The wall: East Wallhouses to Chollerford – June 18

Today’s walk 9 miles / 14 km in 4 hours

After a couple of days of sun and clouds with occasional sprinkles, the weather turned seriously rainy on us. Not a downpour, but a steady enough drizzle that we didn’t stop to take many pictures today.

After a bit of delay, our host drove us back to East Wallhouses in the morning to resume our walk. Although it was rainy, we were walking through nice countryside and all day along the wall line. We stopped into a pub at Portgate to use the restrooms and get out of the rain for a few minutes before continuing on.

Poppies and buttercups in a field

For much of our walk today, although there were no visible wall remains (the wall is still under the main road), the earthworks associated with the wall were clear to see on the ground. A ditch was excavated just north of the wall along most of its length, known reasonably enough as the north ditch. South of the wall, a bit farther away, a ditch and mound known collectively as the vallum marked out the southern edge of the frontier construction of which the wall itself was the northern edge.

The remains of the vallum

We walked through lots of sheep and cattle pastures today. For the most part the livestock were grazing in the distance and left us alone, but at one point we had to get over a stile that was surrounded by grazing calves. The calves gathered curiously around us as we passed, watching and sniffing at us. After we had gone over the stile, several of them came and stuck their head over, looking like they wanted to climb over and come with us.

Unfortunately, this also meant we were walking through lots of places where sheep and cattle had been and had left their marks. Now, many of the sites along the wall have names that refer to the wall or its structures: Wallhouses, Housesteads (“house” meaning the forts and other structures on the wall line), Chesters, Great Chesters, Halton Chesters, Rudchester (“chester” from Latin castrum “fortress”). After walking through some of today’s fields, we began referring to “Poophouses” and “Shitchesters.”

Our day’s walk ended at Chesters fort, one of the Roman forts along the line of the wall. We had a pick-up arranged with our evening accommodation for 4 o’clock and we arrived at the site at about half past two, so we had some time to visit the site and its small museum.

Looking back from Chesters. The wall comes down to the river where there would have originally been a bridge

Though small, the museum was crammed full of interesting artifacts including a wide variety of inscribed stones.

An altar dedicated to Coventina, apparently a local water goddess whose worship was adopted by the soldiers stationed here

The rain was finally starting to break up by that point, so we spent a while in the museum first to get out of the last sprinkles. Then we wandered over the site where building foundations and lower walls have been excavated. The bathhouse is particularly well preserved here.

The remains of the Chesters bathhouse

The bathhouse is reached by one gate and a line of steps set into the hillside. As we were ready to leave the bathhouse site, a large group of high school students started streaming in through the gate and down the steps. We patiently waited at the bottom of the steps for them to come through. When most of the group had passed, one of the guys noticed us waiting and waved those around him to make room for us, saying: “Make some room, real people coming.” It was an unexpected honor to have been dubbed “real people” by a teenager.

A hypocausted room-- the floor tiles are raised to allow heated air to circulate underneath, warming the room. Probably a private bath suite for the fort commander

Our host for the night picked us up and delivered us to the accommodations, a working farm which also caters to walkers as a bed and breakfast and tenting site. We had a comfortable room where we both enjoyed a bath to refresh us from the rigors of the day. There is no place to get dinner within walking distance, but it seems the owner of our B&B has an arrangement with another establishment nearby. We were picked up and driven to another B&B which also offers dinner, where we both ate very well. I had lamb and E. had salmon. Afterwards we were driven back to our accommodation– by, it turned out, the chef who had just cooked our dinner! We took the occasion to give well-earned compliments.

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