Mithraeum, Mud and Misnamed Rock: Hadrian’s Wall VI

9.7 miles 5h 5m ascent 192m

Housesteads-Chesters Fort

Better weather. The last two sections we walked into a strong headwind, first with snow and then with rain. Today the wind was at our backs and though rain and despite we walking beneath ominously grey cloud, the rain held off except for short light showers.

Spring was here. There were banks of celandine by the roadside, daffodils in various states of flower, and what will probably be the last snowdrops we see this year.

We parked at Chesters Fort (Cilurnum) and took bus number AD122 to Housesteads. I like taking public transport between sections and this was particularly enjoyable since much of the trail was visible from the bus. The air felt ready for rain and we had seen some walkers stopped, putting on waterproofs, as we drove along the B6318, so we walked in waterproofs.

Housesteads car park is about a kilometre away from and 40-50m below the Hadrian’s Wall trail, so we had a bit of a warm up right at the start. Vercovicium was obviously a sizeable fort. It was built in AD 124, the Wall itself was begun in AD 122 (hence the Hadrian’s Wall bus number). As soon as we reached the ridge beside the fort we knew we were in for better visibility than our last outing since we could see Broomlee Lough.

Vercovicium

From the Fort we had a slight descent, crossing Knag Burn into a muddy quagmire and then made our way to the far side of the wall to climb beside it up Kennel Crags. The path beside the wall then seemed to peter out. I looked across what was now just a stone dyke rathe than Hadrian’s Wall and saw a gate through another wall on the other side. A gate with an acorn sign. We had crossed outside the wall when we should have stayed to its south. So we could either go back down, cross the quagmire and climb back up, or….

We clambered over the wall, Audrey pulling her shoulder as she did so. So I took javelin duty for the rest of the day.

Clew Crag and King’s Crag

We were now on the ridge proper and strode out over Clew Hill and King’s Hill, with a flock of sheep watching us find our way up the latter. The ancient wall is no longer here but a dyke, no doubt made up of stones from the original wall runs along the whole ridgeline from Hosesteads until just short of the trig on Sewingshields Crags. Then the original wall reappears. We met the wind once we were on Sewingshields but it was at our back and the few spots of rain were easily ignored. We passed a gate marked with a sign “King’s Wicket” where the wall and path turn north to climb to Sewingshields and this had me wondering what a wicket is. I wish now I had taken a photo of the gate rather than just the sign, because a wicket is a gate.

Broomlee Lough

Sewingshields has nothing to do with sewing or shields, but derives from Sigewine’s Shiel. A shiel is a temporary shelter, perhaps used by a shepherd and Sigewine is an Anglo-Saxon name. “The Place Names of Northumberland and Durham” gives a variety of previous spellings: 1279 Swyinscheles, Sywinescheles ; 1286 Schiwynscheles, Siwinshell ; 1296 Sewynsheles ; 1407 Swynscheleys ; 1479 Sewyngshelez ; 1610 Sewenshield ; 1663 Sueingsheels ; 1711 Sewen Shields, which show its evolution. Presumably the crags and the wood take their name from the nearby farm.

Sewingshields Crags

There is a small burial cist beside the wall up on the crags, a little east of Milecastle 35. This is thought to be post-Roman. The trail then passes through Sewingshields wood which is a sparse plantation of Scot’s Pine that wouldn’t offer much shelter from the elements. The land then flattens out and the trail crosses a boggy moorland, but the path itself raised, presumably on the walls foundations, are only superficially muddy in places. Grindon Turret (34A) has substantial remaining foundations but Milecastle 34 itself is gone, though its position is marked by a walled stand of trees.

Cist

I had wondered about stopping in the lee of theses walls for elevenses, but someone was having a pee in the woods so we walked on and sat in the open at the remains of the next turret. As we sat a gentle rain started to fall. But we stopped for a rest anyway. Since I was not driving I had brought along a wee dram, choosing a lightly peated whisky which I thought fitted the terrain, (Glenglassaugh Torfa). Hip flask and collapsible cup used together for the first time. It is important to keep in mind that the cup will collapse if put down.

Shield on the Wall

It was then a long straight walk in one-point perspective. We passed the site of Milecastle 33 which had some of the Wall remaining but otherwise existed only as a small raised area of ground. Shield on the Wall Dam (a small lake) was on our right.

Milecastle 34

I wondered about stopping for lunch near Carraw, since the buildings and trees there might offer some shelter from the wind, but the path beside the farm, though paved, was under semi-liquid mud so we pressed on intending to stop at Brocolitia Fort. That would mean no shelter but the car park ought at least to give us firm ground to sit on.

Somewhere before Carraw my right hip had started to ache and I was hoping for a rest in the near future. But it wasn’t far to go. Down a gentle slope. But the ground grew softer and muddier. The trail crosses the B6318 and leads up to Brocolitia Fort via the Mithraeum. What I wasn’t expecting was Meggie’s Dene Burn/Coventina’s Well.  The burn here arises at Coventina’s Well and takes its name from Old Meg a witch who was burned at the stake, and buried in the Dene with a stake through her heart. No half measures in those days.

Meggie’s Dene Burn

This was a waterlogged area. No, that doesn’t capture it, submerged is closer to the mark. Water stood between us and the Mithraeum. Stepping stones looked to have been flung into place rather than placed with thought. Another walker stood on the opposite side surveying the same problem. “You first” he shouted.

So I went for it. My undoing was the largest stone, close to the middle. It rocked. And I don’t mean it had flair akin to a rockstar, I mean it was unstable. As my left foot landed, the stone rotated forwards. the next stone was to my left, so without a pirouette I wasn’t going to get a foot there.  So I launched as far to the right as I could, the water there looking shallower. then back to rocks. On the plus side I remained vertical and still had one dry foot. The guy on the other side, dressed in walking gear but wearing what appeared to be plimsolls, proved more agile. But to be fair he was probably half my age.

Mithraeum

The Mithraeum was just a stone’s throw away. I wondered why a temple had been built in a waterlogged hollow, since most churches and temples are on high ground. Temples to Mithras, however, are usually in caves or constructed to appear like caves, and running water was a part to play in the devotions. This temple was only found in 1949. Another temple, to Coventina had also stood nearby, but no longer exists.

Tulips on the Altar

Mithras was originally a Persian God of light and truth, and in the Roman pantheon became associated with the battle between good and evil, bravery and manliness so was often worshipped by Roman soldiers.

The altar stones in the temple had tulips laid upon them. We have sat in the temple for lunch but it seemed a little disrespectful, so we plodded up over the mounds of Brocolitia fort to a car park surrounded by hal-metre high walls offering the options of firm seating but no shelter, sitting on the ground with a bit of shelter, or the one we chose, sitting on concrete steps with partial shelter. Sandwiches, chocolate, coffee, whisky, and rest until we started to cool down too much.

a gate without a fence

Beyond Brocolitia there was one of my favourite sights, a gate without a fence. Not quite as impressive as the locked gate without a fence we saw on the Southern Upland Way. We had another long walk along a mound stretching to the horizon at Limestone Corner. The boulders there certainly did not look like limestone, and the muddiness and general bogginess of the ground suggests that the underlying rock is not limestone either. Wikipedia says it is quartz-dolerite whinstone. I see now why the long ridge is called Whin Sill.

Limestone Corner

We passed a couple of walkers sat on perhaps the only dry ground, just beside the wall. They told us there was a waiting list for the place.

Black Carts

After crossing another minor road we passed first Green Carts and then Black Carts (carts deriving from cearts meaning rocky), where there is a section of Hadrian’s Wall and the remains of a turret.  The ground here became even softer and sapped my energy pretty quickly. The trail takes a detour around Walwick Hall, “a country boutique hotel” then reaches a minor road leading back to the B6318.

The last half mile was on the pavement, which was a relief after the soft muddy ground, past some stone lions and along to Chesters Fort for a coffee in the shop.

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Northumberland Rain: Hadrian’s Wall V

10.8 miles 7h 10m ascent 490m

Thirlwall-Housesteads

Qui dat pluviam super faciem terrae

This was a walk in the rain. When we set out the rain was light enough that I decided against waterproof trousers. The forecast suggested it would stop by 1pm. Both the decision and the prediction proved to have been overly optimistic. But walking in the rain and mist has its own delights. It’s just annoying trying to take photographs with rain on the camera lens.

This section started beside some houses that presumably were originally for railway workers, and we crossed the railway itself at an unmanned crossing, then the Pow Charney Burn on a footbridge. From there it was a short walk to Thirlwall Castle.

