Hadrian’s Wall Country

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After the North York Moors we headed back inland to take a look at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.

By pure chance we stayed on a campsite, a few miles north of Corbridge and Hexham, that was right on the route of the wall – unfortunately there weren’t any sections of wall here, but it did mean that we weren’t too far from any of the main sights.  For us these were: Corbridge Roman Town, Chesters Bridge & Chesters Roman Fort, Housesteads Roman Fort and Heddon on the Wall.

Our first full day saw us visiting Corbridge Roman Town and also Hexham.  Corbridge itself is a very pretty little town which we drove through to find the old Roman town.  This is an English Heritage site (as many of them are along Hadrian’s Wall) and we were really surprised by just how engaging our visit was.

The 1st item of interest that you come to is a Roman road that you can actually still walk along – the bit that is left is believed to be from the 3rd century AD.  We had audio guides and along with the plentiful information boards this kept our interest all the way around the attraction.

Before heading back to the van we headed to Hexham for a little look around.  As usual we parked a little way out and walked back into town, where we were able to visit the abbey (free to enter), which was very interesting, but there was clearly an event being held that evening (and we were there quite late in the day).  This meant that we weren’t able to visit the crypt which seemed to be a very interesting area.

There is also a moot hall and an old gaol to visit, but we were too late for either!  The town is definitely worth a visit though, and not just for the fact that this is where you’ll find several supermarkets and takeaway options.

The following day we headed in the opposite direction and found Chesters; 1st the Roman bridge remains (at the end of a 3/4 mile long footpath).  It’s amazing to see how much is actually left and we could also see across the river to Chesters Roman Fort which is where the bridge led to.

So this was our next stop.  Again an English Heritage site with lots of information available.  Many of the Roman remains that we are able to see today in the area were saved due to the actions of 1 man, John Clayton, who inherited the land from his father and started excavations.  He also bought up neighbouring estates when they became available in order to save the ruins from being lost completely.

In the grounds of Chesters there is a museum, built by his son, that houses many of the objects that he excavated over the years.  We visited both at the beginning and end of our visit!

The stand out attraction on this site is the remains of the bath house which are quite extensive.  We were also able to look back over the river towards the bridge remains.

We still hadn’t seen any of the actual wall so we carried on along the road and after a short while we caught our 1st glimpse.  We parked up by the side of the road as soon as we were able and walked back along the Hadrian’s Wall path to see the wall.

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The following day we continued further along the same road to visit Housesteads Fort.  Once again we drove into and back out of the official car park (as it was run by the park authorities rather than English Heritage. NB: Corbridge Roman Town and Chesters car parks are run by English Heritage so these charges don’t apply).  They were charging £3 to park regardless of how long you were staying.

The lady at Corbridge Roman Town suggested that we parked a couple of miles away at Steel Riggs where she said the parking was cheaper – we looked but it was actually £4 there!  So we found a layby about a mile along the road from the fort and walked from there.

We made it difficult for ourselves, heading up the hill to join the main path (it wasn’t easy walking!) and when I saw 1 of the bulls at their feeding station staring us down I insisted on retracing our steps and going a slightly longer way around!  We came across a structure at the top of the hill that was probably a part of the wall (there were milecastles along the route, and smaller watchtowers) which we explored a little.

On the way to the fort we came across a short section of the wall that is actually part of the path (much of the actual wall is off limits to walk on), and shortly after this section you get to the fort itself.  This fort’s main attraction is the remains of the latrines where the flush system still works when it rains hard!  We were expecting to be getting bored of the Roman remains by this point, but it actually wasn’t the case – each of the sites has a different reason to visit.

We found a quicker way back to the car by following the tarmac road past the education centre (so no encounters with bulls this time 🙂 ).

Next stop was the town of Haltwhistle, apparently the centre of Britain.  There were a couple of points of interest, but unfortunately not an awful lot was made of these and overall the place was a little depressing.

Before returning back to the van we went off route and found a couple more sections of wall (and also more car parks where daft amounts were being asked to park – they were empty…)

At 1 section I was a little behind Calv in coming back down the hill, and spotted a cow keeping it’s beady eye on me (you have to be careful when they have calves with them).  I had to move fairly fast to get to the gate before the cow got to me!!

