Thursday, August 30, 2012

Walk 305 -- Bowness-on-Solway to Abbeytown

Ages:  Colin was 70 years and 114 days.  Rosemary was 67 years and 257 days.
Weather:  Dull at first with a cold wind.  Turning to blue skies with scudding clouds and very much hotter.
Location:  Bowness-on-Solway to Abbeytown.
Distance:  16 miles.
Total distance:  3099 miles.
Terrain:  All quiet roads.  Flat and boring!
Tide:  Going out most of the afternoon.
Rivers:  No.375, River Wampool.  No.376, River Waver.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  None.
‘English Heritage’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan in Silloth.  This morning we drove to Bowness with Colin’s bike in the back of the car.  He dropped me off, and I wandered around the village and did my puzzle book while he drove back to Abbeytown.  He parked the car, then cycled to Bowness.
At the end we came to the car.  We drove back to Bowness to pick up the bike, then drove to our caravan in Silloth.

It took Colin one and a half hours to drive to Abbeytown and cycle back to Bowness.  I got a bit cold hanging around waiting for him even though I put my kag on over my fleece, and went for a walk round the village several times.
When Colin arrived he was hot with all the cycling he’d done.  And that is how we started the Walk, one too cold and one too hot.
We took a footpath opposite the bench where I had been sitting, which led us down to the shore.  After about a hundred yards we came to a terraced garden.
We climbed the steps and sat in the covered entrance (or exit) to the Hadrian’s Wall Path to eat our pie/quiche.  Bowness was built on the site of a Roman fort which marked the western end of Hadrian’s Wall.  The little gazebo in which we were sitting had a mosaic floor, Roman-style, which depicted some of the wading birds on the Solway.
It was there that we learned about the Solway Viaduct which was demolished in 1935.  We didn’t realise, when we were walking through Whinnyrig on Walk 301, that the disused railway we had followed down to the shore there used to carry on over a viaduct to Bowness.  For fourteen years after it was deemed unsafe by the railway authorities, it was used as a pedestrian pathway for thirsty Scots who reputedly walked over to the Bowness alehouses each Sunday because their Scottish pubs were closed!  Had we known that, we may have finished a Walk in Whinnyrig and started the next one in Bowness.  But that would have meant missing out Gretna and Carlisle, which would have been a pity.
The path took us back into the village, and we followed the road out to the west.  It had almost nil traffic because it is a gated road which is a long way round to nowhere.  We passed the English end of the Solway Viaduct, but it is on private ground and covered in gorse bushes and trees.  We hardly noticed it.
But we did notice a tree covered in fungi, and we were amused by a pair of cottages we passed.  Although the semi-detached pair were both two storeys, one was much taller than the other.  We speculated that one was built for tall people and the other for short people!
We saw a row of fishermen standing out in the water holding rectangular nets on frames.  These are haaf fishermen, a type of fishing which is only permitted on the Solway these days though it used to be more widespread.  ‘Haaf’ is an old Norse word meaning ‘sea-net’.
Each man holds a net mounted in a rectangular frame measuring about 18x5feet which has three legs.  Holding the net horizontally by the central leg, the fisherman wades into the current with the net in front of him.  As soon as a fish enters the net, the legs are allowed to float upwards trapping the fish in a kind of bag.  It is then killed by a blow to the head, a rope is threaded through its gills and it is attached to the fisherman’s waistband while he catches more fish.  He eventually returns to shore wearing a ‘skirt’ of fish — if he has been lucky!
This type of fishing is exclusive to the Solway, it has died out everywhere else.  And these local fishermen are determined to keep their tradition alive despite opposition from corporate bodies like the Environment Agency.  We wish them every success in their battle, these local traditions should not be allowed to disappear.
We had extensive views across the Solway Firth.  It was very clear.  We could see Criffel on the Scottish side — it seems many moons ago that we passed there.  We could also make out Powfoot, just.  The village is lovely, but we haven’t many happy memories of the caravan site — that is always the case when you feel you have been ripped off.
The road got a bit boring when the view was cut off by hedges, we even started admiring the flowering weeds by the side of the road.  We could see that it is often very windy here by the lean of the trees.
One old tree looked as if it was growing in an arch, it was most peculiar.
