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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Hadrian's Wall: the end & haaf fishing

Pete, Nicola, Lola and Nell love to travel but stay off planes to keep their carbon footprint down. Here's how they satisfy their passion for travel

It's 84 miles (135km), was built in six years and the only World Heritage Site to have a long-distance footpath along it. So this is Hadrian's Wall – a 2,000 year old map route from Newcastle's Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway. And as a family we have now managed 59 miles of it stretching from Chollerford (Hexham) over to the edge of the Solway Firth (Carlisle).

There was a tourist perfect end to the walk – a Roman(esque) recreation of an Edwardian viewing point at the Banks, just off the village, which offered a poetic view to Scotland. As we sat and half contemplated our as-good-as-finish of Hadrian's Wall a man walked out with his 18 foot Haaf net to fish the tides for salmon etc. Wading out he looked like Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North on the move. With the silvery light, our soon to be rested aching feet and this snapshot of a 1,000 year old fishing skill (brought here by the Vikings) it was the most atmospheric moment of the whole walk. And that includes meeting men dressed as centurions, the re-enactors at Halsteads Fort and even witnessing the Roman shoe dug out in front of us at Vindolanda.

Living history is not yet going into the supermarket and choosing our food, or for that matter tapping out blog entries. Living history feels like watching a fishermen with a weirdy net or retracing a Roman soldiers' path within earshot of a dual carriageway.

Admittedly I did rather turn the end of our epic journey into a shopping saga by stopping off at the King's Arms, 016973 51426, to buy sew on Hadrian's Wall badges and postcards. Pete can do celebrating fine with just a pint.**

I wanted to find out more about haff fishing but it was luck that we stopped off at the Highland Laddie pub in Glasson as this is were you can find Mark Messenger, highlandladdie@talktalk.net, who'll take you out to fish the age old way for salmon, grilse (young salmon), sea trout, grey mullet, bass and flounder. He's also the secretary of a new haaf fishing association - see more on page 5 of this document about the Solway Firth here, which explains why haaf fishing is endangered now it can only be practiced between 10am-10pm.

There's even a festival - the Haafest salmon and beer festival from 5-6 September 2009. Equipment is provided (you wear your own waterproof jacket) including the haafnet and waders, though you need to be fit enough to stand in cold water for a couple of hours. Or just enjoy Jennings beer and local bands.


Be tempted when you find out that “haaf net fishing is one of the best excuses there is to stand right in the middle of one of the last wildernesses in the British Isles and explore the magnetism of the Solway Firth.” You could even see seals and porpoises and of course the many migratory wading birds that stuff themselves on the rich tidal waters and marsh land.

**Useful guide for Hadrian's Wall is Hadrian's Wall Path by Anthony Burton (Aurum, £12.99) which makes the route incredibly clear though fails to do justice to the many contrasts of the walk, or name all the pubs and which stock the best ales.

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