Search This Blog

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Footsteps in Sound Volume 2 (Stage 5 & 6)

Hadrian's Wall Path: Stage 5&6
To Walton-Carlisle-Bowness on Solway
August 2016
 A Confession. 

First things first. I honestly thought I could walk from Walton to Bowness. I told an Italian couple who looked at me like I was mad. I then learned that Walton to Bowness is a little over 26 MILES! So I gave up in Carlisle and decided to finish the walk tomorrow (more of that later). What a kn*b. 

Anyway, back to today's 'events'. 

Carlisle Castle
I started at Walton and quickly fell in step with a lovely Dutch couple who were walking the Wall. These guys were armed to the teeth with GPS units, maps and guidebooks. I, however, had nothing. The route is so easy to follow that I'd long since given up on my OS maps. However, about an hour in to our walk a Labrador came bursting out of the woods, barking aggresively. We nervously kept walking but missed our turning in all the excitement. Thankfully, the GPS was fired up and we managed to find the path without having to backtrack. 

There are worse places to get lost!
There are always occasions on long distance walks when you need a little help from strangers. Well, today was the day karma smiled on me.  

Having said goodbye to the Dutch couple, I was making my way along the banks of the River Eden when a couple out walking their dog told me I was going the wrong way (you gain nothing from being suspicious in situations like this). Apparently, a sign had been damaged or lost in the christmas floods. I was soon back on the path and within an hour I was in Carlisle. I decided that walking a further 16 miles today was all types of crazy. So I found a stunning book shop, ordered a coffee and started typing. 

Hadrian's Wall Stage: Day 6

6 Hours: 16 miles to go! The Sun is shining, the sky is blue and my feet aren't aching. Let's hike!

Civic art near Carlisle Castle
5 Hours 24 minutes: The path is closed due to severe flood damage near the start of today's stage. Damn. I'm going to have to retrace my steps and find another crossing over the River Eden.  That's an hour lost for sure.  

5 Hours 10 Minutes: I've just walked past the Joiners Pub in Carlisle. A plaque, about 5 feet above the pavement, marks the high water mark of Hurricane Desmond. Jesus, that's scary. 

4 Hours 55 Minutes: Back on the path-get in!

4 Hours: Lunch. I was't expecting much from today's walk, but it's been a beauty so far. The path follows the River Eden through Oak studded fields, riverside woods and idyllic villages. This really is a stunning part of the country. There's still the odd diversion in place 8 months after Hurricane Desmond, but who cares about the extra miles when the walking is this good.
The end was in sight

1 Hour 22 Minutes: Thank God, the pub is open! I've just arrived at the Highland Laddie Inn at Glasson and it's absolutely cracking the flags. It's been a bit of a slog from Beaumont along the (seemingly endless) road to Burgh by Sands and Drumburgh but the views over the Solway have more than made up for it. My legs are knackered but I'm having an amazing day. I'm just refuelling on coffee and Diet Coke and then I'm off to Bowness-on-Solway. 

Finished:  I say goodbye to the friends I've made over a beer in the local pub. Like I said earlier, this walk is amazing because each day the environment changes; Newcastle to the suburbs, farm land to the moors, idyllic countryside to the Solway. The Wall goes from being an intermittent presence to a constant companion before fading away until only a ghost remains. I have loved walking Hadrian's Wall. 

Thank you to my support team: Kathy, Neve, Naomi and the 4-4. You guys ROCK!

See you on the path

Friday, 19 August 2016

Footsteps In Sound: Volume 2 (Stage 4, Day 5)

Hadrian's Wall Path: Day 5
To Walton
August 2016
Day 4 was my rest day; however, I spent most of the day feeling tired and a little rough. The walk from Chollerford to Once Brewed, coupled with a crap night's sleep, took it out of me. Our hotel room was behind a dance club that kicked out the jams late in to the night. We moved rooms around midnight but the damage was done and we all suffered a crap night's sleep. We managed to have an amazing day in Alston (thank you Kathy) and I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Jean Michel Jarre's 'Equinoxe' LP for a couple of quid, but I still wasn't feeling 100%. To be honest, I was being a bit macho on day 3, walking pretty fast and ignoring the bad weather until it was too late (I.E. I was drenched before I put my waterproofs on). So today (day 5) I've more food, warmer clothing and an extra hour scheduled to complete the walk. Let's chuffing hike! 

