28th SEPTEMBER 2022



This picture, taken a few years ago, on the terrace at Armathwaite Hall shows Polly and Fletcher, who at home, were discussing a forthcoming holiday there.

"It's over 6 months since we went", remarked Polly.

"True", agreed Fletcher. "Instead of making a summer visit Dad went to Northumberland. It had been quite a few years since he had last been, partly due to Uncle Brian latterly not being able to cope with the long journey."

"I felt for Dad", replied Polly. "It was lovely for him to see Pam and family after so long, but it was nevertheless an emotional time, being the first time ever he had been without Uncle Brian."

"Even after three years Dad is still a long way from fully coming to terms with his death and the massive hole it has left in his and our lives", said Fletcher sadly.

"We have to decide who is coming with us to Armathwaite Hall", went on Polly. "Fred and Gladly of course and Craig and Ralph as well as Rex and Starbuck as Dad is going to a play on the Thursday."

"Yes that's right. I have been talking to Dad and he tells me he is planning to visit Hadrian's Wall and specifically Sycamore Gap. Every time they saw it going to and from Northumberland, but never actually went."

"Well we had better go and have a chat with Wray, as the tree featured in the film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, which is his favourite."

So off they went.

"Hi Wray", said Fletcher. "Dad has told us that when he goes to Armathwaite Hall, he plans to visit Sycamore Gap on Hadrian's Wall."

"Really! That would be fantastic, I have hoped to go there ever since I first saw the film."

"So", said Polly you must come with us again this time and of course that means your best pal Ashley too."

"Wonderful", cheered Wray. "Who else will be coming with us?

"Archie and Cheviot, as Dad wants to make this one of Cheviot's adventures, he can send to the Tankerville Arms, so that they can maybe redo their brochure of the 'Adventures of Tanky Ted'.

"Of course Cheviot was adopted there", replied Wray. "The four of us will have a super day. I can't wait!"



We had waited patiently while Dad had a restful day on the Monday, and then went to Cockermouth on Tuesday for a mooch round the shops. Our Hug (collective name for Teddy Bears) numbers nearly 600, and there really is little room for new members, so it was with some surprise that he came back with a new pal for us, called Joseph.

"Welcome pal", said Fred. "We are so happy that you are joining our Hug."

"My you look a real bobby dazzler in your outfit, especially the bright coloured jumper", said Polly.

"Thank you", replied Joseph. "It is wonderful have so many new pals and a lovely home."

Wray piped up, "you must come with us on our expedition to Hadrian's Wall tomorrow. You are certainly kitted out for it."

"Wow. Just adopted and off on an adventure. What a lucky bear I am."

Our Day

As Dad threw the curtains back on Wednesday morning, Wray called out excitedly, "looks to be a good day for the weather. I am itching to get off."

"Me too", agreed Ashley, "but we need to have a good breakfast first to set us up."

"And me", went on Dad. "Even though we are staying here it is still quite a long drive. I'll be a quick as I can."

He was and soon, calling goodbye to our other pals, we were dashing down the stairs and settling on the front seat. At the road Dad turned left.

"Where are you going?", said Ashley. "The way to the M6 at Penrith is right."

"Were going to Carlisle, that's why", replied Dad.

The miles went by first on the A591 then the A595 towards Carlisle, then Dad spotted a sign and swung off onto the A689. "We are no longer heading to Carlisle", piped up Archie. "I'm confused."

"This will avoid needing to go through the city as we circle north to get to the M6", replied Dad.

It was a good route but busy with lots of roundabouts for roads leading into industrial areas. At the M6 we went one junction south to join the A69.

"I know where we are now", called out Cheviot. "This is the route we took in July to Northumberland. We go to Greenhead and there it's along the B6318 Military Road by Hadrian's Wall."

This latter is arrow straight for the most part, and we were soon at the tiny hamlet of Twice Brewed, and seeing the sign, Wray called out, "we turn left now."

Soon we were at Steel Rigg car park, and once Dad had paid the fee, we set off on our trek.

"Through that gate and along the track" called out Ashley.

This was to be one of the adventures of 'Tanky Ted' that Dad had agreed to send off to the lady at the Tankerville Arms in Wooler. Our pal Cheviot is to be the star, so Wray called out, "Cheviot you aught to sit by the sign."

