England’s Last Wilderness – August 9th – 14th
We were an international group that gathered at Battlesteads Inn – eleven of us, including a German, a Frenchwoman living in England, and Englishwomen living in Sweden and Canada – four men and seven women.
The food at Battlesteads is extraordinary – a three-course meal with four or five imaginative options for each course, and fruit and vegetables from their organic garden. We could hardly believe that the main vegetable garden was only a year old, and had survived an unusually cold winter. It is the greenest hotel in Northumbria, if not in the whole of England, with a boiler fuelled by wood chips from a local forest.
We had two walks on Hadrian’s Wall. The first one finished at the fascinating Roman Museum at Vindolanda. The other was memorable for a tremendous storm, which blew up just as we were making our way down the first of many rock staircases. We took shelter at the bottom, by a tree made famous by Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood film. I was sitting with my back to the wall, but even so, my poncho nearly blew away, and I had to keep tight hold of it as we climbed the rocks on the other side.
On the intervening day, we visited Bellingham, with an attractive, well-landscaped path up the delightful valley of Hareshaw Linn.
Some of us filled our water bottles at St Cuthbert’s well, before walking back to the hotel over mixed terrain.
The last day should have been on one of the wilder stretches of the Pennine Way, to justify the tour name “England’s Last Wilderness”, but after a night of heavy rain, we decided to explore some of the villages closer to the hotel instead. This allowed us to be back at the hotel in time for a tour of the garden and boiler house led by the enthusiastic owner, who encouraged us to sample the vegetables and even rocket flowers.