Thirlwall Castle

The castle dates from 1225. Its name means something like “hole in the wall” and it is likely to have been constructed with stone from Hadrian’s Wall. The castle was important enough that Edward I stayed in 1306, and a later Thirlwall, Sir Percival was killed at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, fighting for the Yorkist cause. He was Richard III’s standard bearer and is said to have held the standard even after his legs were cut from under him. He likely died by the King’s side. With the union of crowns in the early seventeenth century, the borderlands lost their need for castles and Thirlwall fell into disrepair.

From Carrvoran or the head of the hill just over against it, down to Tippal water, both the walls and ditches are very conspicuous. They leave Thirlwel castle to the north. Here, according to tradition, the Scots and Picts broke through the wall. But the castle might be so called from the passage of the river through the wall. Just beyond Tippal water and this castle Hadrian’s vallum makes a little turn, whereby the walls begin to diverge, and Hadrian’s vallum becomes more obscure. Farther west, at a house called the Chapel, which stands within a castellum, the walls are about five chains distant from one another. For about a quarter of a mile before, Hadrian’s vallum and ditch, the south and north agger, are all in the second or third degree. But at the Chapel all of them again begin to be obscure. For the space between the two rivers Tippal and Poucherling, Hadrian’s wall is mostly in the second degree, and from thence, except a little here and there, continues obscure to Burdoswald. But near the chapel Severus’s ditch is very large, being in the third or fourth degree, and the wall itself in the second. The military way isalso visible in the first or second degree. At Foultown the way is lost, but the wall and ditch continue in the second degree. And Hadrian’snorth agger is here and there pretty large.

William Camden’s Britannia 1789

After the castle, we crossed the Tipalt Burn and headed back to the Hadrian’s Wall trail. We had left the land of becks (Saxon/Scots) for that of burns (Norse). It is interesting that the Pow Charney Burn is the Pow Charney Brook in the 1829 civil engineering report of the Newcastle Carlisle railway, and the Tipalt Burn here is the Tipple River. In 1789 we had the Rivers Tippal and Poucherling. I can’t find the derivation of either.

Lovely weather

Our stroll up a gentle climb brought us to a stone dyke with a gate that proved too tricky to open and a stile which took us out onto exposed moorland. Once back in the wind (and rain) there was no question that full wet weather togs were needed so we climbed back over the stile into the lee of the wall to change. A couple of walkers caught up with us while we we changing, but they didn’t really seem properly attired and we noticed they turned back soon after. But we pressed on, walking into the wind and rain.

Though the photos may look as if there were times without rain, that is because I dried the lens for each shot and took  two or three shots at each place.

Walltown Crags

The day’s walk was mostly on exposed ridges with more names than I can remember without looking at the map, and included Walltown Crags, Cawfields Crags, Winshield Crags, Steel Rig, and Highshield Crags. We had multiple ascents and descents on slippery rocks making it slow going. But much of the walk was beside actual remains of Hadrian’s Wall or visible remains of the vallum. We reflected that Roman soldiers would have experienced similar weather while building and manning the Wall we walked beside.

Cawfield Crags

There are a few places along the way where the trail drops off the exposed ridge, and in better weather these would have been pleasant places to stop for a wee drink or a bite to eat. We had a wee break for coffee in a shallow hollow in on of these gaps. ( I originally described these as cols, but gaps feels better.)

Bird at Walltown Quarry

Walltown quarry had an empty car park, toilets, picnic benches, a bird sculpture, and a kiln/oven. A deer watched us from a stand of trees by the Quarry Lake, and we had to watch where we were stepping because of all the frogs on the path. I stopped counting after two dozen. There were a few riding piggy back on others and at first I thought they were mating but those riding were all much smaller than the frogs being ridden. Apparently some frogs will carry their young, but I’ve never seen it before.

Looking back to Walltown Quarry

We passed turrets and milecastles, and every so often a larger fortification such as Aesica  and Vercovicium. At Aesica (Great Chesters) we noticed that the field by the farm had the remains of turrets at each corner, not something one normally sees in farms in the UK.

Aesica Fort’s Western Wall

We were looking out for a likely spot for a lunch break and eventually gave up and decided to stop anywhere with a bit of shelter. So lunch was at at Cawfields Quarry. It was still raining, a heavy drizzle really. There were picnic benches, but no shelter other than the public toilets. The best shelter we could find was in some trees and these might have protected us from the rain a little better had they been in leaf. But there were moss covered trunks for seats and the rest was welcome.

Cawfields Quarry

At lunch I got the map out and realised we were making quite slow progress, having taken three and a half hours to walk a little under 5 miles. The terrain was mostly to blame I think, forcing us to take care with each step, and later in the walk this was brought home to me since I fell three times, and almost fell many more times. I took special care on the rock steps which were often muddy, and when walking through mud, but I must have let my guard down when walking on grass. The mud I fell into had mostly been washed off by the rain but I fell a final time as we walked towards Housesteads and the rain didn’t get a chance to wash that mud off. I probably should have taken more notice of myself rather than looking at my footing. I caught my foot on rocks a few times, and rather than recognising that I was tiring, I spent my mental effort thinking how I would describe it in the write-up. I had decided that something like “the foot lifting sub-routine became corrupted” would do nicely, or perhaps “walk.exe became corrupted”.

Winshield Crags Trig

Along Winshield Rig we were walking in mist. We paused at the trig point to admire the ‘view’, see above. Each time we had descended and reclimbed a gap we hoped it was the last, but then another height would emerge from the mist. Each time sapping a little more of our morale. Esmerelda warned me that she was approaching her tantrum threshold.

Hadrian’s Wall

My failure to recognise fatigue came home to roost half way up the climb onto Steel rig. We were passing a French Family, with cries of laissez le passé (or something like that) from the father when I was then struck down with cramp in first my left thigh and then a few seconds later the right. I couldn’t walk any further and found I couldn’t even bend my legs to sit on a rock. Stretching didn’t help. The cramp seemed well localised to vastus medialis on both sides. If only we had brought a physiotherapist with us. But we hadn’t so I took a stiff dose of Jelly babies (about ten) and after a few minutes I could complete the climb. I suspect that the repeated step-like climbing up and down had fatigued my thighs. The cramp recurred a little later, but settled with more rest and water.

I decided to look into exercise induced muscle cramps, and it turns out I was mistaken in my beliefs that these are related to electrolyte imbalance or dehydration. I suspect my problem was repeatedly performing an unaccustomed type of exercise (climbing rock steps) with inadequate rest breaks (due to the weather). I’ll take catching my foot and falling more seriously next time.

Bog near Hotbanks

As we approached Highshield Crags we climbed into a Scots Pine woodland with Crag Lough beneath us. Some of the trees looked to have had shapes carved into their trunks and I wondered if some ‘natural artist’ had been up there carving the trees. But as we walked on I noticed that some of the ‘carvings’ were too close to the ground for art, and I wonder if deer had been stripping lichen producing these curves. The photos are all blurred due to moisture on the camera lens.

This walk seemed to have been going on forever. I had put my map away since it had become waterlogged inside its waterproof case inside my waterproof pocket, so had not been able to keep track of where we were.

Housesteads

We walked on looking for Housesteads Fort, hoping we hadn’t missed it in the mist, and eventually out of the mist we saw a wall that was too robust for a farm wall  and knew we were there. We followed it off the ridge and found a footpath to the nearby carpark. I was too tired to go round the museum shop.

Luckil there was some shelter at the car park to change into dry clothes for the drive home.

And it was a bloody expensive car-park (IMPO).

 

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* He sends rain on the face of the earth. Job 5:10

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Frigidus Ventus: Hadrian’s Wall IV

10.46 miles 5h 17m ascent 257m

Walton-Thirlwall

“Bitterly cold with strong winds and snow showers”. That forecast by the Met Office was spot on. Temperature -1°C, easterly winds at 28mph, gusting to 40 mph, snow showers and a ‘feels like’ temperature of -7°C seemed about right. Throughout the day we walked directly into the wind, which seemed to become much stronger when it snowed. We had blue skies at times but recurrent heavy flurries of snow that snatched the visibility away from us. A characterful day.

Craggle Hill

But we were multi-layered, in the literal sense, and I had brought along a quilted jacket as well just in case. My ski mittens proved far more effective than my usual gloves and only once did I wish I had brought goggles, when the snow was blowing directly in my face forcing me to walk hunched looking at my feet, somewhat like Quasimodo, Esmerelda trudging beside me. There were some gusts of wind that negated a step forward, and walking was a much greater effort than usual.

All that aside, I enjoyed this section and there was was quite a lot of the actual Wall to see along the way.

