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Tue 18th October 2011

Hadrian's wall, part 10 - Burgh on Sands to Bowness

Hadrian's wall, part 10 - Burgh on Sands to Bowness

Day ten and the final leg of our journey across the isthmus linking the east and west coasts which started ten months ago back in January in sunny Tynemouth, how time flies.  It may have been sunny when we started this series of walks but there was snow on the ground too, and plenty of icy patches so we’ve walked through all four seasons – sometimes in a single day, do you remember the Force 8 westerly gale on the day we started from Brocolitia for instance?   

With only a nominal 7.1 miles to cover we enjoyed the luxury of a more leisurely pace even though some of us met at Kirkharle for 8.00 am for the drive over to Carlisle and beyond, the narrow main street of Bowness-on- Solway certainly has the feel of “beyond.”  The use of the company people carrier is really appreciated by all for longer transfers.   A civilised start included morning coffee (from flasks) before boarding the minibus for the drive back to our starting point at the now familiar cattle grid near Dykesfield.  Alighting here sight wasn’t the dominant sense, surrounded as we were by incontinence; some of us had only just got our kit clean from last month!

The three miles to Drumbrough (pronounced Drumbruff) were uneventful if you discount elevenses at the rather posh shelter overlooking the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Boustead Hill.  The village has a unique assortment of different styles of housing and is built on a drumlin, a remnant of the last Ice Age but I don’t think anyone was listening by then – I’m used to it by now.  Far more interesting was watching one of our numbers tucking into a third breakfast and repacking his rucksack for the umpteenth time, what a hero.  Oh yes, and someone else literally “put his foot in it” which I fully accept was my fault for suggesting we walk on the salt marsh away from the traffic, sorry honestly.  If we hadn’t come this way we wouldn’t have seen the haff netting frame on the edge of the saltmarsh, a rare and ancient form of fishing unique to the estuaries of the North West.  As we approached Drumbrugh we were passed by a convoy of classic tractors, little (by today’s standards) Massey Fergusons, David Brown and International Harvester models en-route to somewhere – we didn’t see them again after that, not even the one flying the Union flag.  Their drivers were very gracious and waved to us as they passed and not a single piece of bailing twine in sight anywhere.  Team photographs in front of Drumbrugh Castle having studied this bastle house and noted the Roman alter at the top of the steps with a possible second one at ground level.

Down the lane from Drumbrugh towards Drumbrugh Moss National Nature Reserve, a raised bog, eventually took us past Walker House Farm, an apt name in the circumstances.  The sections of the walk in the vicinity of Drumbrugh and Glasson proved to be very wet and muddy.  As we were quite close to the respective mosses named after them and the fact that the highest point in the area was only 13 metres - and that in the middle of the raised bog it isn’t surprising!  Lunch was taken perched on some articulated farm machinery to keep out of the mud.  One of the smallest and lightest of our number clearly hadn’t absorbed the moments of a force part of her physics education  however causing havoc with everyone else’s carefully balanced sandwich boxes and flasks and cups – how we laughed.  Having just packed everything away ready to move off it poured down, waterproofs on we squelched towards Port Carlisle.  This was intended as the outport for Carlisle itself linked initially by a canal and replaced 30 years by a faster rail link.  After failing as a port it was promoted as a resort which also failed.

Just short of the failed port’s dilapidated breakwater and harbour installations we stopped to take off said waterproofs because the sun came out and remained so for the rest of our walk.  On the red sandstone breakwaters the ornithologists spotted a solitary little egret and a grey heron plus lots of lapwings, oystercatchers.  Some ducks, probably pochard ducks judging by their reddish-heads were in the water beyond these structures.  Cormorants flew along the firth at low level whilst the westbound contrails of North American bound passenger jets passed overhead considerably higher.  Sunbathing session over we followed the shoreline past the remains of the lock gates with their smoothly crafted masonry around the seaward side of the village towards Bowness only just over a mile distant.  The flood tide was coming-in quite quickly now as we reverted to the road walk between the two settlements.  On arrival at Bowness we made our way to the official end of the walk for celebratory photographs and returned to our vehicles.

A celebratory drink, alcohol for some, tea for others, was taken at The Greyhound in Burgh-by-Sands on the way home along with a very nicely decorated Hadrian’s Wall cake courtesy of A (thank you VERY much indeed).  We all really appreciated it and Three Breakfasts Man even took some of the remaining cake away with him in case of an emergency stop in a lay-by on the way home!!!!!!  In the last few months we have seen and experienced several different landscapes, in a range of different conditions, in addition to the focus of the Roman Wall itself.  We are really lucky to live in such a diverse and accessible landscape.  Equally importantly we have come to know each other quite well, to appreciate on another’s personality and sense of humour so that the banter has been light hearted and a real and genuine pleasure.  I’ve really looked forward to our walks; they have been more than the sum of their parts.  I hope you all feel the same and that there are many more to come in the future.


