Wednesday, June 2:  Hadrian’s Wall

A busy day, and its late, so summaries may be as good as it gets.

Drove about 5 miles to Housestead’s Fort, a principal fortification on the Roman wall separating the Empire from the barbarians in Scotland. The wall was built around AD 122 (thus inspiring the name of the bus line that runs the road parallel) on orders from the Emperor Hadrian, whose reign was one of the high points of the Roman Empire. We walked a little over a mile to the west, through pasturelands, and up and down the crests of the hills. In the company of lots of serious walkers and school groups. The view never changed too dramatically, so two hours worth was about enough for us. Near the end a fighter jet streaked down the length of the wall, just a few hundred feet above ground. As he turned south and climbed, the sound of his engines was replaced by another fighter, obviously low and close. It took me a three-quarter turn to locate it and by then it was almost on top of me. Reminiscent of the Blue Angles streaking over the hills of Seattle, it gave me a good surprise. It didn’t take much to notice how military strategy had evolved, and just how recent airpower is in the grand scheme of things. (Photo 183)

We then drove about an hour east and north to Alnwick castle (pronounced “Anick”, the L and W are silent, and as we joked with our hostess this morning, maybe so are the A, N, I, C and K), home of the Duke of Northumberland. The main attraction was that some of the outdoor scenes for the Harry Potter movies had been shot with this castle as the backdrop. We located the right places near the end of our visit. Otherwise, there was very little new to see, except countless family photos of the current Duke’s children. (Photo 184)

We hit another NT site on the way home, Cragside House. Lord Armstrong was a scientist and businessman who did well manufacturing hydraulics and firearms in the middle and late 1800’s. This was his country retreat. Also a landscape architect, the grounds were very impressive, in a style that would suit the Pacific Northwest. The third floor gallery was very unique, admitting a lot of sunlight through windows near the peak of the house. This was also the location of the very first domestic use of hydroelectric power for indoor lighting in the world. At the end of this hallway, there was a large drawing room, dominated at one end by a huge marble structure, 15 feet tall, 15 feet wide and about 8 feet deep. At ground level, the entire width was open for a height of about 6 feet. Across the back of this space was a fairly traditional fireplace fashioned from the marble. However, the remainder of the front was elaborately carved, and was unlike anything I’d ever seen before indoors, forming a large, ornate, solid mass over the area just before the fireplace. (Photo 185)

Back to Haltwhistle, and we returned to Milecastle Inn. Just as we were about to lose hope, our friends from the night before surfaced. They’d just finished walking 15 to 18 miles (estimates varied owing to a bit of route-finding trouble), and still needed to leapfrog their cars. But Alex accepted our invitation to sit with us while that exercise was conducted. So as we ate our meals, Alex ordered a starter, and eventually the rest of the crew arrived. Pat and I ordered another round of drinks and we settled in for more enjoyable and entertaining conversation. Given the up-and-down nature of the terrain around the wall, it was quite a day to have put in so many miles. By about 10 PM the inn had emptied (they were turning people away earlier) and we said our goodbyes. We’ve traded contact info, so hopefully the boys will keep in touch. (Photo 186)

PIC
Photo 179  Fountains Abbey
PIC
Photo 180  Fountains Abbey

PIC
Photo 181  Fountains Abbey
PIC
Photo 182  Fountains Abbey

PIC
Photo 183  Hadrien’s Wall
PIC
Photo 184  Alnwick Castle
PIC
Photo 185  Cragside House
PIC
Photo 186  Hugh and Alex Matthews