Ridgeway Diaries: Day 5 – Watlington to Wendover

I woke up feeling tired today, having been disturbed by the sounds of snoring from neighbouring tents throughout the night. The bed wasn’t the comfiest, but the warm shower was bliss. I had a flapjack and banana for breakfast. Despite my fatigue, I was looking forward to the day ahead, especially as Richard would be joining me from Lewknor.

I left the campsite by 07:20 and walked to the Ridgeway, just a 5-minute walk away. I met Richard in Lewknor at 08:30, and we continued on the trail together.

I broke accidentally my zip on the side pocket of my bag. Inconvenient but it could have been worse.

We passed the turn-off for Kingston Blount at 09:30 and the turn-off for Chinnor at 10:15. Richard left me at about 10:30 by a gate in a field after the woods.

I reached Longwood Farm at 11:45. I arrived at Princes Risborough and the turn for the A4010 road around 12:10. I stopped at The Bell for refreshments around 12:45, but they weren’t serving lunch. I had a juice and salted peanuts, then left at 13:15. I popped into the Co-op for a sandwich and walked back to the Ridgeway by 13:45.

I took a wrong turn at Whiteleaf and got caught up in the woods. I reached Cadsden and The Plough at 14:40 and Chequers at 16:00. There, I had a chat with Kyle, a backpacker from Florida (living in Pennsylvania), who was doing the same route as me. I reached the monument and trig point at the corner of Coombe Hill at 16:45.

I arrived at The Red Lion in Wendover at 17:30, feeling very sore. My room was great, and I had a roast dinner and a pint of Neck Oil. I chatted with locals Pauline, Paul, and Bob. My feet are aching, and I’m worried they won’t be better tomorrow. I hope a night’s sleep helps.

Day 4 on the Ridgeway: overcoming small challenges and finding support

Today I walked about 18 miles (not flat though!)

I left the Bull in Streatley at about 08:15 and headed down the hill in Goring for breakfast at Pierreponts, which serves lovely food. I also asked them to make me a sandwich to take away, so lunch was sorted. I was in good spirits.

Richard joined me at the café, and we had a chat before heading out on the trail. We started by the bridge in Goring at 09:25. I was disappointed that we were away from the Thames for most of this part, with houses blocking the view of the riverside. The terrain was flat.

We reached the Perch and Pike pub at about 10:30, which looked nice but was shut at the moment, in between owners. In North Stoke at 12:00, we took a wrong turn at the church but quickly got back on track. I turned off the Thames side to the Ridgeway track at 12:30. At that point Richard went across the river, joining the Thames Path back to Streatley.

There were a lot of bikes, wind, flies, and “countryside ” smells on that stretch, so I didn’t stop for lunch as early as I’d wanted after the turnoff. I stopped for lunch way after the trig point, near Grimm’s Ditch, and started again at 13:30.
I really struggled physically from that point, especially around 14:00. I felt faint and weak, and I’m still unsure why. I was also sweating a lot from that point. The weather was heavy and muggy all afternoon, which didn’t help.

In Nuffield I tried to use the water by the church but it had green bits in which means my water bottle which I was topping up, wasn’t drinkable anymore.

Shortly after Ewelme Park at 15:40, just before St Botolph’s, I was joined by my biggest supporter this week, Craig, who had parked in Watlington and walked the last miles with me. He also brought me water, which I was running out of. We walked up what felt like a never-ending hill before finally dropping down a hill where I stopped, sat on a log, and had some salted cashew nuts and more water.

We reached White Mark Farm at 17:30. I was very pleased with the distance (18 miles), but my feet were sore, especially the ball of my left foot. We walked to the pub, where I had a nice pint of Village Idiot and a meal with Craig. We then popped into the Co-op for supplies for tomorrow, and Craig dropped me back at the campsite.

I can’t find anyone at reception, so I’ve settled in the tent anyway, but it means I can’t find out how to charge my devices.
My phone is well charged, but my battery pack is on 11% and my watch on about 20%. It’s not enough to last me tomorrow. I still need to double-check my route for tomorrow (probably again 18 miles), and I’m not sure how I’ll cope on that distance alone, but I’ll do my best.

