Hadrian's Cycleway Day6--Ovington to South Shields

Trip Start Jun 02, 2010
Trip End Jun 16, 2010

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

What a beautiful day for riding! Fortified with yet another huge breakfast, we started out at about 9:30, riding the last 25 flat miles of Hadrian's Cycleway. We rolled through Ovingham (pronounced "Ovinjam") past The White Swan, the pub where we ate last night, and then followed a cycle path along the river for many miles, passing dog walkers, runners, and other cyclists. All the towns seemed to have city parks that connected to each other to create one continuous wooded, auto-free route that ultimately led to the quayside along the River Tyne at Newcastle. I had expected Newcastle to be a rather dirty industrial city. It certainly is a working town, but what we saw of it is spiffy and appealing, with its own Millenium (foot) Bridge, a curved, cantelevered affair that swoops over the river, and a concert hall that looks like an undulating elongated silver bubble. Home of Sage, an international technology company, this city reminded us a bit of Seattle. No wonder it's a favorite destination for stag and hen (batchelor and batchelorette) parties. We saw a gaggle of women walking along the quay in matching t-shirts announcing that's what they were there for.
We stopped for a a scant hour at Walls End, where, as the name implies, Hadrian's Wall ends. It's also the site of Segedunum, another excavated Roman fort, this one with a restored bath house. Also on the actual end of the wall was a stone inscribed with the names of all the men who built that section, commonly placed by the Romans. After a picnic lunch we were off again to catch the ferry across the Tyne, a 7-minute ride from the port of North Shields to South Shields and at about 2 pm arrived at Arbeia Roman Fort, the eastern end of the ride. Arbeia has a reconstructed gate, barracks, and officer's quarters. Each of the five forts we've visited has emphasized something different, and  between them we've got a pretty well-rounded understanding of Roman life on the wall.
 So ends the cycling portion of our trip--174 miles from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. Peter arrived to collect us and the bikes and deliver us to our accommodations in Durham, another Roman town a half-hour to the south.

I'd learned lodging was scarce in Durham this weekend because of the university's annual regatta, the first of its summer festivals. We watched some of the races (including alumni crew and high school and middle school teams, and at least one from elsewhere in Europe!) this evening from the canal bank, enjoying the general carnival atmosphere and thinking of Benjamin and Abby Perrin, who are on crew teams in the U.S. Right now we're doing what the rest of the country is doing: watching England play the United States in the World Cup. The U.S. just scored.
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