it. It ended up eating two to itself. It’s odd to think the Mayans have probably never tried a Hob Nob, yet this lizard had”

and finally.......

The Petra Caves in Jordan

“The only thing that would get on my nerves if I lived here (in a cave) is this sort of ‘open door policy’. Not having a door doesn’t help. Anyone you know could walk past and see that you’re in and keep nipping in”




Lanercost Priory 



Gravestone Lanercost Priory.



The Priory Church of St Mary Magdalene



The Priory Church of St Mary Magdalene



The Priory Church of St Mary Magdalene



Lanercost Priory.



Birdoswald Roman Fort



Birdoswald



River Irthing



River Irthing



Birdoswald




Walltown Section of Hadrian's Wall



Walltown Section of Hadrian's Wall



Walltown Section of Hadrian's Wall



Walltown Section of Hadrian's Wall



Walltown Section of Hadrian's Wall



Walltown Section of Hadrian's Wall



Walltown Section of Hadrian's Wall



The Whin Sill



Above Walltown



Above Walltown



Walltown



Walltown



Walltown



Above Cawfields



Above Cawfields



Above Cawfields


Above Cawfields


Above Cawfields.

 
Steel Rigg


Steel Rigg



The darkening skies.



A journey of two halves.

It was one of those all too frequent occasions when the weather forecast had a big wad of thick cloud and rain hanging over Cumbria whilst ...