We also spotted ‘The Tree’ from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves!

We also saw another section of the wall at Heddon on the Wall; just a small section though and probably only worth seeking out if you’re actually heading that way.

In my next post I will tell you about the other things we did while staying here: Beamish Museum, the Angel of the North and Prudhoe Castle.

 

 

 

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Goathland – aka Aidensfield or Hogwarts…

Our final day in the moors was reserved to visit Goathland, otherwise known as Aidensfield (Heartbeat’s location) or Hogwarts Station (the train station was used in the Harry Potter films).

We would have loved to have arrived in the village on the steam train (North York Moors Railway), but the cost was prohibitive unfortunately.  Even just to travel 1 stop between Grosmont and Goathland would have cost us £26 return….  There were plenty of trains running though so obviously plenty of people paying for this.  Apparently it wasn’t always this expensive – it appears that the Harry Potter effect has caused the increase in prices.

We saw the steam train for the 1st time at Grosmont – perfect timing actually as we were at the front of the queue when the level crossing gates closed!  We do love to see the trains in operation so this was an absolute treat.

Next it was a race to get to Goathland before the train! We managed it – just.. Parking by the road and running up to the bridge, which is where I took the main picture from 🙂  Another train was coming the other way so we saw both in the station.  Heading back to the car we spotted a waterfall which we tried to get a bit closer.  I had to give up as I picked a wrong spot to place my foot and nearly sank!

We then carried on in the car towards the village itself, starting with the train station which I had a quick look at – unfortunately it didn’t really mean much to me as I haven’t watched any Harry Potter film all the way through (I’ve maybe seen 15-20 minutes in total)….  See photos below 🙂 Continue reading “Goathland – aka Aidensfield or Hogwarts…”

Walks in the North York Moors

 

When we first arrived in the North York Moors we drove past Roseberry Topping a few times on our way out for the day.  Each time we both said we’ll go up that while we’re here 🙂

On our 1st day back we had taken a wrong turning and found somewhere to park for free from where we could walk up the peak; Gribdale Gate.  From here we could also go in the opposite direction to visit Captain Cook’s monument.  This was perfect as the car park sited on the main road has a cost attached – although I think the path is more straightforward and definitely looked easier in hindsight!

We thought that we were being clever but from our direction we actually had to cope with 3 ascents and descents.  There are ‘steps’ provided in places but these are not particularly easy to negotiate – we were in awe of the young couple who were walking this in the pouring rain with their young baby on the dad’s back 🙂

So, yes, we had a rainstorm on the way up, but by the time we got to the top the sun was back out – very changeable.

The last bit up to the summit was particularly taxing for me, so I thought I’d have a little sit down – until I spotted the lizard that I was about to sit on! (I thought it was a snake at first..)  I carried on 🙂

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The views from the top were absolutely amazing so I’ve included this video showing them all around, plus a few photos on a slideshow. Continue reading “Walks in the North York Moors”

A few more days on the Moors and seeing the Transporter Bridge

We did a lot of walking in the North York Moors – even when we were ‘going’ somewhere!  So this post will deal with 1 of the days that we were, sort of at least, heading somewhere and I will do a separate post for the days we actually set out just to walk (to the top of Roseberry Topping and to see Captain Cook’s Monument to be precise).

On day 2 in the Moors we headed to the nearest decent sized town, Stokesley, which turned out to be extremely pleasant.  The parking system was disc parking and, not having a disc, we drove through and parked as soon as we could, giving us a short walk back into town.  There are an awful lot of old buildings in Stokesley and the centre has a really nice feel about it, with lots of independent shops and several butchers, bakers and greengrocers.

We also found a dedicated running shop here (I needed a new water bottle).  The 1st bottle they showed me was £35 – I politely explained I wasn’t actually THAT much of a runner!  I did get what I wanted though, and then realised that I recognised the couple from my previous morning’s ‘run’ – I had stopped to wait for them to pass me with their 4 dogs as I was embarrassed by my shambling and didn’t want them to observe it!  These 2 are proper runners – he went up the hill like it  was a Sunday afternoon stroll, whereas I had to bully myself up this hill (all 20m or so of it…).  The shop is called Let’s Run, and they are very involved in coaching and getting beginners out with groups.

