From Windshields Farm it's a short steep climb back up to Windshield Crags and the Wall. The sky is heavy with low dark clouds, but for the moment it's dry. Today I have decided to adopt an innovative method of hydration, taking a swig from my hip flask every mile. This proves to be an exhilarating way to count down the miles until inevitably, at the ten-mile point, the flask runs dry!
From the roller coaster crags, the landscape again changes in favour of broad sweeping farm and moor land. At this time of year there is an abundance of spring lambs and it is fascinating to observe these delightful creatures at such close quarters. An incredible curiosity, tempered only by an startling vulnerability, as soon as we are within a few metres they scamper delightfully to the comfort and security of their attentive but forthright mothers. So taken am I by these defenceless creatures, I vow never to eat lamb again. My companions are less sentimental, and are delighted to see lamb on the menu in the pub this evening!
A constant drizzle interspersed with the occasional wintery downpour, our path is again punctuated by crags, quarries, mile castles and forts, including Aesica (modern day Great Chesters) where, in 1894 a hoard of jewellery, including an enamelled brooch shaped as a hare, a gilded bronze brooch, a silver collar with a pendant, a gold ring and a bronze ring with a Gnostic gem, was found, and the impressive Birdoswald Roman Fort, which includes a shop and visitor centre as well as the excavated remains of the fort itself. It is one of the best preserved of the 16 forts along Hadrian's Wall. In Roman times, it was known as Banna (Latin for "spur" or "tongue"), reflecting the geography of the site. It's a popular destination for Roman enthusiasts but, as we have a tight schedule to follow, we stop only long enough to enough to enjoy some of the complimentary mead on offer (really!) and to stamp our Path Passports to prove we've been here.
After another day of hiking in wet and muddy conditions, we are overwhelmed by the welcome we receive when we finally arrive at Quarryside B & B. We are immediately ushered into a pristine living room and served with with tea, coffee and fresh muffins. A real taste of luxury after four days of mud and grime!
Logistical arrangements are already in place for our evenings' transportation to the pub. Our taxi driver, a game old bird, delights us with her local anecdotes and football know-how. Our destination this evening is the Belted Will Inn, a traditional family run watering-hole which has been serving thirsty travellers since the 17th century.
So, another fantastic day's walking is rounded off with yet more fantastic hospitality.
Maybe it's the beer, maybe it's the fatigue after 4 day's walking, maybe it's because the end of our expedition is now in sight, but tonight we feel our friend's absence more than ever.
Wish you were here Jude.