Hadrian's Wall, part 9 - Carlisle to Burgh-by-Sands
Tue 20th September 2011
This was the penultimate section of our series of monthly walks from Tynemouth west along the length of Hadrian’s Wall to Bowness on Solway. It is hard to believe that the first day was as long ago as January.
The innovation of using the company people carrier for some of the longer distance transfers has proved a real success and positively encouraged the “team spirit” (and/or plotting) that longer series of walks engender. Having played ”Hunt the Open Garage” en-route to our destination with the co-pilot regularly updating the “talking freight” in the rear that we had “four bars,” then “three bars” showing on the panel. We visited Hexham to find the garage being refurbished and closed so refuelled on the A69 near Henshaw. Our co-pilot now ceased regular fuel state updates in his distinctive north of the border accent. On arrival at our designated assembly point we found that Speedy had predictably beaten us to the venue and already folded-in the wings in of her Golf GTi. The County Durham Two were also there and had kindly left me a puddle to park in, the only available space left if you ignore the wide expanses of the salt marshes and the Solway Firth itself! Neither was the “mud” on the roadside actually mud but distinctly reminded one of eau-de-farmyard.
Nevertheless it was a bright, warm day with a gentle wind and no sooner had we donned boots when the minibus arrived for the transfer to Carlisle. Debussing we opted for a comfort break at the Sands Centre whilst our second in command declared the first of several (i.e. many) “snack stops.” I tried (valiantly but in vain) to explain the day’s route, the landscape changes to be seen along the way – 19th century industrial landscape of Carlisle, the lower River Eden landscape and the beginning of the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – “they” were getting demob happy.
We set off following the giant meanders of the R Eden through Bitt’s Park past charming industrial dereliction with the river running high and fast on our right side. The unshaven one (one of the notorious Co Durham Two) kept stopping to take off, or add, clothing resulting in upsetting the gods so that by the time we reached the railway bridge carrying the west coast main line over the R Eden it started to precipitate. This set a pattern that continued on and off for the remainder of the day giving an overall high coefficient-of-squelch for the day’s route as measured by the muddy overtrousers and boots index at our eventual destination.
Rain stopped play necessitating a standing lunch (far too wet to sit down) just outside of Grinsdale by the river when we experienced a prolonged slow moving and quite heavy shower. The team were separated into sub-groups by the available tree cover. Number one and number two i/c (they allow us to think that we are actually in command, a bit like being married really) were unfortunately separated from the others and deep in intelligent conversation about navigational techniques when we noticed the others making fun of our endeavours – situation normal. Further grinning was done in Grinsdale (get it?) when we passed the Grinsdale food cache in the form of a stocked fridge for Wall Walkers to purchase supplies. Number 2 i/c was reminded of the need for another snack.
A little further on we crossed the soon to be opened Carlisle north-west by-pass by means of two really expensive, but temporary, stiles with a gleaming new Range Rover parked a few metres away. The team thought there day had come but we ignored the luxury and led them past without even acknowledging that we had even seen it. Here we encountered some very odd locals walking up and down a completely empty length of new and unopened road, very strange. Onwards past the outskirts of Kirkandrews-on-Eden towards Beaumont the riverside path became really wet and sticky and progress slowed by the steep slopes we had to cross.
Everyone’s boots and overtrousers were now a uniform shapeless brown colour from mud skating if you had no poles, and mud skiing if you did. So traumatic was the experience that No 2 i/c declared yet another snack break right there on the very edge of posh Beaumont. The second of the Co Durham Two (not the unshaven one) declared himself “ready to go” and was about to set-off when his attention was drawn to his jacket casually draped over a farm gate by pointing and laughing a lot – teamwork again!
Whilst ploughing onwards through the mud, another of our number, a former D of E person, regaled us with comparisons of real mud and monsoons experienced in India and Nepal. Apparently this was nothing – and anyway we didn’t even have malaria or dysentery or anything remotely serious. This made No 2 i/c anxious and therefore hungry again. The experience and steadying influence of the wise married couple helped enormously with team dynamics at this stage of the walk mud slide. Was all of this banter genuine, or were “they” really plotting against “us” and making fun of me? Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get me.
Belmont to Burgh by Sands (local pronunciation is Brough apparently) provided yet more soggy and muddy stretches before emerging onto the road to paddle through puddles and dodge being sprayed by playful motorists – I could only conclude that they are out to get us. High tide had come and gone in our absence and to the relief of everyone the cars were where we left them and hadn’t been filled with water in the interim.
GTi woman “took-off” not very closely followed by the Co Durham Two, they didn’t stand a chance of keeping up. The remainder of us, the Kirkharle Returners made sedate progress home with no need of one, two or three bar fuel state reports from our co-pilot. On arrival at Kirkharle the said near-side front passenger of distinctive accent had relaxed too much and had to be helped to his car. After an absence of several weeks we hope we haven’t killed him.
So all in all an excellent day out with smashing group of people, lots of friendly banter (I think?) and in the case of No 2 i/c, food. Yes, he did have a snack when we got back to the vehicles, and when we got back to Kirkharle – I’m just jealous. Is my driving really so bad? Please don’t answer that. Why do the photos of the day show so many smiling faces? Very suspicious. Have they got it in for me after all?
Thanks for another great day out everyone – honestly. I’m looking forward to the next one already but it is a pity it will be the last of the series. We must get something else organised.