From here we headed towards Middlesborough as we both wanted to see the Transporter Bridge that crosses the Tees there.

We found it, and we went across the river on it (£1.30!), a very quick crossing after which we found ourselves in an area called Port Clarence, which used to be very busy, but which is now less so.

We had a quick drive around Middlesborough and were impressed by the evidence of past grandeur, and also the clear evidence of ongoing regeneration.

Making our way back the, slightly long way, we saw another bridge that appears to lift.  I have since discovered this to be the Newport Vertical Lift Bridge which is no longer in use, so no chance of seeing it in action unfortunately 😦

A couple of days later we decided to head south through the moors towards Helmsley.  Continue reading “A few more days on the Moors and seeing the Transporter Bridge”

Our 1st day back in the North York Moors – a day on the coast

We arrived back in the North York Moors fresh from falling in love with the Yorkshire Dales.  We found ourselves in a place called Great Ayton which turned out to have strong links to Captain James Cook, celebrated 18th century explorer, owing to the fact that he went to school here and lived nearby.

Our campsite was a working farm at the end of a lane, as so many of the best ones have been on this trip!  We spent the 1st afternoon settling in and the 2nd day was set aside to visit the coast.

After Guisborough we headed down one of the roads across the moors before heading across to Runswick Bay, which is just north of Whitby.  We headed down the, really very steep, road to the bay itself looking for parking that didn’t involved having to climb back up this road!  Massive fail…  That’s not to say there wasn’t parking; there was; however we weren’t happy with the cost of £2 per hour (parking could easily be our biggest cost on this trip), so we went back up to the top (I wasn’t entirely sure that the little white car would make it!) and parked for free.

Steps have been provided on the hill to make the walk up easier.  They were very shallow though which was a little awkward walking down, although still easier than walking down the slope!)  On the way back up though they were an absolute godsend!

The main photo shows the view of the bay from about halfway down.  There is a lovely sandy beach, a pub, a café, walks and many places to stay 🙂  You will find a charming cluster of houses on the edge of this steep hillside.  The village was originally sited a little further north, but had to be rebuilt in it’s current location due to a rock fall.  Erosion is still an issue but these days there are more sea defences.

Another thing to note is that there is a lifeboat but it’s not RNLI Continue reading “Our 1st day back in the North York Moors – a day on the coast”

Richmond & Leyburn

On our last day in the Dales we decided to go to Richmond, but on the way we stopped off in Leyburn to do some washing.

Whilst waiting for this to finish we first of all did a bit of shopping in a local supermarket, Campbells (actually a CostCutter but also a family run grocery store), and then a quick wander down to ‘The Shawl’ (I was intrigued by the name 🙂 )

We got some wonderful meat in the grocery store (which made us both a wonderful beef stew and a somerset pork casserole).

We found the initial part of the shawl to be playing fields leading up to limestone terrace that extends for almost 2 miles (but we didn’t have time to find this bit).  Romantics like to think it’s called The Shawl as Mary Queen of Scots  dropped her shawl in the area whilst escaping from her imprisonment at Bolton Castle.  This may well not be true! But the views are amazing 🙂

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We moved onto Richmond, where we drove around for a while trying to find a parking space – eventually parking halfway down the hill towards the old station.  Before heading to the castle we had a drink overlooking the market place, followed by a quick mooch around a little market in the old Victorian market hall.

Then onto the castle that dominates the town.  It’s not huge but is a pleasant enough way to pass an hour or so.  The views from the top of the keep are wonderful : Continue reading “Richmond & Leyburn”

A little more of our time in the Yorkshire Dales

What I’m writing about now actually happened more than a fortnight ago (meaning I am really behind here – I do have good reasons though!)

We actually stayed in the Dales for a week, and as well as all the waterfalls that I’ve already written about (click here if you’ve not read it yet), we enjoyed simply driving along the country roads (and along some of the high passes), visiting a couple of the towns and villages and visiting Fountains Abbey and Castle Bolton.

