Sheep graze on the pastures beyond Hadrian's Wall.
| We got an early start on Friday so that we could get settled into that night's room early enough to take an afteroon day trip to Hadrian's Wall. We caught our short ride back to the main line, and then found ourselves on a north-bound train packed with Londoners heading out on their weekend getaways. Our destination was Carlisle, which calls itself the gateway to Scotland. By 2:30 we had gotten ourselves settled into a nice reasonably-priced room and were on our way back to the train station for our afternoon outing. (How's that for a couple of people who can barely manage to get out of the house by that time when we're at home?)
Back in Roman times, the empire's hold on this island was rather tenuous. One of their biggest problems was that they kept getting invaded by these people from the north ... the Scots. At some point the Romans gave up on trying to conquer the Scots, and they got tired of being invaded by the Scots, so they built a stone wall all the way across the north of England to keep them out: Hadrian's Wall. Much of the wall remains to this day, in spite of its stones being pilferred for construction materials over the centuries.
We caught a train to the little town of Haltwhistle, and learned that much of the wall remains closed due to foot-in-mouth. A part that remains open was about 15 minutes from there by bus, in the village of Gilsland. This is where we got to spend about an hour with this ancient wall, in an area that seems to get very little tourist traffic whatsoever. Gilsland was refreshingly quiet.
On the train back to Carlisle we met a young gent named Phillip (Hopefully we're spelling his name right, and he'll let us know if we aren't). He's a butcher by trade, but you wouldn't know it by his kind and cheerful manner and his compassionate attitudes. We got to talking about foot-in-mouth right away, and about how devastating it has been for the farmers. He told us that the compensation they are getting for their livestock may take as much as two years to come through, and then it can only be used to buy replacement stock. He talked about how sad some of them were to lose their herds, and dismissed those who say "they're just animals" by pointing out that many farmers knew each and every animal by name. That would be depressing, to lose so many animals that had become your friends.
We went on to talk about life in general as it's lived by ordinary people in our respective parts of the world. He was as excited to meet someone from a far-away land as we are to visit far-away lands. Our conversations melted the time away on the train ride, and continued on to a nearby pub as we left the station.
As we moved from northern England into Scotland, encounters such as this became more frequent. We'd buy newspapers to read on the train, which would remain largely unread by the time we'd get to our destination ... people have been that friendly and out-going.
A road marker in the town of Gilsland.