April 9, 2011 – Gilsland to Irthington – 11⅔ miles
We awake before the alarm; our bodies apparently like to sleep exactly 8 hours, no matter how tired we are. We slog our way through a truly amazing 3-course breakfast (which included whisky), and are on the trail by 9:30. We are silly, and backtrack about half a mile to try to spot something we had missed on the way into Gilsland – a place where the wall disappears directly under a house. Satisfied that we have seen all this burg can offer us, we continue on.
The wall’s path shoots straight towards a river whose course has since shifted. A new, slightly higher-tech bridge was then helicoptered in for us to cross.
Then we hit the steepest ascent since the crags, to a milecastle overlooking the river. We took comfort in the thought that the Romans had to do this while carrying stone blocks.
Shortly afterward, we found an inscription on the wall. The Romans’ symbols of fertility are dirty.
We ducked into the museum at Birdoswald Fort; the exhibits here are about what happened after the Romans left, which was a part of the story we had been missing till now. We took a picture in the reconstructed loo, and I saved a bee.
We bought some sweets at the shop (clotted cream fudge!) and take elevensies on the lawn.
Then it’s back to sheep pastures. Fortunately, the lambs still manage to charm. Somewhere along the path we overhear some American accents (rare in these parts), and happen to bump into two women from Portland, who initially mistake our accents for English (Becky) and Canadian (me), and are walking the wall in the other direction!
This day is quite warm. So warm that we shed our long-sleeve tech shirts, and I feel the need to convert my pants into shorts. I don’t want to stop, though, so for a mile or two I rock this look:
We try to take a picture whenever the scenery changes. The difference in this shot: cows!
At long last we reach Walton, which boasts the last intact bit of Roman wall we’ll be seeing on our journey. With that amount of hype, you can imagine our disappointment when we arrive to find that the city has buried the ruins to keep the hillside from washing out.
Becky’s closest-ever encounter with real horses.
Shortly after this last picture, we walk the road into Irthington, and several manure trucks pass us on a perilously narrow road, spewing their windblown filth into our hair and clothes. Thankful for our sunglasses and the ability to breathe without opening our mouths, we tromp into town in foul spirits. We arrive at the Vallum Barn (creative as ever with naming things, these British), enjoy a hot soak, and (ourselves again) go to hunt down supper.