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Thursday, 28 July 2016

Walk 185 Carlisle to Bowness on Solway (Cumbria)

Walk 185 Carlisle to Bowness on Solway (Cumbria)

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 85
Distance: 15 miles or 24 km approx
Difficulty: Fairly easy, mostly flat, although surprising amount of small ups and downs alongside the River Eden.
Terrain: roads, coastal and river paths. At times the road between Solway Firth and Burgh by Sands can flood up to 2 feet or more so check the tides and beware if heavy rain or recent flooding in the area.
Access: Parking in each location
Public transport: 93 bus runs a few times a day back to Carlisle Bus Station. Last one from Bowness is 18:58. Or you could get the 9:10 bus from Carlisle and walk back from Bowness.

Looking around Carlisle is not possible on this day but would recommend a half or whole day to visit Carlisle Castle and a look around the town. Look out for the Citadel or Court Houses which are built in the red brick typical of this town. The towers were built by Thomas Telford in 1810 and replaced similar structures built by HenryV111 in 1542 as an additional defence for the castle. The castle was built in 1092 by William Rufus and later served as a prison for Mary Queen of Scots. Before the Norman Conquest, Carlisle was part of Scotland and was not mentioned in the Domesday Book. William Rufus took the town for England in 1092. The castle was used in the Civil War and was held by he Royalist then the Parliamentarians. The last battle it saw was in 1745 when there was a Jacobite Rising led by Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Carlisle was a big centre for textile manufacturing after the Industrial Revolution. In the town centre check out Carlisle Cross, also known as Market Cross, which was erected in 1682. The lion on top has one of its paws on a book of the city and below there are four sundials.

Join the Cumbria Coastal Way on the western/southern side of the River Eden and walk seawards. Only a few steps inland just past Grinsdale is (or was) St Kentigern's Church. It was built in the 18th century on the site of a much older church. The saint, became Bishop of Glasgow and died in about 612. When I was looking at the outside of the church a man approached me and asked if I would like to look inside. Turns out he was an estate agent planning to convert the church into a residential property. I wonder what it looks like now.......

The River Eden can be very attractive in parts especially when the sun shines. At Beaumont the path crosses inland and follows the Hadrian's Wall Path. At Burgh by Sands (no sands that I could see) look out for St Michael's Church which was built using stone from the Roman wall. Soon after this point you could take a diversion to Old Sandsfield and view the memorial to Edward 1st (hammer of the Scots) who died when he was on his way to mete out rough treatment to Robert the Bruce in 1307. If you don't fancy this diversion then keep walking and you will come to the Greyhound pub where and stone and statue erected in 2007 marks the 700th anniversary of his death aged 68. The pub gets its name from the greyhounds that were trained by Lord Lonsdale on Burgh Marsh during World War 2.

Continue along the old Roman road to Drumburgh with its views to the Solway coast. It was designated an area of outstanding natural beauty in 1964. The small village of Drumburgh was the site of a Roman fort. In the 14th century a Pele Tower House (small, fortified house) known as Drumburgh castle was built with stone from Hadrian's Wall. You can still see this with its main door on the first floor as extra protection from raids across the estuary.

About 2 to 3 miles along the road is Port Carlisle which has a small island just offshore. Port Carlisle was originally a fishing village with the name Fishers Cross. The port was built in 1819 with a canal link to Carlisle. Unfortunately, it closed in 1853 due to financial difficulties and silting. The roads along this stretch are subject to flooding at high tides.

The final stop is Bowness on Solway. St Michael's Church in the village had its bells stolen by Scottish raiders in 1626 then Bowness villagers retaliated by taking the bells from a church near Annan in Scotland. Every new vicar in Annan requests the return of the bells but it is always refused!

Before leaving Bowness make sure you check out the western end of Hadrian's Wall. A plaque here marks the western end of the wall and notes that it is 73 miles from Wallsend at the eastern end.

Photos: St Kentigern's Church at Grinsdale on the River Eden (as it was a couple of years ago); Greyhound Pub at Burgh by Sands; the western end of Hadrian's Wall at Bowness on Solway.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Walk 184 Gretna Green (Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland) to Carlisle (Cumbria)

Walk 184 Gretna Green (Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland) to Carlisle (Cumbria)

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 85
Distance: 15 miles or 25 km approx
Difficulty: Easy, mostly flat
Terrain: roads, coastal and river paths.
Access: Parking in each location
Public transport: Trains between Carlisle and Gretna

The start is in Gretna (means place of the gravelly hill) which is in Scotland but walking from here ensures the border can be crossed into England. While in the village it is worth walking up to the famous Blacksmith's Shop where marriages have been held right up to the present day.

