Day 7: Gilsland to Newtown, the nicest day
We declined an offer of a lift back to Gilsland: it was such a stunning day that the extra mile didn’t matter. There was not other way across the river, so we picked our way back to the pathway and started what must be the best section of the wall, because there were a number of milecastles still pretty much intact, Birdoswald Fort and the signal station. All of this lay along one of the prettiest days walks we have ever spent.
The visit to Birdoswald Fort was not without its humour. It’s one of the most accessible camps on the wall, and one of the older sites, as it was originally a turf fort that was incorporated into the stone wall. Later it was fortified in Norman times with a Pete tower; then a farmhouse was built right across the remains and a decorative keep added for atmosphere! The museum was closed, but we weren’t buying; but as Paula and I walked up the hill towards the site, discussing Trump’s healthcare plan as you do, a bus pulled in – an American fact-finding tour, I said, come to see how to build a real wall. Of course they were from the more special end of the special relationship!
What then happened was high farce. Don and Janet Staines, who we were getting to know and who are sharing the B and B this evening, were bailed up and photographed by several elderly Americans as if they were mythical creatures. I was asked how far we had come, and when I replied “60 miles”, was told, “My, but you must have started early”. I could just imagine the conversation on the bus – “The English must have a poor economy: look at all the things that they let fall down”. “Why were they walking: isn’t there car hire around here?”
The early part of the walk rand along the River Irthing, a cinematically correct English stream with small fish and a modern footbridge to ease the walkers way before another steep climb to a milecastle.
Lunch was at Lanacost, a village built around the ruins of an Augustinian Priory which was sold of under Hentry VIII. Ironically, the stately home is now a ruin and the Priory soldiers on as the western end is now the parish Church of St Mary Magdalene. It glows in the landscape as the local sandstone is a deep red and is quite a stunning survivor of the Henrician dissolution.
We rested at Walton – a boring village with no pub, which Paula thought might have been caused by a plague of Methodists – and finally to Newtown, where George welcomed us with a cup of tea and home made fruit scones, damn good ones. The Staines arrived soon after and Janet, who could talk for England, soon had the conversation going. Dinner was in Irthington, at the ‘Sally’, and here’s a photo for Sally Selmes – it’s definintely worth a visit!
“Time is intended to be spent, not saved!”
Sage advice from England’s greatest modern walker. And spend time on experiences, not on things! That makes life worth living.