In terms of scenery, landscape and Roman remains, this is by far the best day of walking so far. After the long, flat and wall-less stretches that we'd done yesterday, the spectacular series of roller-coaster crags, Roman wall that stretches as far as the eye can see and the well-preserved archaeology at numerous sites along the way, it's easy to see why this is the most popular stretch of Hadrian's wall.
Indeed, from our base at Green Carts farm, it isn't long before we find ourselves following our first real stretch of authentic Roman wall. Mile castles, turrets and disused quarries litter the way and the fort at Housesteads (Vercovicium), unlike that at Vindobala, provides a tangible insight into life on a Roman fort.
With the help of the well-maintained signs throughout the site, it is easy to visualise the barracks, hospital and even latrines that served the 1,000 men of the First Cohort of Tungrians, (an auxiliary unit raised in the Tonges area of what is now Belgium) who were once garrisoned here. These men appear to have earned the respect of the native celts, with one possible origin for the name of the Fort being "place of the able fighters" (although latin scholars, for obvious reasons, favour the alternative translation: "the settlement on the slope").
We spend 30 minutes or so wandering around the site and devouring our packed lunch before the weather on this exposed spot takes yet another turn for the worse.
Back on the path, things brighten up a bit as we make yet another steep descent to Sycamore Gap, an iconic image associated with the wall, made famous by the Kevin Costner movie Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. The 'gap" is in fact a nick in the Whin Sill, a meltwater channel, carved by the vast volumes of meltwater that flowed beneath the ice sheets that once covered this area.
From this captivating spot it isn't long before we descend the ridge towards Once/Twice Brewed, a well known and long standing resting place (from where our lodgings at Windshields farm are a convenient half kilometre stroll). The Twice Brewed Inn stands in the shadows of Steel Rigg, one of the most dramatic parts of the Wall and again we experience warm hospitality, a good pint and a healthy range of eating options.
The accommodation is yet again basic but comfortable, including rather invigorating shower facilities (see below). A hearty breakfast is prepared for us on site the next morning by the versatile barman from the previous evening.
A fantastic day's walking in some pretty adverse weather conditions, we are tired but enthused by what we have seen today. Boosted by the news that our sponsorship total continues to rise and with no serious injuries or blisters (yet) we are all looking forward to what promises to be another excellent day tomorrow.
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