Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Let's see the countryside

Saturday 22nd March to Sunday 23rd March 2014

This area of the countryside is just so lovely and with the major attraction of the area being Hadrian’s Wall and associated remains of the Romans and their other handiwork, we decided to have a bit of a look around.

This is where we were staying

A view across the valley - and a light smattering of snow

Frost as well

and a woodpecker makes a visit

On good advice, we started at Housesteads and moved westerly after that.

The Monty Python line “What have the Romans ever done for us?” always comes to mind, but when you view any of the remains of their presence in England, it shows exactly how much they have left behind.

We were able to officially walk on Hadrian’s Wall at Housesteads and the whole site, including the museum and short film showed us how it all looked, how it all worked, how well it was all built.

The overall view of Housesteads

skylarking on the wall

The "Wall" in the background

My goddess next to the Roman one - absolutely no comparison
in my mind - I have the better deal

the view from Housesteads with the old Roman quarry in the foreground
Between Housesteads and our next stop at Vindolanda (or as Diane says – Vindaloo) we managed to get a shot of the Sycamore Tree as previously explained.

Kevin Costner and Morgen Freeman under this tree and under
plenty of cloud - pleased to say that the weather was a bit better
for us
Vindolanda is still an active archeological site with the digging season starting in April/May – the overhead photograph of the site in the café (taken in 2011) shows that a vast amount of digging and exposure has been made in just 2 seasons of digging.

Vindolanda - just part of the site already excavated

... and the new excavations since 2011
Lunch was taken at the aforesaid café, which was reasonably priced for a tourist spot and very tasty indeed.

Note the salad on the lunch plate...

...where did it all go?
Yes, she really did eat it all.

Our final stop was at the Roman Army Museum at Greenhead – just near to where we were staying but it allowed for more of the situation to fit into place.

Have they got the sizes out of whack?
Have to say that given the weather of the area, which is cold and very windy, how did these Romans put up with the conditions – keeping a look out for the marauding Celts and Picts from the north in freezing cold conditions – not my idea of having a good time/wish you were here type fun.

It came as a surprise to us that Dot and Gordon had not been to the Lake District and so we came to a quick decision that we would spend the better of the rest of the weekend days touristing in this fabulous area.

Sisters are doing it .... again

Who says money doesn't grow on
trees - hundreds of coins embedded on
a fallen section of tree

and the pot of gold is just below the surface
The scenery is truly spectacular.

And we managed to catch up with Paul and Elaine before they headed back to the boat.

Bombo in resplendent beauty

To wit to woo !!

and the coffee was good as well

Life begins again

Thursday 20th March to Friday 21st March 2014

Life begins again for us and naturally we think about Banjo almost constantly – the things that we would have been doing with him and where we would have been going and how he would have enjoyed things along the way, but also we are learning to live without him being there.

There was a very bright and pleasing bit of news come to us via SMS on Thursday morning – it seems that the marina had to back down from not refunding mooring fees for a boat that they wanted gone.

The marina definitely doesn’t like people in the marina on their boats.

All eight of us decided to have a seaside visit on Thursday – well it was ten of us, including Bombo and Sammie.

So off we were to Whiteley Bay which is just north of Newcastle – a fine sunny day was in-store for us -  not likely – the clouds settled over very quickly after we set off – in 2 cars – the wind came up even more and rain was in the offing.

now off you go and think about what you have done

Paul had done so much walking that his boot finally gave
up the ghost - a blow out
It was the tonic that we needed and we did have an great day out – walking along the beach with the tide out – stepping over the rocks and watching the surf as the wind whipped up the sea; being entertained with Paul’s impersonation of a Geordie accent – he has a great knack of being able to get most of these down pat (or is that pet!).

A fine meal at the seaside café – the food was satisfactory – the attentions of the owner were perhaps a bit too attentive.

Paul once again upset one of the locals in photographing the two toilet doors that each showed a “Gents” sign – one woman was getting ammoyed with him disappearing behind one which she saw quite clearly as being the ladies (it was also the entry for the disabled gents toilet).

The rain eventually made an appearance whilst we were having lunch as well as reading the newspapers – a great deal of discussion was taking place over the relative merits of an item appearing on page 3 of one of the papers. Something else to upset our lady friend.

With lunch behind us we then focussed on finding the location of “The Angel of the North” – rain was getting heavier; our satnavs (or is that SatNags) were striving to direct us through the Newcastle road system – with wet windscreens front and back and two cars of general colour – one white and one red – we didn’t always keep track of each other as clearly as we would have liked – I only had to go round the one roundabout again on one occasion when I lost Andy in the other car.

Who's that supporting my wife - I am supporting the camera

My angel in front - the geordie one in back

the gang's all here
Eventually we spotted our destination and then located the access ramp and parking area. With light diminishing and the rain only slightly abating we managed run around like schoolkids and generally being quite silly really.

For some of us we had a homeward bound detour to see Hadrian's Wall which runs right near to Greenhead.

Friday was leaving day as, in turn, we said au revoir to Andy and Sue who needed to be back for friends arriving and then to Elaine and Paul who wanted to explore a bit of the Lakes District before heading back to the boat.

After the house went from loud to quiet very quickly – we missed them all straight away – Dot and Diane decided that a day in Hexham to view the Abbey and then early doors would be appropriate – Gordon and I as usual just went along with it – much easier on us that way.

So off we went.

The main part of Hexham is built, as expected, up on the hill – the main parking area, courtesy of Tesco, is at the bottom – so a trudge up the hill was the first part.

The Abbey is right in the centre of town and easy to find. Entry, as is increasingly becoming the case, was by donation – the size suggested is increasing faster than the inflation rate – not that we object – these buildings do require a lot to maintain them.

Strolling around the internals and the underternals (the crypt) gave us a good idea about the history of the abbey; the area; and the people who lived there – which is exactly what we are looking for.

The building stretches from its origins in the 7th century to the present day – a minimal amount of the original building still remains.

It is well worthy of a visit should you be in the area.

The gift shop hoisted some monies from the wallet and the cheese shop across the road did likewise.

A bit further on The Tap and Spline gave some respite from the still very cold weather and wind. It is quite a nice pub inside, although one customer was a bit boisterous in his opinions about the increase in the price of a pint – he left quickly after finishing said pint.

A little detour in walking back to ‘spoons for something to eat merely increased the appetite.

The atmosphere inside Wetherspoons was as expected and the meals are the same – good value and quite good to eat.

The return leg involved a bit of last minute directions as we traveled and despite the implications from the female half of the contingent, all four wheels of the car remained on the ground at all times.

We managed to see the sycamore tree and section of Hadrian’s Wall used in the filming of Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves (the Kevin Costner version) and inspected the rum shelves of the Twice Brewed Inn.

By this stage we were ready to return home; warm up again and had time for some cards before the effects of another full day became quite apparent.