A couple of months ago, in the middle of June, I did some recalculating and came up with a probable date for Day One of Hadrian’s walk as Monday 7/08/2017 in my post entitled A Change of Plan at https://edquodhoc.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/dreams-ideas-thoughts-9/
Now, mid-August, things have changed slightly, with the date set at Thursday 3/8/2017 , now officially booked with The Walking Holiday Company .
We chose TWHC over five other similar service providers, based on their responses to a set of questions which we sent them, the most important of which was “Can you guarantee that we will have reserved clean and comfortable accommodation at every nightly stop-over, with the landlord’s expecting our arrival?” Any respondent who gave us an inkling of doubt at that point were not considered.
Otherwise, why would we need a booking agent for a self-guided walking tour on a marked National trail? One of the companies replied to our questionnaire in the vein, please check our website for the appropriate tour details! Their website was where we got their address from, in the first place!
Our chosen agency provided us with a suggested itinerary, based on the stop-over points we’d suggested, together with some recommendations sensations as to what additional excursions we might want to try whilst in each particular area. Nice.
Whilst the walking club maps tend to favour the complete walk from Newcastle Upon Tyne in the east to Bowness On Solway on the West coast, we will be starting off at the “wrong” end and walking from Carlisle. Not sure how we’ll get there yet — either fly into Heathrow and then take a train to Carlisle, or alternatively, fly into Manchester and get a bus or train to Carlisle. Either way, we would like to spend a couple of days in Carlisle to acclimatise ourselves to terra firma and to help a bit with jetlag.
On the last day of the tour, we’ll walk a bit and then catch one of the west-to-east buses to Heddon, where I have reserved a room at Hadrian’s Barn. The next day, we’ll travel to Newcastle, either by bus or train, depending on the advice of the Heddoners. Spend the rest of that day and sleep over in Newcastle, then train down to London the next morning.
End of Hadrian.
* Featured image may be copyrighted. Hadrianswallcountry.co.uk
If you want to talk the talk, you must be able to walk the walk. Too true.
But, I ask myself, can I?
I have spent the last month juggling dates for a possible trip around Europe, a walk through Cumbria and Northumberland, a visit to London and air flights which match up with booking dates for the excursions.
The result so far? Not a great deal. Air bookings generally only open 330 days ahead of flight dates. So, given that our last “planned” flight will be on 4/5th September next year, we still have 55 days before tickets are released. So, booking dates for tours are a bit of a gamble, but that’s what comes from living on the other side of the planet, I guess.
If we are saved and still healthy -ish, then the walk along part of Hadrian’s Wall Path is a given. Not a maybe. After all, the walk is the main object of the trip, the coach tour of Europe being incidental to having travelled such a long way around the world.
So, instead of messing around with the finer details of the start and end of the journey, maybe I should get off my chair and start a bit of training in walking the walk , like physical exercises involving primarily the legs and lungs. Nothing strenuous to start off with, but gradually becoming accustomed to walking for four to five hours a day, to prepare for the eight days of walking and experiencing the Roman world of 1000 years ago, between 3 and 11 August 2017.
I have started walking this year, with a few trial walks, terminating recently with a walk of just over 11k. With stops, the at-ease stroll took around 2h30m. That rate is quite acceptable and will be adequate for any of the planned day’s walks.
I have used some of these photos in previous blogs or Facebook posts.
(1). 19 March – A walk with some uphills in the Hemi Matenga Reserve just above Waikanae.
(2). 26 March – A circular walk with a few hilly bits on the Battle Hill Forest Park near Pauatahanui.
(3). 28 March – A circular walk around Titahi Bay, a suburb of Porirua.
(4). 2 April – A hike through the Kaitawa Reserve in the Magaone Valley, Reikorangi.
(5). 8 May – A walk along the Waikanae River in Edgewater Park
(6). 6 June – On Queens Birthday, a beach walk northwards from Waikanae to Peka Peka and back.
(7). 10 July – While on holiday, a walk through the Brooklands Park Reserve in New Plymouth.
(8). 11 August – my latest walk along the Waikanae River from James Cook Park down to the river mouth at Waikanae Beach and back.
