Hadrian's Wall walk days 8 and 9
Leaving the delightful Hadrian’s Wall Studio at 8.25 and feeling virtuous at our early start, we almost immediately met wall walkers heading in the opposite direction who had set off about 2 hours earlier! The early-ish morning was lovely, and within 15 minutes we were rewarded with a beautiful view of a Hare lolloping across the field. We soon passed Blea Tarn, once a roman quarry for stone for the wall. It is easy to forget that in order to build the wall they set up quarrying, stone cutting and lime mortar making industries, alongside the masonry skills of building the wall itself. The many mounds in this area were Roman spoil tips!
Our first encounter with the River Eden, which flows through Carlisle and would accompany us for the rest of the walk, also gave us a possible sighting of a Kingfisher, and another Bullfinch, to match the one on Day one! As we approached Carlisle, the walk took us through pretty Rickerby park, then we followed the river around to the sign for Luguvalium, the Roman name for Carlisle. The public park near here had the most beautiful Rhododendrons, and this led us to the imposing Castle, built in and our objective, the Tullie House Museum.
An excellent Museum, with free admission to Art Pass Holders, it covered various aspects of Carlisle’s history, including of course the Roman era. A fascinating exhibition about Hadrian’s Wall revealed that many Roman soldiers were housed in tents, often in Winter and especially when they were building the wall, or moving from place to place. The tents were made of goatskin and had tent pegs that were remarkably similar to those we use today. A remarkable fact was that Britannia composed 4% of the Roman Empire, but 10% of the Roman Army were stationed here.
Superb examples of pots, helmets and shoe soles, plus a reconstruction of the wall, and a modern twist looking at recent and contemporary walls used to divide society, usually with few benefits and many disastrous consequences. Chris was happy because there was an interesting exhibition on the railways, and we both loved the tea room. Today’s treat was a delicious scone with Cornish clotted cream! We had a bus to catch back to Greenhead at 3.15, but had time to visit the red sandstone Cathedral, the second smallest in the UK. Started in 1122, it is almost dwarfed by it’s organ, which has over 4,000 pipes! Other striking features were these mediaeval painted panels, the 12th century east window, and the historic choir stalls. Carlisle is definitely a place worth visiting.
We caught our bus, and returned to Greenhead, where our friendly taxi driver was waiting to return us to Buzzbee. We set off back towards Carlisle to visit friends who had kindly invited us to an excellent Supper. Thank you so much! Finally, we drove west to the Greyhound Inn at Burgh on Sands for a night on their Car Park! Early start tomorrow!
Day 9…last day! We really did have an early start, as we needed to drive to Bowness on Solway by 7.15 to catch the only bus back to Carlisle! We had decided to combine days 9 and 10 into one day of walking, which would be about 14.5 miles. The bus was on time, and we set off walking from Carlisle at 08.10, again following the river. So many sand martins nesting in the riverbanks. Onto farmland, and 2 path diversions through pretty villages.
At Beaumont, the church of St Marys was built using wall stone, and is the only church actually on the wall route. Sadly, all the churches we saw were closed to visitors. At Burgh by sands, the Church of St Michael is over 900 years old, and is built on the site of Roman Fort Aballava, and again made use of the stone! A few days ago, we were at Lanercost Priory, and I mentioned that Edward I stayed there because he was ill. He then came to Burgh by sands to visit his troops and died here. There is a memorial to him in the Solway Estuary, and a statue in the village.
He lay in state in little St Michaels church and was visited there by nobles and family members.
The village was also invaded by the Vikings, who settled here and built houses out of clay, a tradition continued for many years, and some of these houses remain. The village also had some great street names, like Tatie Pot Alley! From here, we walked out along the marsh alongside Solway Firth. A wild and windswept landscape, with grazing sheep, calling birds, and views across to the Scottish Mountains, but a bit misty today with the low cloud. The Carlisle Canal once followed the river and ran to Port Carlisle, now sleepy village which we passed a few miles further on. At one time, large numbers of emigrants to the USA passed through this port, and lots of freight, but it was eclipsed by the arrival of the railways, and the expansion of other ports. Finally we reached Bowness on Solway and the end of Hadrian’s Wall and our walk. We loved the signpost that told us where the toilets were! Much needed!
Fort Maia, long gone, was the last on the wall, and we entered the shelter that signified the end of the walk, to get our last stamp on the Passport. There was a lovely mosaic mural and a beautiful bench, all designed and created locally. We staggered across to the pub for a quick celebratory drink, before collecting Buzzbee, swopping our walking boots for comfy shoes, and heading off for our next adventure.
We had walked 90 miles with detours, in 9 days, with nearly 5,000 feet of ascent – and presumably descent as we started and finished at sea level. We had walked across England from one coast to the other, pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone, and discovered lots of stunning scenery and interesting history.
The bird song and wildflowers have been incredible throughout, and May-June seems a great time of year to do it. The signage is excellent throughout, and the paths were all very well maintained.
If the coast to coast bit isn’t of interest, we would say that the most scenic part of the walk is from Brocolitia to Greenhead, which for us would be 2 x 8 mile days of walking with lots of ups and downs.
A great 4 day walk would be to start at Chollerford and end at Lanercost Priory – or vice versa of course.
It is feasible with a campervan, and some buses worked well, but we needed to use 2 taxis and have 1 night in a B&B. Without a van, some people carry their kit with them, but we met lots using the local taxi firms to do luggage transfer services.
We really enjoyed it, and are glad to add it to our list of long distance trails!