By 12 noon, the wind, rain and grumpy walkers that plagued me on day 3 have gone. There is a gently breeze, the sun is shinning and the people are friendly. I've spent two hours following the Wall over the moors, dodging cow sh*t whilst humming Dam the River by Alice in chains (a song that will never live up to its amazing opening riff). After a quick coffee at Walltown Quarry, I'm back on the path. 5 minutes later it's absolutely pi**ing it down. Arrrrrr! Thankfully, the rain only lasts for about an hour. 

Hadrian's Wall
Having spent 3 full days here it seems pretty obvious that most tourists head straight for the area around Housesteads Fort when visiting Hadrian's Wall. For my money, the best remains are to be found near the village of Gilsland, west of Walton Quarry. There's an impressively high section of the Wall, complete with bridge abutments near the river Irthing and, to top it off, Birdoswald Fort. It's simply stunning. 

Wild flowers on the
After several more hours of amazing hiking I'm met by the staggering remains of Hadrian's Wall at Hare Hill, the last visible section of the wall for the rest of the walk. However, my enthusiasm is somewhat crushed by the news that some dude rebuilt this part of the Wall in the 19th century. What was he thinking? Anyway, one stone bares the initials 'PP', suggesting that soldiers under the command of Primus Pilus worked here. Now that's mind blowing, but not as good as finding a SNES in a wall (see day 2). 

I reach Walton at 4:15pm hoping for a pint at The Centurion Inn, but sadly its closed down (or so a local tells me). Still, what an absolutely amazing day!!

Hare Hill

P.S. I can not wait to hit the path again tomorrow, I'm having the time of my life. Each day the environment changes, be it Newcastle  to the suburbs or farm land to the moors. The Wall goes from being an intermittent presence to a constant companion. I'd say Hadrian's Wall Path is second only to the Coast to Coast (so far, at least).  

Thank you for reading.


See you tomorrow for the final two posts (stage 5 & 6)
The Painted Ones is available as a free download from Soundcloud.

Footsteps in Sound: Volume 2 (Day 3)

Hadrian's Wall Path: Day 3
To Once Brewed
August 2016
AKA: The Day From Hell 

Brocolitia Mithraic Temple
Things started well. I came across the beautiful ruins of a temple dedicated to Mithras, the bull slayer. Feeling inspired, I honestly thought I'd have a go at writing a little poem recounting Mithras' adventures. I spent the next 30 minutes happily writing away, convincing myself I was the next Simon Armitage! What a knob I am. 
Anyway, the Gods were less than impressed with my literary offering and unleashed 3 hours of hell on your trusty blogger. Head winds, driving rain, grumpy walkers and undulating terrain all conspired to make my journey as miserably as possible. Not even the Wall or Housesteads Fort could lift my spirits (to make matters worse, the information boards at many of the mile castles were in a shameful state. The people who visit Hadrian's Wall deserve way better). There was one ray of light, however, when some grumpy bloke said 'hello' (he didn't mean it) and then slipped on his arse in front of me. HA!

It was great to finally
meet Karl Pilkington

In spite of the weather, it was impossible not be blown away by the construction of Hadrian's Wall. It really is amazing to follow this fortification as it climbs hills and shear cliffs, across rivers and meadows. You only have to compare the Wall to (the impressive) Offa's Dyke in Wales to realise the Romans were working on a different level when it came to this type of thing.

Yes, it is the Sycamore Tree from 
Robin Hood
Thankfully, the rain cleared around 2pm and my shorts began to dry. I finally passed the Sycamore tree immortalised by Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but I was too tired to care. 30 minutes later, I was sat in the Twice Brewed pub enjoying an average coffee and a lovely bowl of soup. To be honest though, I was starting to feel a little rough. 

