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Thursday, May 25, 2000

The plan was to be on the road by 6 a.m. this morning so that we could be in the Lake District by 9 or 10. I had informed our hostess and she said she would set out cereal and fruit for us to have in the morning - however, she forgot to do this.

As we left the beautiful quite countryside of Wales (where I saw a fox running across the road), we were soon on an extremely busy 6-lane road heading towards Manchester. We made good time and only had to make one emergency restroom stop. Just outside of Windemere we stopped at a Gas Station/Restaurant for breakfast (6 each) and gas (24). I was almost tempted to try beans on toast. I didn't have much of a plan for today and was deciding what to do as we went along.

We did not stop in Windermere at the Beatrix Potter Museum but decided to drive out to the Beatrix Potter Hilltop Farm. We took the ferry across the lake (2) and were soon at the farm. Unfortunately, the farmhouse is closed on Thursdays and Fridays. We looked around the giftshop and I purchased several gifts for friends. We were also allowed to walk around the gardens leading to the house.

It started to rain as we returned to the car and continued to rain for the next several hours. We drove north and planned on stopping at Dove Cottage. On the way I saw a sign pointing up a hill to the home of William Wordsworth. So we turned and went to the house. This turned out to be Rydal Mount. Our Heritage Pass allowed us in.

Rydal Mount was Wordsworth's favorite home and he lived here with his family and his sister, Dorothy, for over 40 years. The house has a very modern feel. I am not sure how much refurbishment has taken place over the years. There are many rooms open to visit filled with the furniture owned by the Wordsworth family. Outside the home is a beautiful garden. The rain kept us from exploring the garden fully. Rydal Mount is located halfway up a steep hill. From the front room is a beautiful view of the valley below and the mountains across the way.

Just a few miles from Rydal Mount we found Dove Cottage. The cottage is located in a small village where all the buildings are built of stone. The Heritage Pass came in handy again. This is the more interesting of the two homes. There is a tour through the actual cottage. The guides were very knowledgeable and shared several anecdotal stories about the Wordsworths. Dorothy Wordsworth was known to walk to town twice a day to check for mail. This wouldn't be that big a deal except that town was seven miles away (thank goodness for email). One of the friends of the Wordsworths commented, "Dove cottage is a great place to visit. You get three meals a day...Porridge, Porridge, and Porridge."

After touring the cottage there is a large two-story museum to visit. This was the type of museum I had expected to see at the Jane Austen Museum in Bath. It had the typical "exhibits" on the life of Wordsworth, but it also had a large collection of letters, manuscripts, first editions, etc. This is what I like to see.

I was tired and wanted a chance to sit and relax for a few minutes so we stopped in the Dove Cottage Tea Room. I had soup and tea, Alan had a gigantic scone and tea, and poor Pat only had a glass or two of water. We continued north even though I still had no idea where we would stop for the night. I wanted to make it into Scotland just to say I had been there. I also wanted to see Hadrian's Wall. As we were driving I noticed that the Castlerigg Stone Circle was up a side road that we were approaching.

We turned and made our way up the small country lane till we reached the top of the hill. From this vantage point you could see the town of Keswick in the valley below. There were also several larger hills surrounding us. Supposedly, the stone circle is situated in a direct line between the two tallest peaks and on certain days of the year the sun passes along this line (we didn't stick around to find out).

Castlerigg Stone Circle is located in the middle of a sheep pasture so you have to watch your step as you approach. I actually found it one of the more dramatic stone circles that I have seen. The stones aren't large, most only four to five feet tall, but there is a sense of "completeness" about the place. The sun was out, the rain had stopped, and the sky was a bright blue. The biggest mystery to me about the stone circle is how did the sheep poop get on top of the stones?

The Lake District is certainly a beautiful area of England. The English rush to the Lake District like the FIBS (if you don't know what that means, write and I will tell you) rush out of Chicago to head to Northern Wisconsin.

Once again, we were on the road heading north to Scotland. We reached the border at 2:45 p.m. where we stopped to take view pictures of the sign to prove that we had been there. Now, we had to decide what to do next. A quick study of the map showed that we were not far from Hadrian's Wall so away we went.

Having gone a mile or so I decided to stop at a "convenience" store to see what type of souvenir I could get. The store was a very small shop, a small restaurant, and a large garden shop. Pat picked up a few postcards. She finally got hungry (two cups of water just doesn't cut it) and purchased a meat pie. Alan and I also bought some meat pies and ice cream bars.