Over and out.

Day 3 on the Ridgeway: Rain & Resilience

Today was Day 3 of my Ridgeway adventure, and it was a challenging one due to the weather. The rain was already pouring down before I even set off.

I walked about 14 miles (22.79 km)

My day began with a delightful breakfast courtesy of Louise at Quince Cottage. She also prepared a packed lunch for me and kindly gave me a lift to the spot on the Ridgeway where I’d stopped the previous day.

I hadn’t been walking for five minutes when I stopped to chat with farmers sorting straw bales (that’s what my dad does for work). I continued on my way, familiar with this part of the Ridgeway, which was fortunate as the heavy rain had soaked everything, making it difficult to consult maps.

The rain didn’t let up until around 12 pm, and there weren’t many opportunities for sightseeing or photography with the constant downpour. Despite the rain, I made steady progress.

By noon, I stopped just after crossing the A34 under a tunnel, ate some of my packed lunch, changed my socks, and carried on. My shoes and socks were absolutely drenched!

The day improved significantly when the sun finally came out, making the walk much more pleasant. I did get small blisters on the balls of my feet, which tends to happen with these hiking shoes. I chose to wear them anyway, knowing the weather would be bad today.

I arrived in Streatley much earlier than expected and checked into my room at the pub. My room was still being cleaned, so I enjoyed a pint and some salted peanuts while I waited. Three locals struck up a conversation with me. In the few minutes I was there, they’d been discussing my age and country of origin! It’s always nice to chat with locals, though.

They even arranged a lift for me to the pharmacy for blister plasters, and one of them is coming back later for a drink while I have dinner.

I also met the two lovely ladies who I’ve seen every day at breakfast or dinner. They’re planning to join me for dinner at the pub tonight.

Incredibly, my hotel room has a bath again tonight, so I’m soaking my sore feet before dinner.

I’m a bit worried about the pain of the balls of my feet but I have the night to recover. But first I’m off to grab dinner.

The very good news is that I had no anxiety attacks today. So I think my mental health is improving.
Tomorrow, I’ll be walking to Watlington which should be under 16 miles.

Ridgeway Ramblings: Day 2 from Ogbourne St George to Letcombe Regis

Starting the Day Right

My day began with a hearty breakfast at the Inn with the Well in Ogbourne St George. I highly recommend staying here if you’re walking the Ridgeway. They even kindly provided me with a packed lunch for the day ahead.

A Minor Setback

I set off towards Letcombe Regis, about 20 miles away, but realised 10 minutes in, that I still had the room key in my pocket! I had to walk back to the Inn and start again. I felt so daft, but I had been feeling shaky and anxious earlier in the morning, so perhaps my brain wasn’t too focused.

Back on Track

I returned to the spot on the Ridgeway where I’d stopped the previous day, which created a loop/hook on my Strava map and added to my mileage…

The walk started well, and I maintained a good pace. I listened to music and enjoyed the amazing sights, meeting many dog walkers and cyclists along the way.

I saw an abundance of wildlife, including buzzards, red kites, rabbits, butterflies, beetles, swallows, and larks. The views were stunning, especially those overlooking Swindon.

Lunch Break

After Fox Hill, about halfway through the day, I stopped for a picnic break and enjoyed the packed lunch from the Inn. I changed my socks, though I must admit that compression socks don’t look great with shorts and hiking boots.

I found some water to refill my bottles and continued past Wayland’s Smithy.

I had this cake in my packed lunch and no idea what it is. Looks like a brownie but doesn’t taste like it. More like maple syrup. It was nice. I just don’t know what it is.

Overcoming Challenges

Just before Uffington, I struggled with the heat and felt nauseous. I started shaking uncontrollably, a sign of an anxiety attack. After a few minutes and some calming music, I felt better and carried on.

