Peddars Way, Norfolk

Walked from: Peddars Way
Date: 14-16 November 2015
Distance: 46 miles 
Walked with: Tracey
Weather: Mixed. Mainly dry, overcast and oddly mild

I finished walking my eighth ‘national trail’ today and my tenth long distance one – the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path.

I first walked a section of the Norfolk Coast Path back in 2005, before I’d properly gotten into walking, and walked the western half in 2008. Last month I went back with friends and re-walked the eastern half from Cromer to Wells-Next-the-Sea, and with just the 46 miles of the Peddars Way standing between me and the completion of another national trail, my walking boots were calling.

The Peddars Way, let’s make no bones about it, is easy. Largely flat, and, as it follows the route of a Roman road, predominately straight: it’s the English walking equivalent of driving through Texas. To bring home the point, there’s even, about half way along, a McDonalds, immediately adjacent to the walk (no, we didn’t go in). 

We walked it in three days, crunching our way through piles of fallen leaves as we went. Our walk took us across the entire county of Norfolk (the first 10 minutes of the walk are actually in Suffolk) and much of the middle day was spend walking on quiet country lanes, or on footpaths hemmed in by hedgerows (also a problem in much of The Ridgeway), which was dull at times. But large parts of the walk had a gentle beauty about them, and the autumn colours blazed at times, despite – or perhaps because they were set off by – their grey climatic backdrop. Castle Acre, along with the impressive ruins of its old priory, was a lovely village, as was Great Massingham, where we stayed last night in the well-run and stylishly appointed Dabbling Duck pub. Ringstead appeared promising too, although sadly the Gin Trap Inn was closed when we passed through: upsetting news at the time but it did mean we ended up catching an earlier bus… which led to an earlier than and an earlier long hot soak in the bath!

Peddars Way is not the most exciting of the English long distance walking routes (except for machine gunfire from an army camp on the first day), but its largely sheltered position makes it a great pick for a late autumn or winter hike – and if carrying on to walk the rest of the trail, the first two thirds   of the Norfolk Coastal Path is exveptionally pretty and offers the opportunity to explore landscape quite different from anything else I’ve seen in England. 

Anyway, I took some pictures, so check them out:

Day one – Lovely woods near Knettishall Heath / Roundham Heath / Day two – Ruins of Cluniac Priory near Castle Acre / the River Nar / Trig point marking the high point of Peddars Way (92m!!!) / Day three – fields near Great Massingham / skies above  Harpley Common / never ending track (near Fring, but could have been anywhere on the Way) / me – happy to have finished another walk







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Hadrian’s Wall Path, Day 5

Walked from: Heddon-on-the-Wall

Walked to: Wallsend, Newcastle

Date: 1 September

Distance: 16 miles

Weather: Sunny

With the exception of one couple – who looked triathlon fit, weren’t carrying their bags, and were about to attempt the walk in four days – everyone else I met on this walk was doing it over six or seven days – or even longer. And they made the right decision: the Hadrian’s Wall Walk in five days is hard. I’ve been very lucky to have walked it in good weather (while it poured down back home in the south of England), but even so, those two long second and third days really took it out of me, and I was pleased to know I’d be hanging up my boots for a few weeks at the end of today. 

Still, the morning dawned bright, and beautiful blue skies accompanied me on the last sixteen miles of my journey along the route Hadrian’s Wall took. Perhaps in recognition of the lack of obvious wall remnants, the signposts today referred to Hadrian’s Way, rather than his Wall, and I felt a little sorry for this Roman of ‘olde’ – as if he’d been downgraded. 
The day began by going rapidly downhill: a positive thing… if you’re walking or cycling. From then on I spent much of the day walking near to the River Tyne (no fog to report, to those who are familiar with the song about the aforementioned waterway), often on Tarmac track or pavement, which can feel pretty brutal to a battered pair of soles. Early on the route followed a converted rail trail, the Wylam Waggonway, early stomping ground and supposed inspiration for the inventor George Stephenson. 

