Our first walk of 2016 was delayed by very wet weather during the first week of January, so it was with great expectation that we headed off west from Ponteland to begin our exploration of St. Oswald’s Way. We were but three on this occasion as we began our trek from the site of the battle of Heavenfield https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Heavenfield
First however, we popped up to see St. Oswald’s church, http://www.dalbeattie.com/stoswalds-heavenfield/index.html marvelled at the gas lights, observed the old American harmonium, viewed the historical display and signed the visitor’s book (again – see March 23rd 2011). A super spot in a lovely location, and the few snowdrops just pushing through the grass along the edges of the graveyard reminded us that spring was not far away.
After a little while, we exited the environs of the church and cut diagonally across the field to pick up the Way as it ran parallel with the Military Road. For much of the next couple of miles, we were walking close to the northern ditch, the wall itself not being visible at this location.
The ground under our feet was still somewhat frozen, though there were some boggy areas, so we had to watch our step at times. We crossed over the Military Road near milecastle 24 after having a chat with another walker going east to west, and soon came to a wooded area bordering the road. This, we learnt, was Sentinel Wood, and we followed the distinct path as it paralleled the road alongside a stone wall, and when we came to a cleared area, decided to avail ourselves of the cut stumps to sit and have a coffee.
On again, the path now tracked the vallum as we headed towards Port Gate, and the Errington Arms public house and restaurant. Once a coaching inn (since 1750 A.D.), it now provided us with outdoor seating for our lunch and a drink, though we did not dally too long, because it was a might chilly. We continued to follow the line of the vallum past the sites of milecastles 22 and 21, before crossing the road to the north, and then, taking our leave of the Hadrian’s Wall path, to pursue the footpath to Great Whittington.
The route followed the boundaries of several arable fields, mainly winter cereals and rape, though one particular field had obviously had sheep in it over winter, because some fallen branches showed where they had chewed the bark to create some attractive patterns. We successfully negotiated a fallen tree on the headland of one field, and then made our way to the derelict Whittington Mill, crossing the infant River Pont via a small footbridge on the way, finally arriving back at Great Whittington – another good walk, cool but dry.
We’re now looking forward to part two of St. Oswald’s Way – heading northwards this time.