Support Along the Way

I reached Uffington White Horse Hill around 14:30, where Craig was waiting for me. He brought me stronger suncream, a nail file, Vaseline, a sun hat, and freezing water – all of which were much needed. We enjoyed an ice cream, and I continued up Uffington Castle. Craig parked at the end of my route and walked back towards me. We met up at Sparsholt Firs, and his company helped me keep a good pace when I was struggling past 28km.

A Warm Welcome

Craig drove me to my B&B for the night, Quince Cottage, where the lovely Louise and Andrew welcomed me with a cup of tea. After a warm bath for my feet, I headed to the Greyhound pub in the village for a meal with Sophie. We had a good chat and a walk around the village before I returned to my room.

Looking Ahead

The weather forecast for tomorrow looks grim, with rain and wind expected. Tomorrow’s walk should be around 16 miles, shorter than today but longer than yesterday. I’ll have to brace myself for the elements.

Hadrian’s Wall Day 6 – Newburn to Wallsend, the Final Stretch

Map of today’s walk

As I began the last leg of my journey into Newcastle-upon-Tyne, I initially found that it wasn’t as industrial as some reviews had suggested. Yes, there were buildings and roads—it is a city after all. But the route, shared with the Route 72 cycle road, often meandered through surprisingly green spaces (see photos), making it much greener than the Thames-side walk from the Thames barrier, which I had completed about 18 months ago.

The closer I got to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the more it felt like a festival of bridges! Along the way, I found numerous information boards about William Armstrong, the man who built Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s Swing Bridge and the hydraulic mechanism that operates London’s Tower Bridge. He seems to be to Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Northumberland what Brunel is to Swindon. His presence in the city’s history added a welcome touch of industrial history to my journey.

I dropped my bag at the hotel, keeping only my essentials and packed lunch. Regrettably, I forgot to top up my suncream. I took a break by the Tyne, enjoying my lunch before continuing my leisurely stroll past the Millennium Bridge. People were scattered about, relaxing in the urban gardens.

After passing the Bike Hut, the surroundings briefly became very industrial, reminiscent of the wharves in London. However, the path once again fell back into tranquillity at St Peter’s Marina, meandering along a wooded area by the Tyne. But, even though it was more pleasant by the woods and I was without my bag, it felt like the last three miles had stretched into five.
The area around St. Anthony has signs warning against going near the river due to contamination from a former tar works site. The final stretch, unfortunately, was marred by the sight of rubbish, presumably from fly-tipping, which was a letdown.

Just before 2pm, I arrived at Segedunum, my final destination. Here, I treated myself to a t-shirt and a badge. Since I had left my Hadrian’s Wall stamp passport at the hotel, the staff kindly provided me with a stamped piece of paper.

I did it! In total, I covered 155 km or 96 miles – somehow quite a bit more than the official trail distance of 84 miles.

From Segedunum, I journeyed via Metro to Tynemouth, a lovely seaside town bustling with life on this sunny Thursday afternoon. I enjoyed walking around, exploring two different beaches, the castle, and indulging in a well-deserved ice cream. I even dipped my toes in the North Sea, a perfect end to my Hadrian’s Wall walk.

Returning to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, I treated myself to some new shorts and socks for my journey home. When I checked-in at the hotel, the hotel staff generously offered a bottle of prosecco, which I declined, fearing it would go to waste. Refreshed, I ventured out for an evening meal in beautiful Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

As this walk is completely and this particular blog series draws to a close, I am already contemplating whether to plan another through-hike in August or something entirely different. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with Billy Joel’s wise words:

“Slow down you crazy child. Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while. It’s alright, you can afford to lose a day or two.”

Here’s to seeing the sights and cherishing the journey. Big love! 💚

Hadrian’s Wall Day 5 – Chollerford to Newburn (am I stupid or just crazy?)

This is today’s walk. I won’t reiterate it enough. If I had to plan this again, i would make quite different choices in my stops and distances covered per day.

