Sunday, July 31, 2011

Teach's winter hazards

Teaching at a school on a Thursday and Friday of every week, sees me exposed to every child's latest illness. Touching computer keyboards and mouses means that, in Winter, I am usually felled by a cold or flu at least three times a year. This latest weekend has seen me succumb yet again to a nasty cold. I had hoped I was immunized for the rest of this season by the last intense bout at the beginning of the Winter school holidays. I find it to be such a waste of time. It takes me at least five days to shake it off and then, its time for school again.

I have discovered that the secret to lessening the intensity of a  cold or flu bout is to recognize the first indications (tickle in the throat) and then to bombard myself with 1000 mg of Vitamin C three times a day, drink lots of water and gargle with something effective, as often as possible. Salt water works, and I recently discovered Orochlor too. These precautions do not necessarily keep the illness at bay, but certainly lessen the impact. However, I often slip up and don't have the right goodies in stock.

For me, colds and flu seem to follow a set pattern: Day 1: Sore throat, Day 2: Streaming nose, Day 3: Blocked nose, Day 4: Revolting yellow mucous, Day 5: Coughing endlessly. I have a strategy for Day 2 and Day 4 to avoid my most dreaded outcome, an infection in the chest or ears: I stay awake the entire night, sniffing, blowing, coughing, to avoid lying flat and allowing it to all settle in while I sleep. This is accompanied with plenty of post-midnight dashes to the kitchen to make instant Chicken Noodle soup, hot lemon and honey drinks, while poor hubby desperately tries to get some sleep. On day 5 when the coughing kicks in, its a search for something to quell that never ending tickle. I never seem to have cough mixture in the house. On this occasion, I have stewed Star Anise in hot water and used it in combination with honey and lemon to sip at each scratchy moment. I made a homemade cough mixture years ago and surprisingly, it didn't taste bad at all. The problem is, when you are feeling lousy, you don't feel up to being your own pharmacist.

3 whole garlic bulbs, all the cloves peeled
2 and 1/2 coffee cups of water
1 and  1/2 coffee cups of cider vinegar
1/2 coffee cup of honey (or sugar if you don't have honey)

Chop the peeled garlic cloves and simmer in the water until the liquid is reduced by half (takes a while). 

Remove the garlic by straining through a sieve and put it to one side. To the hot water, add the other ingredients and boil it until its like a syrup (takes a while). Place the garlic bits that you set aside into a bottle or container and then pour  the syrup over them. One dessert spoon of mixture, including the pieces of garlic, to be taken when needed.

As hubby has also succumbed to the virus now, I have made up this mixture but, because it is the end of winter, I  halved the quantities. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dashing Darling Datsun

This is the Curriculum Vitae of Khaki, the  1972 Datsun 120Y Pickup

Back in the mists of time, Khaki the bakkie was owned by someone in Bellville. After a short while, he was sold on to a friend of ours. 

Ron and his wife had moved down from Kenya a few years previous to that and had the yen to go farming. They bought Khaki and a small apricot farm out in McGregor.  For some happy years, Khaki served loyally to transport bakfulls of apricots to Robertson every season. After a good many fruitful years (groan), Ron, wife and Khaki moved down to Noordhoek to live in the guest cottage on their son-in-law's property. Ron's daughter is a very keen horsewoman and Khaki was pressed into transport duty for all manner of horsey things as well as serving as the weekly carthorse to the shops for Ron and wife.  Khaki was put into semi-retirement for a few years when Ron bought himself a new car which he felt would be more appropriate for city-slicking. 
Roy first got to know Khaki at about this time, being called upon to service and maintain him as his needs arose.  This sometimes demanded that Roy scour the scrap-yards for a rare second-hand part. For the last few years of Ron's life, and for the year after he died, Khaki practically became a garden ornament, never getting out onto the road for a good run. Sad at Ron's passing on, nevertheless, we were thrilled when Ron's wife decided that we should have Khaki. She did not feel that anyone else would appreciate his special attributes and, because he is so old, they would mishandle him and drive him to oblivion in no time. 

After some repairs and cosmetic enhancements, we roadworthied Khaki, much to everyone's amazement. Then we drove him up to his final pasture at "The Plot". Here, Khaki  continues to deliver stout, reliable service as our workhorse in the platteland. The most recent chore was transporting two citrus trees, each in a 250 kg growing bag, from a nursery in Olivedale.

He is totally original, right down to his chrome Datsun hubcaps, 120Y badge on tailgate and blue-flecked rubber mat in cab. Who cares that he has the finish of  paintbrush strokes on his old body. He is lovely and one in a million!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hadrian's Wall from Acomb 2

Between Bowness-on-Solway and Carlisle (again)
At the end of one of our attempts to complete the walk from Carlisle to Bowness on Solway, we disembarked from the bus on the way back to Acomb to visit the Roman Fort, which had an interesting film on every half hour and then Vindolanda. Give yourself plenty of time to visit Vindolanda, while an hour is probably enough for the Roman Fort, including the film.
By the middle of that week, there remained only two legs of the Hadrian's Wall route that we had not yet completed: Once Brewed - Gilsland and then Gilsland - Lancercost Priory. For both these sections, the weather set in and much was undertaken in the mist and  rain. It was comforting to see that so many others were as insane as ourselves on those days. We  hailed the Hadrians Wall bus as it came up from Hexham and  disembarked at Once Brewed to walk back up onto Hadrians Wall where we had left it three days earlier and continued on our way.  

