|The Pennine Way|
The Roman (Hadrian's) Wall at Caw Gap
This section of the Pennine Way is the most obviously historic one on the walk. On the previous days I had come across ancient remains but they were merely bumps in the landscape, e.g. Kirkcarrion back in Teesdale. Here the past makes itself apparent in the shape of the Roman or Hadrian's Wall. Tourists cannot appreciate the Wall as much as a foot-sore Pennine Way walker who has travelled (often in the same footsteps) the same distance as the Roman soldiers who came to garrison this bleak corner of the Empire.
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I started out trying to take a short-cut (marked on the map) across the fields uphill from the lane to the Vicarage. But this was blocked so I retraced my steps and rejoined the Pennine Way via Greenhead village. Thirlwall Castle (originally a 14th century pele-tower) is 'merely' some ruined but high walls plonked up on a grassy knoll - however they are 700 years old and built from stones acquired from the Wall and the nearby Roman fort of Carvoran. Hadrian's Wall actually runs through the lovely wooded dell by the ruins but there is no trace of it at this point.
Beyond the castle the path climbs up alongside a ditch - the first sign of the Roman Ditch that lies before the Wall where there are no crags to protect it. The ordinary English stone wall on the other (south) side of the ditch is built on the foundations of the Wall. At the top of the slope you join a road that sweeps south around Walltown Quarry. This quarry has destroyed any sign of the Wall nearby but I seem to recall that there were plans to build a replica there so that people can see the Wall the way the Romans would have. The Wall was originally 6.5 to 10 feet (2-3 metres) in width and 16 feet (5 metres) in height. Now its highest point is at most half the original height.
From the road you miss out on the very first section containing the original Wall until the Pennine Way leaves the road and backtracks a bit to meet it. This first glimpse sent shivers up my spine. All too soon the original Wall is left behind for a patch of ordinary wall (but built with some stones from the Wall). From here to Twice Brewed the path follows the Wall (or its route) closely. If you inspect the occasional outbreak of grey whinstone rock then you may notice patches of wild chives - a plant supposedly introduced by the Romans. The next bit of the Wall I saw was turret 44B where only the first half-dozen layers of the turret stones (and a couple of rows either side) were visible. Here the official Pennine Way strays from the Wall to follow the Military Way but it is worth staying faithful to the Wall path, if only for the views into the northern wilderness. The next stop was at the site of Aesica (a Roman fort) near Great Chesters Farm where I had lunch with a couple with whom I walked (on and off) until almost the end of the Pennine Way. G'day Marilyn and Ian Charles of St. Ives.
Milecastle 42 at Cawfields
The Pennine Way is not level walking - it follows the crags of the Whin Sill which makes for interesting up and down progress. The dips usually have minor roads in them - you cross three of them before abandoning the Wall in the next day. The first of these is in the dip just past Great Chesters where there is a carpark and picnic area in the attractively re-landscaped Cawfields Quarry (now mostly occupied by a large pond).
We next met the original Wall at Cawfield Crags where extensive restoration gives the Wall a very solid reality. These and other crags gave good views to the north over landscape that looked very barren under that day's gray skies. Soon we were over the dip of Caw Gap and onto Winshields Crag, looking down on our destination - Twice Brewed. The word "shield" or "shiel" in the placenames comes from the days when the farmers used to spend the summers out in the fields with their flocks of sheep, staying in huts out in the hills. This practice lasted until the 17th century.
Just before Peel Crags, we followed a road down to remains of the Vallum ditch and a good meal (and a brew or two) at the Twice Brewed Inn. Ian and Marilyn went off to the Once Brewed Youth Hostel while I walked up the road a bit to the Vallum Lodge Inn (a bit more upmarket than I had expected). The road is yet another "Wade's Road" planned by General Wade to carry troops in the post-Jacobite years. It was actually built in 1751 - 3 years after his death.
The best believed story about Twice Brewed's naming is that when the road builders arrived there the navvies tried the local brew and found it so weak that they asked the Landlord to brew it again! The reason for the name of the Youth Hostel (and the Northumberland National Park Centre next door) is that it was opened in 1934 by Lady Trevelyan of nearby Wallington Hall, a staunch teetotaller. In her opening speech she mentioned the Inn and said "Of course there will be no alcohol served on these premises so I hope the tea and coffee will only be brewed once."