Thursday, 2 October 2008 Hexham [Wikipedia] spills down the south bank of the Tyne,
25 miles west of Newcastle. It's a handsome market town, dating back at least to the 7th century, and is the administrative center of
the Tyneside region, although no longer the most populous town--Prudhoe has nudged past its count of 11,000 or so residents. In 2003,
I stayed in nearby Corbridge, and passed through here briefly, marking it for a future visit. So here I am.
I have a mission this morning: find an infrared filter for my camera, to replace the one that went missing shortly before my departure. The landlady suggests a camera shop in town. I'm sure they won't have one, but I'm hoping they will be able to suggest a shop in Newcastle that might.
I stroll up the hill into the market square and take a quick look at the abbey. A memorial service is about to start--I'll have to come back later for a more thorough visit. After wandering around town a bit, I find the shop. As expected, they've nothing in stock, but the lad behind the counter refers me to half a dozen shops in Newcastle. He's so helpful, I wish I could buy something, but there's really nothing for me to buy. Certainly not film.
Half a dozen phone calls later, I'm on my way to Newcastle, in search of Jacobs, the one shop that has what I want. They've given me directions, but they're gibberish to me...I know they're in the center of town, so I drive in, loop around for a while looking for a place to park, and wander around on foot until I virtually stumble onto the place. The filter is a Cokin, a square piece of plastic meant to be mounted in a proprietary holder--less than ideal, but it will do. I blanch at the price of £30, but after a moment's thought consider that it's about the price for purchase and processing of three rolls of infrared film. I decline to spend another £11 on the holder, figuring I can rig something up. With that in mind, I stop into a budget shop on the way back to the car, and purchase a package of 100 elastic hair bands, black and brown and white and pink, for a pound or two. "These should keep the hair out of my eyes," I tell the cashier, who gives no indication that she understands English, or even can hear at all.
Work my way out of Newcastle, hoping never to return--I'm sure the city has much to offer, but it does not seem to speak to me-- and set out to see what I can of Hadrian's Wall [Wikipedia] with what's left of the afternoon. The wall marked the Roman frontier from the 2nd century AD into the 5th, stretching 80 Roman miles from Wallsend, near Newcastle, westward north of the Tyne to Bowness-on-Solway, near Carlisle. After the Romans withdrew, stone from the wall was pilfered for other construction, a practice that apparently continued even into the 20th century. As a result, the wall is entirely gone in accessible areas, and there's nowhere that it stands to its original full height. Toward the eastern end, only a couple of short stretches near Heddon-on-the-wall and Chollerton remain. In Heddon, I accidentally turn up a little dead-end street, and find a house with an unheralded bit of ancient Roman retaining wall in the front garden. I wonder what effect such a feature has on the property's value. (Unfortunately, I don't have the presence of mind to photograph it.) I see the Chollerton segment only from the car, unable to find a reasonable place to park.
Close by Chollerton is Chesters Roman Fort, or Cilurnum [Wikipedia], to give it its proper Roman name. This is one of fourteen to seventeen forts built along the wall (the precise number is in doubt), and one of a few well-preserved ones. It was originally a cavalry fort, dedicated to the minor goddess Disciplina (oh my!). I have only a half an hour before closing, but I've been here before; it's enough to get a few quick photos.
Dinner is at the Forum again. I hope I'll find something else suitable tomorrow--one can only take so much Wetherspoon's. I retire to the Heart of All England for pints, and fall into a game of dominoes with Bob, Marjorie, and a rotating fourth. A fun evening, and I manage to lose only £1.10.