A diversion averted: Hadrian’s Wall III

10.1 miles 4h 55m ascent 128m


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.


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:

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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Cumbria Way: Pimp – the glyndwr of terra and the cold river

9.8 miles 5h 21m 456m ascent

Keswick-Glenderaterra-Caldew Valley

Miles 46-56 of the Cumbria way.

This was the first section where we used two cars, leaving one in Keswick and the other close to the Cumbria Way near Mosedale. The weather was forecast as sunny spells but reality gave us sunshine throughout the walk.

There are several distinct terrrains in this walk: the town of Keswick itself, woodland paths up towards the higher grassland of Latrigg, exposed paths across the rocky slopes of Glenderaterra,  heather clad moorland surrounding Skiddaw House and, finally, bracken covered rocky slopes between Knott and Bowscale Fell.

Museum Square Keswick

In Keswick we read the inscriptions describing the PUPs clock, purchased by the pushing young peoples society (PUPs) in 1932, and a strange monument dedicated to Peter Crosthwaite 1735-1808. The latter looks like a collection of pipes but I haven’t been able to find out what is is meant to be. The town was very busy with a market filling the main street but we soon left the crowds after turning left at the Moot Hall. This took us down past the war memorial and Fitz Park. My map suggested the Cumbria Way went through the grounds of a hotel here but a sign directed us along a path beside a leisure centre.

Another sign indicated some wooden steps to an area that on my map is a field but is now a housing estate. It was unclear whether we were to walk around or through this, so we guessed at walking around on the basis that there was a footpath. This led us parallel to, and then on to Brundleholme Road for a short distance before turning onto Spoonygreen Lane.

This lane took us over the A66, past Spooney Green farm and climbed up through Ewe How Wood. A gate here had a side hole for hens. We had hedgerows to examine (loosestrife, foxgloves, woundwort) as we climbed, and gradually improving views of Skiddaw, Bassenthwaite and Grasmoor.


The track took us around Latrigg, through the carpark for Skiddaw and onto the grass covered slopes of Lonscale Fell. A shepherd and his collie were moving a flock of sheep and the shepherd actually shouted “come by”. A sign of the times though was that once the sheep had been moved, the dog jumped onto the quad bike and he and the shepherd drove off.

We followed the Skiddaw path as far as the Shepherd’s Monument. This is a memorial to members of the Hawell family and is inscribed:

Great Shepherd of Thy heavenly flock
These men have left our hill
Their feet were on the living rock
Oh guide and bless them still

It was then back to the Cumbria Way to ford Whit Beck and continue our slow climb across the southern slope of Lonscale Fell. This section is best walked in good visibility for the views which stretch from the Hellellyn group of hills to the Bassenthwaite Fells. I could see all along Borrowdale to Castle Crag.

Shepherd’s memorial

Bright green bracken covered the hillside until we turned into the Glenderaterra valley with its rocky heather covered slopes. The Glendera- of this name derives from the Brythonic glyndwfr meaning river valley, but I haven’t been able to find the etymology of -terra. It seems unlikely to be the Latin terra and the most plausible source I can find suggests the suffix is an obscure personal name.

We stopped at a convenient rocky outcrop for a rest, the sun and breeze working together to keep us comfortable. The valley lies between Skiddaw and Blencathra, and the gentle green slopes here reminded me (and Audrey) of the hills of the Southern Upland Way, especially those of the Ettrick Valley.

Our route would continue to climb all the way to Skiddaw House. The path was well frequented by mountain bikers so we found ourselves stepping off the path to let them by several times. One poor biker was carrying his bike up a steeper section. The flora changed from bracken to heather as we climbed.


The local watershed is at a finger of Lonscale Fell called Burnt Horse. and once over that we were in a rather desolate heather covered moorland watched over by Skiddaw House, which apparently is the loneliest house in England. Lonely perhaps, but welcoming. there was a box of flapjacks by the house and a note to leave £1.50 if you took one. I might have been tempted but we had just had lunch.

