Today I drive to Glasson, park beside the Highland Laddie Inn, and set off along the road towards Carlisle
Yesterday was freezing cold and blowing a gale, with lashing rain. So, instead of going walking, I trailed around Carlisle and visited the cathedral. Today, thank goodness, the rain has cleared and the wind has dropped. Later, it should even turn sunny!
After a mile of road walking, I reach the village of Drumburgh and walk past an impressively solid farmhouse.
Further along, an information board explains the farmhouse is actually a local ‘bastle’, or mini-castle. It was built using stones taken from Hadrian’s Wall and was an important defensive structure for the villagers.
Why did they build a bastle? Because of frequent raids by both the Scots and a bunch of lawless pirates who cruised up and down the River Eden. These pirates were called Border Reivers. I’d never heard of them before, but want to find out more. It would make a great setting for a novel…
The fortified farmhouse is best seen on this photograph (below) looking back at Drumburgh. It’s on the left hand side of the road.
Beyond Drumburgh, the road heads across a low marsh. More warning signs about flooding. To the right of the road is a raised bank, which at first I think is the remains of Hadrian’s Wall, but later I realise is simply the route of a disused railway line!
Hadrian’s wall did run through here, somewhere… my map is unclear about the exact route.
I’m soon bored of road walking, and decide to cut off to the left, across the marsh, so that I can walk closer to the water.
Here I find another raised bank. Maybe this has been built as a defence against the river? Or maybe it’s an old trackway? Or maybe it’s even the remains of Hadrian’s wall? I don’t know. But it makes a pleasant route and keeps me away from the traffic on the road.
The sun shines intermittently, the wind has dropped, and this is one of those bright, spring days that makes your heart sing. My photographs don’t really do justice to the scenery. It appears featureless, but is full of twittering birds, sparkling light, and rippling water.
After a couple of miles I come to a deep cut full of fast-flowing water. Up until this point, I’ve been able to jump across small waterways, or have found crude footbridges laid across them – wooden planks or concrete slabs. But here there is no way over.
I turn inland and head back to the road. No horses are allowed to exercise on the marsh, says a sign by the cattle grid. I wonder why not?
Beyond the cattle grid is Burgh Marsh, an Open Access area according to my OS map. I head back across the marsh to reach the shore again.
The edge of the bank shows signs of recent erosion. I know Cumbria has had more than its fair share of rain recently, with terrible floods last year. Is the erosion new? Or is it an ongoing situation?
In the distance I see a man walking a dog, but otherwise the place is deserted. People do come this way, though. I walk across several simple bridges and follow some rutted tracks.
I’m tempted to try to see if I can walk all the way into Carlisle along the bank of the Eden. But, beyond Burgh Marsh, there are no public footpaths shown on my map, and I’m nervous of adding too many unplanned miles to my walk. (Yet again, I have to catch a bus back to my car at the end of the day, and I mustn’t miss the last one.)
So, as I begin to draw level with a village called Dykesfield, I turn inland once more.
It takes me longer than I expect to reach the road, because the marsh is full of little surprises. Small streams appear out of nowhere. What look like trodden paths, turn out to be water-filled ditches covered in weeds – giving the illusion of solid ground.
I end up doing a lot of jumping and sploshing. Thank goodness I’m wearing proper boots today, and have brought my walking pole with me! I’m actually quite glad to reach tarmac again. There’s Dykesfield ahead.
As the road comes to the end of the marsh, I see a sign.
Danger from fast
flowing tides & quick
sands. Take care.
NOW you tell me! I’ve just spent the best part of a couple of hours sploshing around in the marsh. A bit late!
As I enter Dykesfield, I see a handy bench. Time for a drink and a snack. While I’m sitting there, a car pulls up beside me, a window rolls down, and an American lady calls out.
‘Do you know where the wall is?’ she asks.
‘You mean Hadrian’s Wall? You won’t find much of it left around here. Just a bank where it used to run.’
‘Oh.’ She looks disappointed. ‘We were looking for a big wall.’
It’s the second time on this trip I’ve come across people looking for an actual wall. Perhaps the tourist signs – proudly proclaiming this to be the Hadrian’s Wall path – should be a little more explicit about what to expect?
Onwards. Through Dykesfield and into Burgh by Sands. The name implies this was once a seaside place, not a marsh village.
I remember walking through Grange over Sands and Parkgate – other places where the beach has been replaced by encroaching marshland. It’s another reminder of the restless nature of the coastline – constantly advancing, retreating, reforming.
In Burgh by Sands I see two other long-distance walkers. Women. They’re on the opposite side of the road, and I don’t have the chance to chat to them. Are they walking Hadrian’s Wall? If so, they’ve nearly finished.
Nearly finished? For a moment I catch a mental glimpse of the map of Britain, and how much further I have to go around the coast… almost seven years of walking and still so much to do… it’s easy to get downhearted if you look too far ahead. Stop it, Ruth.
I come across a statue of Edward I, who died locally while campaigning against Robert of Bruce. (He didn’t actually die of war wounds, but of dysentery, something the plaque on the statue doesn’t mention!).
