Friday morning and it was time to start the walking proper. We got all of our kit ready, leaving anything that we wouldn’t need for the next five days in the suitcase which we would be leaving at the hotel. We made sure our respective troublesome joints were strapped and ready for a full day of walking. Before setting off we made full use of the hotel buffet breakfast and made final adjustments to the bags. Then it was time to checkout and shortly afterwards we were standing on the quayside ready to walk.
Ahead of us today we had 15 miles. The day promised to be one of two halves. We would start with 9 or 10 miles following the Tyne valley upstream, and then the remainder would be following the wall on higher ground above the valley.
We had a glorious bright and clear morning to set off into, and the gorgeous Tyne bridges lay just in front of us. After a quick diversion to a Tesco Metro to gather lunch and snack supplies we headed upstream out of the City through Elswood. We soon got into a good, steady, stride. The path is tarmac here, though it does lead away from the riverside every now and again following some old waggon way routes and various other footpaths, but you get a real feeling for how lovely the Newcastle area is even in some of its more deprived areas. We passed the Lemington Glass Works site and a statue commemorating the 38 lives lost in the Montagu Mining Disaster of 1925.
At Newburn the path passes back down to the riverside and we took a break on a bench by the Riverside Country Park visitor centre where the cafe provided us with coffee and a biscuit as well as refilling our water bottles. I had stopped on pretty much the same bench on my cycle ride a few years earlier on a similarly warm day.
The Tyne valley along here is glorious and the going was still good, although by now we feeling a little frazzled and hadn’t gone quite as far as we had hoped by this time of the day. The path diverts away from the river to follow the old Wylam Waggonway track for a mile or so before we had to turn to the right and tackle the first hill of the walk; a long but steady climb up onto Heddon on the Wall.
After a few hours walking and having got used to flat ground the hill took it out of us a bit, but eventually we made it to the top. We took a short diversion (although it felt a lot longer at the time) to get our first glance of the wall since leaving Wallsend, and then found a small park close to a garage and shop. We got some fresh drinks and some extra food from the shop, made use of the garage toilet, and had a good refreshing lunch on a bench in the shade of the park.
Despite the time we had already taken we still had a long way to walk today. We were over half way; but not by too much. From now on up we were off the flat riverside land and, whilst we had climbed the main hill of the day, the path ahead promised some good undulations and lots of stiles to climb over.
At least we now had the feeling that we were actually following the wall. The vallum was obvious to the south in many places and there were some suspiciously well faced stones in some of the field walls. The miles ticked over slowly. We were tired now; out of snacks and low on water. A couple of diversions around some fields were known and planned for, but still felt like they were taking us out of our way when we just wanted to get to the end of the day. Passing the Great Northern Lake (a couple of reservoirs built to power some of the Victorian factories of Newcastle) indicated that we were getting close – just a mile or two to go – but despite the open countryside we couldn’t yet see our destination in front of us; it was hopefully hidden behind some trees rather than still beyond the horizon.
The light was starting to fail as we eventually came out of a footpath to the side of the road and realised that we had made it to the hamlet of East Wallhouses and our destination for the night The Robin Hood Inn was clearly visible. It was a very welcome site and is a lovely pub – if you’re up that way it’s definitely worth a visit.
We had twin rooms for the night (due to availability rather than choice). We rested up and got refreshed and slowly and gingerly on tired legs walked back down to the bar for a much needed pint or two and a lovely pie based supper before heading back up for a well earned sleep.