• 6.5.04 Hadrian’s Wall Walk: Heddon-on-the-Wall to Wallsend

    6/05/04

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    Wallsend, Newcastle
    Location: Quayside, on the Tyne
    Population: 192,000 (North Tyneside)
    How You Know Going West To East Was The Right Direction All Along: Well, it’s Walls-END, not Walls-START, isn’t it?

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    One last time: It should be said. The Newcastle Metro system rocks!

    I decided since I’d already walked all around Newcastle at the start of the trip, it wasn’t important to walk from the airport to the end of the wall, so after getting dropped off with my luggage at the Britannia, I hopped on the subway again, hoping to be able to figure out where I needed to go. And dontcha know – there’s a stop called Wallsend! I am so easily pleased. And off I go.

    It’s a short walk from the elevated train stop to Segedunum, and in contrast to every other fort/wall area I’ve seen, it’s not surrounded by fields and sheep and cows – this area is a flattened, excavated section in the midst of houses, a supermarket, the River Tyne and some bad-ass looking cranes. It is also the greatest clash of civilizational architecture you can imagine: Alongside the remains of the fort and a faux Roman bathhouse and some wall is this 100-foot space-age tower which overlooks the site and allows visitors to get a semi-aerial perspective. That perspective includes the cranes at the harbor, brightly colored and noisily doing their thing. In one fell swoop you get First Century, Nineteenth Century, and Twenty-First Century. And guess which one is the butt-ugliest?

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    Man, that tower is the worst. I’d rather be hoisted in a crane. The ruins have more class. I hate modern architecture – though Newcastle disagrees: They’ve got the Symphony Slug being built a bit downriver, too. Anyway, the bottom level of the tower is also the Segedunum museum and gift shop and cafeteria. I learned a lot about not just Roman history but, as the only person sitting in the room when a continually-running industrial era film began running, about coal. Lots about coal. And how coal mines liked to collapse and bury people. And how it transformed the area, bringing about the classic phrase, “Carrying coals to Newcastle.

    Use the phrase in a sentence, kids: “Building a modern structure amidst an historical site was the equivalent of carrying coals to Newcastle.” Thank you.

    Lodgings: Britannia Hotel, Newcastle Airport
    Rating: 6
    Location: Walk to the airport!
    Ice Delivery: Yes!
    Food: For $30, you think they’re gonna feed you, too?
    General Atmosphere: Cloudy, with chance of more clouds later on
    Segedunum Means: “Ugly Tower” (nah) — it means “Victory Fort” (or maybe) “Strong Fort”

    Use the phrase in a sentence, kids: “Building a modern structure amidst an historical site was the equivalent of carrying coals to Newcastle.” Thank you.

    And so, more snuffling around the site, photo taking, and a quick trip through the reconstructed bath house (a cool room, a warm room, a hot room, and just me wandering through). Some more extended time in the (overpriced) gift shop and a final stamp for my “passport” and that was about all I needed to see of Segedunum. All that walking and picture taking and sight-seeing and B&B sleeping and man, I was ready for a rest.

    Big Brother wouldn’t be on for hours — but there was plenty of time to catch up on my British TV viewing before going home. And that’s how I learned Ronald Reagan had died.

    ‘Nuff said.

    Total Stats
    Distance: 92.5 km/57.35 miles

    Steps: 143,256
    Time Walked: 24 hours or so
    Speed: 3.71 km/hr average

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