Heddon-on-the-Wall is known for being near Hadrian’s Wall, hence its name .. or part of it …
Heddon means something like ‘hill where heather grew’. ‘Well it’s certainly a hill,’ I thought, taking in stupendous views of the Tyne Valley. From Heddon I wandered along the Military Road, out of the village, and into lovely countryside. It was a gloriously hot day, hardly a sound, not a breath of air, just the birds singing and my boots clumping on tarmac.
I headed west along the Roman Wall Footpath. This epic 84 mile trail can be followed from Wallsend (the Roman name for it was Segedunum) to Bowness-on-Solway. I wasn’t walking all of it today though! My route took in just a short stretch, across the fields to Rudchester. The warmth was quite something, the landscape basking lazily in sunshine. Further west, beyond the Tyne Valley, hills were like massive folds in the Earth, disappearing into a heat haze.
My first pause for a cuppa (and sit down in the shade) was at Rudchester, the site of a medieval village. It’s a beautiful setting on a summer’s day. Great chance to press the flask into service and watch the butterflies, some red or brown, others snow-white, flickering around the flowers.
My route from Rudchester led north along a country road. I was heading now into the great open spaces of Northumberland, with fields stretching away into the distance. Ahead, woodland formed a green ripple. My trek was to this, to the public bridleway that meanders east through the trees.
The shade was very welcome, with overarching trees rustling in the faintest of breezes. I stopped, to gaze up at the forest ceiling. There was something captivating about the trees, swaying gently, creaking and rustling. Sunlight dappled the forest floor, the bracken and the long grass, ancient roots and wild flowers.
‘Some of these trees are very old,’ I thought. They looked rather like bearded giants, standing on either side of the bridleway. I came across one massive old tree that was overturned. Its mighty base was as big as a car. I stopped, to take in the scene, with some awe. ‘Wonder what brought the tree down?’ I thought.
The public bridleway brought me finally to the Heddon Mill road. I followed this south, just wandering unhurriedly along. It was late morning and there was no sign of the temperature dropping. The sun was its zenith, the heat all encompassing. On the right, as I tramped along, a field came into view, corn-stalk bales glistening.
On arriving back in Heddon-on-the-Wall, I made for the Swan pub and a well deserved pint. I hadn’t been there for long when two coach buses arrived. It took an age for all the tourists, many Americans, to file into the pub. I got chatting to the tour guide and he told me that they had been on a 12 day tour of Ireland, Scotland and now England. They had motored down from Edinburgh that morning. After lunch at the Swan they were heading for York.
“Everyone just loves the Roman Wall,” he said. “There’s a rather good little stretch just along the road, I’ll take them there after dinner.”
I agreed. The stretch of Wall on the outskirts of Heddon is indeed very good. It was in fact my next port of call. Still several feet high in places, it is a reminder that this was Imperial Rome’s Final Frontier.
The last stretch of the walk took me along the B6318 to Throckley. The scenic views weren’t over yet. South and West, the Tyne Valley shimmered faintly in that heat haze. The fields, the meadows and forests formed a pleasing palette of colours, of vivid green and yellow, fading, fading into soft blues and greys. It was quite something to watch individual fields and forests briefly, brilliantly lit up by the sun. It glided across the landscape in might, majestic waves.
By the time I finished the walk, I was tanned, tired but content. It had been a magical day out!