We had stopped beside Salehow Beck for lunch. An old sheepfold here had enough scattered rocks at the right height for seats and we were sheltered by the higher bank of the stream.

After Skiddaw House it was all downhill (well, mostly downhill). We walked across the barren moorland and then joined a track following the valley with the River Caldew at our side. The bell heather here was in bloom, but the ling hadn’t yet started to make much of an effort. There were also stands of blaeberry with fruit ripe for eating. I had one deliciously sweet berry but the rest were a bit tarty.

River Caldew

I had thought we would be walking back to the car in a deserted valley, and was looking forward to winding down in relative privacy, cooling my feet in the the river, and listening to the wind. But as we drew closer it became obvious that we would be sharing the end of our walk with a couple of dozen other people. But we took the time to rest our feet in the waters of the River Caldew, which was very cold indeed, but what should we expect of a river whose name means cold water.

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Yan, tan, tethera, methara, pimp…..

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Cumbria Way: Methera – the valley of the fortress to the oaken river

8.3 mikes  4h 44min 192m ascent


It might sound a little more like a journey in the Lord of the Rings than the Cumbria Way, but we were neither beset by orcs nor tempted by an accursèd ring, and we strode toward Skiddaw rather than Mount Doom.

Unlike characters from a fantasy journey, we parked in the pay and display carpark (in Keswick). It was only a brief walk round to the bus-stop and we had five minutes to spare for the No.78 to Rosthwaite. Despite this well planned timing however, the bus was just driving away as we turned the corner, so it was our fate was to wait for the next one.

The weather squaring up to give us a sunny day so I used the time to apply some sunscreen. But five minutes later the No.77  (Buttermere via Honister) arrived and offered a useful alternative to waiting in Keswick, and as it turned out, the 77 gave us better views than the 78 (which we had sampled a couple of weeks earlier). I would definitely recommend the 77 over the 78 (a phrase that would be so much more impressive were I discussing wine vintages rather than Cumbrian buses).

Our walk proper started in Rosthwaite, a small village on a wide flat valley floor, bounded by craggy fells to the east (Scawdel) and west (Watendlath), with Catbells just visible along the Borrowdale valley to the north and the Borrowdale Fells to the south.

Borrowdale (Borgar-á-dalr) is the valley of the fortress, which presumably had once stood on Castle Crag, while Rosthwaite’s naming is less certain. Thwaite (þveit) is old norse for a clearing, but there seem to be several interpretations of the Ros- including cairn/heap of stones/cave (hreysi), horses (hross), or Hroarr a personal name, but in modern Icelandic hreysi is a hovel/crude hut and I wonder if that might have been its provenance. But who knows if Hroarr cleared some forest, the clearing stood by a cairn, or when hreysi came to mean a crude building? Or perhaps diminutive versions of hreysikǫttr (wildcat), or hreysivísla (weasel) described the clearing?

Catbells, in the distance, from Rosthwaite

Rosthwaite no longer looks like a clearing in the woods. Only small stands of trees remain. The buildings cannot be be described as wretched hovels, there are neither wildcats nor weasels to be seen, nor horses for that matter. If there were cairns remarkable enough to name a place they are now gone, perhaps incorporated in the dry stone walls. As we set off, a race looked to be finishing at the village hall. They must have started early.

River Derwent

We followed a farm track which led us to the River Derwent (alternatively said to derive from dwr-gwyn, white water, and derwa, oak tree). The track reaches the river at a ford which has stepping stones, but our route remained this side of the river and we crossed at a stone footbridge a few hundred metres further on. We then walked in sunshine through grassland with Low Scawdel above us.

High Hows Wood allowed us to swap direct sunlight for cooler dappled light beneath its trees. Crab apples hung over the path but were small enough that even I wasn’t tempted to eat any. After crossing a narrow bridge we emerged into the sunshine at a wide curve in the River Derwent. It was still a little early for paddling though.