Mon 10th October 2011

Goats on the Roof - Oct

Goats on the Roof - Oct

It was a wet and windy day that greeted us all as we met at Goats on the Roof, but the lively group was not going to let a few drops of rain dampen their day.

After skirting Fontburn Reservoir for a short distance we were soon climbing our way up through Greenleighton Farm to a super vantage point of the reservoir down below. The climb had certainly warmed us all up and as we stopped we could just see Simonside poking through the mist and after plenty of talk about hefted sheep, and raking them up and down the hillside, it was time to follow the line of the ‘shake holes’.

We turned into the wind as we continued to the highest point of the walk, Greenleighton Hill.

The wind was not as bad as originally feared and we could stop at the trig point.

Then it was down to the ‘wall that Jon built’ as we discussed the building process of dry stone walls and also we had a good opportunity to discuss the farm as a whole. After skirting around the edge of the farm steading we found a great sheltered spot for lunch well out of the wind.

After lunch we continued on, heading towards Harwood Forest. Rather than entering the forest we looked and discussed the remote farm of Fallowlees, which was once part of the Wallington Estate before the vast majority of the farm being planted with trees.

After a quick stop off at the Iron Age burial site and the cup and ring marks we where back walking along the edge of Fontburn Reservoir.

Just as we reached Goats on the Roof the rain starting coming down again, this gave a superb excuse for a hot drink for all.

It had been a great walk. Superb company and even if the weather was not the greatest it did not take away from the walk. Thanks and I hope to see you all again.


Wed 5th October 2011

Pennine Way, part 7 - Padon Hill to Byrness

Pennine Way, part 7 - Padon Hill to Byrness

Sundance has totally given up, several days of super hot days with wall to wall sunshine and what does he get for his walk? Mist and drizzle and to make matters worse it’s still warm, never mind- being a hero he can cope.

After a mixed drive of thick mist/fog to fairly good visibility all the group of intrepid walkers arrived at Byrness.  Mike was his usual pessimistic self going round and telling every one ‘that it is going to be wet underfoot’.  We ignored him until he told us to get in the mini bus and we set off for the start.

The mini bus pulled up at the cattle grid where the Pennine Way crosses the road.  After a short delay as Mike explained that there was little for him to witter about, we set out along the Pennine Way and off into the mist.  A good footpath took us over Padon Hill but it misses the monument by a couple of hundred metres.  We did not even see the monument as it was lost in the mist.

The going became wetter as we crossed the head of the Dargues Burn, a steep slippery climb that left us all hot ‘Glowing’ and out of breath, and lead us up to Brownrigg Head. 

By now the mist had lifted a little but not enough to give us any distant views.  We continued in northerly direction with Kielder Forest on our left acting as a wind break.  The going was not too bad although it was wet underfoot with numerous boggy patches to be dodged around.  As Mike got the camera out once more one of our less vain members try to get out of the photo by taking a step back, into a deep hole and so promptly fell over much to Mike’s delight as he now had his ‘really embarrassing’ photo. The going changed for the worse as we entered the forest and the footpath varied from boggy to very boggy.  Eventually we reached a forest track and stopped for lunch.

After lunch we started to walk along the track which we would lead us eventually to Blakehopeburnhaugh and the river Rede.  As we followed the track we reached a point were the Pennine Way left the track and ran parallel to it for about 300m and about 50m away.  Mike led the determined ‘I have walked all the Pennine Way route while the more sensible ones continued on the forestry track.

As it had been raining since lunch the head high vegetation was very wet, the path once more was boggy and very quickly the intrepid explorers were wet. After a 100m or so most Pennine Way walkers had given up and made a detour back to the track but we continued on over 5ft ditches, hidden tree stumps, bogs and generally no path, eventually we reached the track again to see the others some 1Km ahead and waiting for us to catch up. 

After a pleasant but rather damp walk we reached the loos at the end of the Forestry Commission’s toll road from Kielder village to the A68.  From here the Pennine Way follows the east bank of the River Rede.  Once more we found the going muddy, slippery and in one place very boggy at Cottonhopesburnfoot.  We crossed the river by a small road bridge this lead, by another forestry track, to the ford and footbridge across the river near the Raw. It was now only a short walk back to the cars at Byrness.

From Alston to Byrness following the Pennine Way we have walked approx. 53mls (85Km) and climbed 7100ft (2164m). 

Next April we continue the Pennine Way, then join St. Cuthbert’s Way at Kirk Yetholm to the road crossing to Lindisfarne then we will follow the North Sea Trail to Berwick to complete a South to North crossing of Northumberland.