P.S. We had to move hotel rooms at 12am, The hotel is behind a dance club. Totally knackered.

P.P.S I picked up a copy of Jean Machel Jarre's Equinoxe LP in a junk shop in Alston. Ace!

Thank you for reading.

2_6_20 is available from Soundcloud as a free download

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Footsteps In Sound: Volume 2 (Day 2)

Hadrian's Wall Path: Day 2
To Chollerford
August 2016

Blogger's note:
A beautiful walk but there wasn't much to write about, so here are the highlights.

A welcome green lane

By the time I reach the Roman fort of Vindobala, the skies are blue and the sun is beating down. There's nothing to see now at Vindobala but excavations in the 1920s unearthed an impressive military complex. However, the archaeology here meant nothing to a General Wade who, in 1752, decided the fort would make a solid foundation for his new military road.

 For the next 90 minutes, the path becomes increasingly busy as it follows, what I assume, is the Wall's ditch. Although the route runs parallel to the B6138, the countryside more than makes up for it. 

Super Mario's Wall:
Just before the Robin Hood Inn, I pass a house with a SNES and a Playstation cemented in to the garden wall (I used to spend hours playing games on the SNES with my cousin, Paul, whilst listening to Stone Temple Pilots, Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam). Lacking obsolete consoles, Roman soldiers would chisel inscriptions in to the stone of Hadrian's Wall. These inscriptions were later used by historians to identify the legions that constructed this giant fortification (see day 4). How amazing is that?

Top Gun:
3 miles from Chollerford two RAF fighter planes fly low overhead. I almost punch the air like an extra from Top Gun. Hell, yeah! 

Hadrian's Wall:
On aching feet and tired legs, I finally reach a decent section of Hadrian's Wall and what an awesome sight it is. It was here at Plaintrees that Roman engineers decided to build a 2m 'narrow wall' instead of the original 3m 'broad Wall'. Lazy buggers! I wonder what Hadrian had to say about it? 

Thank you for reading.
Day 3 will be uploaded 19/08/2016

Brick by Brick is available as a free download from Soundcloud

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Footsteps in Sound: Volume 2 (Day 1)

Hadrian's Wall Path: Day 1 
To Heddon-on-the-Wall
August 2016

Prologue- The Night Before:

"All the rooms have blackout curtains". 

Or so I'm told. I wonder why the receptionist doesn't believe me when I tell him ours doesn't. To add to our woes, I'm then told the hotel only has one family room left and it's smaller than the one we are in. In the end, the choice is an easy one, either wake at the crack of dawn in our room of eternal heavenly light or move room. We opt to move. 

It's 8:30pm and I'm sat on our bed in our new reassuringly dark room. My reading light is shining a beam of brilliant light on Sick Bag Song by Nick Cave. Opposite me, on the lower bunk bed, my youngest daughter Naomi, refuses to go to sleep. She's sat behind the bunk bed's ladder pretending to fish with the Ipad's USB cable. 

Day 1:

"Walking Hadrian's Wall?"
"I am. You"?

Hadrian's Way begins at the impressive ruins of Segedunum and soon follows a wagon way where coal was once transported from local colleries to the north bank of the Tyne. An abundance of wild flowers and trees line this corridor, alongside fire warped tarmac, litter and a pile of fly tipping. 

The charred face of Hadrian 

90 minutes later, I arrive at the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle. Clearly, the people responsible for this beauty had deep pockets and a deep respect for the city. It's a truely awsome sight. However, Kittiwakes have colonised the bridge, dropping a thick layer of crap over the magnificent steel archers and the streets below (don't look too closely or you'll see a dead Kittiwake dangling from a line of wire under the bridge, swinging in the breeze like a gallows thief). 

