This was the last part of our January Railway Walk, another there and back outing since unnecessary car sharing is still frowned upon. I’m not sure there is much I can write that I haven’t already written about this walk.
It was as you can see above, a grey day, too chilly to tarry at Skerrow for lunch, or coffee for that matter. I tried applying my new-found dry stone wall knowledge to those that we saw…Galloway Dyke style with double lower layers and single layers higher up. and light visible through the upper stones.
We did walk down to the boathouse at Loch Skerrow but I didn’t trust the floorboards not to cave in, so just peered round the door.
This completed our January walk along the old “Port Road” railway. It is 11 miles and an easy walk for one day though we walked it in in there-and-back sections. The path has been upgraded in the last few years. What was once overgrown and impassable, is now clear. What was often flooded is now resurfaced and raised. It is on the old railway except for a couple of diversions to avoid the viaducts over The Big Water and Little Water of Fleet. The only problem for a linear walk is that there is no public transport to Gatehouse Station and it’s a long drive between the start and finish.
The stations at Mossdale and Rusko “Gatehouse Station” which are now cottages and the ruins of the station at Skerrow Halt and the now burnt fencing.
The viaducts at Stroan Loch and Big Water of Fleet, what remains of that at Little Water of Fleet and the new Grobdale Burn Bridge.
Lochs Skerrow and Stroan. Black Water of Dee, the Fleets tributaries (Big and Small), the Airie Burn.
The Druim Mor, the great ridge of the Clints of Dromore.
The five chained artworks are nearby. “Ocean” hangs above the railway below the clints and “Heart” in the ruins of Little Cullendoch is just 20m off the trail. “Sceneshifter” sits a little further away, perhaps 200m, in the Big Water of Fleet. The last two, “Erratic” beneath Cairnsmore of Fleet, and “Hush” atop the Clints of Dromore are a little further away.
The “Galloway Dyke” dry stone walls and, if the season is with you, the hedgerows.
Winter’s winds chilled the air and days of rain had saturated the ground. 2o22 had arrived with an unwelcome plus-one, the Omicron Variant, so car sharing bit the dust. But we were not to be deterred. Setting our teeth, and stretching our nostrils wide, we held hard our breath, donned winter coats (human and dog alike) and set out for Skerrow Halt. Well, I set off intending to walk from the Big Water of Fleet to the Little Water of Fleet. But Audrey convinced me to go the extra mile. The phrase “extra mile” being figurative rather than literal, referring to the additional 4.07 miles required to visit Skerrow Halt.
Big Water of Fleet to Gatehouse Station (and back)
Good to be out and about. We had clear skies but it was bitterly cold. On a warmer day I might have walked up to the Rosnes Bench or continued along the road once we ran out of walkable railway track. As it was we walked along to Gatehouse Station (six miles north of Gatehouse of Fleet!) and moseyed back. (It was too cold for the dogs to stay out very long).
Langwathby-Temple Sowerby (6.4 miles of the Eden Way)
The sun hanging like a moon in the mist, mostly road walking, indeed mostly B6412, G-NHAE Dauphin (there was some resemblance admittedly), first glimpse of the Eden just before crossing the railway, £1000 fine for leaving the gate open seemed a bit much, the mist clearing except above the river, summits of hills peeping through, Blencathra, Great Dun Fell (848m) with its golfball radar station, the second highest mountain in the pennines, and the unadorned Cross Fell (893m) next to it, the highest, eventually escape from the road, finger post to Pea Foot, a steep (no, not steep but aspiring to steepness) slightly muddy farm track brought us to a field and a No Admittance sign, presumably referring to the land to our right, we turned left through a falling gate, the kind that needs to be lifted when closing it (seems to be most of them – a design fault?), Hag Wood, named not for a crone but Old English haga, woodland used for coppicing, hawthorn started as hagathorn, Hag Wood brought us to the river but on a narrow, muddy (slippery rather than engulfing) and steep requiring care until a stile took us to a wide mown path, then a track, then a back road in Culgaith, big ram, walled retreat, the name is Brythonic and means a narrow wood, the same as Culcheth (which made me think ‘really”, Culcheth is ‘near’ where I’m originally from but I can’t think why it seems relevant to me), weird road sign, Millrigg Bridge, a TOTSO on the B6412, (what, you ask – a junction at which the road continuing straight ahead does not bear the same number as the route we are currently following—we must therefore Turn Off To Stay On that same numbered route), not my first but the first time I have read the term, another Eden Bridge (rebuilt in 1748 when the original older bridge was washed away), a wee nook in the wall and we were back with the river for a while, Red River Eden Benchmark by Victoria Brailsford, “The stepped slabs of Lazonby Sandstone in this sculpture represent the contours of the landscape and its light, shade, pattern, shape and form. The spheres, reminiscent of gigantic pebbles in a fast moving stream, are a powerful evocation of the river and its energy but also, like hugely enlarged grains of sand, recall the origins of sandstone in the shifting sand dunes of Triassic Cumbria“, under the A66, geese to tease Christy, wonderful sandstone cliffs, clouds and shadows of unseen demons, Bill Johnston’s seat, then we left the way and walked up to Temple Sowerby, the manor once belonged to the Knights Templar, Sowerby is Norse for farm with poor soil, tall maypole topped with a weather vane 65feet, just 1.8 miles of river bank, 6.36 miles further upstream, but we did 1.01 on the other bank last time, red skies on the way home.
