If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, though Hadrian’s wall is neither so long or so spectacular as the Great Wall of China, where Martyn and Pat were last week. When our children were quite small we walked much of it in chunks or five or so miles, but I’ve never been to the very beginning of the wall at Bowness-on-Solway where we started today.
Gill, Robert and I arrived in Carlisle yesterday afternoon to make an early start today, catching the bus from Carlisle to the start of the wall – that was a bit of a ‘round the houses’ experience, via Kirkbride and Anthorn, so we were glad not to be walking the same route back to Carlisle! Bowness is either the start or end of the wall, depending whether you walk West to East like us, or in the opposite direction. I am too much my father’s daughter to contemplate walking into the prevailing wind all the way, despite our ‘National Trail Guide’ book assuming we’d start in Wallsend. There is also something nice about feeling we are walking towards home.
We were treated to lovely views from Bowness, out along the Solway, as we set off along the road for Port Carlisle and were serenaded as we walked by skylarks, courting and defending their territory, getting a much closer look at them than usual.
West along the Solway Firth from Bowness
Port Carlisle was used as its name implies only briefly, in the early 19th Century, when it was linked to Carlisle by canal. The shifting sands of the estuary blocked it up rapidly and canals were soon superseded by railways, in any case.
The remains of the breakwater at Port Carlisle
At Port Carlisle we were greeted by a man whose purpose and pleasure in life seems to be to create bespoke signs for walkers with the distance to their homes and date and time they pass the spot. It seemed just too much of a distraction so early in our day, though I can see the appeal if you’re heading west and just a mile or so from the end of the wall.
Beyond Post Carlisle the path hugs the coast through the scrubby gorse and trees of Westfield marshes, lovely in the morning’s sunlight.
We then headed inland along a very muddy path through Glasson, rejoining the coast at Drumburgh. Drumburgh sports a fine 14th century pele tower, built in the beautiful red sandstone typical of the area – much of it pillaged from the wall, apparently. We thought we’d finally reached the remains of something looking like a wall here, but it turned out to be the remains of a dismantled railway.
Railway embankment at Drumburgh
The railway does seem to have followed the course of the wall though – the foundations must have given the engineers something of a head start.
The path is mostly very well signposted, though we did find some less than useful signposts….
The road runs absolutely straight for nearly three miles from here to Dykesfield, and the path lies along the road for this stretch. A bit boring I thought – let’s walk along the top of the sea defence instead, lots of other people clearly have. That turned out to be the first of the day’s several diversions – the path to rejoin the road at the end, clearly marked on my map, disappears at high tide… Fortunately, my fellow walkers were forgiving about having to retrace their steps!
We lunched in a roadside picnic shelter overlooking the Solway, enjoying the light and the sight of rainstorms in the distance.
Looking across to the Galloway coast
The road from Drumsfield on to Burgh-by-Sands was prettier – lined with celandines. We were pleased to find the pub here open for coffee.
From Burgh-by-Sands the path drops to the pretty village of Beaumont and should, from there, largely track the River Eden into Carlisle.
St Mary’s Church, Beaumont
One of the consequences of December’s floods, however, is that large stretches of the river bank have washed away so the path has had to be diverted inland, so there was rather more road walking in the latter stages than I’d anticipated, especially the last stretch into Carlisle.
My little friend Ethan’s birthday cake provided a welcome boost to our energy levels in the final stages.
The one advantage of the diversion into Carlisle was that we did get to see this great gate across the old railway line, now a footpath, which comes out on the B5307.
Our walk though Bitts Park and back across the river to Stanwix was beautiful in the late afternoon sun, but I think this remains my favourite plant photo of the day.
We were very well fed by Stanwix Tandoori restaurant again in the evening and our Bengali waiter explained that he chooses to live in Keswick and drive to Carlisle for work so that he can spend all his spare time walking in the lakes!