A trawl through the outlying suburbs of Newcastle included crossing the A1 and a trail lowlight alongside the busy A694 (building work means the official footpath is currently on diversion). Fortunately, I was reunited with the river at Elswick and enjoyed the pleasant walk into the centre of Newcastle along the river, counting the seven bridges from various eras that join its two banks. Newcastle looked fantastic on such a beautiful sunny day, but it was tough to be within five minutes of the train station when I knew I had another five miles to walk… And once the highlight of central Newcastle has passed I can’t really recommend the rest of the walk – the main reason people prefer to finish in Bowness, perhaps? Still, after a final trudge past the back of housing estates and warehouses, I arrived at Wallsend, and Segedunum, the musuem on the site of a Roman fort. There was only one thing for it: I collapsed on the bench outside and wrenched off my walking boots. At that moment an elderly couple emerged from the museum and asked me if I’d just finished the walk. ‘Yes’, said I. ‘The whole thing? On your own?’. I nodded, wearily. ‘What a fantastic achievement’, they said. Well, now you come to mention it… 

Photos: Wylam Waggonway / the A693! / central Newcastle looking gorgeous / Wallsend Metro station, with its ‘no smoking’ sign in English and Latin


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Hadrian’s Wall Path, Day 4

Walked from: Wall
Walked to: Heddon-on-the-Wall 
Date: 31 August

Distance: 15 miles

Stayed: Houghton North Farm

Weather: Overcast, cool

I was SO happy to wake up this morning and know I only had to walk 15 miles today. Another guest at breakfast was walking the wall in the other direction (it seems almost everyone walks east to west. It’s just me who likes to be ‘different’) and told me how hard today’s walk was. I exercised terrific restraint and didn’t laugh in his face, because I’d already checked out the walk ahead and knew it was he who was in trouble, not I. Mind you, he was also planning on walking the section I did yesterday in two days: an entirely rational and sane decision which I would counsel anyone else to do. If they can get more than five days off work at very short notice and/or aren’t doing a crazy endurance walk in the aid of a very good cause that is (see

Fair to say, I took my fairly gentle 15 miler pretty easy today, because, after walking 42 miles in two days, I was A. Bit. Tired. So easy that when I stopped for a break mid-morning I ended up sitting in a field full of sheep for nearly an hour reading a Terry Pratchett novel on my phone. Bearing in mind that I spent almost the entire day walking alongside the Military Road, or in adjacent Roman-era ditches, with barely a glimpse of anything wall-like in sight, I think I deserved a good read. I also deserved the amazing scotch egg I had at the Robin Hood Inn at East Wallhouses. And I definitely deserved the wine gums I ate in a deconsecrated church doorway whilst sheltering from a rain shower in Harlow Hill too. 

I do feel a little guilty about one thing though – I walked right past St Oswolds Church, where the St Oswolds Way finishes. Just couldn’t summon the energy to walk the two minutes across the field to stick my head in to a destination people spend 97 miles walking to. Shame on me. Still, surely Lindisfarn is the more obvious destination to end at? 
One more day of walking to go – and tomorrow’s walk involves walking through Byker in Newcastle, where I’m sure my walking attire will allow me to blend in seamlessly with my surrounding. Oh lord, I’ve got the Byker Grove theme tune stuck in my head now. Byker, Byker, Byker Grove…

Photos: View from near St Oswold’s Hill Head / apparently these flowers are called Rosebay Willowherb – beautiful and everywhere on the walk / Random / Random / yet another Roman-era ditch / Random


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Hadrian’s Wall Path, Day 3

Walked from: Greenhead

Walked to: Wall 

Date: 30 August
Distance: 21 miles

Stayed: The Hadrian Hotel

Weather: Largely sunny – dare I say ‘hot’?

I honestly thought that Hadrian’s Wall would be thronged with people on a bank holiday weekend. At times there were definitely some people around (those times bearing a strong correlation with the location of car parks), but overall I’ve been very surprised at how isolated much of this walk has been. In fact, I didn’t see a soul, not only on the path but anywhere on the horizon, for the first two hours that I walked this morning. I had the Walltown Crags and Great Chesters Fort entirely to myself. Weird. But good. But still weird.

