Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Walk 304 -- Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway

Ages:  Colin was 70 years and 112 days.  Rosemary was 67 years and 255 days.
Weather:  Mostly sunny with scudding clouds.  Breezy, but hot in the sun.
Location:  Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway.
Distance:  16 miles.
Total distance:  3083 miles.
Terrain:  Lots of muddy paths.  Lots of quiet roads.  Some slightly undulating but a lot of flat.
Tide:  Out when it mattered.
Rivers:  No.373, River Eden.  No.374, River Caldew.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.348 to 369 — 21 in all! — on the off-road sections of the Hadrian’s Wall Path.
Pubs:  Hope & Anchor in Port Carlisle where Colin drank Ossett ‘Pure Gold’ and I drank Natch dry cider.
‘English Heritage’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  No.63 near Beaumont where landslips had blocked a section of the river path.  We had to walk a parallel bit of road.
How we got there and back:  We towed our caravan from home yesterday and set it up on a site at Silloth.  This morning we drove to Bowness-on-Solway and parked in the village.  We caught a bus into the centre of Carlisle, and then another bus to Etterby where we were able to alight very near the spot where we ended Walk 302 in the pouring rain back in July.
At the end we came to the car, and drove straight to our caravan in Silloth.

During the summer, when I was again troubled by blisters on short walks through the New Forest with our daughter Maria, she said, “Mum!  Throw those boots away!”  I knew it was the right thing to do, even though they had cost an arm and a leg and I’d only had them a couple of years.  I went to the Cotswold Outdoor Leisure shop near Droitwich where I was properly measured for a new pair.  The young lady said I was a size 9 (I have big feet) but I refuted that and insisted on trying on size 8½.  She was surprised that I was comfortable in them, but I had realised that the size of my previous boots was the problem.  I have always been size 8½, but when I was fitted for that last pair of boots I was persuaded that I was really size 9.  That tiny extra bit of movement within the boot made all the difference, and after walking many miles it caused the blisters which had been so painful.
So I started this series of Walks in a brand new pair of boots (costing nearly £200!) which hadn’t been ‘walked in’ — and I didn’t have a moment’s trouble with them!  It was all such a relief, I couldn’t believe how comfortable I was wearing them.  As for that old pair of boots?  Colin has more or less the same size feet as me, and when his own boots started to leak he took to wearing my old ones.  He reckons they are really comfortable, and he hasn’t had a blister in his life.
So, with really comfortable feet, we started today’s Walk by marching down the road and entering a park overlooking the River Eden.  We passed a flood wall with pictures inserted in it.  We sat on a bench to eat our elevenses — pie for Colin, wrap for me.
We came to a cricket ground where there was a flooded puddle.  A dog and a child were having a lot of fun in the water.  The dog’s owner told us that he usually lets the dog play in the river, but it is running so fast and high after yesterday’s rain that it looked too dangerous to allow it to play down there today.
From there we took the path through the trees towards the bridge, but it went underneath and continued on inland.  There was no way we could get up on to the bridge, so we returned to the cricket ground and exited to the road via their main entrance (No right of way!  Trespassers will be prosecuted! etc.  etc.  Can’t you tell we’re back in England!) 
We crossed the bridge at last.  According to our very new and expensive OS walking map, this is the first crossing point for pedestrians across the River Eden.  Except, that is, for the double railway, the redundant railway bridge (which would make a lovely cycleway-cum-footpath) and Carlisle’s western bypass which is completely absent from our map.  A notice on the bridge told us “In former times various bridges of wood, and later of stone, spanned the two branches of the Eden near this point.  The present bridge was designed by Robert Smirke in 1815, and doubled in width in 1932.  The river itself looked wild, the water was very high.
Colin was slightly ahead of me, and he walked merrily on towards the castle while I descended the steps to the southern bank of the river.  It took him ages to notice, much to my amusement.  We started on a river walk through a park, which was quite pleasant.  A notice on a post warned us, ”Please take care along river banks due to ongoing erosion.” 
There were a number of stone ‘sculptures’ in the park, though they looked a little neglected due to the overgrowth of weeds and it was difficult, if not impossible, to work out what kind of message they were supposed to convey.  Also there were gymnastic bars at intervals so we could practise our keep-fit exercises if we felt in the mood.
Ever since the bridge we had been on the Hadrian’s Wall Path.  It follows the original route of Hadrian’s Wall all the way to Bowness, our destination for today.  (But there is not much of the original wall left on this section.)  It has only been waymarked in recent years and is very popular, so we were looking forward to a decent path for the entirety of this Walk.  We should have known better!  Mind you, I suppose the mud wasn’t really anyone’s fault (except Him up there, perhaps).