After decided to rest more today, last night, I awoke too early at 6 a.m. in discomfort, but comforted by the thought that this would be my last night in a tent for this trip. Everything in the tent felt damp with the morning dew.
To my surprise, I found that a number of ants had found my tent quite comfortable and had joined me under the tarp. Thankfully, they didn’t invade the bedroom portion of the tent.

I spent my early morning hours browsing through Facebook messages and comments about my walk. The wave of kind words and encouragement was heartening, even though I found it hard (myself) to match the optimism reflected in these messages. Still, I was determined to give it my best shot, today.

After washing my hair (a small luxury given how dry it had been), breaking camp for the last time this week, drying my tent and packing my backpack, I arrived at the Riverside café as it opened at 9 a.m. I had a filling breakfast of eggs on toast and a decaf black americano. Perfect.

I set off at 9:30 a.m., beginning with an uphill hike that led me past Planetrees, where a section of the Wall is well conserved. I continued uphill through the woods and fields, past Oswald’s farm which looked very nice. It was after milecastle 24 that I entered the Stanley plantation, only to find a diversion in the trail. I found myself perplexed by the signage until I spotted the diversion sign. The walk through the woods was lovely; there’s something special about these kinds of trails in the woods that always fills me with joy.

I took a mid-day break at the Errington Coffee House for a cup of tea and a scone. I also used the time to change my socks, top up my water (having consumed about 1.5L in just 3 hours) and reapply my sun cream. I bumped into Heidi, Dan, Paddy, and Marlen, who I’d met yesterday on the trail. Their company, along with conversations with locals, was a pleasant distraction to the miles ahead.

We stopped at the Robin Hood Inn in East Wallhouses, where I had a late lunch.

The remainder of the journey was challenging, with long stretches and a particularly painful patch of chunky pebbles that felt like walking on Lego (I kid you not)! I did enjoy the Whittle Dene Reservoir. It looked so pretty.

Passing Vindobala, I rested briefly. I eventually made it into Heddon-on-the-wall, although I was suffering from sore feet and a bad stomach. I still don’t know why. I felt better after a while. I didn’t think it was dehydration or bad nutrition as I was able to stave off dehydration by consuming salted cashews and rehydrating frequently, and I ate well all day.

As you arrive in Heddon-on-the-wall, do note that the sign telling you’re in Heddon-on-the-wall is quite a while before the actual village.

This is well after the sign. Still no village, yet.

Upon reaching Heddon-on-the-wall, I decided to catch a bus for the final 45-minute stretch, as suggested by Google Maps. But unfortunately, due to a mix-up with bus directions and a particular unhelpful bus driver who insisted that both the signage on the bus stop and direction on Google maps was wrong (and refused to let me on board!). Disappointed and tired, I decided to finish the journey on foot.

Although this part of the journey was tough, the views over the Tyne and the distant sight of Newcastle made the pain more bearable.

At this point, my concern shifted to the dinner serving time at the pub in my lodging, which was stated to end at 20:00, coinciding with my ETA as per Google Maps. With 20 miles already behind me and a 15kg backpack, my body was beginning to protest. Despite nearly limping down Station Road just a few moments earlier, I found a surge of determination and began running (the mysterious powers of food!). The word ‘running’ might be a bit generous for my pace, but it was definitely faster than a walk!

I finally arrived at my lodgings for the night just four minutes before the restaurant stopped serving food. But they had closed the kitchen already. They were kind enough to make a fish and chips dish for me.
It was massive and I struggled to finish it.

After this challenging day, I decided to indulge in a soothing bath for my poor legs.
After nights of camping, the bedroom in the lodge felt like luxury. So spacious. Just the simple fact of having fresh towels rather than the lightweight microfibre type I’ve been using for days.

It’s the final stretch tomorrow – about 10 miles from here to Segedunum Roman Fort & Museum, where the walk officially finishes.
From there, I plan to head to Tynemouth, albeit probably not on foot. The end of this incredible journey is in sight, and I’m more than ready to reach it.

