Hello web peruser from the future. In case you don't know your history, 2020 was the year of Coronavirus. What do you mean decade? No don't tell me any more, I really don't want to know. Anyway, a global pandemic meant that travel was generally a bad idea. People were going abroad and having to isolate for a fortnight when they got back. So we decided to stick to the UK this year. Summer was such a lockdown that we only had a short break in Aviemore, so we booked the October week in an area picked randomly by Cate as somewhere she'd like to go - Northumberland. By the time we got to October, this region was the COVID-19 hotspot of the country, but we were allowed to go, as long as we didn't fraternise with friends from another household while we were there. We don't have any friends so that wasn't a problem.
We booked early and got a good deal on the Granary Cottage in Newton, a tiny village just off the A69 near Corbridge. It's run by the manager in the hotel next door - the Duke of Wellington - so key pick up and so on was easy. The bad news was that the boiler had broken down, so we didn't have any hot water for the week. However with electric heaters and dedicated access to a room in the "Welly" for showers the only real hassle was having to boil the kettle a few times to do the dishes. (There was a dishwasher but we're a bit backwards).
The cottage was lovely, with a big upstairs bedroom and a smaller downstairs one with bunks. It had good internet and we took the Firestick, so we had Netflix and iPlayer access through the week. Claire's waiting for hip replacements and can't walk too far, so our excursions were limited a bit, but we got a couple of family outings, and Cate and I visited a few places while Claire had her afternoon naps. We had a couple of wet days but there was enough sunshine to make a decent fist of the week.
My first task was to explore the village. This took about 5 minutes as it isn't very big, but I found a footpath leading out of one end. It took me up the side of a field and through some woods to another field and the road back down, with some decent views down to the village and across the Tyne valley.
We did a bit of shopping to stock up for the week, at Hexham, which is the nearest large town, just a 15 minute journey away. It had a big Tesco, which did for most of our needs. Throughout the week we visited a number of Co-Ops in various towns - usually well stocked and they even had Irn Bru. We weren't so far away from home after all!
A few years back we stopped at Housesteads on our way home and Cate and I had a quick look around while Claire napped in the car. But we had a lot more time this time so we had a good look around, after booking ahead online. Housesteads is a Roman fort attached to Hadrian's wall, one of several forts built along the wall to house the garrisons that protected the civilised Roman south from us rampaging Scots (more of that later). Most of the fort is gone, but the stones of various buildings are still there up to thigh height in some cases. This was a really interesting place to explore, and see drawings of what it was like back in the day. Raised floors for underfloor heating and air circulation were evident, and the latrine had a trough for running water to flow round the room so the soldiers could soak their sponge-on-a-stick to clean it.
Leaving the fort we followed the wall itself for a couple of hundred metres to get a view back the way. You can see bits of the wall all the way along the old Roman road. It's distinctive from the field walls as it's thicker (about a metre) and made with squared stones on the outside but unshaped stones in the middle.
Our nearest town was Corbridge, just about 5 miles away. This has been a strategic place for many years, with David I and David II of Scotland, as well as William Wallace and Robert Bruce all making their presence felt, by passing through or burning it down. The town itself is a lovely wee village with plenty of small shops. We had a reasonable takeaway one night from the Tandoori and bought some excellent cakes from the Patisserie.
Cate and I parked in the big car park just south of the river one day and had a walk along the riverside. We came to a stone structure, which is the remains of a ramp up to an ancient bridge built by the Romans.
We had another day out to investigate along the wall. First along the road was a Roman temple of Mithras. This was a pretty small building just off the road, with some carvings and writing. One of the carvings had three wee holes in it, and a cubby at the back to put a candle, which would shine through the holes in the dark.
We stopped next at the Sill, a glass building with art exhibits and a path up to the roof for decent views. After a stop in Haltwhistle, the self-proclaimed centre of Britain, we carried on westwards and got to Birdoswald, a name I'd spotted many times when I was driving up and down this route for work a few years back. Birdoswald is the site of another Roman fort. We'd seen one already so didn't pay to go in, but got a few shots of the wall here. We opened a gate to go into a field by the fort but soon found ourselves inside it, so we snuck back out again before someone saw us. On leaving we spotted a sign for a cheese maker, but driving along the road for a couple miles didn't reveal any more, so we returned to base sans-cheese.
Bamburgh Castle, and the beach between it and the village of Seahouses, is well known in the area as a great spot for a walk, especially for dog owners. Claire made it out to this one and managed to struggle over the sand dunes between the car park and the beach. We had a walk up and down the beach and Cate managed to find a dead seal, so it was a great day out for us all.
We had chips at Seahouses, and a shout out to the local council for having parking areas which give you an hour free before charging.
Alnwick is fairly close to Bamburgh, so we visited it, though didn't plan to enter the castle as we hadn't booked in advance. So we parked near the town centre and went for a wee wander about Alnwick town. Not much more to say about that.
We also visited the Metrocentre during the week and had our temperatures taken at the Chinese buffet place to make sure we weren't feverish. We visited Newcastle town centre too, and I took an unfeasibly long time driving around Gateshead just to get us onto the Tyne Bridge.
So it was a decent week overall. We had to leave quite early on the Saturday so they could do a thorough clean, and Charlie was happy to see us get back home again.
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