Looking ahead, Archie pointed, "that must be Steel Rigg."

Walking on Joseph said, "there are steps up the crag, but they look awfully steep."

Well just then Dad stopped the chat to a couple coming the opposite way. The gentleman said, "the steep steps can be avoided. There is a good wide and more gentle path round the right side of the crag."

"Thanks for the advice", replied Dad.

Soon we were by Hadrian's Wall itself. "We should have a group shot sitting on the wall", said Cheviot.

l-r, Cheviot, Archie, Wray, Joseph & Ashley

"What's that square on the far side?", pointed Joseph.

"The remains of a turret", replied Ashley. On the orders of emperor Hadrian the wall was started in AD 122 taking about 6 years to complete. It was the north-west frontier of the Roman empire for nearly 300 years. At 73 miles (80 Roman miles) it crossed northern Britain from Wallsend on the River Tyne in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. At each mile a gate was protected by a small guard post called a milecastle. Between each pair of milecastles lay two towers (turrets), so making a pattern of observation points every third of a mile. This was one of those."

"Thanks pal. Well we should have our picture taken here too."

As we sat Ashley went on, "The stone wall had a maximum height of about 15 feet and was 10 Roman feet wide, so wide enough for there to be a walkway along the top and perhaps also a parapet wall. The eastern 30-mile section was in turf and this was 20 Roman feet wide."

Seeing how low the wall is now, Joseph asked, "what happened to all the stone?"

"When the Roman Empire fell and they abandoned Britain, the wall became a quarry for the stone to build castles, churches, farms and houses along its line, until the conservation movement in the 18th and 19th centuries put a stop to that", informed Ashley.

"There's a fence", pointed Wray. "How do we get to the path we need to take on the far side."

"Archie pointed, "we climb up to that gate then go left and through that lower gate."

This done we followed the wide path that as the gentleman had said, climbed gently to drop to a small dip and then climb gently again.

Suddenly Wray shouted, "look there's Sycamore Gap. There's the tree that features in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. When we see the film next, I will be able to say I've been there."

As can be seen it was busy, so we sat by the path until the large party moved off. Archie said, "Dad should take your picture Wray with the tree behind."

Soon the party moved off and it was much quieter, so we scampered up to the tree and wall. Cheviot said, "if we sit on the far side can you get us in with the tree behind?"

"Yes lad. Get yourselves settled."

Looking out, Wray said, "in the film that is the direction Guy of Gisbourne and the sheriffs men came chasing Little John's son.

Dad then said, "go and sit right by the tree, while I take your picture."

It was really windy here, Wray calling out, "its hard to keep upright."

Then before we started back, we sat a little while by the wall, sheltered from the wind.

Returning to the path, Joseph said, "will you take a group shot of us with Sycamore Gap behind.

We retraced our outwards route, and as we made the final climb towards the car park, Dad got into conversation with a couple. The lady said, "we were glad that we saw you on the lower path, as we used it on our return to avoid the steep steps."

At the car Archie said, "where now?"

"Lunch", replied Dad. "I'm going to Greenhead Café."

"We've got a picnic", said Cheviot. "Fletcher arranged it for us. We can have it on the way to the cafe."

It was quite a way back to Greenhead, along the Military Road with its long ups and downs, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the lovely food, and we were totally refreshed as Dad pulled into the car park.

"Can we come in with you?", asked Archie.

"Sure lads."

Dad ordered a lovely bacon and egg bap and delicious piece of shortbread, and of course a pot of tea.

"Mmm", said Cheviot. "The shortbread is very appetising. Do you mind I have a bit of it?"

"No. Come and sit on the table."

Dad did not hurry, wanting to have a bit of rest before we started back on the long drive to Armathwaite Hall.

He said, "I have decided to make another stop on the way. We are going to Lanercost Priory. Uncle Brian and I visited there in 1988 and 1993. Just two of the many many wonderful memories of the 50 years of our friendship."

"Ahh", said Ashley. "That will be lovely, and we have never been. How I miss Uncle Brian. Had it not been for him insisting you had a Stobart bear, I would never have come to live in Morecambe, and have so many pals."