Then, just as it was all starting to feel as if I were the only survivor of a zombie apocalypse, along came Ian. And Dave. And Sean – three very amusing, mildly hungover fellow transport geeks (come on guys, you know you are) from Nantwich who kindly let me walk along with them for the next three hours or so, regaling me with tales of their ‘grumpy old men’ pub quiz group and the campsite debacles of the previous evening. They made the beautiful rollercoaster of a walk from Milecastle 42 to 35 fly by, and believe me, the only things that should fly over that brutally undulating legacy of Roman ingenuity and escarpment are birds. I bid them farewell atop Sewingshields Crags, where I stopped for lunch and they headed off the route to meet their friend waiting for them in a car at the bottom of the hill. Car? But a daydream right now…

From then on it was just a matter of keeping adjacent to the military road (AKA the B6318), which was originally built in the mid-1700s to deal with that Bonnie Prince Charlie chap – under which lies remnants of the Wall, – for the remainder of the day. Would have all been pretty straightforward and picturesque if I had not been running very low on water. Was I thinking about the site of the Mithras Temple as I approached Brocolitia Roman Fort? Was I hell – I was praying that the rumoured refreshment van would be in the car park so I could buy some drinks. Lots of drinks – I was positively hallucinating about the lovely ice cold lemonade and water I would down. Suffice to say… No van. Gah.

I was an hour and a half away from the next option, the Riverside Tea Rooms in Chollerford. On I walked, stopping briefly at Limestone Corner, the northernmost point of the Roman Empire, to ponder the heathon hordes north of the Wall. Got to the tea rooms at 4.04pm. They closed at 4pm. Arrrrgggggh. Thank god for the small shop in the next door petrol station and the cold bottle of water they sold me: possibly the best £1 I ever spent, and it rehydrated me enough to walk on the mile to Wall, where the friendly staff of the Hadrian Hotel pub – my home for the night – fed me multiple pints of lemonade as well as a decent roast lamb dinner. Bliss. Rehydrated and tired out, I was in bed by 9pm. 

Photos: Walltown Crags / view looking south / the tree that was apparently in ‘that Kevin Cosner film’ (being modelled by Ian) / looking back towards Crag Lough / view from Sewingshields Crags / Limestone Corner

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Hadrian’s Wall Path, Day 2

Walked from: Carlisle

Walked to: Greenhead 

Date: 29 August 2015

Distance: 21 miles

Stayed: Greenhead hostel

Weather: Kind! Showers early on, then dry and sometimes ‘even’ sunny

It’s been the sort of day where I’m writing this at eight in the evening and all I want to do is go to sleep… I’m knackered. And tomorrow I’ve got the same sort of distance to walk but over much tougher terrain: I know because less than three months ago I walked the first ten miles of tomorrow’s walk when I was on the Pennine Way! Glutton for punishment? Suffice to say, it’s going to be a pretty early start for me in the morning.

Today’s walk had a definite theme: and that theme was… honesty boxes. You do occasionally encounter them on walks, but today there were five different spots where you could leave cash in exchange for a variety of drinks or confectionary. I got over excited at the first place, near Crosby on Eden, and purchased a Mars Bar as a mid-morning snack despite not really liking them, and steadfastly ignored the next three for fear of a massive sugar rush, but by the time I encountered the (best) one near the top of the hill at Haytongate I was ready for that lovely cold bottle of water. Thank you farmers, your random collections of sugar-based treats hidden in the depths of the English countryside are ACE. Other people clearly think so too, cos’ they’ve left a lot of thank you notes (see photos).

I also encountered the wall for the first time on this trip; the tribes in the Carlisle area were so efficient at repurposing Hadrian’s Walk and its forts that not a trace of stone reminds, but as you start to head to the far east (of Cumbria – we’re not talking about the Great Wall of China all of a sudden) chunks of the wall start to appear. Not long, in fact, after the last honesty box… Would love to build a conspiracy theory out of that one, but life really is too short! By the time I reached Birdoswold, the first significant site of Roman ruins on the walk, the wall was really picking up – although ironically it gets much better after leaving the English Heritage site (you know, the bit that people pay to get in to). 

The last part of the walk from Birdoswold (not to be confused with Bird World, which I believe is in Dorset) to Greenhead was mind over (foot) matter; my feet were screaming to be released from their walking boot captors while my head kept trying to distract me:

Isn’t that pretty / ah, look at the sheep /oh heck, that bit I’m headed right towards is seriously undulating… I think you get the picture re’ my internal conversation. No wonder I usually prefer to walk with other people – it’s nice this whole walking alone thing, but it’s so much easier for other people to distract me than it is for me to distract myself!  

