The Great Wall of Hadrian, Day 2

Today we set off from underneath the bridge in Carlisle to walk the next stage of the wall path, to Lanercost Priory. The path follows the river at first, before crossing it on a metal footbridge into Rickerby Park. The Goat willows lining the bank have distinctive red anthers, which gives the catkins a lovely hue.


As we crossed Rickerby Park we were astonished by the amount of flood debris caught up in the trees, well above our heads.


Walking towards Linstock the fields were obviously still saturated and we found ourselves diverted away from the river again and along the road to Low Crosby. The hedgerows were full of debris left behind by the floods.


Today’s star birds were a pair of lapwings, ducking and diving over a field of stubble to keep crows away from their nest. We were delighted to find self-service refreshments at High Crosby Farm – a wooden chalet with a kettle, tea and coffee and an honesty box. The stock of edibles was low this early in the season, so Robert was relieved to find there was still a cornetto in the freezer.

From the farm the path follows a very muddy track across the A689 and up to the Roman military way, which follows the line of Hadrian’s Wall. I was confused by the major road and footbridge until I realised that the minor road marked on my 30 year old map had been substantially upgraded since the map was produced!

Approaching Bleatarn we were treated to a field full of obvious earthworks – the Wall, the Vallum and the tarn itself, filling the original quarry.


The Vallum and Bleatarn

We lunched at Newtown on sandwiches picked up from the excellent Gretna Bakery, round the corner from our guest house in Carlisle and I was introduced to the delights of multi-coloured ‘Tipsy cake’, apparently an Irish as well as a Scottish favourite. We were pleased to have eight or nine miles under our belts by this time. There was nowhere for a post-lunch coffee in Newtown, so we pressed on to Walton, the end of the official section of path for today.

Beyond Newtown the path diverges from the Vallum again, and drops into the lovely valley below Beck farm. The lambs here provided plenty of amusement with their antics and some with their odd colouration – I’ve never seen a lamb with just one black hindquarter before!


We crossed Cam Beck just above the picturesque weir before climbing the muddy path to Walton.


Cam Beck

We were hoping for a pub serving coffee in Walton but were intrigued to see signs for the Reading Room Café. This doesn’t have the most prepossessing of exteriors (think free-standing garage) so we were even more delighted by the lovely interior, friendly welcome and excellent coffee and cakes. A highly-recommended pit stop. If we’d had longer, we’d no doubt have taken advantage of the comfy chairs and selection of books and magazines and lingered longer.


As it was, reinvigorated by coffee and cake, Gill and I decided we could press on for another three miles or so to Lanercost Priory, before getting a taxi back to Brampton and a bus from there to Carlisle.

Today’s floral highlight was Moschatel, also known as Town Hall Clock, for its cube-like flower head.


Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina)

By the time we got to the pretty, hump-backed Dovecote Bridge, people’s feet were getting tired. We were walking on the road again here, because of water-logged fields, so didn’t get to look at the sections of wall nearby.


Dovecot Bridge

You know you’re getting tired when the footpath signs start to look like Snoopy in profile…


From here, though, it was only another mile or two to Abbey Gills Wood where we finally left the wall path and dropped down to Lanercost Priory. 29 miles along the Wall path (plus detours!) felt like good progress for two days of walking and we’ll be back for more in May.


Coming back into Carlisle past the football ground on Warwick Road we were at first puzzled by the blue ribbons tied around many trees. We soon realised, though, that nearly all the houses along the road are empty and being renovated after the flooding. It puts our grumbles about detours from the path into proper perspective.




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