13 May 2010
I made an early start to the day. Too early really, given my jet-lagged metabolism, but nature would not be denied. Nature in this case was a lovelorn seagull perched on the dormer peak next to mine. I don't know if he (or was it she?) attracted a mate but the squawking could certainly be heard for miles. Wide awake at 5:27AM oh well, I might as well make the best of it before the sun gets too much higher and have a wander around town for more pictures before breakfast time. I wandered from 6:00 to 7:20AM but it was still too early for breakfast so I found my way back to the Metro station to buy my ticket from the vending machine. All this walking set my nose to running, a common problem for me, so I made an early stop at the Co-operative food store for a box of tissues and a bottle of "Feel Good" orange and mango juice -- great stuff but wildly expensive. Had a typical English breakfast at the B&B although I had the sense to ask them to reduce the volume of food since I don't handle huge breakfasts well under normal circumstances and my body still had some time adjusting to do.
The B&B provided me with a small packed lunch which went into my daypack. My larger bit of luggage went in the hall downstairs for pickup and transport to the next lodgings. While I'm on the subject of packs and luggage, I can recommend the kit that I bought before the trip. It is made by High Sierra. Their description calls it a 22-inch carry-on wheeled backpack with removable daypack. It can be used as normal carry-on luggage or as wheeled luggage or as a large pack or as a bag and a daypack. A clever bit of design and it seems to be robustly built. It certainly served me well on this trip and was well worth the price.
Back onto the Metro with my daypack, jacket, and camera bound for the actual start of the Hadrian's Wall Path at Segedunum in Wallsend. On the train I accidentally met up with a couple of American women (K. and T.) who were setting out on the same walk after walking in the Cotswolds the previous week. We more-or-less fell into walking together as we ventured across the town following vague directions toward the fort. Of course we finally made it (or I'd not be writing this) and I was glad to let them do the navigating since they seemed to have more of a clue than I did. I learned that their navigational instincts were better than mine since I never quite got lost once in their company.
At Segedunum we all got our Hadrian's Wall Passports and had them stamped. The passport is a little folding document which walkers have stamped along the path at seven locations. After the stamps are earned one can obtain a certificate (suitable for framing) showing that the walk had been completed. No mental certification is required. The beginning of the path is right on the Tyne and takes walkers through some fairly gritty areas of Newcastle which has no shortage of such in the older industrial grounds. Of course there was also the river walk through the touristy areas of the city which had some attractive sights including the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. Sadly the tilt bridge did no tilting while we were there but the structure itself was attractive even while stationary. There were other areas along the way that I would have liked to see but on balance it seemed like a better idea to stay in a group. Left to my own devices I might have wandered around town all day taking pictures and visiting pubs and then wondered why I was no closer to the night's lodgings as the sun set.
We found a place out of the wind in front of a large office building on the river and broke for lunch at around noon. While sitting we met a group of senior citizens who walked past as we were eating. I guess that there were eight or ten of them and none of them were less than ten years my senior. Clearly inveterate walkers they said that their aim was to walk the wall in six days (as opposed to my eight). We ran into them again as it seems that they stopped at every pub and teahouse along the way. We found them sitting in the pub at our evening stop and they said that their first stop was some miles ahead. They were never seen again so I suppose that they really did walk through.
Lodgings on this night were at the Keelman's Lodge which for mailing purposes is still in Newcastle but the walking mileage for the first day was around 11 if my calculations are correct. A real plus on this evening: Keelman's is attached to the Big Lamp Brewery and the pub serves their excellent products. Dinner that night was hearty and of excellent quality. My room was in a new annex which was outstanding but K. and T. were in an older building and they said that their room wasn't as comfortable. No matter where one slept there was still the brewery to be considered.