Old Rover

A little further on we passed a purple Rover. That’s not a flower, but an old car with 1964 plates, parked beside the path.  The next clearing was at Hollows Farm, the half way point of the Cumbria Way (by my estimation). The open ground allowed us a glimpse of Skiddaw,which we had last seen from Stake Pass above the Langstrath. And looking back along Borrowdale gave us a good view of Castle Crag, guarding the valley.

Castle Crag

Being in the open there were more wildflowers by the path: fox and cubs, yarrow, foxglove, bedstraw, bell heather, bird’s foot trefoil, horseshoe vetch, yellow corydalis, and spotted orchids. By now we were looking for a shaded spot for a short break, and after walking across a slope covered with wild thyme, with Blencathra making its first appearance in the distance, we found a shaded tree stump.

This tree stump had coins hammered into it, and I decided to get into the swing of things by pushing in a coin using a handily placed rock. Hopefully it will bring me some luck.

Lucky coins in the wood

After  a brief rest and a cup of coffee we walked a short way to join a minor road for half a kilometre. This was the way we had come on the bus and as we walked the 77A bus came by again. It was getting quite busy around here with plenty of walkers from the nearby Borrowdale Hotel.

The 77

The road walking was soon over and we left the road to head down towards the Lake. The ground here was moorland with bracken and bog myrtle but then became wet enough that boardwalks had been built to carry the footpath. The dry days though meant it was possible to leave the path to have a closer look at the orchids and asphodel growing there.

Spotted Orchids

Catbells was now visible and as we drew closer, walkers on the ridge gave us a better idea of its size and distance from us. Larger and further away than it would have otherwise appeared.

The path then led us down to Derwent Water, with Skiddaw and Blencathra on it far side. Just being beside the water seemed to cool the air a little and knowing we had completed the first half of the day’s walk was a morale booster.

Derwent Water

The path beside the lake was easy walking, and for the most part easy navigation as well. There were open areas filled with bog myrtle and  bracken and then broadleaved woodland. Near Brandlehow Bay we found a sign informing us we were at Rupert’s Wood which had me reminiscing about Rupert the Bear annuals when I was a child. And a little way beyond this wood we found the Teddy in the window, a small teddy bear in the window of a large shed. Walkers had taken the trouble to send him postcards and several were on show in his window.

Derwent Steamer

We passed through a body mass index filter (a narrow bridge) and came down to the landing stage just as the Derwent Steamer was disgorging some of its passengers. We would see several times more as it plied its way up and down the lake.

Brandlehow Hands

The Brandlehow Hands were free for photos and we spent a little time trying to get photos  before stopping for lunch. I had thought about climbing to higher ground for a better view for our rest but we settled instead to climb down to the lakeshore and eat our lunch to the sound of lapping water. There was St John’s Wort nearby just in case we were tempted to induce some CYP3A4, but I stuck to eating sandwiches. It was certainly a nice place for lunch, excellent views, reasonable rocks for seating and shaded from the direct sunlight.

Refreshed and refuelled we set off through more woodland then fields of marsh thistle and then farmland with alpacas.

The Cumbria Way then joined a minor road that took us through Portinscale then along a rather busy footpath into Keswick.  By then the blue sky had filled with cloud and it looked as though the rain wasn’t too far away.

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Cumbria Way: Tethera – Langdale and Langstrath

8.5 miles  5h 59m  ascent 410m


Old Dungeon Ghyll- Stake Pass-Rosthwaite

This was our third Cumbria Way walk. The official third stage runs from Dungeon Ghyll to Keswick but we decided to split the walk and end this day at Rosthwaite. I am pleased we did. The day was a glorious, but the heat got the better of us, sapping our energy such that the walk felt twice as long as the miles we walked.

The walk was originally planned for a weekend but a delay found us walking on a Monday and the differing bus times forced some logistical changes on us. We parked at a pay-and-display in Keswick, took the 555 to Grasmere, and a taxi to Old Dungeon Ghyll, having changed the taxi times often enough to tax the patience of our driver. Audrey repayed his good nature with a chat about sheep and cattle breeds, and a tip.