At Dovecote bridge the HW trail leaves the road to follow King Beck for a while, but a sign told ud that the route was temporarily diverted along the road. We tried following the river bank, passing a homemade shelter, but found the path had been washed away. We then tried the adjacent fields but turned back to follow the temporary route. The sign did actually look rather permanent. This meant half a mile along a minor road before we rejoined the HW trail.

After our first snow ‘shower’ near Garthside, we had a warming climb up Craggle Hill, watching Cold Fell appearing and disappearing as the showers passed.

Hadrian’s Wall at Hare Hill

At Hare Hill we came across our first Wall remnant. An information board gave more details and suggested that this section may have survived because it was incorporated in a farm building, while the stone the wall here was carted away to build Lanercost Priory.

Willowford

 

Wiilowford two minutes later

Most of the day’s walking was either beside surviving sections of Hadrian’s Wall, along turf banks on the site of the wall, and past several ruins, each with an information board.

  • Turret 52A East Banks: observation tower
  • Pike Hill Signal Tower
  • Turret 51A Piper Sike: frontier watchtower
  • Turret 49B Birdoswald West
  • Birdoswald Fort
  • Milecastle 49 Harrow’s Scar
  • Willowford Bridge
  • Turret 48B Willowford West: watchtower
  • Turret 48A Willowford East: watchtower
  • Milecastle 48 Polcross Burn: fort

Ahead on the horizon we could see Steel Rigg which grew visibly closer as we walked on.

No bridge

The route was relatively straightforward and well marked. I’ve already mentioned the detour near Dovecote Bridge. We did lose the trail near Appletree. After crossing a footbridge I turned left onto a track and up towards the road, whereas a small sign ahead of me, which I hadn’t noticed, pointed to the right, and after a hundred metres or so a gate too us back onto the turf bank. And finally, in Gilsland there is a notice and signs for a detour. the reason given was “no bridge”. We decided to brave it, and there was in fact a bridge, over a beck that could have been easily jumped.

Willowford Bridge

The Roman Bridge at Willowford is long gone, though the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall that stood adjacent to it are there to see. We crossed the River Irthing, on a modern footbridge dating from 1999. Walking across the bridge I paused to look at the river and noticed a sign, “STEPS”. looking over the side I didn’t see any steps, and thought the sign a little strange. Then Esmerelda warned me to be careful since she had stumbled on the steps. The far side of the bridge was stepped.

Lambs near Turret 52A

We sheltered in Turret 52A for a coffee break. My photograph of the ruin is taken in bright sunlight, but by the time we reached the turret itself it was snowing so we only stopped for five minutes. We planned to stop at Birdoswald for lunch but found the visitor centre shut and the gates padlocked shut. We definitely needed a break, but the wind was bitterly cold and we could see there was no shelter along the route beyond Birdoswald so we climbed the fence and dropped down into the remains of a Roman Turret. Here we were sheltered from the easterly wind, and had only light snow.

River Irthing below Milecastle 49

The snowdrops were still abundant, but past their best.


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A diversion averted: Hadrian’s Wall III

10.1 miles 4h 55m ascent 128m

Rickerby-Walton

This section of the route was relatively straightforward, along minor roads, farm tracks, riverbank, and sheep filled fields, without any tricky navigation. And we had time to drop in on the aircraft museum on the way home. A shelter on the village green in Newtown gave us somewhere to sit for lunch. The temperature was 3° but with the wind it felt much colder. Flurries of snowflakes fell like blossom, and snowdrops filled the hedgerows but Winter was giving way to Spring. giving us the first  celandines, daffodils, and a newborn lamb.

We began at Rickerby Park, in sight of the modern stone circle, and set off along the minor road beside Eden School and then through Linstock.

An octagonal three storey tower stood bed the road. A folly built by George Head Head, a local banker, whose house is now Eden school. It dates from 1835, so it is a Georgian rather than a Victorian folly. There is some suggestion that it may have originally been a dovecote, but it was built at time when tower follies were all the rage. On the other side of the road is a wooden sculpture of a bird which presumably won’t last nearly as long.

Rickerby Folly

In Linstock we passed a house with a very Cumbrian name, Tethera Oaks, (meaning three oaks) and we stood looking at the three trees beside it wondering if they were actually oaks. We weren’t convinced but didn’t feel like trespassing for a closer look.

Just before leaving Linstock my eye was caught by a flash of yellow at eye level, which turned out to be early flowers on broom. Looking at these I mused that the lesser celandine should be out soon, and looking down there it was, the first celandine I had seen this year.

Sculpture at Rickerby

Then we reached M6, the modern version of a mighty river dividing the the land (but we were able to cross it by bridge). The section we were crossing was opened in 1970. The M6 runs from Rugby to Gretna, though in reality it continues as the M74 all the way to Glasgow. This route was completed when the road joining the M6 and M74 was upgraded to motorway in 2008 on the 50th anniversary of the opening of very first section of the M6. The plan had been to rename the M74 as M6 once they were joined, but it doesn’t look as though that will happen now.

At Linstock we left the road for a much more minor road and then a track towards Park Broom. A sign near here informed us that the trail from Park Broom to Low Crosby was closed and offered a diversion along the A689. We had been forewarned by pre-walk research and had decided to stick with the original route if we could. So we walked down to the River Eden and along its bank. Much preferable to walking along an A road. My worry was that the footbridge near Eden Grove might be no more and sure enough, it was ‘closed’ following the floods of December 2016.

River Eden

At Eden Grove we stopped to admire some snowdrops and crocuses and found the year’s first daffodils. We walked on towards the ‘footbridge’ and as we crossed a wee beck I commented that I would have called it a vehicle bridge rather than a footbridge. Then we saw the actual footbridge 10m further down the beck, with a sign saying it was not safe.

So the trail had been diverted because the footbridge was unsafe despite there being an alternative bridge within an actual stone’s throw. The flood was over two years ago. F**king ridiculous. There has been plenty of time to fix the footbridge, and no need for a diversion while waiting.

The closed footbridge (vehicle bridge immediately behind it)

There were still signs of the flooding of 2016 with tree trunks high on the banks and witch’s knickers (plastic bags) in the trees. In one of these tree trunks we found a 16GB memory card embedded in its bark. (PS I took it home, and put a photo of a group of folk at a wedding on Facebook, and two days later it has been claimed.)

In Low Crosby the churchyard was filled with crocuses and there was a beautiful modern stone amongst the older graves. Beside the church is a gate dedicated to Glyn Vaughan for his efforts in flood protection.

St John the Baptist churchyard

From Low Crosby we walked along a road following the route of the Stanegate, a Roman stone built road several decades older than Hadrian’s Wall, that once joined Corstopitum (Corbridge) with Luguvalium (Carlise). But we only followed its course for a little over half a mile. We left the Stanegate to cross the A689 on a bridge that looked to be designed for livestock. A track beyond here is marked on the OS map as Sandy Lane (track). Presumably it is named after a person called Sandy, because there certainly wasn’t sand underfoot, in fact it was pretty muddy.

Old Machinery on Sandy Lane

From Sandy Lane we turned right on to a a track marked on the OS as “Roman Military Way” and then followed the course of Hadrian’s Wall through fields past Beatarn and Oldwall to Newtown.

There was no sign of the ancient wall itself but there was a definite raised section of land leading towards Bleatarn. The tarn itself is really more of a water-filled hollow surrounded by many small mounds. If the whole area had been like this one would have thought they were glacial but a nearby information board explained that the tarn itself had been a quarry to get stone to build the wall and the mounds we could see were rubbish heaps from the quarrying.

Bleatarn

From Bleatarn to Oldwall we walked along a slightly raised area with excellent views to the north with the recognisable shapes of Burnswark and Criffel on the horizon. The fields here had many sheep and we passed one ewe nuzzling a new born lamb.

Tyre Wall, near Bleatarn

We gave the ewe a wide berth (the photo is with telephoto). I felt a little sorry for the lamb, it was bitterly cold in the wind. Our route here was beside a ditch lined with hawthorns that I am sure will look impressive once their blossom appears.

As we walked towards Newtown the northern hills of the pennines (Cold Fell) grew noticeably closer. we had been looking for a likely spot to have lunch for quite a while but could not find shelter from the cold wind with somewhere to sit until we reached Newtown.

The HW path near Oldwall

From Newtown it was a short walk through farmland to Walton, but the lunchtime stop had chilled us and I was glad to get back to the car and a little warmth.

You will see from the picture at the top that I called in at the aircraft museum at Carlisle airport on the way back to enjoy the machines there. The Vulcan and I are about the same age.

Heads Wood

This section has taken us a little further into the countryside but I am looking forward to slightly wilder terrain as we trees onwards.