Procrastination is the thief of time. Something we are taught from a very young age. Never leave until tomorrow that which you could do today. That’s something I keep telling myself. It all makes perfect sense, yet why do I ignore the self-inflicted advice?
Today is 18 July. On the sideboard the application forms still lie, signed and dated 12 July. Where does the time go? I have a travel and residence visa permit affixed to my passport. The passport was due to expire shortly, so I ordered a new one which will be valid until the year 2026. 2026… that almost seems like science fiction, as I remember an old futuristic science feature on TV called Beyond 2000!
So, I’d downloaded the forms to apply to have my travel and visa page renewed reflecting my new passport number and laminated into the new passport, as required in the terms of issue of visas. I immediately filled in the few details as requested, signed and dated the form on the dotted line and gave my debit card details to pay for the service. That was, quite apparently, on 12 July. Almost a week ago. And it was still lying where I left it, collecting dust!
After silently confirming “I really must go through to Wellington and hand this in…” I finished my breakfast coffee, and look at the clock on the dresser. 9:27am. If I allowed an hour on the train, and hour and a half to walk to the immigration office and back and waiting in the queue, and an hour back in the train, then I’d be looking at being back by, allowing for the odd delay, probably around 2:00pm.
No. “It’ll be better to leave the task until tomorrow when I can make an early start.”
What on earth makes you think that your procrastinatory attitude will be any different tomorrow morning? The voice of my inner conscience queried, under it’s breath. Huh? What do you imagine will change this lackadaisical odour?
There goes a lady with about two dozen kids. Not all her’s , obviously. She is taking them somewhere on an outdoor excursion. It’s school holidays, you see. They have just got off the train. Next station Linden the public address in my carriage announced. The time is 11:12am.
Why does the lady say London? A little lad of five or six sitting in the seat next to me, asks his mother.
No, it’s Linden, not London.
Oh. … if you changed the “i” to an “o” , then it would be London!
We pull into Linden station, and the little one pipes up again, “Next station, Tawa!”
Wow! How did you remember that?
No, I didn’t. There’s a board over there on the platform that tells u
Not really having much contact with such littles ones any more, I’d forgotten how many questions they can have. He carried on and on.
When we have sports day at school again, I’m going to make my hair yellow.
I’m not sure what gave rise to that decision, but there was no further debate regarding the matter.
It’s amazing how time flies when you’re occupied. There it’s already 11:28 and we’re coasting into platform 3 of Wellington station.
Next stop Wellington! The little one shouted, jumping up with glee.
° ° °
12:23. That’s the reading on the station clock, as I arrive back at platform number 4 from the Immigration offices in the city.
I’d walked at a brisk pace in varied weather conditions, with a thermal and waterproof-rainproof outer jacket as well, unzipping the layers in the sunlit warm sheltered areas and then snuggling closed again when battered by the icy wintry Wellington cross-winds.
I’d found the Immigration office with ease, and entered quite a small “hall” containing counters around the walls with three or four people filling out application forms. And one lady at the computer screen at the head of a queue of a party of three in front of me. Wow! I’d fully expected a queue from here to eternity and a few receptionists.
There ensued an interrogation and query session lasting a full fifteen minutes, where a language problem as well as a hearing problem by the applicant seemed to be getting nowhere. Eventually, they see the light, and the problem was solved! The three ahead of me had now been successfully served, and it was my turn.
On the board to my left was a notice: Application forms are not accepted at these counters. Please deposit in the drop-box at the main door.
I had my application of five A4 pages, my old passport and my new passport all as loose items, all 7 of them. And the same for Jeanette. Dumping these loose items into a drop-box might present a problem. Now for a hunting trip around this unknown part of town to find a shop where I could buy a large envelope…
I’d learned long ago that notices are posted to prevent stupid people from asking stupid questions. I could smile at her helplessly, explain that my stuff is loose and would she mind accepting… This stupid person was not about to fall into that trap, but what now?
Can I buy one of those large see-thru envelopes behind you, please?