We came to the junction with the River Caldew.  It was very pretty there under the trees.  We had to follow this new river for a few yards before we were able to cross it on a footbridge.  Then we returned to the River Eden.
Next we passed an athletics track which really did look top-notch.  The whole country is filled with enthusiasm for sport because the London Olympics, where GB won a creditable number of medals, has just finished and the Para-Olympics is about to start.  (Unfortunately we shall miss it because we don’t have a TV in our caravan — through choice.)
We followed the river path round to the railway bridge.  We surmised there must be four tracks because there are two bridges.  The path was quite muddy and slippery in places.  We saw a lot of slugs (ugh!) and some of them were huge!  The next bridge is a redundant railway bridge.  It looks big and sturdy — after all it was built to carry the weight of steam engines — such a pity it is closed off to walkers by high spiky fences.  We thought it would make an ideal cycle-cum-footpath.  It would have saved us three and a half miles walking if it had been accessible.
The path led us down some steps, then up again.  It was a bit slippery because there has been a lot of heavy rain recently culminating in a storm yesterday.  This affected the whole country.  Our son and daughter-in-law, Paul and Caroline, were camping on the Dorset coast with Natalie, 4, and Adam, 22 months.  The children were in bed and it was dark when the storm hit them, snapping five of the tent’s eight poles and ripping the tent lengthways along the roof!  (Remember, this is August we are talking about, it’s supposed to be Summer!)  Natalie took it all in her stride — (“We’re having an adventure, aren’t we, Daddy?”) — but Adam was quite traumatised.  Paul phoned his sister, Maria, who lives about two hours away.  Then they strapped the children in the car and set to, in the dark, wind and rain, demolishing the remains of the tent and packing up their belongings.  They eventually arrived on Maria’s doorstep after midnight, soaking wet and a bit shaken, saying, “Do you take in the homeless?”  (They live in Suffolk, so there was no way they could have gone home that night.)  We had experienced difficulty pitching our awning in Silloth yesterday, but were ignorant of Paul’s ‘adventure’ until we returned home after this session of Walks.
Back to our Walk — we sat on the cleanest of the steps to eat our sarnies.  We were really out in the countryside now, Carlisle isn’t a very big city.  We were amongst the fields, but the path remained alongside the river on top of a wooded ‘cliff’.  We came to the new road bridge, the western bypass.  We could easily have accessed it from this side, and a minor detour on the other side would have brought us to it.  If we’d known about it, we could have saved four and a half miles walking.  As it was, we passed underneath it as we had in torrential rain on the other side a few weeks back.  A gate into a field just there bore a notice which said bluntly, “KEEP OUT” — Oh yes, we’re back in England all right.  But the kissing gate on the official path led into the self-same field — crazy! 
It got a bit muddy as we approached the hamlet of Grinsdale, especially around stiles and gates where cattle like to congregate.  We came out on to a road for just a few yards into Grinsdale, then we turned off through a farm.  To stay by the river we should have gone straight through the village, but we decided that we were not by the sea so we put into action Additional Rule no.11.  Besides, that route was longer!  (For once we made the right decision.)  The track we were on was very muddy, churned up by tractors and cows.  Colin opined that this farm was owned by the farmer who had put up that “KEEP OUT” notice further back — he was trying to get his own back on walkers because he had to put up with a popular way-marked footpath across his land.
We thought the bank on our left must be all that is left of Hadrian’s Wall in this area.  Dotted lines were marked on our map as such, and we couldn’t see it elsewhere.  In some places it has completely disappeared.  Well, it was built nearly two thousand years ago!
The path to Kirkandrews-on-Eden was OK in some parts but dreadfully muddy in others.  I didn’t have my walking poles with me because I didn’t think I would need them — walking as we were on a much-advertised way-marked footpath which was all on the flat.  It was difficult to get through in some places, our feet were completely submerged in gloop which was very slippery.  The path was partly on a high bank, but towards the end we had to descend steps to the floodplain.  It was just liquid!
We had to climb back up the bank although there was no longer a path up there, because down below on the official path we would have sunk in higher than our boots!  My brand new and expensive footwear certainly had its baptism of mud today!
At the end we realised, to our horror, that the stile was on the other side of the river of ooze.  We had to step down the steep bank without slipping, cross the mire without getting any of it inside our boots and climb over the stile on to a stony track.  With great difficulty we both succeeded!  There we read a notice telling us that the next bit of path was closed due to landslips.  How glad we were that we hadn’t tried to walk the longer route along the river bank!
We took a track out to the road and walked half a mile into Beaumont.  We passed an interesting-looking church, but we were far too filthy to even consider going inside.  We came to a lovely village green where there was a circular seat around a tree.  We sat on it to eat our apples.