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The Three Detours: Hadrian’s Wall II

9.6 miles 4h 55m 98m ascent

Burgh-by-Sands to Rickerby

We had been to Edward I’s statue in Burgh-by-Sands at the end of our previous section, so we began this one with a visit to the memorial marking the place he died. This was a short walk along a farm track then over a stile and across a field with a submerged track flanked with mud, then another stile onto the Burgh marshlands which were actually drier than the previous field had been.

I reflected on what had occurred here and its effects on history. “At daybreak on 7th July, 1307, in his camp on the shore north of Burgh by Sands he was unable to go into battle again and while his attendants were raising him to give him food, his life expired.” So died the mighty Edward I, Longshanks, looking out across the Solway, prepared, despite dysentery, old age and failing health, to make one last assault on the rebellious Scots. His body “lay in state” in Burgh by Sands church and then in Carlisle Cathedral before it made its long journey to Westminster abbey and its final resting place.” (S Matthews). One wonders why he chose to camp here on the marshes rather than the higher ground of Burgh itself.

This place had originally been marked by a cairn until the stone monument but the more substantial monument was erected in 1605. Unfortunately it collapsed in 1795, as described in The Gentleman’s Magazine (London, vol. 79, 1796)

The monument was indeed restored in 1803 and this is recorded on one of its brass plaques.

It was larger than I had expected, as you can see in the photograph below. J.W. in the extract above says the monument was 25 feet tall. The only other record of its size was from about the same time and stated it to be nine yards and half in height. Looking at my photos I’m inclined to believe the latter estimate.

Edward I Memorial

There are two inscriptions on brass plaques, both in Latin.

Memoriae aeternae
Edvard I regis Angliae longe
Clarissimi: qui in belli apparatu
Contra Scotos occupants hic
in Castros obiit 7 Julii
AD 1307

Which translates as: The Eternal Memory of Edward I famed King of England: who while preparing for war against the Scots died in this camp on July 7 1307 AD

Omni Veneratione prosequens
Inclytam Edvard I Primi Famam
Optimi Angliae regis
Columnam Hanc
Humi Fusam. Dirutamque
Hic reponendam curavit
Gulielmus Vice comes de Lowther
Anno Salutis MDCCCIII

This second plaque records the monument’s restoration in 1803 and translates as: We have the honour of protecting the splendour of Edward the First the best king of England laid to rest by William Viscount of Lowther the Year of Salvation 1803

Trees along the route of Hadrian’s Wall

Then it was back to rejoin the Hadrian’s Wall Trail just past Burgh. We had a very brief walk along the road and then through an HW acorn-marked gate and along a grassy path to cross a small footbridge. From here we were walking along the route of The Wall itself, though we wouldn’t have known had it not been marked as such on our maps. A line of trees stand along the route now. Another gate led us onto another grassy path between high hedgerows that took us all the way to Beaumont, which I am told is another shibboleth, being pronounced locally as Beemont.

Beaumont Village Green

Beaumont is a small village with a triangular village green. A tree with a surrounding seat stands on the green and would have done nicely for lunch if our timings had been different.  St Mary’s church stands on a small hillock and an information board show how it had once been part of a fortified village that would have included the green. The church was built in 1296, likely using stone from Hadrian’s Wall. Wikipedia says the church has  two local traditions for weddings. The groom cuts a string tying the church gates shut, bestowing good luck to the couple; and a piece of rope is stretched across the road where wedding cars can pass only if they give money to the children.

St Mary’s Church, Beaumont

Beaumont is a quiet secluded village now but this was not always so. From the village roads lead north to the ancient waths or fords across the Eden. One, the “Stony Wath” is at Sandsfield, not far from King Edward’s Monument. Another the “Peat Wath” is opposite Castletown House. A third the “Rockcliffe Wath” is a little below Rockcliffe Church. A traveler who crosses the Eden from Beaumont by the Waths meets a road, believed to be the oldest in the district, which was a highway long before the Romans. From Rockcliffe this road runs northwest to the Wath over the Esk, and finally goes to Gretna. Until 1816 this was actually the road from England to Scotland. Beaumont would have seen Edward’s army on the nearby marshlands in 1307. His body was carried through Beaumont en route to Carlisle and then London and only a few years later in 1322, his enemy, Robert the Bruce’s army camped in Beaumont for five days returning from raids that had penetrated as far south in England as Chorley.

It was here in Beaumont that we first heard of various closures of the HW trail and suggested detours. A sign informed us that the HWW’s riverside path beyond here was closed due to a landslip. We took the suggested detour to Kirkandrews-on-Eden, along the minor road parallel to and about 60m from the actual path.

The cemetery in Kirkandrews-on-Eden has an impressive gravestone that caught our attention and drew us towards it.  It stood much taller than the old stones about it and I was expecting the name of some local lord, but it marks the grave of Olivia Mary Margaret, ‘wife of the perpetual curate of Grinsdale’.

A little delving reveals that Olivia Mary Margaret Ostell was born in Calcutta, where her father ran a bookshop, in 1833. She returned to England with her father following the death of her mother in 1836 and was brought up by relatives at Moorhouse. On May 22nd, 1856 she married the Rev. John Burton Norman, the perpetual curate of St. Kentigern’s church, Grinsdale. But the couple had only a year together, Olivia died in 1857. The impressive memorial erected by her husband would later inspire a local author, Ann Robinson, to write the book “Olivia Mary Margaret: a rectory Childhood”.

Wee Owl in Kirkandrew

We rejoined the HW in Kirkandrews where we found a little owl on a gatepost. I though it looked familiar at the time but couldn’t put my finger on it. Now I know why it was familiar. Could it have been the original inspiration for Tripadvisor’s logo?

There was a rope stretched across the path, with length of orange string hanging from its centre, presumably to increase its visibility. (Feedback to whoever put it there: you might want to try harder). We lifted the rope, navigated our way through some mud and stepped through a gate from path to even more mud.

Steps out of the mud

We made our way along at the foot of a natural rise following the route of the actual Wall once more. Unfortunately it was both muddy and slippery. I trod into some deep sinking mud but managed to get through with just a muddy leg. But my attention was soon drawn away from the muddy leg as I heard a brief squeal combined with a wet splat behind me.

Audrey’s footing had proven unsure and she was both able to twist her knee and get a closer look at the mud. After a period of reflection on the ills of muddy trails we pressed on and got to firmer ground, then up some wooden steps onto higher ground. The grassy ground up here was less muddy, at first. But between there and Grinsdale we had more mud to cross and boggy grass to skirt about.

Near Grinsdale

Grinsdale was the next village after which we were then expecting a riverside walk for the rest of the day. We walked on in sunshine, admiring the views, with me keeping track of our position on the map. Then we walked beneath a major road, which wasn’t on my map (The Harveys Hadrian’s Wall Route Map). This had me worrying that we had strayed somehow but we soon realised that the map must have not been updated since the Carlisle By-pass was built. The By-pass was opened in 2012 and I bought my map in 2017.

Unfortunately, not long after passing beneath electricity pylons, and by some steps down to the riverside we came to a sign informing us that the next couple of miles of path were closed due to ‘severe flood damage’. The alternative route suggested was along main roads, so was not particularly appealing to us. After a little discussion, we decided to press on along the HWW. If we found the route to be impassable or dangerous we would find an alternative way. There did seem to be some other footpaths on the map.

As it turned out, the closed section of path was undamaged, and we passed several other walkers/runners and dog-walkers, presumably locals, using the paths. The route was absolutely fine all the way, much of it on cycleway type paths. We even stopped at a picnic bench for our lunch.

The start of the closed path

The problem was that a construction site blocked our way onto the bridge across the River Caldew. It would have been easy to leave a way for walkers but quite a bit of effort had gone in to preventing access. We tried making our way around the fences but found ourselves within a tall fence around the athletics track. So we retraced our steps and tried a wider route around and were then able to walk across the bridge.

Toward the Sea, Bitts Park

The path took us into Bitts Park, adjacent to Carlisle Castle. The sun was behind the castle so my photos didn’t really do it justice. We were intrigued by four large rocks on stone plinths in the park. These looked like remnants of some larger Ozymandias type statue, and I wondered if they were all that remained of some great Roman monument. But it turns out they are an art installation, ‘Toward the Sea’ by Hideo Furuta. The Eden Benchmarks website describes it thus: “The four components of this sculpture are manifestations of the sculptor’s intense and mathematical explorations of the stone itself and, almost incidentally, describe a sequence of water eroded stone running parallel with the flow of the river nearby“.