Driving down the road from the campsite we came across an escarpment at Cray that a number of people were climbing.  So we stopped and went up to have a closer look 🙂

From here we continued along the road until we came to Grassington – make no mistake through several pretty villages before getting here; this was just where we decided to stop 🙂

Grassington is actually a town, albeit a small town with a population at the last census of 1,126.  It’s very pretty with a history of lead mining, a country park, a folk museum and several gift shops and eateries.  Well worth a visit; we enjoyed wandering around for a short while 🙂

We were actually aiming for Ripon when we set out in the morning, and once we’d left Grassington we aimed once again for this town.  On the way we saw signs for How Stean Gorge which I had read about in the Rough Guide, and I thought it looked like it could be really good to visit.  It took a while to get there, but we couldn’t see much.  Unless we paid £7 each…  Now it might well have been worth this money, but it’s only about 1000m long, and the weather wasn’t brilliant, so we decided against it.

There is however an awful lot on offer including canyoning, gorge walking, canoeing and the via ferrata (a high wire adventure), so I really think it’s worth a visit for the more adventurous among us (okay among you…!) Check out their website here if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Back on the road again to Ripon we next came across Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden.  Now I did, of course, know that this was here, but I wasn’t going to suggest stopping.  But then we saw the magic words ‘World Heritage Site’, so decided to have a look after all.  Being members of the National Trust we had nothing to lose – if we weren’t impressed we could just leave 🙂

We weren’t disappointed even though we didn’t actually manage to visit the church in the grounds (where Freddie Truman is apparently buried – according to my dad anyway 🙂 ) (I have just checked and Wikipedia says he’s buried in Bolton Abbey; but then again Wikipedia has been known to get it wrong…!), or the Studley Royal Gardens (which are actually the World Heritage Site).  But we did see the hall (much of it now holiday & staff accommodation) and the remains of the abbey itself.  These are really impressive being very extensive.  You can clearly see the seats where the monks sat in the choir, visit an upstairs room (still completely intact) and a massive hall that still has it’s ceiling and arches.

There is quite a steep climb back up from the ruins – so much so that the tall church tower looks a little like a gatehouse as you’re walking towards it!

We fully intended to go back with our bikes to visit the water gardens and the deer park, but sadly never actually made it (as is so often the case).

Time was no getting on so we just drove through Ripon and headed back to the van via a Co-op in Masham (there is a distinct lack of shops in the Dales themselves!)

This we found out to our cost later that evening.  We had forgotten a vital item when in the shop, but decided to wait until after our tea to go back out.  Big mistake!  We headed back out at 7.35pm.  The garage in Aysgarth had closed at 7pm, so we decided to head for Hawes, 8 miles away, as that’s a fairly decent size – no, all that was open were pubs.  And a Chinese.  So then we had to come back and head for Leyburn, 8 miles in the other direction, all the way looking for shops, garages etc.  There were a couple of village shops and garages, but everything was shut, except for the pubs!

Finally in Leyburn – a decent sized town, we found a choice of 2 shops.  So because we forgot something we drove about 36 miles and were out for over an hour.  And we complain at home because our nearest shop is a mile away!!

We headed back to Hawes another day, although we didn’t stop (this was the day that we visited Hardraw Force).  We then took the Buttertubs Pass, an amazing road with wonderful views over the dales.  So called because apparently farmers would leave unsold butter in the deep natural potholes along the side of the road when they left market.

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We drove a 2nd pass – no name given – and at the bottom we spotted a mole running along the side of the road!  Just amazing 🙂

At the top of the pass we found Muker, a busy little village with a couple of tea rooms and a pub.  We were confused as to why it was quite so busy until I realised that it was on the route of a long distance walking path.

We continued along the ‘back road’ to Aysgarth until we got to Castle Bolton.  This is where the reception for the wedding I mentioned previously was held.  It was very cold that time!  This time not so much.

There was a medieval music festival being held there this weekend and we were able to access the ground floor as well as the café on the 1st floor.  There was quite a lot to see!

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Castle Bolton

So another couple of lovely days in the Dales were concluded.  Just 1 more post on this, dealing with a visit to Richmond and Leyburn 🙂

Keep travelling!