The tree at Sycamore Gap is a much loved and photographed tree but when you are walking along the route, it is not so apparent as being THE tree. It appears as you come from Highshields Crag heading west towards Peel Crags and Steel Rigg.

Its best known view is one which we took from the moving bus on the Military Road. I seem to think it was used as a backdrop in the Robin Hood movie, starring Kevin Costner. 

Craglough Milecastle
Cawfield Milecastle

The highest peak of the entire route is Winshields Crag. From here on, it was downhill (theoretically).

Winshields Crag's Peak
It still took us ages to regain the relative lower ground in the mist and rains, as ever, passing ruins of turrets and mile castles.

Cawfields Quarry

Backward glance at the "heavy" bits of the last two days
Aesica Altar, the only altar along the Wall still in place, at Aesica Fort ruins. The altar is always topped with coins from all countries of the World, as walkers give thanks.

When we arrived along the route behind Gilsland, we had to be on the alert  near the end of the village for a road to the right which runs down to the main road from the walk….its about 100 metres from the walk to the main road and the pub under the bridge. It is a very unassuming road but I do seem to remember that signs to the pub from the walk were in abundance!!!!

Gilsland – Lanercost Priory

We caught the bus from Acomb back to the bridge at Gilsland and rejoined the walk behind the pub. I recall puffing and panting up one particularly steep part soon after this and at the same time, talking to my brother who had telephoned for a chat from High Wycombe. At that time, I think I was fitter than I had ever been in my entire life.   
Gilsland railway bridge
Poltross Burn Milecastle, or Milecastle 48, one of the best preserved mile castles on the entire length of Hadrian's Wall. Also knowns as the Kings Stables.

We collected our last passport stamp at Birdoswald

After we had passed Banks and then crossed over Hares Hill (about 3 km) , 

One of the last gates of our journey, on Hare's Hill

we come apon a little tarred road which runs down to Lanercost Priory (we were careful not to go down to the Priory before we crossed Hare Hill). This is the little tarred road  we had used at the beginning of our walk from Lanercost to Carlisle almost a week previously. By rejoining this path, we had finally completed the full route of Hadrian's Wall. 
Veni, Vidi, Vici!! 
Lanercost Priory

Now that our passports had all six stamps, on our final day, we went down to the Info center in Hexham handed it in and paid to have a certificate in beautiful calligraphy posted on to us. We returned to Fallowfield Dene at midday to start packing up. The taxi was booked to pick us up at 5 am the following day, to return us to Newcastle Airport en-route to further family adventures in Portsmouth.

Should you ever decide to follow in our footsteps and use a single place as a base, I recommend you stay at a base like Fallowfield Dene for a full two weeks. Seven days for walking with rest days in between for visiting the rich historical and local sites in the surrounding areas. There are hundreds of blogs and sites which are available these days which could contribute far more background and planning info to your walking trip than my blog. 

You could also check out this blog and prepare yourself to run the entire route in one day:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hadrian's Wall from Acomb 1

On arriving at Fallowfield Dene, we were blown away with the lovely little static caravan which would be ours for the next seven days. We decided not to hire the bedding because we did have sleeping bags.

After unpacking, we walked down into Acomb (after first trying a nightmare "shortcut" through a wheat field) and on to Hexham to shop for the weeks supplies. I had been somewhat amused at the one campsite employee: when I asked her to recommend the cheapest shop in Hexham, the hesitation in her eyes and eventual reluctant recommendation seemed to convey a shameful admission that she would know of such a place.

In Hexham we bought two 5-day tickets for the Hadrian Wall Bus which allowed one to climb on and off the bus any number of times along the route. After strolling through the attractive sights of Hexham, we did our shop at Aldies. They called a taxi for us to take us back to the campsite with our goods and we were tickled when the driver turned out to be the same one who had driven us from the airport to our first campsite in Wylam. For the rest of that Saturday, we just indulged in  really hot showers and hairdryers in the super ablution block (the bathroom in the static caravan was tiny), watched the telly  and just chilled.

The following day we left the camp at about 6 am and walked from the campsite back up to the spot near Heavenfield's St Oswald in Lee church, from where we had detoured a few days previously, and resumed that stretch of the walk. It would be a long day, taking into account that part of the previous section was being included. We were wearing sturdy boots which reached above our ankles and, for the next few days, we would be grateful for this.
After about an hour, we followed a detour around some farmland when we came across a group of people embarking on an early morning hot-air balloon ride. We stood around for about 30 minutes to observe the preparations and final lift-off for a dreamlike journey.

                 Up            Up                and away!                             