The Empress in Bitts park

We walked over to investigate a statue within the park, expecting it to be the eponymous Bitts, but found it was Queen Victoria, standing on a plinth with four reliefs depicting Empire, Education, Science and Art, and Commerce. The inscription reads:

Victoria
Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Empress of India,
Born May 24th 1819, Died January 22nd 1901.

In Memory of
A great Queen, A good Woman, A friend alike to rich and poor
who for Sixty Three Years Reigned over a prosperous and world wide
Empire. This statue is erected by the citizens of Carlisle in admiration
of her noble life and character.

The park when opened in 1893 had been called the Peoples Park but was later extended and renamed The Bitts.  The ‘Bitts‘ in the name are small parcels of land used for grazing.

Empire and education

In the park we found a sign about the third path closure but this was not too taxing. Rather than walking along the southern bank of the Eden we were to cross on the road bridge and walk along the northern bank and into Rickerby Park.

Eden Memorial Garden

We walked in a ginnel beneath the A7 where a sign on bridge showing the level the water had reached in the flood of 2005. I turned to look back and realised how much land had been underwater.

We crossed the road bridge and walked down a few steps into Eden Bridge Gardens then along a footpath through Rickerby Park. A grey heron standing by the path reminded us of the watery nature of these fields.

Rickerby Park has an impressive War Memorial as shown below as well as the Standing Stones pictured at the top of this entry. This stone circle is a collection of the different rock types found in Cumbria; Penrith Sandstone, Millstone Grit, Limestone, Kirkstone Slate, and Shap Granite, with information about how and where it formed and where it can be found.

 

Rickerby Park

 

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Ave Maia: Hadrian’s Wall I

9.4 miles  4h 19m  60m ascent

Bowness-by-Solway to Burgh-by-Sands

The first stage of our Hadrian’s Wall Path Walk was from Bowness-on-Solway to Burgh-by-Sands, mostly on minor roads through tidal marshland.

Emperor Hadrian

We parked at a small car park just beyond Bowness, by a road sign informing us it was 84 miles to Wallsend and 1150 miles to Rome. To the west we could see Criffel on the horizon beyond what remains of the Bowness-Annan railway. This viaduct was built in 1869 and wikipedia, rather charmingly, gives its length as 1 mile and 8 chains.

For those who have forgotten, or never knew, 10 chains make a furlong, 8 furlongs a mile, an acre is 10 square chains, and a chain is 4 rods, poles or perches. Surveyors would have used actual rods and chains of these specific lengths in bygone days and distances on railways are still called chainage, though now measured in metres. When I was at school we were using S.I. units though I recall learning about feet and inches as well as metres, pounds and ounces as well as grams but not the more arcane rods, poles, perches, bushels, pecks etc. but these still existed as lists in our books. The 1 mile and eight chain long viaduct closed in 1921 and was dismantled in 1935.

Criffel and the old railway from Bowness

Hadrian’s Wall ended at a large fort  at what is now Bowness, though several forts continued along the Cumbrian coast for a further 25 miles or so. The official start of the HW walk is in Bowness and marked by a shelter with information boards and a floor mosaic depicting seabirds. The threshold is inscribed “Ave Maia”, hail Maia, Maia being the name of the fort that stood at the western end of the Wall. (maia ≈ major).

The start

From the shelter the path took us back to the road and along to Port Carlisle, a mile or so away. Here, as later, we saw a variety of seabirds and spent some time looking across the Solway. The OS map has an “Altar stone” marked in the sands but I could not see it.

Port Carlisle was an interesting place. The path left the road taking us along what would once have been the quayside. A canal once ran from here to Carlisle. It opened in 1819, was initially very successful but closed due to financial problems in 1853. The port itself silted up rapidly after the Solway-Annan viaduct was built, which changed  the flows in the estuary. It is really strange to see what must once have been a sizable port now reclaimed by the sands.

Silted up canal lock

We then walked through gorse, then along a tree lined path beside green stagnant water in what must once have part of the canal. Then we were back on to the road. The villages along this stage stand on slightly higher ground and there are tidal marshes between. Were it not for the road, this would have been a very wet walk even at low tide.

Why it’s important to check the tide times

Just in case we didn’t realise how wet the walk would be on the marshland, we did experience it briefly when we detoured off the road to a bench so we could take off a layer without putting our bags on the wet ground and found ourselves walking in a quagmire.

Glasson’s Highland Laddie Inn proclaimed itself “The Haafnetter’s Rest”, For those who don’t know what a haafnetter is, click here.

Giant mushrooms

Audrey had by this time already commented that this walk wasn’t as muddy as the last. The Fates, as they must, took umbrage at this so we soon found ourselves trudging through the boggy fields between Glasson and Walker House where we picked up a farm track. During this walk we experienced what is to us the “Postman Pat Phenomenon”, this is the scenario when you are far from human habitation, haven’t seen another soul for hours, find a secluded spot for a pee and find you have pressed the invisible ‘attract strangers’ button. It is named for an event on the Annandale Way when a post office van came driving along an unseen road.

I was able to pretend I was looking closely at some brambles. Indeed in doing so I noticed there were some flowers even this late in the year. In fact there seemed to be some unseasonable flowers along the walk, including some welsh poppies.

Drumburgh Castle

The farm track led us into Drumburgh. The fort of Coggabata, part of Hadrian’s Wall, once stood here to guard a ford across the Solway. Nothing now remains of the wall or fort here but the 14th century Drumburgh Castle, is said to be built of stones from the wall and has a Roman altar stone above its door.

Roman Road?

Beyond Drumburgh we walked along a long straight road with grassy banks to our right, tidal marshland to our left and Cold Fell on the horizon in the distance.

A bus shelter with a bench at Boustead Hill was a good place to rest for lunch, with views across the Solway to some rather military looking building on the Scottish Coast. The ‘famous’ Solway Firth Spaceman photograph was taken near here. I would have sneered at the adjective “famous’ except I have actually read about this photograph before, though I hadn’t realised where it was taken. I was more interested in the sign within the shelter, which I first thought was there to ask us to keep the place tidy, but actually warned us to shut the gate to the shelter since otherwise cows would get in and make a mess. The sign opposite told us we were 5.5 miles from Bowness and 2 miles from Burgh.

Edwardus Primus Scottorum Malleus

A little more walking brought us to Burgh-by-Sands whose main claim to fame is the that Edward I died here in 1307. Having defeated the Welsh he was riding to put down the Scots but died of dysentery while travelling north. A statue stands in the village and a memorial on nearby marshes marks where he actually died. He lay in state in the local church and there are plaques within the graveyard commemorating important events in Burgh’s history.

St Michael’s, Burgh

St Michael’s Church was built in the 12th century using stones from The Wall and the fort of Aballava. The tower certainly seems to have been designed for defence, so presumably this was a dangerous place when it was built.

 

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Cumbria Way: Lethera – mud, rain and barbed wire

12.2 miles 6h 7m 98m ascent (207m descent)

Cumbria way: Churchtown-Carlisle

This was the final leg of our Cumbria Way walk: St Mary’s Church Sebergham (which is not in Sebergham) to Carlisle’s Market Cross. The forecast 12 hours before the walk was rain, but on the morning that had improved to grey skies but dry. It was raining as we drove to Carlisle, but we were optimistic it would settle. We parked in Carlisle, walked over to the railway station and took a taxi to our start-point. By the time we arrived at the church, the skies were indeed grey and it was dry enough to use the dry weather camera and forego waterproof trousers.

The Cumbria Way heads north from the old church, along a farm track guarded by hedgerows. The recent rain had left short sections of the track underwater forcing us at times onto the slightly higher ground beside the hedges. It could have been worse.

St Mary’s Sebergham

The farm track took us to Sebergham Hall but then disappeared into a gate marked “Private no entry”, so the CW passes around the house grounds and rejoins the track on the far side. This gave us our first, and sadly not last, taste of walking through cattle churned mud. But we picked our way through, avoiding the worst of the quagmire and regained the track. The occasional drop of rain imperceptibly increased as we walked, so I pushed the camera into my pocket. Even when the rain became a constant drizzle we decided that it might be a passing shower and decided against breaking out the waterproof trousers, yet.

Bell Bridge was where the walk went pear shaped. The CW crosses the River Caldew here, but the bridge was closed. Workmen were beavering away on the bridge so we shouted over to ask if we could cross. No luck. One of the men fetched his supervisor who told us the bridge was unsafe and had been closed to the public for two years. He couldn’t let us cross. The nearest crossings were back at Sebergham or further along the river, perhaps a mile northwards.