Colin found some baby chickens under a hedge — they were cute.
The road slowly veered southwards and we left the Solway behind.  We came to the hamlet of Cardurnock where we found a milk churn platform outside a farm.  (They don’t use these anymore, do they?)  We sat on it to eat our sandwiches.  It was very hot by then, the wind seemed to have died, and I had already removed both my kag and my fleece.
A family passed us on bikes, giving us a cheery wave.  Later they came back with a bank card they had found on the road, but it wasn’t ours.  So they took it off to hand it in somewhere when they were back in civilisation.
The road continued bending to the east, we were going round the end of a small peninsula.  Now our views were of the Lake District, and we thought we could pick out Scafell Pike which we climbed once, back in 1994.  (Eighteen years ago — help!)
We circled a ‘nest’ of tall radio masts which we had seen as far back as Dumfries.  We counted thirteen tall masts.  They looked important, but we couldn’t find out anything about them.  They have been erected on a disused Second World War airfield with the remains of concrete bunkers still about.
Cattle graze the swampy-looking grass on the site, and on a little hill we saw a building which looked like a church.  But then it had a chimney and no windows, so perhaps not.
We were now entering the estuary of the River Wampool with all its resident birds, and on the opposite bank was a row of modern windmills — yes, we knew it is often windy here!
We came to a public footpath sign pointing across the estuary, which would have been a shortcut saving us three or four miles.
But it didn’t look good.  We were only two hours from high tide, but we would never have considered it even at the lowest of the low tides.  These estuaries have shifting sands, and are extremely dangerous.  The post did have a warning sign on the back, “Beware danger from fast flowing tides.  This route has natural hazards. Also, on our map, the footpath only takes you across the water, not across the swamp beyond.  Only an idiot would risk it.
We marched on through Anthorn, Longcroft and Whitrigg noting on the way a slate church, topiary and grasshoppers mating — there was no end to our excitement!
Near the river bridge we stopped to chat to an old gent out with his dog.  We said we were looking for somewhere to sit and eat our apples — he told us there were some big stones behind the nearby bushes which might be suitable.  And so they were!  We would never have found them without his help.  Thank you, old gent! 
We were tired and a bit fed up by then, it was all these roads in the heat.  And now we had traffic to contend with again.  After crossing the bridge we marched on through Angerton where we took a very straight road to Newton Arlosh.  There we had a pleasant surprise, for the village was having a scarecrow competition.
People had only just started putting them out, and they were brilliant!  I particularly liked the milkman because I could cuddle up to him!  We chatted to several of the locals who were justly proud of their efforts.  It felt a very friendly sort of place.
One woman told us she’d never been to St Bees until last week, although she has lived around here all her life.  Isn’t St Bees a lovely beach?  I always took my children to Silloth when they were young, but now I wish I’d ventured further because Silloth beach isn’t a patch on St Bees!  Words failed me!
We sat on a bench by the church to eat our chocolate.  Some of these scarecrow pictures were taken later in the day when we drove through the village on the way to pick up Colin’s bike at the end of the Walk.  Not all of them were out when we walked past because the competition doesn’t start until tomorrow.
A mile or so further on we took a lane to Salt Coates because it is officially nearer the sea — (and it wasn’t any further and there was much less traffic on it).  We passed a rather nice pond.
Colin found a butterfly in the undergrowth, and we crossed a disused railway on a humpy bridge.  We had good views of the Lake District mountains from there.
Back on the mainer road we had traffic to deal with again, but not much.  A couple of miles, crossing the River Waver on the way, brought us to the outskirts of Abbeytown.  We walked to the kissing gate which leads over the marshes towards Skinburness.

That ended Walk no.305, we shall pick up Walk no.306 next time at the kissing gate on the edge of Abbeytown.  It was twenty-five past six, so the Walk had taken us nearly eight hours.  Our car was parked nearby.  We had our tea and biscuits, drove to Bowness to pick up Colin’s bike, then drove back to our caravan in Silloth.  It seemed to take a very long time, and we were extremely tired by the time we got back.

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