The days grew shorter, frost clung to morning windscreens and we were venturing further in reaching each leg of the Eden Way. We had decided it was time to give the Eden Way a rest until the days were a little longer. But Monday promised to be a dry with a temperature of 5o. Sunset would be 15:58. Perhaps we could squeeze one more short leg into 2021?
The day dawned. It was -2o so I dug out the dogs’ warm coats while the car defrosted. A temperature inversion cloaked the Solway in mist but the sky was blue and cloudless. When we arrived in Langwathby there was mist enough that we could look directly at the sun and see only a moon-like disc. It was chilly but not bitter.
The day was in large part a stroll along the B6412, with a couple of diversions to the river, first near Culgaith and then near Temple Sowerby. We started at Langwathby’s village green, found the road and walked southwards.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service has a base by the road and one of their newer helicopters “The pride of Cumbria II” G-NHAE, a Eurocopter Dauphin 2 was on the apron. Dauphin means dolphin and the nose does have the look of a dolphin, I think. This helicopter only became an air ambulance earlier this year, having been used as an executive transport by Sir James Dyson (he of the bagless vacuum cleaners, fans etc) for 10 years before that.
As we climbed away from the river the mist cleared from the road to give us clear views of the hills on our left: Great Dun Fell (848m) with its golfball radar station, the second highest mountain in the pennines, and the unadorned Cross Fell (893m) next to it, the highest. The peaks of the lakeland hills could just be seen above above the broad mist filling the river valley. Blencathra was recognisable and Audrey reckoned we could see the Helvellyn hills beyond it.
Where the road crosses the railway there is a white gate bedside the bridge which at first I took to be the entrance to a footbridge that would save us from walking on the narrow road of the bridge. A small notice on the gate informed us that the penalty for leaving the gate open was £1,000. Bloody Hell, why not just go the whole hog and make it a capital offence? But it led down to the actual railway so I left it well alone. £1,000! they could have installed a spring so it closed itself for £20.
Crossing the railway was my aide-memoir e to look out for where we to leave the road, though there was still a way to go. A finger post to Pea Foot points along a track without a gate. The railway passes in a tunnel beneath the track. The track was firm then became a little muddy as it went down towards the river. We had had a brief glimpse of the river a little earlier but this was the first time we had come back to the Eden on this leg. The photo above “River Eden at Pea Foot” is taken from a gate at the end of the track. A sign to the right warned there was no admittance that way. We turned left down to the riverbank and into Hag Wood
Hag Wood is named not for some old witch, but from haga, Old English for a woodland used for coppicing. The word haga has also given us Hawthorn which started as hagathorn. It was good to be off the road and walking by the river again. The woodland was pretty in its autumnal colours but our joy was somewhat strained since we found ourselves on a narrow, muddy track that climbed steep banks then descended again only to repeat the process several times. The mud was the thin slippery sort that is won’t to whisk one’s feet away, especially when descending so we took our time, with the dogs running back and forth unconcerned. They don’t care how muddy they get. Hag Wood has two expressions, a “requires care” section that we just walked through and, beyond a stile, a “wide mown path” section which I presume is that used by Culgaith’s residents. The mown path gave way to a metalled track and brought us into village itself.
The origin of Culgaith’s name is Brythonic, meaning a narrow wood or back wood. I wonder if Hag Wood had been Cil Coed or Cul Coed before the Saxon came? The village now seems to be doing well. There are new houses being built on a new road, Otter’s Holt, which has probably been named to paint a rural-ness onto these new builds, a “holt” being an otter’s den.
We left the village on a mostly verge-less minor road which brought us back to our old friend the B6412 which we stayed on until we reached yet another Eden bridge. The B6412 has a TOTSO here (what’s that? you ask – a junction at which the road continuing straight ahead does not have the same number as the route you are currently following—you must Turn Off To Stay On that same numbered route). Admittedly, this wasn’t my first TOTSO but it was the first time I’ve heard it so called. I cannot wait to be navigating in the car…”We stay on the B6412, but there’s a TOTSO in about a quarter of a mile”.
We were actually approaching the TOTSO from the obverse, so it appeared to us as a T-Junction. This had been the A66 before Temple Sowerby was re-villaged, by the construction of a by-pass. We came another sandstone “Edenbridge”. This one was rebuilt in 1748 after the original bridge was washed away. But we didn’t cross this one.