Bell Bridge

It was somewhat annoying that there had not been any notices earlier on the walk, since we could have walked along the minor road from Sebergham. So we faced a choice between a 3 km round trip to reach the other side 20m away, or ‘a mile’ north without extra distance. We decided to head north by staying close to the river until we reached the bridge. There was not a bridge marked on my map but there was a place called Bog Bridge a couple of kilometres north and it seemed likely that such a place would have a bridge. What I had not considered was the adjectival part of the name.

Another footpath did head in the right direction, at first, but after taking us up a small hill it headed away to the east, so we struck out across fields to get back to the river. Once on the lower ground the ground was waterlogged, in places churned into cloying mud by cattle, and where it was not churned it was often too boggy to cross, requiring detours to find narrower sections of bog. The rain was now much heavier so I put way my dry camera and put a waterproof cover on my rucksack. My trousers were soaked through so there was little point in donning waterproof trousers. We did manage to find the remnants of a riverside path, which judging by churned mud, is used mostly by cows.  This clay mud stuck to my boots making them noticeably heavier. Some sections were impassable they were so muddy and we also had to cope with fallen trees and barbed wire. Skirting around these took us on to slippery muddy slopes. but at least neither of us ended up sat in the mud.

Near Bell Bridge

Once back into open fields we found the fences topped with barbed wire but managed to find a way along easily enough until we came to a small stream. Both banks were guarded by barbed wire fences. Where there were overhanging branches to use a handholds there was no ground on the other side, the bank dropping directly into the water. And the fences were all new and strong. Our way across was to backtrack a little and crawl under the barbed wire, walk along a rocky outcrop into the river and jump across where the stream joined it. This left us to climb another barbed wire fence beneath a tree, using the overhanging branches as handholds and crawl under another fence further along. What fun we had.

Once back on our way, in the more inviting terrain of muddy fields, we got our breath back and after leaving a field via a gate (rather than under a barbed wire fence) we found ourselves back on a footpath. And there ahead, a footbridge. A small plaque told us the bridge had been built in 2013. It had apparently been washed away in the floods of 2012. After pausing to look at a lonely pink flower beside the bridge (himalayan balsam) we crossed the Caldew and rejoined the Cumbria Way proper. Though there were no CW markers and no discernible track. We walked on beside the river in the rain. I recognised the moment my trousers became fully waterlogged and water ran down inside them, and the first wetness finding its way through my coat. At Rose Bridge I wondered if I should take my wallet out of my pocket (now wet) and put it in the rucksack, but decided that would be shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted.

Access to and from the road at Rose Bridge was by iron kissing gates designed for the slimmer walker. I was loathe (too lazy) to take off my rucksack to get through, and with a bit of manoeuvring and a deep breath to draw in my waist I managed to slip through. I thought I could hear the sound of laughter in the wind. Probably my imagination.

The rain did relent a little after we had passed Rose Castle and I looked back to see Audrey was quite a way behind, photographing Rose Castle I think. So I stood in the wind arms outstretched to aid drying.

We passed a large stand of Monkeyflower in another boggy field, and made our way through more mud until we reached Lime House School. Some thoughtful person had placed a walkway over one of the muddier sections, but had ordered the wrong size walkway.

Walkway across the mud

From Hawksdale Hall, an impressive house, we crossed more muddy fields before reaching firm footpaths at Bridgend. In the village we found a wooden bench, in the lee of a Range Rover, which served us well for our lunch break. There was a bin nearby for my banana skin and the even the rain held off. As ever of course we found several other benches and picnic tables in better settings within 15 minutes of setting off after lunch.

A walk along some minor roads brought us to a footbridge across the Caldew and into Dalston. There were lots of folk walking their dogs, and more seats, the most unusual of which had a metal crow perched atop. This is an octagonal stone plinth, The Coronation Stone, commemorating the coronation of George V and a black metal seat back with the words “2000 while I live I crow” cut out of the top beneath a black and red bird.

GR coronation seat

Dalston’s church dates from the 12th-13th century and though much of the building must be less ancient it still has the look of a very old church. There are large old yewtrees in the churchyard and an impressive war memorial, a Celtic cross with characteristic knotwork.

I think Dalston is where the Cumbria Way leaves countryside for industry, though the route manages to remain within greenery for most of the way. After walking through the village we left the road to follow a narrow footpath beside a school and back to the riverside. A pair of strange bollards ensured walkers went single file, or perhaps were to deter bodybuilders who had worked too hard on their shoulders.

This is the Caldew walkway/cycleway. It was good to be walking on firm footpaths for a while and by now my wet togs were mostly dry except the bottom of my trouser legs. We walked by several marker posts with numbers on each side, six in all, marked 6/1, 5/2, 4/3, 3/4, 2/5, 1/6. These had once had paintings on them but only a few had survived the weather.

But lest we pine for mud, our route took us off the tarmac of the cycleway onto a muddy riverside footpath, marked with the intriguing notice, “Permissive Path”. I took this to hold the meaning “allowed but not obligatory; optional“, rather than “allowing or characterized by great or excessive freedom of behaviour“. I was a little too tired to make much of the latter anyway. I look back now though and regret the missed opportunity. I could have picked wildflowers, carved my name in a tree, affixed a postage stamp upside-down…

River Caldew

The permissive path return to the cycleway and some some large daisies excited my curiosity drawing me up onto a some disturbed ground. Here we found narrow leaved michaelmas daisy, mayweed and chamomile, all within a few metres of each other. Had we stayed on the path I don’t think I would have noticed they were different daisies.

We were next faced with an obstruction with fencing across the walkway but edged our way through the fences this time. The walkway then ran beside the railway for a kilometre or more.

Weir on the Caldew

As we drew closer to Carlisle there was a riverside section with a little more mud, but eventually we were back on tarmac walking by a mixture of old industrial buildings and modern houses copying the industrial style.

The final mile or so took us by Carlisle’s castle and cathedral and then along to the main street and the official end of the Cumbria Way, the Market Cross.

The End

 

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Here’s a summary of mileages and times:

 

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Beyond the Shibboleth: Cumbria Way – Sethera

10.8 miles 6h 14m ascent 490m

Swineside-High Pike-Caldbeck-Sebergham-Churchtown

Pronunciation of Sebergham….SEBrum (source: Cumbrian friend).

Rain was forecast and the forecast was on the mark. While driving down to Cumbria, though, the sky was blue and the sun was shining. A red squirrel ran across the road and, amid the general feeling of well-being, I allowed myself to believe that the waterproofs might remain packed away. But approaching Mosedale the first light raindrops were hitting the windscreen, and by the time we reached our parking spot beside the River Caldew it was raining heavily. Very heavily. It seemed reasonable to wait out the worst of it so we sat in the car and waited, as the rain became even heavier.

View from the car

We decided to grasp the nettle and brave the elements, but putting on the waterproofs outside in the rain would have left us soaking wet inside the waterproofs. Getting waterproof trousers  and jackets on while still in the car adds an extra level of difficulty. The learning point is that we should have moved the seats to make more room. Well I’ll know for next time.

I’m not one to point fingers but one member of the walking group took somewhat longer to get walk-ready, during which the boot of the car was open (for equipment to be chosen/packed etc) and there were still puddles in the back of the car when I got home in the evening.

So we set off to walk up the small valley of the Grainsgill Beck, the rain blowing into our faces. This meant I spent most of the time looking down at the ground and noticing the plants growing there. The rain then became heavier still, the noise of it striking me and the sensation increased. Then I realised it had changed to hail.

The old mine

A small sign informed us that removal of minerals from the area is now  illegal. There was a substantial path as far as the old Tungsten mine, but beyond we were following a single file track made by the passage of walkers rather than an actual path. The stream was in spate and at the Arm O’Grain a tributary stream was too wide to jump until we had followed it uphill a little way. It is interesting that a footpath shown on the OS map crosses the beck where we did rather that where the Cumbria Way does.

Purple hills

When we had walked a couple of weeks earlier, the scattered bell heather was in flower but the ling was yet to bloom. The bell heather’s flowers were now brown but purple ling covered the hills.

Grainsgill waterfalls

We had to leave the path a few times to avoid boggy sections and any more rain would probably have submerged some of the route. At least the rain made the most of the beck’s waterfalls. Because of the rain I didn’t have the map in my hand and my memory was playing tricks with me such that I thought the steepest climb was to be after we left the Grainsgill Beck to head up to the Lingy Hut.

Col below Great Lingy Hill

So I was both concerned and relieved when we turned away from the beck following a track eroded by the passage of many boots. I was relieved that this section was not steep but concerned that we were in the wrong place. We had not passed any other paths going off to our right, but it wouldn’t be the first time we had passed by a minor track.

