Posted by: Rachel | July 15, 2014

Day 11 – The end of our expedition

St Mary's Church, Beaumont

St Mary’s Church, Beaumont

village green

The village green

Our final day’s walk began bright and sunny, and we set off from Kirkandrews only to discover that the path by the river had been closed because of a landslip some months previously, and we had to walk along the road to Beaumont.  This village had particular interest for our family, and we sat for a while on the village green, under the shade of a tree which had a commemorative seat surrounding it. Behind us on the crest of the hill was St Mary’s Church, a place of quiet and pleasing simplicity, surrounded by a beautiful, well-tended church yard which is the burial place of generations of family members.  The church itself had Norman origins and was constructed of Wall stone, as were the walls of the crossroads opposite, where we found a Roman Centurial stone.  It is thought that there was a Roman signal station on this hill, and certainly the views from this point are wonderful.

After a pleasant hour exploring the village we continued towards Burgh-by-Sands, leaving the village via a track that followed the line of the wall.  In the far distance we could just make out the grey-blue waters of the Solway – at last we felt we were nearing the end of our journey!

Eventually opening into a wide cart track, at length we reached the village and stopped for elevensies in a tea-room near St Michael’s Church.  This was the site of Aballava Roman Fort, and though there are some very interesting and attractive buildings, the most ancient building we saw was the church tower with arrow slits in the walls for defence.  Unfortunately we did not have time to take a detour to see the monument to King Edward I, who having ‘hammered’ the Scots died from dyssentry in 1307 on the marshes close by.  Instead we walked on, determined to cover a few more miles before lunch.

St Michael's Church Burgh-by-Sands

St Michael’s Church Burgh-by-Sands

After Longburgh the road becomes dead flat, with only salt marshes on the northern side.  The bank on the left is partly a flood defence and also is the bank on which the railway from Carlisle to Silloth ran, with a junction at Drumburgh where a line ran down to Port Carlisle following the route of the canal built in 1823.  Port Carlisle was built to provide a means of transporting goods (particularly grain) from the Solway into Carlisle, finishing in a basin behind Carr’s biscuit factory (now the McVitie’s behind which we walked).   There were eight locks along its 11.25 mile length, and barges took a day to sail into Carlisle from the sea.  It was never financially successful, however, being subject to the changing course of the Solway and shifting sands that constantly silted up the port entrance.  When the railway viaduct was built across the Solway (the remains of which we could still see) this moved the channels still further, and eventually in 1859 the port of Silloth was constructed further up the Solway at a point where the sands were less moveable.  This was conceived as both a port and as a tourist resort, with Carr’s flour mills being one of the major industries that sent goods into Carlisle along the railway.  As for Port Carlisle, the canal route was filled in to become a railway in 1854.  There are still some surviving features remaining apart from the bank, including the position of the old sea lock, the jetty, and a perfect canal bridge which we passed at Dykesfield.  Passenger transport continued long after all freight stopped in 1899, and in York Railway museum you can still see the Dandy, a horse-drawn railway carriage which carried passengers from Drumburgh down to the seaside until the First World War.  The branch line finally closed in 1932.

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The ground rises at Drumburgh, and dominating this position is the castle, a fortified farmhouse with a splendid flight of stone steps to the front door added in more peaceful times.  It is known that there was a small Roman fort at this point (Congavata), the ruins of which must still have been visible long after the Romans left, as the name  ‘Drumburgh’ derives from Celtic and Old English meaning ‘flat ridge with fortifications’.  Not surprisingly, a good deal of Drumburgh Castle is built of Wall stone.

Drumburgh Castle

Drumburgh Castle

The trail from Drumburgh passes through Drumburgh Moss and Whiteholm Common, a place of special scientific interest being one of a very few remaining peat bogs.  Luckily for all the rare butterflies and mosses, one mention of adders thriving in such a habitat and walkers march swiftly on, and so we quickly reached the next village, Glasson.  We stopped for lunch in The Highland Laddie, a pub renowned locally not just for its food but as a place to try out the traditional form of fishing which has been carried out for over a thousand years.  The nets of the Haaf fishermen and photos of the men wading up to their armpits into the sea, carrying their nets on on a frame mounted on poles were around the walls of the bar.  There was also a story behind the name of the pub, as legend has it that Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped from England by rowing boat near here, never to return.

Haaf fisherman.  Photo from Cumberland News

Haaf fisherman

The Highland Laddie Inn Glasson

The Highland Laddie Inn Glasson

Reaching Port Carlisle at last, and pausing briefly to look at the ruins of the sea lock and the old jetty where it was once possible to catch ships to Liverpool and Ireland, a step in the journey for emigrants to the New World, we pressed on towards our final destination, Bowness-on-Solway.  The trail follows the road along the coast all the way into this charming town of stone buildings along a narrow main street.  At the post office we turned along a narrow way towards The Banks, a pavillion built on the Edwardian sea-promenade, and here we found the final stamping station for our passports.  Even though there was nothing to see of the Roman fort of Maia, the town follows the main street plan of the Roman fort. As we felt that a celebration was appropriate at the end of our memorable journey, we walked past the ancient church of St Michael’s (built with a great many stones from the fort) and into St Michael’s Rectory guest-house for a well-deserved afternoon tea.

Happy walkers reach Maia at last!

Happy walkers reach Maia at last!


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