Easter weekend and 'stay home' restrictions have lifted, so we can now travel further afield within our county boundaries again, so, with good weather forecast, I headed back to where I'd got up to on The Pennine Way, to the east of Walltown on Hadrian's Wall.
Day 8 (Friday 2nd April 2021) - I parked up at a Cawfield Quarry (the toilets at the pay and display car park are open - thank you Northumberland National Park!) and first headed west to where I'd previously reached at Cockmount Hill. I then walked back to Cawfield Quarry for some lunch before walking east along The Pennine Way and Hadrian's Wall to Steel Rigg car park.
This stretch of Hadrian's Wall, from Cawfield Quarry to Caw Gap and Whinshield Crags is a favourite stretch of Hadrian's Wall, the landscape is dramatic but the curves are softer and more sinuous to my eye, especially when viewed from east to west. It's a relatively quiet stretch of the wall too, away from the hubbub of Sycamore Gap.
Apart from some light at the start and end of my day trip, the cloud cover was thick and light was flat, but conditions were perfect for a good leg stretch - it was so good to be out in open countryside again and to just enjoy striding out along the path with uninterrupted views all around.
Here are a collection of pictures from the day - there are lots of sheep pictures! Did you know that, allegedly, sheep outnumber people 3 to 1 in Northumberland - an interesting stat picked up from some friends who work in data in Northumberland.
Day 9 (Sunday 4th April 2021) - with high winds and possible wintry squalls but mostly dry weather forecast I headed back over to pick up where I'd left off on Friday, to Steel Rigg car park, with the aim of finishing off the Hadrian's Wall leg of The Pennine Way.
Steel Rigg car park is managed by Northumberland National Park and is a pay and display car park. There are no toilets here, but The Sill visitor centre is located just down the road and it has excellent facilities as well as a large, modern youth hostel managed by the Youth Hostel Association - the hostel even has en-suite family rooms! I've stayed here as it's an ideal base if you want to do sunrise to sunset on Hadrian's Wall. The hostel does evening meals, including excellent pizza, and the infamous (and huge) YHA breakfast, perfect for setting you up for a big day of photography and hiking.
Anyhoo, back to Day 9! This is a fabulous and popular stretch of Hadrian's Wall, taking in Peel Crags (popular with climbers for it's imposing sheer cliff face), Steel Rigg, the famous Sycamore Gap, Highshield Crags overlooking Crag Lough and then Hotbank Crags. The Pennine Way leaves Hadrian's Wall at Turret 37a at the end of Hotbank Crags, peeling off and heading northwards across open farmland with great views back to Hadrian's Wall sitting on top of the vertiginous line of the Whin Sill (a layer of igneous dolerite rock that protrudes and forms distinctive geological features in a number of locations across Northumberland, Cumbria and County Durham).
I had planned to walk along The Pennine Way path up to the edge of the forest, but decided to call it a day at Cragend near Greenlee Lough nature reserve. The way ahead after this spot was down a steep drop, across boggy land and then into what looked like miles and miles of conifer forest and, to be honest, the prospect looked a little intimidating and I wasn't quite ready to take on this stretch yet, I was too busy enjoying the wide open landscape and views around Hadrian's Wall and wasn't in the fettle for trudging across bog and through dense forest. Also, I had forgotten to pack some cake and coffee (again, this is becoming a bad habit!), essential kit for big hikes, especially ones that involve bogs and forests. So I called it a day and headed back to Steel Rigg car park, taking the footpath that runs in parallel to Hadrian's Wall across farmland just to the north of the Wall. This is a lovely route and makes for an excellent circular walk from Steel Rigg car park.
Think I'll have a little break before tackling the next stretch of The Pennine Way as I'll be heading into completely new territory for me and I don't want to rush it - also I think the legs are going to be quite long, so I need to figure out the logistics of doing it in linear day trip hikes. I've been spoilt by The Pennine Way so far - I suspect the next stretch is going to be a bit of a trudge - but it may have hidden treasures that I know nothing about, and, as it'll be a quieter stretch, I may see more wildlife if I'm lucky. It'll be fun to find out what lies ahead when I get there :-).
Here's a little video and some pictures from Day 9 on The Pennine Way - breezy but an excellent day for a leg stretch!