Apparently that was not a stupid question. Well, not completely stupid. The lady smiled, turned around, passed me one, saying “No need to pay. We re-use them all the time.”
° ° °
It is now 1:44pm. The train carriage is empty, save for a couple of people apparently asleep.
Next stop Waikanae, I shout very silently, unlike a six-year-old…
Am I trendy, or what?
I am sure most folks would agree that I’m not really at the pinnacle of fashion. Possibly slightly out-dated, perhaps rather old-fashioned. I would hasten to add that all these terms naturally referred to the person’s situation in relation to his peers.
When I was small, I generally walked around bare-footed. Even during the initial years of (rural) schooling, bare heels, soles and toes was really the norm. As I developed, shoes were introduced for school and church. And grey socks. Grey socks to match the grey flannel shorts and white shirts, as standard school uniforms wherever you went.
Outside of school hours, shoes and socks hibernated under beds. Usually quite smelly socks, if memory serves. The grey socks were quite woolly and would wear through in two spots — one at the middle of the back of each heel, the other at the nail tip of the big toe. Then, out would come that big darning needle, the wooden darning mushrooms grey wool or darning thread, which ever was available. Ten minutes later, you’d have a brand new (darned) sock once more.
Old habits die hard, so I continued to wear grey socks virtually up to adulthood. I wasn’t one for going on shopping expeditions for clothing. It is therefore not surprising that my wife was my main procurer of clothing for me during married life. In these situations, a wise man will always wear the clothing as chosen by his wife, because (a) he doesn’t really care what colour or style of garment he wears, and (b) he can rest assured that his wife will be comfortable being seen in public with him if he is wearing clothing which she has selected, bought and already pre-approved.
Now that I have retired (from career, not marriage!), I frequently have the opportunity of accompanying my wife on the few occasions that I go to clothing shops. Today was one such day. Once before I bought a pair of Dri-fit fabric socks, and I’d found them extremely comfortable and pleasing. So, I checked out the sports section, and in the basketball kit area, I came across Nike Elite. Huh! Surely this is what the elite basket ball players wear all the time, the apex of fashion, surely? Someone like Lebron James probably wears these.
I Googled “Lebron James socks”. Yep, these were the Real McCoy. Except that there are more sock images than are imaginable! I wonder if Lebron makes more money out of manufacturers and sponsors than heroes out of chucking a ball through a hoop!
The pair of Nike Elite which I chosen were rather pricey. But, there was a pink sticker sale on, so these were being offered at 25% off! The sales card boasts that these socks are cushioned, and that they soften the impact! Thank heavens for that!
We have really come a long way from the $2 grey woolly boys’ socks to these two-tone Dri-Fit fabric, which pulls away sweat to help keep me cool and comfortable. They also have reinforced heel and toe for enhanced durability! They are Left/Right specific design for a better fit (the yellow letters L and R near the big toe ensure that you put the correct sock on the correct foot!)
I checked on this. I deliberately forced the L sock on my right foot as an independent consumer test of a comfortable fit. Well, I would say that the jury is still out on that one, as I cannot definitely rule whether it fits better or worse. There may well be a slight difference.
Nike also supplied a whole lot of technical stuff, such as washing at 40°C in non-chlorine medium. Also do not use fabric softener, do not dry clean and do not iron!
The days have certainly changed from then when they were plain grey to the modern day black yellow-accent state-of-the-sport Lebrons!
I have always been impressed by something exclusive. Not necessarily anything madly costly or expensive, nothing glitzy or brass, but something that has that air of exclusivity about it, without being pretentious or tainted with the reek of snobbery.
Years ago at school, during English essay time, which I loved to hate, but also anticipated with some macabre sense of triumph when they were stowed upon us… it was during those times of discovering new ideas and fresh descriptive words that I first met exclusivity in the form of a very special adjective which has never been used by me or directed towards me, during the course of everyday common conversation.
This particular exclusive adjective which has always held an air of mystery for me, the one which I have never used, nor which has never been used at me, is bespoke.
And you were expecting some major revelation of a grand word of grand proportions?