We took a track out of the village which was not nearly so muddy as the path we had been on previously.  A tractor unloading bales for storage was partially blocking the way, but we managed to squeeze through.  The track then turned off into a field, and we were relieved that it was not very muddy at all.  A notice asked us not to walk in single file nor to walk on worn paths “to preserve our heritage”.  We were following Hadrian’s Wall, actually walking on it apparently, though there were no real signs of it, just a row of trees.
We came out on the road just outside Burgh by Sands.  The path went up the field side of a hedge, to save walking on the road, and it was not at all muddy.  But our boots were still too dirty to visit the village church, which was a pity because it has a very interesting history.  The village is built on the site of a Roman fort, and the church was constructed using stones from Hadrian’s Wall.  (Perhaps that’s why there is so little of it left!)  In the 14th century, King Edward I was killed nearby whilst leading a campaign against Robert the Bruce of Scotland.  His body lay in state in the church for ten days before being taken to Westminster Abbey for burial.
In the village there is a statue of King Edward I.  Colin said it looked a bit like Richard Branson, the entrepreneur who is currently in the news because he is miffed at losing the franchise to run his trains on the West Coast Line.  How life has changed over the centuries!
There were lengthy road works in the village, we were glad we were walking, not driving through.  We came out on to a very straight road which crosses the marshes.  Initially we climbed up on to an old railway embankment which runs alongside the road, but we found the surface too rough to walk without danger of tripping, so we had to come down.  Unfortunately we were walking directly into the setting sun which was at such an angle as to be blinding.
This road is covered in water at exceptionally high tides, but the tide was out when we walked it so we were confident we wouldn’t get wet feet today.  Twice we passed a road sign which told us, “When water reaches this point maximum depth is 1 foot”.  Later we passed a notice which told us, “When water reaches this point maximum depth is 2 feet”.  But all we met were a few cows.  We could see clearly across the Solway to the Scottish coast we had walked back in July.
The straight road seemed to go on forever — it was, in fact, two and a half miles.  We climbed a small hill into the village of Drumburgh looking for somewhere to sit down and eat our chocolate, but we were well out of the village the other side before we found a suitable bank.
The official Hadrian’s Wall path had gone off inland at a tangent in Drumburgh, I don’t know why because Hadrian’s Wall was built along the shore from there to Bowness.  We stuck to the road which angled down to the Solway and stayed there.  Further on the Hadrian’s Wall path came back and crossed over.  It then ran parallel to the road but a fraction nearer the river — so officially we should have been on it.  But when I pointed out to Colin that if we did so we would miss out the pub in Port Carlisle that he had been talking about all day, he replied, “Well, that’s settled then — we stick to the road!   So we made up a new rule, our 19th additional rule.  “If by sticking to the “nearest safe path to the coast” rule we miss out one of Colin’s real ale pubs that he has set his heart on visiting — we go to the pub!” 
We arrived well in time for food, which had been our intention all along.  Only two other people were eating, so there was plenty of room.  Colin was disappointed that there was only one beer on, but I enjoyed my cider and we had a lovely meal.
While we were eating, Colin saw a book about the Carlisle Navigation Canal, and asked about it.  In the 19th century the ships used to dock at Port Carlisle because of the difficulties of navigation further up the river.  The freight was transferred to canal barges for the rest of its journey into Carlisle itself.  But the canal was only open for thirty years before the railway took over, trains being faster and more efficient than the barges.  Colin ended up buying the book, but he never read it.  (That’s typically Colin.)  I did, and very interesting it was too — The Carlisle Navigation Canal by David Ramshaw.
The landlady explained where we could find the old docks where the canal ended.  So when we had finished our meal, we walked through the grounds of the bowling club opposite and found a disused station platform covered in grass.  It was the terminus of the old Port Carlisle railway.  From there we took a short footpath to the shore, and came to the end of the old canal and the remains of the docks.  Artefacts of times gone past.
It was almost dark by then.  A short path brought us out into the road again, and we walked the last mile along the shore into Bowness-on-Solway where our car was parked the near side of the village.  We had to walk through loads of midges and mosquitoes because we were by the water — it was horrid!

That ended Walk no.304, we shall pick up Walk no.305 next time on the eastern side of Bowness-on-Solway.  It was twenty to nine, so the Walk had taken us eight hours — but we had spent a good hour of that time in the pub!  We drove straight back to our caravan in Silloth.

I gave my new boots a score of ten out of ten for comfort!

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