Friday 8 April 2016 was a day for a walk and, even better, a walk with my Godson, his brother and mum. Clare, Finlay and Jonti live near Penrith, so they drove north, I drove west, and we met at Newtown, where the A6071 crosses the Wall just north of Brampton. There is plenty of parking. There is also a bus into Carlisle – at 0953 on a Tuesday and a Friday. When that fails, the local taxi firm advertises itself.
They have a very posh bus stop for two buses a week – and the buses are now driven by volunteers. They have a website and have taken over the scheduled bus service. Presumably it is to save money – but a minibus used only two days a week makes me wonder how much it has saved. The other problem is that the bus only seats 13 people – so, with four of us, and another child as it was the holidays, the driver realised he would run out of seats as we perambulated through the villages. He decided to cut out the last couple of villages and run straight into Carlisle, then go back and get his other passengers.
We crossed the Wall on a couple of occasions and entered Carlisle down the B6264 through Stanwix, along the line of the Wall. The fort that stood here is just to the east of St Michael’s church. It is above the River Eden, and its Roman name was Uxelodunum which means “high fort”. It covered almost four acres, and you can see some of the wall in the grounds of the Cumbria Park Hotel. The northern defences consisted of a stone wall with a clay rampart backing, fronted by two diteches. The north wall was 1.73 m wide, and the rampart backing was at least 3.5 m wide. The tombstone of a cavalryman, now in Tullie House Museum, suggests that the unit based here in the Hadrianic period may have been a 500-strong cavalry regiment. The Wall crossed the Eden just to the west of the fort. When the river was dredged in 1951 they found 80-90 sandstone blocks and a slab inscribed by “the century of Vesnius Victor” – it must have been quite a bridge.
Over the river and we were dropped off at the Sands Centre – website. We had a loo break – if I’d been myself I’d have had a coffee – and then started our walk. We went down beside the Eden Bridge, built in 1815 to a design by Sir Robert Smirke. There is a display area beside the river – Luguvalio was the name of the Roman town on the south side of the river. According to Breeze it apparently means “strong through Lugus”, or something similar, Lugus being a local god. The fort stood where Tullie House Museum is now – that needs a visit – and the city itself covered about 80 acres. When St Cuthbert visited Carlisle in 685 he was shown the city walls and “a marvellously constructed fountain of Roman workmanship”. I wonder if Cuthbert blogged it? The boxes name all the different forts along the Wall. I see I have still a long way to walk – but at least it is a spring time walk.
We walked beside the river and then crossed at the Memorial Bridge, opened in 1922. The dignitaries were very proud of it. There were lots of people enjoying the park. The area north of the river was purchased as Rickerby Park, a memorial after WW1.
We walked up to the War Memorial – website. The Memorial commemorates 6,000 people who died in various local regiments – that is a huge number. I wondered if humanity had progressed at all since the time of the Romans, and decided we probably haven’t.
We walked through Rickerby – for some of the route there is a separate walking/cycle route off the road. It was difficult to get a good photo of Rickerby House as there were too many builders skips in the way – the wonderfully named George Head Head lived here. I liked this gatehouse and folly. A present-day occupant obviously likes wood carving. We walked over the M6 – “Centurion, you will be in Londinium before nightfall”.
The daffodils in Linstock were lovely, though I missed Linstock Castle (a Peel tower). At Park Broom the track along the river has been damaged by flooding, so we had to walk up to and beside the main road (there is a footpath). We came into Low Crosby and followed the line of the Stanegate through the village. Crosby-on-Eden Primary School seems to be a collection of portacabins – looking at their website it is because they became Crosby-in-Eden school when the floods hit last year.
St John the Evangelist church stands beside the road and trail. It has a disabled ramp which leads to a track that I couldn’t get a wheelchair along, and it is firmly locked. Why do some churches take advantage of the Trail and others remain firmly locked? An interesting memorial wall and a headstone which is rather nice but I wonder how they got permission for it. The church was designed by R.H. Billings and dates to 1854.
At this point we left the first Ordnance Survey map – 85 Carlisle. We now have three maps to go (and there is quite a lot of overlap between sheets 86 and 87). We turned off the road and headed north over the A689 – the farm has a little refreshment space – and a nice track up to the line of the Wall. We turned right along a metalled road and then, when the road went off, followed what really looked like the line of the Wall. Past Bleatarn Farm a display board suggested that some of the bumps are the result of quarrying, and the damp bit might have been flooded for the Romans to keep their fish in. Breeze says that the tarn contained many piles of wood in the early C19, and suggests that the Wall may have been carried over soft ground on pile foundations.
There was another opportunity to buy supplies, a good stile and an interesting field boundary. I can’t decide if it is an eyesore or a work of art.
We walked through Old Wall – I wonder why the hamlet bears that name? You know that this path along the line of the wall is centuries old. A wonderful line of trees.
To the south is Carlisle Airport. This was originally RAF Crosby-on-Eden and opened in 1941. It is now Carlisle Airport and is owned by the Stobbart Group – website. There is a café by the control tower and the Solway Aviation Museum – website – looks worth a visit.
We came into Newtown and ended our 9½ mile walk. The boys had energy for the playpark.
It had been lovely walking with them – it took me back a few years, though I’m not sure mine would ever have done 9½ miles. Now Harry is attempting to run 1,000 miles in 2016 to raise funds for Changing Faces, an amazing charity that supports people with disfigurements or visible differences live the life they choose. If you would like to sponsor him please click here. Hannah is taking herself and Ruby (her wheelchair) round the Leeds 10K on 10 July, also for Changing Faces. Her page is here. I am proud of both of them!