Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hadrian's wall 22-27 October 2007

Roman emperor Hadrian ordered this 73 mile long, 10 ft wide wall to built across northern Britain more than 18 centuries ago (122-130AD) at the decline of the Roman empire. In hilly places it is remarkably well preserved, with linking forts and milecastles along the wall. In the valleys, the stones have migrated into farm building foundations and the only trace is a grassy lump. We enjoyed a glorious autumn day exploring after a sleepless night in a farm courtyard (right next to the dog's kennel, we discovered, who barked at a badger on the prowl all night).

The early morning mist burned off slowly as we made our way along the wall, carrying far too many warm clothes!

The next night we moved north of the tourist trail into the Northumberland National Park to the north and found a lovely campsite with a wind turbine powered hot bath - and we were the only campers there! Working out a circular walk for the next day on the computer, we printed out a map in black and white as an aide memoire, anticipating that the trails would be as well-marked as they were near Hadrian's wall.
However, the trail dissapeared in "Black Bog" and was not to be found even as we located ourselves with GPS on the suposed trail numerous times - finally we just gave up and bush-whacked on a 60 degree compass heading for miles, through bog, spongy mossy woods and recently harvested (destroyed!) forests finally coming to intersect the Pennine Way regional trail. Hard work for not much mileage - and then we still had the 5 miles to walk back to camp. We slept late the next morning in the gloriously quiet site with soft rain on the roof.

As the weather was changing, we decided to head south toward the Yorkshire Dales, which we've not yet explored, and stopped at Fountains Abbey, which has recently been made a World Heritage site. The Georgian grounds with lakes, canals, temples and formal gardens are huge and there is a spectacular ruin of a 13-century Cistercian (Benedictine offshoot) abbey, which was raided for sandstone to build the Elizabethan Fountains Hall. During the Second World War, the Hall and other estate buildings were used to house evacuee children, but, after the war, fell estate into a state of serious dilapidation and has only recently been restored.

To our suprise, dogs were allowed! We cut back to the car park skirting the deer park and watched as two magnificent stags faced off in the meadow - making really loud threatening noises at each other. One finally backed up and made his way away from the rest of the deer, complaining loudly.

My heel injury is much better and I'm back running again. Hurrah! Nick is enjoying bragging about his 10 mile runs when I'm back to cautious 2 mile runs, but slow and steady I'll be back running 10 again... someday.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ali is back from her adventure in India, and I'm sleeping easier... I worried with her so far away! She was teaching English a Catholic university in Trichy, India called Holy Cross. She found the position through our friend from Bhimtal, Tagore, who's sister, Shanti, works there. Shanti proved to be a remarkable woman, surprisingly unconventional considering her professional success and inspiring in her commitment to her students and improving the lives of the orphans at Hope Home where she donates so much of her time and energy. Her frank and caring counsel was invaluable to Ali in making the cultural adjustments she needed to make to adapt to life in Trichy. (Restina, Shanti and Ali left to right). Ali helped Restina in the language lab. At first the girls were too shy to talk to her, but she lured them in with encouraging smiles and soon had a gaggle of girls who wanted to talk her all the time! The dress code was strict and Ali could not wear western clothes, (a likely excuse for an exotic new wardrobe!) so she learned how to wear a sari or traditional Indian trousers and a tunic. One of the highlights of her trip was an invitation to a wedding.

Ali stayed in a hostel with post-grad students from Holy Cross, and shared a room with a woman from Assam, Debbie, and one from Tibet, Namshey. Although the accommodation and food were very basic by western standards, Ali said it did not take long before she felt comfortable with the different way of life. The three became very close and Ali loved travelling with Debbie, the teachers and some of the younger students to Kerala. Debbie is an accomplished dancer and henna painted Ali's hands and feet.
Just before she returned home, Ali and Namshey travelled to visit a Tibetan settlement and monastery in Bylakuppee.

She really had an experience she will treasure, and I don't think this will be the last time she visits Trichy.

Sadly, heel pain has stopped me from training for the Mendip Muddle and Nick has to go on a field trip to Transylvania on Sunday, so we won't be racing the Phedippidation World Wide Half Marathon this weekend. But we're looking at races in November, hoping that my plantar fasciitis situation improves. I'm sad to miss the virtual race, though. Best of luck to everyone running!!