We arrived back at Old Dungeon Ghyll in much the same weather as the last visit, blue sky and warm still air. I had my new rucksack, an extra 11 litres capacity but still full with the same gear I usually carried in the smaller one. The waistband was tight at first but within a few minutes it needed tightening a few inches. The same thing happens with my trousers belt as well; I’m tempted to take a tape measure along and see how much my waistline changes when walking. Perhaps I stand up straighter when striding out or exertion redistributes my fat acutely.

Raven Crag

We headed up behind the pub and rejoined the Cumbria Way where we had previously left it just below the rocky outcrops of Raven Crag. From here we looked back into Great Langdale then turned west and set off past a wee sign informing us we were now in Mickleden, whose name means big valley. Mickle being an archaic word for large and den, a valley, sharing its origin with words such as dene.

Crinkle Crag and Bowfell

A rocky path runs between a tall stone dyke and the bracken and red sheep’s sorrel of the the hillside. Foxgloves, wild thyme and tormentil added spots of colour and the bog asphodel warned us that there was wet ground about. For scenery we had Crinkle Crags and Bowfell at first then as we turned fully into Mickleden Pike of Stickle came into view with its jutting summit and skirts of scree. As we came closer to the end of the valley the steep slopes of Rosset Pike gave little hint as to how we might climb out.

Pike of Stickle

The valley’s grey herdwicks and their black lambs stood about, occasionally lifting their heads from the grass to watch us pass. Closer to the valley’s end the path approaches Mickleden Beck which has small fairy pools with clear water flowing over multicoloured pebbles.

Mickleden Beck

By now the day had grown very warm, but we were still fresh. A walker ahead of us made it easier to gauge the distance ahead. A cairn marks where the paths to Stake Pass and Esk Hause diverge and though it looked quite close the walker’s size showed it to be further than it would otherwise have seemed.

We crossed a wooden footbridge over Stake Gill, and rested on some flat boulders for a drink and some jelly babies before the effort of the climb up to Langdale Combe. The sheep were wise enough to rest in the shade from the walls of a sheep fold, whereas the humans sat in the sun.  A couple of brown sheep watched as we headed up to Langdale Combe. (I have checked the photographs so I know I wasn’t seeing double).

We took the climb slowly, zig-zagging with the path, but the heat, and the effort both of the climb and of taking notice of each footfall on the uneven rock steps, tired us quickly. I found myself picking a spot ahead then walking up that far and taking a rest. We didn’t fall further behind those ahead of us and weren’t overtaken from behind so I’m happy we kept a reasonable pace.

Langdale Combe

We could see a (false) horizon which marked the steeper climb from more gentle climb across Langdale Combe. We stopped for lunch and a rest, but I was feeling quite warm and decided to dangle my feet in Stake Gill to cool down. I left my boots where we sat and walked barefoot to the stream, my feet and ankles sinking into the warm water of the  peat’s shallow pools. The gill’s clear water though was wonderfully chilled, there was tiny blue milkwort growing on the stream’s bank and mountain air was clean. Had there been a breeze it would have been an idyll.

I had initially sat on a boulder by the gill, but then moved to sit on a grassy bank, only realising later that the ground was damp. I had a soggy bottom. I tried sitting on dry rocks to dry my behind but realised that I would just have to let evaporation do the job. In retrospect I think that this may have helped me shed some heat. Thank you, latent heat of vaporisation.

After paddling I enjoyed my now warm sandwich and drank some of my still cool water. By then my feet had dried and the boots went back on. Rested and cooled we crossed Stake Gill, picking our way over a ford using natural stepping stones. Langdale Combe is a hanging valley filled with post-glacial moraines. The ground was boggy in places and the path occasionally disappeared into boggy ground forcing us up to higher ground. Perhaps I should have carried my boots and walked barefoot through the bog?