Hadrian’s Wall Day 4 – From Winshields Farm to Housesteads to Chollerford

The day began with a tough climb from the farm onto a trig point – a big ascent to get the heart pumping and legs warmed up for the day. The route from Steel Rigg to Sycamore Gap was a bit of a challenge with the heavy backpack shifting my centre of gravity, but reaching the top and having the sweeping views all to myself was rewarding.

After Sycamore Gap (sorry about the photo overload and silliness! It is after all the UK’s most photographed tree! Thank you Kevin Costner!), the trail took me north of the wall for a while until I reached the woods. I switched sides at a crossroads, rejoining the trail on the right (south) of the wall.

The walk from there to Housesteads was quite enjoyable, especially under the shade of Housesteads Plantations. I took a pause at the museum around 09:30 and utilised the freshly cleaned portable toilet. A sock change and a bit of food at the café fuelled me for the next part of the journey. However, I was disappointed to find nowhere to charge my phone or watch. I had to stop the watch’s tracking (hence two maps today) to ensure the Bluetooth was off and keep trying to charge it on the nearly empty battery pack.

From then on, it was a slow crawl over the crags up to Sewingshields Crags. I bumped into fellow walkers Lee and Lewis again, and we walked and chatted for a bit until it was time for another break in the shade.

The heat really started to take its toll as I made the long walk along the military road. It was a battle against the temperature, stopping at every bit of shade I could find and wetting my snood to cool down. Just after the Temple of Mithras, a kindly gentleman selling drinks in the car park saved me with a cold drink. I was mentally prepared to take a bus to Chollerford from there, but he offered to take my backpack so I could continue on foot.

If you see a van from Corbridge Coffee Company, do check out their drinks. I’m so grateful he was there selling drinks and took pity on me.

On the way to Chollerford, I joined Heidi, Marlene, Paddy, and Dan from Canada, and we completed the day’s walk together. We celebrated our accomplishment with a cold beer at the George Hotel. Although I forgot to get my passport stamped at Chesters Fort, it was the least of my concerns. I didn’t want to stop there, as I was so tired.

Exhaustion took its toll; I barely had the energy to pitch my tent. I was also suffering from a rash on my legs despite wearing trousers all day, and my IBS has flared up (I took buscopan) for the first time in months, and I have a sunburn on my back despite topping up my sun cream three times.

Lying on my backpack, unable to gather energy to pitch my tent.

Despite the discomfort, I made sure to get some food at the George Hotel Bar, understanding the importance of not sleeping on an empty stomach.

The long walk tomorrow is daunting, and I’m not sure I’ll make it to Keelman’s Lodgings. Even if I can get as far as Heddon-on-the-wall, I’ll consider it an accomplishment and then find transport to my lodgings.

Tonight, I plan on getting some rest and re-evaluating the situation in the morning. I might try for a later start, give my body a bit more rest, let my tent dry properly, and get a good breakfast before setting off. Perhaps I could even make it for a pub lunch at the Robin Hood Inn.

Despite the exhaustion and discomfort, the breathtaking views and experience are undoubtedly worth it.

It’s also a good time to remember my ‘why’: walking in aid of The Prospect Hospice and in memory of Judith, one of my hiking inspiration, who covered so many through-hike trails; seeing the sights and taking time in nature; pushing my own boundaries to grow from it, in resilience and strength. I have to remember why I embarked on this journey in the first place and keep that at the forefront of my mind as I prepare for another day on Hadrian’s Wall.

Hadrian’s Wall Path: Day 3 – Coombe Crag Farm to Winshields Farm

Today’s route

Setting off a little later than I’d hoped, around 6:30 am, I began the day after a night of thunderstorms and rain. Despite the dampness in my tent and packing it wet, I found myself surprisingly okay – tired but spirited, ready to ride this wave of positive energy.

My journey took me to Birdoswald Roman Fort. Despite it being too early for it to be open, I still managed to get a stamp on my Hadrian’s Wall passport. I ended up taking the road route to Birdoswald, bypassing the typical trail, by accident. Despite the lack of picturesque views, there were no cars that time and most importantly, saved my boots from further sheep poop encounters. A word of advice to any potential trail-walkers: prepare for soiled boots!

