Thursday, 28 May 2015

Hadrian's Wall. Day 7. Thursday April 30th. 2015. Last day so far!

Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway. 14.5 miles (23.2 km), 300 ft (95m) ascent

The final day of the Hadrian's Walk started badly. The lack of a firm plan led to confusion, dithering, and ultimately a very unsatisfactory start to the last leg. Decision by committee can be very trying. In this case, the deciding about what to do about breakfast, having not made any definite arrangement the night before, resulted in rising earlier than expected (for me, anyway), and a very poor breakfast at the coffee stand on Carlisle Railway Station platform. It could have been so much better.

Past the Cathedral

But at least it got us all out of the Travelodge and onto the road, and well before our usual kick-off time of 9.30am (09.08 according to EXIF) we were making our way through Carlisle's pedestrianised city centre, past the Cathedral, towards the Castle.

Through the underpass

En-route to the river Eden

Through the underpass to the Castle, left along the main road, across the bridge over the railway and the River Caldew, then right onto Bridge Lane. This becomes Willow Holme Road, and at the Stagecoach Bus Depot we turned left into the jungle and followed a footpath through the industrial estate until we emerged onto the bank of the River Eden.

The church in Burgh-by-Sands
Our route now, quite pleasantly, followed the Eden for a while. The weather was neither one thing nor the other - a few spits of rain, the odd splash of sun, the wind still cold and in our faces. We followed the river until we reached the village of Grinsdale (to my disappointment, not 'Grimsdale' with the consequent possibility of a sighting of Norman Wisdom) then made our way across the fields to Kirkandrews on Eden. From here, the route of the Path should have led us along another section of the river bank, but because of a reported landslip, a diversion took us out onto the road for a distance. This took us into Burgh-by-Sands (burgh pronounced bruff), where the bus shelter made a convenient place for a lunch stop.

I took the opportunity to get some photos of St. Michael's Church, which by its own admission was built from stone taken from the Roman Wall. The church tower, itself a defensive pele tower in its day, is now arranged as a small museum, with information about the church, the Romans, and the days of the Border Reivers. The church is definitely worth a return trip, even though physical evidence of the Roman Wall is largely absent all along this section of the Path.

The statue of Edward I

The sign in the church also tells of King Edward I who, after dying whilst on the marsh, was brought to the church and lay in state on July 7th. 1307. Soon after setting off again after lunch, we came to the Greyhound Inn, beside which stands a statue of Edward. The statue was sculpted by Christopher Kelly, given to the town by Story Construction Ltd., and installed as part of the 07/07/07 commemoration of the 700th. anniversary of Edward's death. After taking a few photos, we got back under way, and after passing Longburgh found ourselves on the margin of the Burgh Marshes.

Not the Roman Wall - a disused railway

Our path lay along the raised embankment of what turns out to be a disused railway - unfortunately not, as I would have preferred, the remains of the Roman Wall. The weather continued to be reasonable, with odd spots of rain here and there, a few sunny spells, but still windy.

Because we were on the final day, and because the landscape was so flat, time seemed to pass slowly, distant objects remained distant, seeming to come no closer, and the miles crawled by.

Drumburgh Castle

We rambled through Drumburgh, passing Drumburgh Castle. Hadrian's Wall Path then took us off the road and into the fields again, passing through Glasson, until finally we reached Port Carlisle (only a mile or so to go).

A short distance beyond the remains of the old Carlisle Canal there is a signpost. It is intended for tourists, similar to the one at Lands End, and has finger signs pointing in many directions. For a donation, you can have your team photographed in front of the sign with your home town name and distance showing. Carol and Dave reached the sign first (I was still adrift in the rear taking photographs) and they must have told the Sign Man something about Dave's origins in Yorkshire. By the time that Fiona and Dermot reached the sign, the Sign Man had started spelling out Huddersfield, but Carol and Dave had moved on, and no amount of persuasion could convince them to retrace their steps for a team photograph. So the team shot would have to wait until we reached the pub in Bowness-on-Solway.

Nearly there! (But always only ever here)

That last mile was the longest of the entire journey. But, a mere seven days after taking our leave of Newcastle, we finally arrived at our destination. Entering Bowness, a sign on the right announces 'Hadrian's Wall Promenade' and The Banks.

Ave Terminum Callis Hadriani Augusti Pervenisti

Fiona and Dermot (sore feet singing in concert) favoured getting straight to the pub, but Carol, Dave and I wanted to see what marks the terminus of the Wall Walk. We found a hut, the entrance bearing a sign: "Welcome The End Of Hadrian's Wall Path"; and also in Latin: "Ave Terminum Callis Hadriani Augusti Pervenisti".

The floor of the hut is covered with an attractive mosaic, with the legend 'Ave Maia' at each entrance. Maia was the terminal Fort at this, the western end of Hadrian's Wall. In common with the remains of the Wall throughout this Solway section, there is nothing to be seen of the fort today.

The final team shot
Carol, Dave and I therefore repaired to the King's Arms, Hadrian's favourite pub in Bowness-in-Solway! The present landlady has taken over the pub only relatively recently, and the website that crops up from a Google search is now very out-of-date. The King's Arms is a Jennings house, and on the day we visited had only Cocker Hoop on draught. However, there was also 'Shipyard American Pale Ale' available as keg draught, and Marston's 'New World' on the rack - sadly not available to drink, though.

So we had a couple of beers, took the final team shot, and just after 5.10pm. caught the number 93 bus back into Carlisle. The bus journey passed through almost every sort of weather, and we were treated to a bright rainbow for a brief spell.

We were back in Carlisle in time to catch the 18.30 train to Oxenholme, and that got us into Oxenholme by 19.15. The bike was still where I had left it, so I rode down the hill and picked-up the car. I then returned to the station, and had collected everyone, the luggage, and had them back to our house by 19.40. Carol and Dave decided not to eat with us, but to go straight home. And that's where it ended.

This is the way the Walk ends - not with a bang but a whimper.

All the photos from the day can be seen on my Picasa Gallery.
Dave's photos of the walk can be seen in Dave's album.

Total distance walked:     87.5 miles (140 km)
Total ascent:        5000 ft (1540m)

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