Photos: Near Crosby on Eden / outskirts of Walton / the favourite of my five ‘honesty boxes’ (this one was a hut) / first glimpse of the Wall, at Hare Hill / the Wall on approach to Gildland





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Hadrian’s Wall Path

Walked from: Bowness-on-Solway

Walked to: Carlisle 
Distance: 15 miles

Stayed: YHA, Carlisle

Weather: Dry. Apart from that bit where it poured down and I got soaked…

I’ve given myself five days to walk across the country. Admittedly it’s the skinny bit, the equivalent of the neck of Great Britain, but it’s still 85 miles and I’m walking in the footsteps of the Romans the whole way, tracing the line of Hadrian’s Wall. Whoop, etc! 

There weren’t any actual traces of the wall to be seen on today’s walk, but there were some lovely views over to Scotland across the Solway, and the River Eden, and if there was a little too much road walking at points, this flat route made for a quick and quite pretty 15 miles. And as I started at the absurdly early time of 7am, I was finished by noon!

Would love to talk to the ‘gentleman’ in the 4WD who went through a puddle at speed and soaked what little of me wasn’t wet already from the very heavy rain shower I’d misjudged as a spot of light rain. When you’re warm and dry inside a car there’s really no need to act like an arse to those of us who are dealing with the weather on a more interactive basis… 

Photos: The start point of the walk, at Bowness / Approaching Port Carlisle / View over the River Eden to Scotland / Carlisle Castle / Carlisle Cathedral 




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The Pennine Way, Day 17 

Date: Sunday 7 June 2015

Walked from: Windy Gyle, Northumberland

Walked to: Kirk Yetholm, SCOTLAND!!!

Distance: 14 miles (ish) 

Stayed: The Border Hotel 

Weather: Dry, sunny later, great visibility

The final day of our 260 mile walk dawned bright and dry, and having hugged goodbye to Colin and Joyce, the wonderful hosts of Forest View, it was time to set off back up the leg stiffening climb we had walked down in the rain the day before. The wind was still with us, but in positively benign mood compared to the day before, and the rain decided to let us be for the day. 
Today’s walk was fabulous, and a fitting end to my Pennine Way adventure. Picking the trail back up again at Windy Gyle, we walked on the English side of the border for miles, up to the trig point at King’s Seat before hanging a sharp left and heading to Auchope Cairn and the spectacularly beautiful decent down the side of the emerald green hillside of Hen Hole, towards our last refuge hut of the trip. Next came the glorious climb up to The Schil, which – my guidebook states – is said to be the most attractive hill in The Cheviots. How you’re supposed to pick one among so many equals I don’t know, but it was another lovely climb, and on from there were more climbs up White Law and Whitelaw Nick, as we opted for the high route to finish our walk. 

The last stretch saw us dropping down into Kirk Yeltholm, our final destination, via a soft green path strewn with cattle, sheep and their offspring, and then on to a quiet country lane. The Border Hotel suddenly loomed into sight as we came to the village green – our last stop on what has sometimes felt like the UK’s longest pub crawl. And to the pub we went, to claim our free half pint provided to those who complete the Pennine Way (thanks Scottish Borders Brewery) and get our certificate (naff, yet sort of sweet too) for having finished the walk.  

Tonight nine of us dined together, celebrating the end of our walk over food, drinks and a memorable ‘awards’ ceremony, hosted by Colin, which involved the downing of tequila shots and a lot of laughter. I’ve met some great, truly interesting people from all sorts of places and backgrounds on this trip, made new friendships and hopefully cemented some existing ones. Long distance walking throws together such random assortments of people, yet there is something about the sense of humour, desire to achieve and the sheer joy of spending hours outdoors pitting yourself against the challenges that geography and climate throw at you, that pulls us all together. Fellow Pennine Way Farers, it was my honour and my privilege to walk with you, whether for a few hours or days on end. 

Photos: Walking the border / view from   Auchope Cairn / nearing the end / certified!


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