The map was consulted enabling me to accept relief that the steep section was behind us and dispel the concern that we were off-piste. A little further along and the Lingy Hut came into view. The rain had eased to sporadic drops by now but the wind was pretty strong, so we had our coffee break in the hut.

Lingy Hut

The Great Lingy Hut, to give it its Sunday name, sits at about 600m. It was once a shooting box but is now a maintained bothy. There is only a small window, and since the day was rather dreich it didn’t really admit enough light so we left the door open, the door being on the lee-side of the hut. This let us refuel while giving us a chance to dry out a little. Some runners and walkers passed as we sat there. None of my photos near the hut came out.

High Pike from Hare Stones

I wondered if I would be able to manage without waterproof trousers, but decided to stay in wet weather gear. Within a few minutes it was clear that had been the right decision. The path became more defined as we walked across the high moorland of Hare Stones. By now the visibility had become quite limited making it difficult to know when we were near High Pike and as ever when it is misty, distances and heights were easy to misinterpret.

Some walkers were taking a faint path up a slope. we thought that perhaps the path up High Pike would have some kind of Cumbria Way marker. More map consultation. We retraced our steps a little and headed up the slope presuming it to be High Pike.

High Pike

I knew that High Pike has a stone bench at the summit, and as we climbed a cairn came into view, but no bench.  Then I saw it and knew we had taken the right path.

The slate bench is inscribed “He is a portion of that loveliness that once he made more lovely” taken from Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats written by Shelley in 1821. I recall reading somewhere that the slate bench replaced an earlier wooden one. A smaller inset  “In memory of Mick Lewis who loved all these fells” refers to a  young man who died on the fell in 1944 aged 16 and another inset refers to his mother who died in 1970. I’m afraid my photos of the insets, being taken in driving rain aren’t legible so I do not have the exact words of the latter.

Trig Pillar

The hill’s trig pillar is topped with a plaque showing the direct and distances to neighbouring fells and is inscribed, “To Celebrate Caldbeck Parish’s Millennium Celebrations”. 

A circular area of shorter grass and a small pile of stones looked like the site of a previous fire and my reading tells me that fires are lit there on occasion.

I made use of the stone shelter a little way beyond the summit cairn to briefly to consult the map somewhere it would not be torn from my grasp by the wind. Unfortunately I had to share the shelter with a stand of nettles, but they didn’t get me.

The lying stone

The Harvey’s Cumbria Way map shows two paths descending to the north and we were to take the left hand track. There was also a stone, indicating the left hand route, with “Caldbeck” painted on it. The left hand track, the smaller, was the one we took, and we were reassured that as we descended out of the mist we were heading towards the Caldbeck transmitter aerial.

But as we continued it became obvious that the track led up towards the low rise of Deer hills whereas we were expecting to walk a little more east of north and pass to the right of a gully with old mineworks dotted about. Another faint path crossed our route and that took us where we needed to be. In fact the OS map’s Cumbria Way route shows it joining the crossing path as we did. Actually the direction to walk is towards the village of Caldbeck rather than the Transmitter Aerial.

Pink sheep

So we walked past long disused mining, followed the track around a dog leg and onto a farm track, leaving the fells behind us. a flock of pink sheep stood by the road but had scarpered before I could wipe the water from the camera’s lens. The route took us through the farmyard of Nether Row and along a (very) minor road for a kilometre or so to Townhead. Here the CW passes into a field (at some point I will have to rant that every time I type “field” it autocorrects to “filed” !!!).

There should be a name for ground covered in grass but churned by cattle. “Ploughed” almost has it but ploughed fields have a degree of regularity. Perhaps “vacciformed” would do? Anyway we made our way across the vacciformed field, until crossing a tiny stone footbridge and into Caldbeck.

Vacciformed field

Lunch was taken sitting on a wooden bench outside the Oddfellows Arms.  A lull in the rain allowed us to take off our wet jackets, waterproof trousers and damp fleeces. The breeze dried them, a little, and cooled us down. The house opposite us had “IT.ET.1666” inscribed on the lintel above the door, which has left me wondering what the letters mean.  Audrey wondered if the “IT” was the end of a word, the beginning having been lost, whereas my money is on an abbreviation since “something” “and 1666” doesn’t seem to make sense. For once Google isn’t illuminating.

The wee bridge

Well I made myself comfortable, ate a nice sandwich, but then spoiled it with a horrible plum. I was in eating lunch autopilot, not looking at my food, and after biting into the plum I tasted its nastiness. Looking down at the remaining plum in my hand I saw the mould growing on it.  Luckily I did have some other coffee left to hide the taste.

Caldbeck marked our exit from the Lake District National Park. And also the end of the heavier rain, so we were able to pack the waterproof trousers away. The village has a petrol station that looks like something out of the 1960s with a petrol pump outside a shop that must have predated the sale of petrol by decades. Ahead us us was a gentle stroll along the banks of the Cald Beck back to the car at Sebergham, of so I thought.

By the church

We walked by a church with a very impressive rectory. Presumably the living there only went to those in the Bishop’s good books. after that we walked into countryside again, passing across an open area beside a water treatment plant and then into Parson’s Park. This was not the riverside stroll I had expected. The northern bank of the river is high and steep so we were walking up and down the slope, more up by the feel of it, and the ground was very muddy in places. We did have some good views back to the northern fells though.

Parson’s park

Oakbank Wood is misrepresenting itself since there we only say a couple of oaks, and both those saplings. By this time I was overheating so stopped to take off some layers. there were plenty of nettles about so I was careful, but not careful enough. So spent the next mile or so picking dock leaves. Placebo is powerful medicine. There had been some felling near Denton woods so what would have been a track was now a quagmire to be picked across with care. This should have been the end of our walk but several minor issues conspired to extend the walk. Where do I begin?

No oaks

The Cumbria Way map is convenient in that it has the whole walk on on sheet, whereas the OS would be five sheets. But as we had found, and were to find, it has some errors. In particular “Sebergham”, our destination for this walk, is marked as Browtop, and the place marked as Sebergham on the map is in fact Churchtown. This wouldn’t have been such a problem except we had left the car at Sebegham, and Sebergham was fixed in my mind as our target. Here comes fate. The folding of the map required for this section meant that the final half mile was over the page, easily seen by turning the map over, but not constantly visible. Otherwise I might have realised that we had parked by a river, the Caldew, and the place marked as Sebergham did not have a river running through it. When we arrived in the actual Sebergham, I thought we were in Browtop. Had we looked to our left as we arrived we would have seen the car but at that moment the rain returned with a vengeance, we stopped to get our jackets back on, and kept our heads turned down from the rain.

So we crossed the road, found the path and climbed, yet again, through water laden undergrowth and up to a farm track, thinking “almost there”. We reached St mary’s Church, Sebergham and breathed a sigh of relief. Now to get our wet jackets off and into the warm dry car.

But the place we were in looked nothing like the place we had left the car. No river, no B-road. I began to wonder where we had actually left the car it certainly wasn’t where we now were. Ahead of us, up more of a slope was a road, so we headed up there and in the shelter of a bus stop consulted the OS map. All became clear.

So we headed back along the road for the real Sebergham. Perhaps my mind was playing tricks but I might have heard a dagger being unsheathed behind me and a Cumbrian curse being cast. I quickened my pace, wondering what the hell we were going to do if the car wasn’t in this Sebergham.

The car was there, beside a sign marked “Sebergham”.

 


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Biding not at Kenmuir

3.2 miles 1h 20m ascent probably zero

“Watch warily for the dragoons as you come to the narrows of the Loch,” she said “and bide not at Kenmuir. For if there by mounted muskets in all the neighbourhood it is at the Kenmuir they will be found.” S R Crockett.

A stroll around the northern part of the nature reserve, the path running along the top of a levee. It would be possible to return along the road into NewGalloway but we instead returned along the same route once we reached the A712 near the bridge over the Ken.

It was tempting to leave the path to get a better look at some flowers but I suspect it was very wet down there. Meadowsweet, knapweed, meadow thistle and marsh woundwort were present in abundance.

Sweep stayed surprisingly clean for a while but then jumped into deep mud and looked as though his lower half had been dipped in black paint. The Mill Burn though proved too tempting for him so he was clean (but wet) by the time we were back at the car.

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Bronze Otter and Inquisitive Cows

3.6 miles 1h 50m (strolling pace!)  122m ascent

Fell of Barhullion

The planned Cumbria Way (Sethera) walk was delayed by a respiratory virus, so I had a free day for walking and an old dog hankering for an outing. So it was that Sweep and I set out to conquer the Fell of Barhullion.