A few days ago I sent out an email message to half a dozen different booking agents in England, essentially requesting a quotation for B&B accommodation at seven overnight stopover points. I asked everyone the same questions such as why I should use their agency rather than the next guy’s, whether they could guarantee that we would not get left stranded high and dry somewhere because something went wrong with our booking, or that they use the services of a highly-trusted courier.
The responses came back fairly promptly, mostly quite detailed, some a bit more specific and more professional than others. The one agency which impressed me most specified the required details, using my enquiry format as a virtual questionnaire. That impressed me more than somewhat. The price quoted wasn’t the lowest of the lot, but certainly within the correct range.
So, why am I sprouting all about this?
Well, the itinerary which I supplied to everyone in my enquiry did not match a standard tour (for anyone) and it covers a west-to-east walk as opposed to the opposite direction as described by the agents. But the “chosen” agency took all this in their stride, and typed up an itinerary to match the outline I had supplied, and even code-numbered it for future reference purposes, I guess. Just the way I would have done it!
They headed their priced itemised itinerary, believe it or not, as
2017 Carlisle to Corbridge Holiday Itinerary Choices
For James Andrews
HWP 4 bespoke 7days/ 6nights
And, to crown it all, the “bespoke” is in red font! Great! Awesome!
Suit you, sir Oooo Suit you, sir!
Can you imagine the scene? Driving rain and an icy cold wind blasting us from in front, the moonless country road difficult to follow without landing in every pool of muddy water, Clayton and I grunt and curse as we make our weary way to the dim flickering light, still about a mile away. It had been an extra-long day.
“That stupid bloody British weatherman,” I complained once again, although Clayton was not paying attention, even if he had been able to hear me through his hoodie above the whining of the wind, “I distinctly remember him saying there would be no rain for the foreseeable future… Fool.”
“Mmmmm, just like I can distinctly remember you saying that you would research this trip and you would arrange all the meals and sleepover accommodation, because you don’t trust the money-making useless agents!” was his reply, which I could hear clearly.
He was right, of course. As usual. Why must he always be right? Just like it was my fault that we missed that turnoff just before twilight morphed into darkness. I should have listened to him, and followed his gut-feel of where we should be heading…
I wondered what the time was. I was damned if I was going to pull my tablet from the rucksack and risk getting it waterlogged in two seconds, just to look at the time. But, I knew it was late. The darkness told me, my aching legs told me, and my growling stomach told me.
This country road near Bardon Mill reminded me much of home, halfway around the planet, where the roads are also winding and narrow and nights can be blacker than dark black, and the rain will suddenly start pelting down without provocation.
This section of our “Walk with Hadrian” would definitely stand out as one of the worst lowlights of what I had billed as the Dream of a Father-Son Adventure – an outing I hoped would remain with us for a long time to come.
Up ahead, the elusive B&B loomed out of the Bardon darkness. It was a farm-style homestead, set behind a tall hedge with some trees being gusted around to mask our squelching footsteps over the rough gravel pathway. I could see that a couple of lights were still burning near the back. At least the landlord was still awake!
“Good evening, governor. Naaw, I’m ‘fraid we’re all full up – a big walking party of young ladies here, they booked months ago! ‘Fraid I canna help you! Why didn’t you guys book ahead?….There’s Pete’s place about four miles up the road, but I’d guess he’s full up… the best I can suggest is that old wood-shed at the back there…” he pointed, rubbed his chin and continued, “it’ll keep the water off yer. You’ve got sleeping bags with yer, not so?”
I glanced at Clayton. Sleeping bags? Yeah.. right. I had just a faint suspicion that his opinion of my forward planning efforts had dropped way below the acceptable level. I turned without apology, with a growling stomach and icy hands and feet and started sauntering towards the wood-shed.
“Hey, look at it this way: we’ve never had the chance of sleeping rough out in the countryside, like stranded hunters in the outback. Or like escaped prisoners on the run, hiding from the police search parties, or like missing troops behind enemy lines trying the evade the…”
He said nothing. His glaring eyes said it all.
Why would he be angry? There was simply no room at the inn. And that was that. Plain and simple. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can make a mistake.