Stake Pass

Crossing Langdale Combe took us across the watershed, leaving Stake Gill flowing away to the south and meeting Stake Gill its waters tumbling north over its waterfalls. A cairn at the northern end of Stake pass marks a crossing of routes and also marked the end of our climbing for the day. We paused for photos at the highest point of the day’s walk and then took a short detour to an un-named tarn just above the path. I breathed a sigh of relief as we began our descent into Langstrath thinking end of the climb was the end of our effort. All that remained now was to stroll down to the valley floor then downstream to the end of the walk. But Langstrath is literally the long valley, and the miles were country miles.


The descent into Langstrath we had spectacular views of the valley in brilliant sunshine. But he who looks to the distance ignores his footfalls and the path was treacherous. The path winds down the hillside like a giant ribbon snaking from side to side to beat the gradient. It seemed to have been topped with stones and pebbles so walking on it was akin to walking on scree. We both lost our footing several times despite walking with care, but both stayed upright. And despite this being descent I was exhausted by the effort. As soon as we crossed Stake Beck, on its footbridge, we paused to rest by an ancient Rowan.

Ancient Rowan in Langstrath

Judging by its circumference that tree has stood at the head of the Langstrath through the reigns of six monarchs, for decades before a man-made aeroplane crossed the sky above it,  and may even have been gazed upon by eyes born in the eighteenth century. Humbled, we sat on a nearby boulder and watched the sheep resting in the shadow it had been provided for them and their ancestors all that time. Perhaps shepherds in older times sat on the same rocks, by what was then a wee sapling, and counted their sheep, “yan, tyan, tethera…”.

The ancient rowan was the walk’s half way point, but the first half contained the main ascent and descent. The second half should have been easier and certainly we did not have to face any more climbing. I would love to say that we strolled easily drinking in the surroundings but we were beset by two challenges: the rocky uneven path and the temperature. I don’t know how hot it was but the following day was the hottest day recorded since 1976.

Aaah…1976…’O’ levels, Bohemian Rhapsody, the Wurzel’s Combine Harvester, and a heat wave. (Nostalgia kicked in and had me looking at photos of Manchester from 1976. My it looks old.)

Back to 2017…we strode along the Langstrath joying the sun, the towering valley sides, boulders covered in lichen, (some still showing striations scraped by the glaciers), sheep,  lambs and, hiding in the shade, several tiny carnivorous sundews. Several streams cross the path and were either dried up or easy to cross, but in wetter weather they might have been more of a problem.

Blackpot Moss

Langstrath Beck winds along the valley, perhaps a little less full than it can be, but at Blackmoss pot it enters a rocky ravine and stills to a deep pool. There were several youngsters there climbing the rocky ravine sides to dive into the cool water.

We left the swimmers to their pools and pressed on, but when we reached Greenup Gill the water was just too enticing and our bodies just too hot to walk past. So below the footbridge we stopped to cool in the water. In retrospect I think both of us were showing early signs of overheating so the rest and cooling were more than just for comfort.

Greenup Gill

The bridge above our heads had a small plaque dedicating it to a young man who had died in the valley from exhaustion in 1939. A reminder that this beautiful and calm place of nature’s powers.

Cooled, and rested, we set off alongside Stonethwaite Beck, but now at least we were walking in woodland and I found myself wondering why the ancients worshipped the sun but seemed not to have sent their prayers to a god of the shade. (PS on reflection, I suppose the deity to thank would be the one controlling the trees).

The path

We continued to stumble over rocks never daring to mention when the path flattened out in case in made it become rocky again. I had slipped into trudge mode and found myself counting my paces to check we were walking at a reasonable pace. There was some question as to whether we should take a detour to Stonethwaite for a chilled drink or press on for Rosthwaite. The choice was uncertain until we reached the Stonethwaite bridge, but once there we looked at each other and decided to keep going for Rosthwaite, which by then was only 20 minutes away.

At Rosthwaite we headed straight for the pub and a well deserved ice-cold drink. Due to a misunderstanding we missed the bus, but that gave us an excuse to have a second drink.

A short journey on the 78 bus returned us to Keswick and the car.


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Some more photos….


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