A signpost “Public Footpath Kirby Thore” showed us where to rejoin the river bank and a wee gap in the wall gave us access. It was good to alongside the Eden again. We had easy walking on firm grass and beside planted fields.
The sun was low in the sky giving the views a warm cast. We were almost upon the next Eden Benchmark before we noticed it (photo at the top of the page). This was “Red River” by Victoria Brailsford, described on the benchmark website thus “The stepped slabs of Lazonby Sandstone in this sculpture represent the contours of the landscape and its light, shade, pattern, shape and form. The spheres, reminiscent of gigantic pebbles in a fast moving stream, are a powerful evocation of the river and its energy but also, like hugely enlarged grains of sand, recall the origins of sandstone in the shifting sand dunes of Triassic Cumbria“. My thoughts were less poetic. I was thinking “it’s smaller than I expected”.
The benchmark is set at a spot with a beautiful view (looking downstream) and on a warmer day its steps would have been a good spot for lunch. Looking upstream is the A66 Temple Sowerby bypass viaduct, built in the style of all modern road/motorway bridges (sorry, I didn’t take a photo). There was plenty of space to walk under the bridge.
There were some impressive sandstone cliffs after the A66, made all the more beautiful by the evening sunshine. I had let Christy run loose along the river bank but had to put him back on a lead here since there were lots of geese and his innate spanial-ness was leading to over-excitement.
We paused to admire the clouds, but they seem to have lost much of their impact in the photos. We walked on hoping we would not miss where we should leave the river to reach Temple Sowerby. As it was, a gate marked the place and we found a track that took us back over the A66 and into the village.
tall maypole topped with a weather vane 65feet, just 1.8 miles of river bank, 6.36 miles further upstream, but we did 1.01 on the other bank last time, red skies on the way home.
Sowerby is not a particularly flattering name meaning, as it does, a farm with poor soil (Norse), but the Temple in its name does add a little historical spice. The Knights Templar, the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon to give them their full name, owned Sowerby manor until their (enforced) dissolution in the fourteenth century. Though “poor fellow soldiers” they were a powerful military and financial sect and it is not surprising the the name stuck to the village even after they had left.
We didn’t spend long in the village but it would have been impossible to miss the 65 foot Maypole. Quite a few websites say that the weathervane atop it is dated 1891. I can correct them. It has “2000” spelled out in the wrought iron.
This walk was mostly over fields or through woodland but with some road walking. There were more gates than stiles, what quagmire we found was manageable and we had only one navigation error (my own). We crossed bridges both old and new, of stone, of wood and of metal. There were herons and ducks, megaliths and pebbles, artworks and industry, sculpture and excavation, railways and viaducts, waterfalls and magnetostriction, memorials and memories. We ate our lunch in comfort, and walked with Long Meg’s daughters. Not a bad day.
Blue skies and sunshine above, crisp newly fallen golden leaves underfoot. This was as beautiful a day as autumn can muster. This section took us between two eighteenth century bridges, from Armathwaite to Eden Bridge. A week earlier there had been torrential rain (driving us elsewhere) and perhaps we appreciated the weather more keenly for that.
Well, that was some walk. The Eden Way Guidebook has Carlisle to Armathwaite as a single day but being <insert jocular self deprecating adjective here> we chose to split it over two days… thank God! There was a heat wave to contend with, shouting farmers, overgrown paths, uneven paths, overgrown uneven paths, fallen trees to clamber, hanging boughs to snag loose clothing and holes to snag the unwary foot, slippery mud, steep slippery uneven overgrown paths with holes, tumbles down slopes into nettles, moats of squelching quagmire, unbridged ditches with steep sides and only nettles and thistles as hand holds, beautifully crafted seats with welcoming signs but behind locked gates, the aforementioned 99 steps, bridges sturdy, bridges broken and booby-trapped stiles. But for all that we also had the Great Corby-Wetheral Viaduct, woodland walks, riverside rambles, the Flight of Fancy benchmark, Corby Castle though with its cascades dry, Saint Constantine’s cells and their INSCRIBED ROCK, a lonely woodland barn in Wetheral Woods, Cote House Tower and Coathouse Island, Brackenback Woods with Matthew Knublay’s Memorial (easily missed?), meadows, fields of barley, sandstone cliffs, heron, hare and rabbit, country lanes, gothic arches, free horse manure and fishing but for Yorkshire fly fishers only.
Continuing our Eden Way Walk. Picking up in Carlisle, downstream of which we have walked both banks of the Eden, on the Hadrian’s Wall trail (south bank) and the Cumbrian Coastal Way (north bank), we walked the section between Carlisle and Wetherby. This follows the river for three miles or so then heads across country to find the Eden again at Wetheral.