30 September 2010--As I look out my bedroom window at unrelenting grayness this morning, I'm not so sure about
that "red sky at night" thing. Once I'm out, however, it's obvious that Hexham is merely shrouded in fog. The sky
overhead shows hints of clear azure.
I'm feeling a bit beat up, but much better than yesterday. Spend an hour or so around town, mostly in the abbey. I've been in here before, but for one reason or another this is the best look I've had of it. It's not so large as, say, the York Minster, but it's stunning nonetheless, with more than a millennium of history behind it. The oldest surviving part of it, the crypt, dates from the ninth century. Unfortunately, it's only open at certain times, and I don't want to wait around too long. I'll be back for another look.
I need a travel alarm clock (I'd forgotten mine) and find one in the catalog at the local Argos. Argos seems to be a peculiarly British phenomenon, a shop with no actual goods on display; just counters with massive catalogs for browsing, another for ordering and payment, and another for pick-up. It seems you can get anything there--not the best selection in any given category, but something to fill your need, whatever it may be. Can they possibly have at least one of everything in the book out back? Perhaps there is a large crypt here as well.
Then off on the road, to see a stretch of Hadrian's Wall. I stop in Haltwhistle for a quick look around. I stayed here once, and remember drinking in the Black Bull, which is down a narrow and crooked little side street; otherwise, the town is entirely unfamiliar. Of course it's only the pub that sticks in my mind.
Then I'm up to Cawfields, where there is a car park from which I head east along the wall. A couple miles along will be Steel Rigg, whence I walked eastward two years ago. There's a milecastle straightaway, and some nice stretches of wall; there are also stretches where the wall is entirely gone, replaced by a stone fence. My photographic efforts are plagued by one of those conveyor clouds that perpetually reforms itself on the downwind uphill side of the valley, leaving me in shade most of the time. Should have got out earlier, when the sky was clear. I stop at the shoulder of a hill looking down on Steel Rigg, feeling no need to descend, and turn to retrace my steps. Get some short bursts of sunlight on the return.
I take a drive up Allendale, familiar territory (except I take a new approach and get a bit lost at first). Then at Allenheads, I turn left, into an area I haven't seen before. There are remnants of the lead-mining days here; I'd stop to photograph more if it weren't so late in the afternoon. Again, earmarked for a return trip. My destination is Blanchland, a pretty little village once part of the Lord Crewe estate. One remnant is the abbey, smaller still than Hexham's, but just as picturesque (on the outside, anyway--it's locked up). It has survived as the parish church. Another is the Lord Crewe Inn, where I have a pint of Black Sheep in the cellar bar. I'd hoped to have dinner, but they won't serve until 6:00, and I want to be back in Hexham before dark.
I'm in Corbridge shortly after six. Have dinner at the Angel Inn and am back in Hexham with a bit of light still in the sky. Pints at the Tap & Spile, which is quite busy on a Thursday. A good day.