Hadrians Wall, part 8 - Walton to Carlisle
Mon 29th August 2011
Using the people carrier proved a definite success and made for a sociable journey both before and after the event. A civilised start at The Sands Leisure Centre in Carlisle meant access to “facilities” and ground coffee before boarding the minibus for the transfer to Walton. We started our walk outside of the now closed Centurion Inn precisely where we finished our walk a month ago. The weather was dry, overcast and with a cool north westerly wind blowing, definitely autumnal.
As the start of this section of the walk was so far west we weren’t actually walking until 11.10 am, or latest start to date. The first half of the route followed the line of the Roman Ditch which was always more prominent than the Vallum that was often a field away south of our track. We encountered some quite wet and muddy sections but we were pleasantly surprised that the whole route wasn’t worse overall considering the recent rainfall totals. The weir just below the footbridge over the Cam Beck between Walton and Newtown was making it presence heard and the water was heavily peat stained for example. Newtown proved to be a lovely little settlement laid out around a large village green. The variety of building styles, conditions and ages was striking and very pleasant. Between Whiteflat and Oldwall the hangars of Carlisle Airport were prominent just to the south reinforced by light aircraft doing circuits. The course of the Roman Stanegate(linking Corbridge to Carlisle) passes right through the middle of the airfield.
Lunch was taken out of the wind in the lee of hedge immediately before the renovated Blea Tarn Farm just after the unexpected and very much appreciated temporary toilet (flushing, running water, soap – luxury) and just before the self-service tuck box; we were still dry so things just couldn’t have been better! Throughout this part of the route we were walking on a straight raised causeway which comprised the foundations of the Wall itself with the Ditch on our right hand side. Soon afterwards we turned south towards Crosby-on-Eden for the second phase of the walk which essentially crossed the floodplain of the river Eden following the large meanders. Walking via Linstock we crossed the M6 by a cattle bridge just after yet another farm offering refreshments for Hadrian’s Wall walkers. Cumbria seemed to us to be more attuned to providing services for walkers as part of farm diversification, or are they just more tourist orientated? The situation is much improved on Hunter Davies’s observations made in his 1974 book “A Walk Along the Wall.”
The walk into and around the back of the former estate hamlet of Rickerby allowed us to see the folly in the field to the north and the eclectic collection of building styles found there, this being the creation of a former landowner with the unusual name of George Head Head. Turning south through Rickerby Park past the War Memorial to cross over the River Eden by the pedestrian bridge opened in 1922 the huge earth bunds and massive floodgates reminded us of the need to maintain flood defences. The most extensive recent flooding occurred in 2005 but 2009 saw inundation on a more restricted scale. Approaching the end of the walk between the river and a golf course we arrived back at the Sands Leisure Centre. Until redeveloped this was the site of the city’s livestock market. Walking up the final slope from the floodplain we passed through an open floodgate to finish adjacent to The Sands car park and opposite oddly shaped Turf public house. The odd shape, a steeply tiered and completely out of proportion sloping east “roof” was actually a grandstand for the Carlisle former racecourse now replaced by a golf course occupying the inside of the meander loop known as The Swifts. It started to rain just after we’d changed out of our boots, excellent timing at the end of a good day’s walk. Only two sections left to do now!
28th August 2011