Dad paid the bill and we scampered out to settle in the car. Dad drove the short distance to the junction with the A69 and turned right.

"It is a few miles, but we need to look out for a turning right to Lanercost."

We kept our eyes peeled, and it was Joseph who called out, "the turning is coming up, Dad."

The road was rather narrow so Dad took in carefully, and at the junction he turned right to cross the river.

"Wow", called out Cheviot.  "Look at beautiful old arched bridge."

"Oh yes", went on Wray. "Worth a picture for the story."

So Dad pulled in to the car park, and we could see that the bridge, while once the only crossing of the River Irthing it is now only for pedestrian traffic.

Ashley looked it up for us when we got back and said, "it was constructed in 1723-4 and is understood to stand on the site of an older wooden bridge. The bridge has two segmental arches, the larger of which spans the River Irthing and the smaller of which spans an adjacent millstream connected to Abbey Mill. It is constructed from red sandstone and has a single central pier with triangular cutwaters with refuges above. A recess at the east end of the bridge contains a piece of masonry adorned by the base of a cross. An inscribed plaque at the east end of the bridge states that the bridge was built in the 2nd year of the reign of King James II, however, this is understood to have been taken from an older demolished bridge located to the east."

"Thanks pal", said Cheviot.

"There's the Priory, just along the road", pointed Joseph.

Dad drove the short distance and, then with us in tow, paid the entrance fee, and then chatted with assistant Emma. 

It turned out that she collects bears so Dad explained about Cheviot, and that the pictures taken here would find there way to the Tankerville Arms to hopefully be included in a new brochure.

Emma said, "I like and collect Charlie Bears."

"Ahh" said Dad, "I have quite a few of those in the Hug." He then went on, "in all there are nearly 600 in my Hug.

"Wow you certainly are a serious collector", she replied.

So we entered and wandered round the ruins.

The priory was founded in in the 13th century, but Robert de Vaux. This picture shows the priory church and south transept. The south wall and the transept and the buildings round the cloister the remains of which are to the left in front of the church, are the earliest buildings completed in 1214. Building work then ceased for several decades with the presbytery and north transept not built until about 1260. It was one of the smaller religious houses so was an early target for dissolution and closed in March 1537. Whilst the west end is still in use as a church, the Presbytery and transepts are roofless.

In the south transept is this elaborate early 16th-century tomb, of Sir Thomas Dacre and his wife, Elizabeth Greystoke.

As we walked back and Dad was about to line up another shot, Cheviot called out, "will you please take our picture.

Following the Battle of Solway Moss in 1542, Thomas Dacre, an illegitimate son of Sir Thomas Dacre, was rewarded by Henry VIII with the priory lands at Lanercost. He decided to convert the west cloister range into a private dwelling, seen here behind the remains of the refectory.

On the first floor he built a 30-metre-long great hall with large windows and a magnificent fireplace, now known as Dacre Hall.

We made our way to the remains of the refectory, and whilst this is ruinous above ground the magnificent fan vaulted undercroft has survived. An information panel told us that originally this was divided into two. The far chamber to the right was probably used for storage, and this end was a warming room with a large fire.

As we had walked around we thought about the visits Dad had made with Uncle Brian, Cheviot saying, "Dad, I feel sure that Uncle Brian is with us in spirit."

"Yes lad. He loved Northumberland and we had so many holidays there over the years exploring it extensively and the Scottish Borders."

Our exploration over, we made our way out via the cloister. Cheviot posed on the remains of the wall....

...and then we all lined up with our pal at the end of a wonderful day.

As Dad made his way out, he had a further chat with Emma, and showed her our new pal Joseph who had been adopted only yesterday.

"Ahh" she said, "he is such a character. I love his outfit and shoes."

So now Dad was faced with the long drive and tiring drive on the busy and unfamiliar roads to the hotel.

"Thank you Dad", said Wray. "We have all had a super day, and finally I have been to Sycamore Gap and seen the tree. When we watch Robin Hood Prince of Thieves I can now say I have been there"

Joseph added, "A big thank you from me. Yesterday I was still sat in that shop, and today I have been on a big adventure."

It was late afternoon when we got back to the hotel, and Dad made a mug of tea and then rested, while we told our other pals all about our day.