The Tyne Bridge

The popular quayside soon gives way to modern featureless business units built on the foundations of the Tyne's once magnificent industry. For my part, I feel a little out of place amongst the fashionably casual office workers (look, no ties!) in my threadbare Regatta shirt. However, I'm greeted with nods and smiles as I make my way along the path.

Some time later, to the west of Lemington, I catch up with a couple walking the path. I spend the next 20 minutes trying to overtake them. We're like HGVs on the motorway.

A nation trail way marker

Around 2pm, I pass the site of a Civil War battle and stop at Rington's cafe for my 4th (oh yes!) coffee of the day. I open the OS Map and nearly s**t my pants, I've almost finished the day's walk with nearly 2 hours to spare. I phone Kathy asking for immediate evac. 

Day 1 was over. 


Day two will be released Thursday 18th August 2016

'Narrow Point' is available as a free download from Soundcloud. Just click on the arrow to the left of the 'share' option on the Soundcloud wave form.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Footsteps in Sound-Volume 1 EP

Volume 1

All music written and performed by R Westwood
Mixed and mastered by M Sturgess at Soundstation Recording Studio, Wakefield, 27 September 2015
Art by Natalie Szefer Design

Monday, 2 November 2015

Offa's Dyke Path: Day 5 Kington to Kinghton

Footsteps In Sound: Volume 1
Offa's Dyke Path: Day 5
Kington to Kinghton
13 1/2 miles (10:00am-4:45pm)

Surprise, surprise. I started the day like most others, by missing the path! I passed through Bradnor Green and headed towards an old quarry only to find myself on the Bradnor Hill National Trust Golf Course. I spotted a group of walkers further down the hill and decided to head their way. To my surprise I caught up with my walking buddy, Isaac (who I'd previously met on Hatterrall Hill in the Black Mountains). Isaac introduced Denise, Jenny and Martin and we set off along the path. It was great to be in a gang of walkers again.

After reuniting with Offa's Dyke at Rushock Hill (for the first time in 54 miles), we walked a beautiful route around Harrock Hill, Burfa Bank and Middler Wood. I can't remember much about this stage as we were busy sharing stories and anecdotes about our adventures. I found out that Isaac had met up with Denise, Jenny and Martin at Newchurch and managed to get tea and coffee from the church there (unlike myself). They had also stopped at the cafe and heard the tale of my £2.50 bill from the manager (see day 4). It turns out they were only an hour or so behind me on the path between Hay-on-Wye and Kington. 

For the next 10 miles we continued along as we had done since passing Rushock Hill. 

 According to Kay, Kay and Richards (Offa's Dyke Path South, Chepstow to Knighton, 1994, Aurum Press) the date given is the first year of Offa's reign. 

Before the final push to Knighton we stopped for a snack at Dolly Old Bridge. Although I'd really enjoyed sharing the path with these lovely people I wanted to crack on and get to Knighton before 5:00pm. Myself and Isaac set off for Furrow Hill, quickly losing sight of Denise, Jenny and Martin (who were walking at a more sensible pace behind us). 

From Furrow Hill the path crossed field after field of beautiful countryside. Sadly a low pressure front was coming in and the good weather was beginning to break. When we reached the memorial to the railway pioneer, Sir Richard Green Price, I was seriously regretting my decision to push on and walk at pace. I was soaked and the toes in my left foot were seriously painful (and had been since walking from Pandy to Hay-on-Wye). By the time we began the steep decent in to Knighton we were probably going about 1 mile per hour. Unbeknown to us, Denise, Jenny and Martin were catching us up with every step. 

I arrived at the Offa's Dyke visitor centre around 4:50pm completely finished. 15 minutes later Denise, Jenny and Martin arrived in considerably better shape. It goes to show, it's sometimes better to take things easy and not push yourself too hard. 

At 5:00pm Kathy and the kids arrived and I said my farewell to Isaac and Denise, Jenny and Martin. My adventure was over. 

Wheat fields between Kington and Knighton

Thank you for reading. See you on the path. 

A Note on the Song

I chose this song because I hoped it would reflect the latter half of the walk from Dolly Old Bridge to Knighton.