We left Scotland at 3:30 p.m. As we were driving down the small country road I saw a sign for Birdoswald Roman Fort. As I passed the sign (and the turnoff) I saw a wall running along the crest of the hill. Being the amazing sleuth that I am, I immediately deduced that this was Hadrian's Wall. So we turned around and went back to Birdoswald Fort. There was a admission charge of 4. This charge allows you access to the ruins of the fort and a small museum.

The museum is barely worth visiting but the ruins were more captivating. While I enjoyed Housesteads Fort more, the ruins here are just as extensive. And Birdsowald is much more accessible. If you are unable to walk a great distance and up a steep hill, then skip Housesteads and come here instead as the ruins at both sites are very similar.

We walked around the site snapping pictures. The fort is built on a hill. To the north is a large open plain that would keep anyone from sneaking up on the fort. To the back of the fort is a very steep hill with a river at the bottom thus providing a natural defense from that direction. The wall itself snakes off east and west. At one time the wall was 15 to 20 feet high. Today, the only part that remains is about 4 to 5 feet.

It was around 4:30 so we decided to stop in the next town and call ahead to find a room for the night. The road (B6318) runs roughly parallel to Hadrian's Wall and we intended to follow it across England to the east. After a brief detour (a polite way of saying we got lost) where we got to see an electric train, we turned around and went back into Greenhead.

We finally found a telephone. Using the Rick Steves Guidebook I called one of the B&Bs listed. The first one was full so I asked for a recommendation. The lady recommended the Vallum Lodge Hotel (sort of redundant). Vallum Lodge had rooms available. After getting directions we took off. After going about 10 miles I realized that: a) I didn't write down the name of the B&B and couldn't remember what it was; and b) I had left my guidebook in the phonebooth.

I turned around and after going about five miles back towards town I realized I had stuck the guidebook in the door pocket of the car. So turning around again it was back to trying to find the B&B. I had directions but didn't know the name. I only hoped that when I saw the place I would remember. Fortunately I did.

Vallum Lodge is twenty miles from a town in any direction but it is a great location. Hadrian's Wall is in sight and there are multiple Roman sites within five miles. We actually had booked two rooms for only 50. One room had a single bed, which I took. The other room only had a double bed that Pat and Alan shared. My room shared a bath next door although I don't believe anyone else was using it. Alan and Pat's room was en suite with the bath one door down the hall from their door. The lodge has between 10 and 15 rooms. It seems as if it is a popular place for people hiking the wall.

All three of us took a nap for an hour. It was then time to find a place for supper. Just a few blocks down the road is a turn-off that takes you to a small car lot where you can walk along Hadrian's Wall to the ruins of a castle. We drove up to the wall just to look around. I am so glad we did as there was a bright beautiful rainbow coming down just behind the wall a few hundred yards away. Soon another rainbow appeared but only faintly.

Back on the road heading east we passed the Twice Brewed Pub (only a half mile from Vallum Lodge). It appeared to be closed so we kept driving. Nearly 10 miles later we finally came into the town of Walwick. We drove around until we found a pub that seemed to be very popular. The menu appeared to be fine to me but Alan didn't see anything he liked so we got back in the car to find another place. Driving around another fifteen minutes didn't turn up any other promising places so we headed back towards the Twice Brewed Pub. During this entire time we could still see the one rainbow shining brightly in the distance.

As we pulled into the lot of the Twice Brewed Pub, a group of five men walked off the road and into the pub. The pub still appeared to be closed, as there were no other cars in the lot. We watched the men to see if they could get in. They were all at the bar ordering dinner when we entered the pub. After they ordered we placed our orders for dinner. I had scampi, fries, and salad. Pat and Alan both had chicken strips, fries and salad. I also order a cider.

As we were eating we started talking with the five men. They were on a 270-mile walk through England going about 20 miles a day. They were staying at a nearby hostel. Each of the men was in there 50s (and perhaps 60s). It was very interesting to hear about their trip. One man stated that at one point on the wall that day they had been able to see the ocean to the east and west - so they could see all the way across England. I would love to return to England and do a walk such as this.

We returned back to the hotel and sat in the guest lounge talking with another lady. I found our hostess and purchased a coke from the small bar. After a nice visit with the guest and our hostess, it was time for bed. I had been up since 5:00 a.m. and had driven a long way that day. I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. 

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