Our route wound around and, just before Chollerford Bridge, we came across a section of the Wall and ruins of a Roman turret in a farmer's field (well signposted), which we investigated. 

Chollerford Bridge

Interesting garden feature near Chollerford Bridge

Shortly after the bridge, at the entrance to Chesters Roman fort, the third stamp for our Hadrian Wall passport was accessible in a box on the wall, outside the entrance. After about another hour of walking, we came across a good section of the Wall. 



Further along, we crossed the Military road to look at the Mithras temple. 

Temple of Mithras for soldiers' QT

From there onwards,  the walk became much steeper, climbing up the ridges of hills.   

Over the years, only this higher terrain has discouraged the wholesale removal of the Wall. In the lower reaches, where the Wall has disappeared, stone farm walls run for miles across the land, no doubt, along with the  Military Road and local stone farmhouses, built from dismantled parts of Hadrian's Wall. 

We encountered ruined Turrets and Milecastles along the route now.

Coesike Turret

Wingshields Milecastle 35

Wingshields Milecastle

It was a strenuous but beautiful walk.

  Finally we reached the Housesteads Roman Fort on  the Wall, one of the settings in Anthony Riches’ Wounds of Honour  

Unbeknown to us, the famous postcard view from the Western side of Housesteads could only be seen if one looked back towards the way we had just walked! 
We returned on our last day by bus to Housesteads for this single photograph.

 And on we went....


Milecastle 37 has the almost complete North Arch on Housesteads Crags,
about 1 km West of Housesteads Roman Fort

Serene Swan

Further along, we walked off the Wall and down to the Military road, which we could see from the Wall, and we ended the day's walk outside the Info centre and Once Brewed pub...but alas, not inside the pub...where we waited for a bus  to return us to Acomb. We paid cash for that trip because we only wanted to "activate" our bus cards the following day.   At Once Brewed,  we were careful to stand at the correct bus stop: The stop, on one side, collects passengers going to Vindolanda, which is just up the road from the pubs, and the other goes to Hexham OR Carlisle. If you stand at the wrong stop, the bus might just pass you by.

Hadrians Wall Bus: we learnt never to take it forgranted that the bus would stop. Put your hand out to show that you want it to stop for you, even if you are standing at the bus stop!!! When we disembarked at Acomb  bus stop, at the lower end of Acomb's Orchard Rd, we girded ourselves for the long haul up through Acomb and then on to the campsite. I soon got used to this added torture at the end of every day!! At least it was pretty.

Main drag through Acomb, looking back downhill

Between Acomb and the turn-off to Fallowfield Dene,
looking back towards Acomb

For the next day, we had decided to do the last section of the walk, out of sequence, because we knew it would be a flat walk. It would not reveal stunning  scenery and there would be no sign of Hadrian Wall remnants. That section was to be undertaken purely to achieve the goal of having walked the full length of the route of the Wall.  After studying the Hadrian Wall bus timetable, I discussed with Roy the idea of  taking the train to Carlisle in order to arrive early enough to  guarantee completion of the Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway section in one day. There was only one Hadrian Wall bus per day which traveled all the way to Bowness, with an half-hour pause before returning to Carlisle. It was imperative that we caught that last return bus from Bowness. The problem was that the earliest we could arrive on a bus from Acomb to start the walk from Carlisle, did not leave us enough time to reach the end of the walk before that single bus returned to Carlisle.  Roy baulked at the expensive trainfare, especially after the bad start to the day when we had used the train to Brampton from Wylam. He felt that there had been expenditure for little gain. So we decided to take the bus, walk that section as quickly as possible, and hoped that we would reach the end before the only Hadrian's Wall bus returned to Carlisle from Bowness-on Solway.
English country gardens
Burgh on Sands church with its 14th century tower
It was a source of great frustration to me that, despite going like the clappers, we didn't make it but had to board the returning bus about 5 km short of our destination. We managed to get our passport stamped at the Sands Centre in Carlisle before returning to Acomb. We returned the following day with that single bus, taking hours to get there from Acomb,  disembarking at the place where we had halted, yet still, there was not enough time to complete that small section before the bus returned .   

En route back to Acomb, we spent an hour at Vindolanda before catching the last bus. 


 from Vindolana

On a third day, after first walking part of one of the other sections, only to return to it later in the day, we returned to complete the last teeny bit of that final section (I was feeling a bit like an obsessive compulsive by that stage!) At last at the Kings Arms Pub,  another stamp in our passport

The Solway

Time wasted meant that we never did explore Carlisle, Hexham, Corbridge or other sights.  Completing the full route was Roy's only goal. Different visions for  the same journey. I asked Roy today whether, with hindsight, he would have done it any differently but he insists that he would do the same again.  Let me say no more about it, except, should you ever decide to do this trip, just bite the bullet and pay for trains or taxis to ensure time for everything!! Or investigate the idea of paying for transferred luggage so that you overnight  at the start of the next section of the walk every day.

Putting aside those days, we girded our loins for some more strenuous walking and beautiful scenery in the days to follow.