The drive there was straightforward, or so it seemed on the map, but somewhere after Bladnoch I must have drifted into navigational autopilot and found myself driving into Garlieston (“home of the Mulberry Harbour”), a place I was not expecting to pass through. The extra time taken with the detour was perhaps fortuitous though since it allowed the rain the pass and by the time we arrived at St Medan, the sun was shining.

We parked in a car park by St Medan Golf Course which I though would give us easy access to both the beach and the hill. The car park was empty when we arrived and full when we returned. And as I said, the sun was shining. In fact there wasn’t any evidence that it had rained there at all.

Mull of Galloway on the horizon, lighthouse just visible.

Sweep isn’t up to long walks but doesn’t know to take it easy, so I set the pace, going along at a leisurely stroll. Well that’s my excuse.

We headed up towards the Maxwell monument, with the remains of Kirkmaiden church below us. The monument is a bronze life-sized otter atop some rocks. A plaque explains it is dedicated to Gavin Maxwell and its latin inscription held my attention while I dredged up my high school Latin for translation.

When I stepped back to get some photos I noticed a sign which has it in English. “This place he loved as a boy. And made famous as a man.” Which is pretty much the gist of my translation, though there is some poetic licence in the sign’s version.

The bronze otter was commissioned by the Galloway Wildlife Trust and sculpted by Penny Wheatley to commemorate Gavin Maxwell, the author of Ring of Bright Water, who grew up in nearby Elrig.

 

When I first saw the otter I thought there was a line of mushrooms leading up to it, but on closer inspection they were seashells. There was excellent visibility, with the Isle of Man and Mull of Galloway clearly seen. I could even make out the lighthouse on the latter. Closer by, I could also see the cairn on the Fell of Barhullion.

After the otter we made our way along a path along the top of some cliffs and I felt obliged to strike out through the bracken to investigate a  structure at the top of the cliffs. It looked like a round basketball goal seen from behind but turned out to be a large red circle. It doesn’t look to be something that is being maintained. Another thing to add to my “what the hell is that” list. Something to do with the lighthouse perhaps?

Lollipop on the hill

The clifftop path took us through a gate that did not have a latch but opened away from us and closed itself. It would prove very useful a little later in the day.

The path disgorged us into a field and presented a choice. There was a wall dividing the field and the worn ground suggested that most of those passing crossed the wall at an opening just beside us. The problem was that that part of the field was filled with cows and they were mostly blocking the way through the break in the wall. I decided to stay away and hope we could get out from our side of the wall. As it turned out, our side of the wall was the one giving access to the exit gate but there was also a break in the wall so either way would work.

There was one beast in our part of the field, a calf. I’m no expert but something tells me this was born last year rather than this. It seemed quite invested in us and lollopped over to us like a big puppy and tried to play with Sweep. I was a bit worried it would inadvertently squash him so we made our way past and it seemed to lose interest.

A steel gate took us though some trees to the A747 and we crossed to walk along a farm track to Stellock. A sign told us we were on the footpath to the Fell of Barhullion. There were plenty of flowers in the hedgerows including the first knapweeds I’ve seen this year. A field to our left had a standing stone.We had to negotiate a couple of cattle grids but these had gates beside them.

We passed a large stand of Mayweed and then walked on through flower filled meadows.

It wouldn’t be a normal walk for me if there wasn’t a route deviation and for me this happened at Stennock Farm. On the map the route turns right after the farm, and this we did, going through a gate then turning right. This took us along a track between stone walls. It looked to have been much used by cattle in that the ground was churned and consisted of semisolid slurry with stones sticking up, but often too far apart to act as stepping stones. Sweep was pretty much wading and I was doing my best to avoid overtopping my boots. The one positive thing I took from this was that this was obviously a throughway for the cattle and should lead us to the fields. It didn’t.

It was a dead end. I could have climbed a wall but that was not an option for Sweep and I didn’t fancy manhandling a dog that had been dipped in cow shit. So we did a 360 and retraced our steps through the mud.

At the farm I saw my error. We followed the track that I had thought was turning into the farmhouse but actually went around the farm. This took us to the field that would allow us up to the hill. There were some puddles here. Well to be honest, the path ran under a large shallow section of water. But this proved useful in cleaning us up a little.

Field above Stellock

As is often the case, the gate into the field swung across a large muddy puddle, so having been through clean water a couple of minutes earlier, we had to walk through “muddy” water again.

This field had cows and calves, but they were quite spread out and we gave them a wide berth by walking around the far side of the field. Though it may not be obvious from the photograph, this field had raised rocky areas (dry), grassy sections (dry), and boggy sections (churned and wet). Our wide berth route seemed to favour the latter terrain, but we avoided the animals.

Meadow with giant mushrooms (Sweep for scale)

A final gate took us into a wild meadow and the final small climb to the top. We met a hare while walking here. It must have been hoping that we would walk past, and indeed Sweep must have past it by, but my foot was too close. I felt it run across my left foot before I heard it, and it was away into the tall grass without Sweep noticing. We met it again or another hare on the way down and Sweep did give make a token effort with that one, but it ran though a nearby hole in a wall.

The Fell of Barhullion takes its name from bar-chuileann, hilltop of hollies, and I learnt a new word when I read that the Fell part of the name is pleonastic, meaning an unnecessary addition (as in free gift). Well it may well have once had holly when it was named but none remains. There was also once a hill-fort here, and the lines of its walls are still evident on aerial photos, but I would have been pushed to see them on the ground. The summit has a large cairn, which is said to be modern, which stands well above the trig pillar.

Summit cairn Fell of Barhullion

We stopped for a rest at the summit and spent some time enjoying the views. I ate cherries and Sweep had gravy bones.

And rested we set off back the way we had come, Sweep leading the way. The cattle near Shellock had re-grouped though and were now spread across the field. Avoiding the field didn’t seem an option so we found a way to weave around the cows, avoiding the calves and keeping close to clumps of undergrowth or rocks that we could put between us and them.

We had a more difficult time in the field at Clarksburn (where we had met the inquisitive calf earlier). There were now cows in both parts of the field, but nothing too worrying. Some were on the other side of the wall, where we didn’t need to go, and the others were at the right side of the field whereas we need to walk along the left edge, with a wall separating us from the other cows.

As soon as we started across the field the cows stirred. It was like something from a horror film where the zombies or robots notice our heroes and start to shamble towards them. The cows watched us then they all started to walk towards us, a large cow leading the way. I didn’t want to encourage them so I didn’t run since I’m sure they could outrun us. It quickly became obvious that the cows would reach us before we could get across the field.

When the first cow reached us she stopped and sniffed Sweep then gave him a nudge with her nose. Only a small nudge, the kind she might give a calf, but quite a nudge for a dog. She moved to nudge again and I pulled him out of the way. I could feel a cow was right behind me by its breath on my neck and I was worried that if the cows hurried any more we might be trampled so we walked on “calmly” but without dawdling. The cows followed us onto the clifftop path which at least put them in single file, and I decided against making a run for it through the bracken since they could easily follow. At last the self closing gate came into view and we put it between us and the cows.

Cows beyond the gate

My standard operating procedure for being frightened by cows would have been to let the dog loose and clamber on to the nearby wall, but I wasn’t sure the old dog would actually run away.

Anyway we both caught our breath and spent a little longer than we otherwise might at the otter monument.

I had intended going down to the beach and visiting the remains of Kirkmaiden Church, but the dog had had a longer walk than he had had for some time, so I’ve put that off for another day.

 

I’ll leave you with a description of St Medana, who is the maiden of the church’s name.

St. Medana, who is described as an Irish maiden who took upon
herself a vow of perpetual chastity, and being solicited by a
certain miles nobilis, who would not take ” no ” for an answer,
sailed for Scotland with two handmaidens. Landing in the
Rhinns of Galloway (paries Galvidie superiores que ryndis
dicuntur), she led a life of poverty. But the knight followed
her, and drove her to take refuge with her two companions
on an insulated rock in the sea. This rock, in answer to
her prayers, became a boat, in which she was carried a
distance of 30 miles, ad terrain gue fames didtur (Kirkmaiden
in Glasserton), where the relics of the holy virgin (Medana)
now repose. Again the knight followed her to her retreat,
and arrived at the house where she and her two maids were
sleeping. A cock crew and awoke her, when she took refuge
in a high tree. ” What do you see in me,” said she, ” to
excite your passion” ” Your face and eyes,” he replied :
whereupon she tore out her eyes and flung them at his feet
He, moved to penitence, departed ; she descended from the
tree, and, being in want of water to wash her bleeding face,
a fountain miraculously sprang from the root of the tree.
The rest of her life she spent in sanctity and poverty under
St. Ninian.

 

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