And, next to the statue is a welcome sight. A pub! It’s open. And serving food. To be honest, I think the food is a bit pricey for a village pub, but I order a couple of starters (and a pint of cider) and enjoy the opportunity for a rest.
The barmaid tells me I’m about half way to Carlisle. She’s used to serving walkers.
I leave Burgh by Sands and run out of pavement. The traffic is heavier here, so I’m pleased to discover the footpath follows the edge of a field alongside the road.
I’m worrying about my chosen route. I could have looped around to the next village (Beaumont) following minor roads and footpaths. Instead, I decided to follow the official long-distance trail of Hadrian’s Wall Path. This cuts out the loop of road walking, but makes me feel anxious about ‘cheating’, because the roads would actually take me closer to the water
But it’s river water, not seashore, so my rules don’t cover this particular situation… do they? If I wasn’t pressed for time… but this walk is long enough already and I’ve got that bus to catch…
No good dithering. Onwards.
The first bit of the Hadrian’s Wall route looks wonderful, running across a field, along a line of ancient trees.
The next bit isn’t so wonderful. It’s a track, churned up by farm machinery and often ankle-deep with mud. I don’t mind a bit of mud, but when it threatens to overtop your boots… yuck!
Walking through the mud is slow going. It’s slippery, and I try to avoid the worst bits by climbing sideways along the steep grassy verge, hanging onto the prickly bramble bushes and collecting more scratches.
I make such slow progress that I actually think it might have been quicker to walk around the loop of roads after all!
Thank goodness – I’ve reached Beaumont.
I was hoping to join the riverside path here, but the path is closed due to landslips (according to the sign fixed to the post in the photo above) and there’s a diversion in place.
Never mind. I’m feeling slightly relieved. The diversion follows the road and I need to make up for lost time.
I pass the village church. It’s surrounded by cheerful daffodils, and is perched on an impressive mound (actually, on the site of an old Norman castle).
Later I learn the church was built in the 13th century from stone pilfered from Hadrian’s wall. No wonder there’s nothing left of the wall!
It’s a farming village. I pass an open barn door and see a mournful looking cow. She wants to be out, but I’m glad she’s still inside. I’ve not had to walk through any cow-filled fields this year yet.
From Beaumont, I follow a quiet lane towards the next village, Kirkandrews-on-Eden. I walk in the middle of the road, blissfully unaware that the local bus follows this route, and rollicks down the road at a tremendous pace (I discover this later, of course!).
In Kirkandrews-on-Eden, the diversion comes to an end, and I follow the footpath signs along a lane. It leads me back towards the official Hadrian’s Wall Path.
After a short trek along a very marshy stretch along the bottom of a bank, the path climbs up some steps and I end up standing on top of a raised bank.
I realise, with a thrill, I’m standing on the famous Vallum of Hadrian’s wall. The Vallum is the defensive bank that runs just south of the wall and in many places, including this one, is all that remains of the original structure.
This is more like it! I enjoy walking along firmer ground, with good views over the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately the sun decides to spend a lot of time behind clouds again, so my photographs are rather gloomy and need tweaking on my computer.
I come to Sourmilk Bridge. What an unpleasant name! Was the water tainted and did it make the cows ill?
The path joins a track. Love the acorn signs, and I’m still walking on the raised Vallum.
Then the route leaves the bank, and comes down towards Grinsdale. There’s a large farm ahead…
… and the path winds around the farm and through the village until, finally, I’m back on the banks of the River Eden.
This stretch of the walk is pleasant. The sun comes in and out. The path runs on a bank beside the river, along a screen of trees.
Sometimes it dips down into little valleys, crossing tributary streams via well-constructed footbridges. (One of the advantages of following a proper National Trail is that the path is usually well-maintained.)
I reach a road bridge – the busy A689 – a new bypass I believe, because on Google Maps it looks as if it’s still being constructed. The Hadrian’s Wall path dips down to pass along a cutting and under the road.
The scenery changes. Although the path runs through fields, there are rows of pylons ahead, chimneys, warehouses, and the noise of an industrial estate to my right.
Further along, and more diversion signs appear. This part of the river has suffered land slips too. The suggested diversion would take me inland and along roads.
Actually, I’m secretly pleased at the thought of road-walking. I’m running short of time and need to speed up if I want to catch the 4:30 pm bus back to Glasson and my car. The next bus is the last bus of the day, leaving at 6 pm.
I’m walking through an area of rough parkland. To my right are residential houses…
… and the path takes me up and into a small housing estate, by way of an impressive looking gateway.
It’s always a shock to end up on a busy street after miles of walking in quiet countryside. This is the route the bus will take (number 93, back through Glasson and on to Bowness). But I want to reach the city centre before I jump onto the bus, because that’s where I want to start tomorrow’s walk.
In fact, I reach the bus stop in the centre with 5 minutes to spare. Good going.
The bus is relatively crowded and the trip back to Glasson takes 35 minutes. We cover much of the route I walked earlier. It’s kind of nice to relive my day’s walking route, even though it’s speeded up and backwards!
Miles walked today = 12 miles
Total distance around coast = 3,029