Gretna's claim to fame came in 1753 when Lord Hardwick's Marriage Act was passed in England. If both parties intending to marry were under 21 parental consent was needed. However, in Scotland the law did not apply, boys here were allowed to marry at 14, and girls at 12, without parental consent. Hence young couples fled to the nearest point in Scotland to get legally married. Look out for the anvil sculpture in the village which marks the millennium

On the road walk out of Gretna you pass the last house in Scotland which is also a marriage venue boasting over 10,000 marriages since 1830. Next is the border marked by the 'Welcome to England' sign. The walk continues on the minor road which runs southwards near to the motorway. A tedious, noisy and not very pleasant walk.

A pub called The Metal Bridge is on the southern side of the concrete bridge and comes from the original Thomas Telford designed bridge constructed in 1815. On the north side of the River Esk there was a huge World War 1 munitions factory employing over 30,000 people. The drinking of alcohol became a problem so the government took over all the pubs in and around Carlisle and strict rules on drunkenness were applied. The scheme persisted until the 1970s when it was sold off.

The walk across the fields along The Cumbria Coastal Way takes you to the River Eden and Rockliffe. The walk passes through farmland and when it enters a farm the gates and stiles are (were) in a poor state. I negotiated these and was soon attacked and bitten by a group of dogs which appeared from the farm. They eventually ran off but my shouts were ignored by the farmer. In view of this, a better alternative route may be to follow the cycle route along the roads marked on the OS map.

Rockliffe has had a lively past including warfare with Scottish raiders and the smuggling of whisky from Scotland. It was also a commercial port with activities including shipbuilding. Look out for the few remnants of old wooden jetties along the river and the ship weather vane on top of the church. Good evidence of the past.

From here it is a pleasant but long walk into Carlisle which is the county town of Cumbria and was originally a Roman settlement to serve Hadrian's Wall. 

Photos: The last house in Scotland; The Metal Bridge pub on the River Esk; view along River Eden on the way into Carlisle.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Walk 183 Clevedon to Portishead. Severn Beach. Bristol

Walk 183 Clevedon to Portishead. Severn Beach. Bristol. 

(Third leg of English coastal walk – Lands End to Bristol)

Map: L/R 172
Distance: 12 km or 8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: roads, coastal path.
Access: Parking in each location
Public transport: Buses every 45 minutes between Clevedon and Portishead. Trains from Bristol Temple Mead to Severn Beach.

This walk is split into 3 sections. The first between Clevedon and Portishead, the second around Severn Beach and the third in Bristol. It is a good idea to visit Bristol if you can as there is much maritime history to be seen including the SS Great Britain, The Matthew replica (the sailing ship of the explorer Cabot) and the V Shed Museum with its comprehensive story of the city. I would also recommend a trip to the Brunel Clifton Bridge and the open bus tour which takes you there and other places of interest in the city.

For the first walk, start at the south of Clevedon and walk along Salthouse Bay and up to Clevedon Pier. This was opened in 1869 and is one of the oldest Victorian piers still in existence. It is a Grade 1 Listed Building which collapsed in 1970 and was rebuilt in 2001. The building at the front of the pier is The Toll House and it was built at the same time as the pier, It is in the style of a castle and was accommodation for the pier master. For some time there were salt-water baths next to the pier.

Clevedon goes back a long way and is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a small settlement. It was an agricultural village prior to Victorian times when it became a popular seaside resort. The first large scale production of penicillin took place in the town.

The walk to Portishead passes through low open cliffs and quiet copses eventually passing through a caravan settlement before reaching the outskirts of Portishead. Alongside Kilkenny Bay there is a golf course and soon you reach Battery Point Lighthouse built in 1931. Originally, there was a fort here used during the English Civil War by the Royalists. Guns were also placed on the point during World War 2.

Portishead has a long history as a fishing port. The dock area has now been redeveloped into a marina. Walking away from the coast and back towards the town there is a man made lake built 100 years ago. One of the few remaining UK outdoor swimming pools is nearby.

For the sake of completing the coastal settlements in the south west it is worth going to Severn Beach and a reasonably pleasant walk along the Severn Way. Looking back towards the south is the heavy industrialised area of Avonmouth. Walking northwards takes you under the M4/48 and Severn Road Bridges.

Severn Beach village only existed as a farm until 1900 when the railway saw its potential as a seaside resort. In 1922 the village was created with a swimming pool called the Blue Lagoon, a boating lake and a club. Now it is more of a commuter settlement.

Photos show: Clevedon Pier and Severn Beach across The Avon with motorway bridge.

This is the end of Leg 3 of the coastal walk of England.