River South Tyne
The grassed over remains of Whitley Castle/Epiacum
The huge 'Rhubarb plants' The old lady can be seen to the left of the telegraph pole
My mind drifted back to the summit of the first 'Black Hill' and the large gathering on the summit and I wondered what Alan was up to and how far Patrick was ahead of me as he forged his way towards John O'Groats. So much had happened in the intervening days of the walk since that gathering on the second day that it now seemed to have occurred on a different trip altogether. The Black Hill I was now passing wasn't anything like as sociable a summit as the previous one and had nothing to cause me to linger and it wasn't long before I was descending through fields and around a golf course to the road at Greenhead. Here, I crossed the road and headed for Holmhead Guesthouse and camping barn in the shadow of Thirlwall Castle and Hadrian's Wall. As I approached the gate to the guesthouse, a woman inside cleaning the windows saw me entering and promptly turned away and walked off, ignoring me. I walked up to the door and rang the bell whereupon she returned and opened the door. After enquiring if it was okay to camp, she directed me to a garden at the rear of the house and told me to wait for her husband, who soon appeared, told me where to pitch, pointed at the shower and toilet, relieved me of seven pounds and promptly disappeared. As I began unpacking my gear on the picnic table in the garden, I was joined by an attractive but surly looking young girl in very tight, very short, shorts and a top that probably revealed a little too much cleavage. I said hello as she sat at the table with a coffee but I got very little in response and it quickly became clear that I was 'in the way', so I moved my gear over to the garden wall where I pitched the tent and started organising myself for the night. The girl had now been joined by two others and Ms.Surly and one of her friends began playing badminton on the lawn and I had to frequently throw the shuttlecock back to them as it landed in among my camping gear with monotonous regularity.
When I had finished setting up the tent, I escaped from the amateur badminton players by heading for the shower, which turned out to be something of a joke. Having entered and locked the door, I realised that 'the shower' was nothing more than a single toilet cubicle with a shower head fixed to the wall and a hole in the floor for the water to drain away. There was no space to get changed or to stow your clothes to stop them getting wet while you showered. The whole toilet cubicle would be soaked while you showered. I was confused, surely this wasn't right but after a while I realised that this indeed was 'the shower'. I looked at the 'interesting' pipework supplying water to the shower and taking the shower head out of it's holder and aiming it into the sink bolted onto the wall underneath, switched on to check out how hot it was. Well, it wasn't! It was cold! I decided that there was no way I was going to shower in cold water standing in a toilet cubicle, so I had a wash in the tiny sink and changed my clothes. When I emerged, Rowan and Gordon had arrived and begun setting up the tent and I appraised them of the shower situation. Ms.Surly was now posing by laying stretched out on the lawn, practising for her next photo-shoot before realising that no-one was taking any notice of her and flouncing off into the bunkhouse. Later, I headed into the village to the Greenhead Hotel for dinner where I met up with Tony for the first time since leaving him on the Corpse Road below Cross Fell. He joined me for dinner and I discovered that he was a sports reporter for a local newspaper and also heavily involved with Oldham Athletic football club where, among other things, he wrote items for their programme. He turned out to be a really nice guy and I enjoyed his company as we ate. Later, we were joined by Rowan and Gordon and had a pleasant evening before we headed back to the 'campsite' leaving Tony to cross the road to the hostel where he was staying.