As I tread further into the Roman history, I’ve found the information displayed at each turret and milecastle interesting. Milecastle 49 and then the Roman bridge at Willowford stand out with their dramatic landscapes, stirring up a (weird for me) newfound appreciation for bridges. Could it be the remnants of my Thames Path walk?

On arriving at the Gilsland car park, I was diverted through the town. Despite the promise of the House of Meg opening at 8 am (on a sign in the car park), it remained closed until 10 am. Still, the tables outside served as a handy spot for a backpack rest. A warning to those expecting a hearty meal in Gilsland, I have it from the lady from Coombe Crag Farm campsite that both the pubs have sadly closed down in recent years.

Passing the overgrown grass of Thirlwall Castle (nowhere to sit there), and passing a large group of charity walkers, I tackled a massive hill and descended onto the disused Walltown Quarry. By 10:30 am, I was having a well-earned break, indulging in an egg bap and crisps for lunch.

The remainder of the day was a blend of singing breast-cancer-charity walkers, dramatic quarry rocks, and intense heat. The strong sun and my backpack’s weight kept my pace even slower than usual, but the breathtaking views made it worthwhile. I had to lean on music to help power through the more gruelling stretches of the walk, a change from my usual nature-listening walks.

After a much-needed break in the shade of the woods near Cockmount Hill, and crossing Great Chesters old fort, I ended up at a car park. Despite forgoing the available refreshments, the sight of the quarry’s water was an absolute treat. From there, it was an uphill battle against the heat.

A friend’s suggestion of soaking my snood in water gave me a refreshing reprieve. The challenge continued, though, as I briefly lost and then rejoined the path before finally passing milecastle 41. After a short struggle and some musical motivation from Jackie Wilson which felt quite apt (Higher and higher), I saw the sign for the campsite and doubting the terrain downhill, I made my way there.

I dried my tent for a bit.

With a free fruit juice drink from the campsite owner, a pitched tent, a shower, and a load of rinsed and hung clothes, and charging my power pack, I felt accomplished. I treated myself to a rather expansion meal: a large iced water, steak and chips, and a large Malbec at the Twice Brewed Inn. Despite the steak being overcooked and overpriced, it still hit the spot after the long day.

Tomorrow, I’m headed to Chollerford. Thanks for following along my journey, see you tomorrow!

Hadrian’s Wall Day 1 – From Bowness-on-Solway to Carlisle: a (Long) Journey Begins

Welcomed by the dawn’s early light, my day started at the charming Wallsend Guest House and Glamping Pods.

The showering and drinks facilities were lovely.

This felt like luxury for a campsite!
Perfect fir my cuppa tea in the morning

Last night, I managed to grab a lovely meal (massive portion size!) at the King’s Arms pub in Bowness on Solway and head to the shore to watch the sun setting over the Solway Firth.

After a breakfast of my homemade flapjacks and a steaming cup of tea, I set off for the pavilion in Bowness-on-Solway, going past the King’s Arms.

The journey began at 8 am. With the sky a lovely blue, and a gentle breeze, I was off to a good start. Despite the long stretches of roadside walking and straight lines, forewarned by our Facebook group, the morning brought its joys. I spent an hour in the company of Lee, Lewis, and their dog Frank, from Swansea, sharing stories and pacing well. I suspect they’re well ahead now, as they are aiming to cover the path in just four days.

I took a much-needed break at Laal Bite, a spot I highly recommend for fellow hikers. The afternoon, however, came with its challenges. An earlier than anticipated arrival at the Greyhound pub in Burgh-by-Sands found it still closed, prompting me to push on without a proper rest. My short rest involved basking in the cool grass and eating a protein bar and some nuts. I made my way to Burgh by Sands’ village hall, where I enjoyed a nice vegetable quiche, courtesy of a suggestion from a lovely dog-walking couple.