A gentle dog walk out of Clapham

It’s been quite cold and wet recently. Dog walks lose their appeal when it’s lashing down.

So The Dog was due a decent walk.

So we headed to Clapham again. There’s a lovely organic shop, called Growing With Grace, just off the A65, where I like to shop. It’s small, sells only seasonal fruit and veg, but has a good stock of other organic foodstuffs. There’s also a quirky little cafe where you sit in one of the huge greenhouses. It’s really sweet. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and do a shop and another dog walk out of Clapham.

http://www.growingwithgrace.org.uk/

The day had started off pretty bright, but as I got ready to leave, it was clouding up. We arrived in Clapham and I had a quick look at the Vintage Shop there. Of course it’s closed on Tuesday (never time it right) but she had left lots of crockery outside of her shop. I toyed with getting a couple of items and posting the money through the letterbox, but decided against it. I wanted to look inside too.

So I got The Dog sorted and we waddled up the road towards the Ingleborough Cave entrance.

https://ingleboroughcave.co.uk/

On previous visits, we have walked through the estate paying our £1 entrance fee, but The Dog has to be on her lead. It’s a pleasant stroll through woods on a purpose built path and it takes you up to the cave and Gaping Gill and Trollers Gill beyond, but I wanted to circumvent it today. So we ignored the entrance, continuing around on the road until we came to a footpath sign on the right, pointing to Ingleborough Cave.

It was a tarmacked track with walls either side so I unleashed The Dog. It was a steady pull up. It was here that it started to rain. Yesterday on our walk, I had waterproof coat and trousers, gloves, hat, scarf on – I looked like a Michelin Man – as it had been raining pretty hard all day and then, after all that wrapping up, it hardly rained on the walk. Today I had rejected the trousers, hat, scarf and gloves and was starting to regret that decision. Could be a big mistake.

We followed the lane up. The cloud was low and there was no real views. We went past fields and a pretty wood, it’s floor covered with brown beech leaves. It just looked very inviting, but a stern notice informed us it was private and to keep out. We were overtaken by a farmer on a quad bike, his collie dog balancing on the back. Then the lane forked – the left hand side to a gate with private on it and the right, our path, now stony and gravelly. The Dog went back on the lead and we went through the gate.

We plodded along, the rain gently splattering on the hood of my coat, as a farm hoved into view. We had to go through the farmyard and the farmer was there, sorting out logs. He grabbed his collie dog. I held our hound close too, but neither dog reacted. We reached another gate and as I was closing it, I realised that the farmer had released his dog and it was hurtling towards me. It leapt up, really excited to meet me. It was so friendly and so I made a real fuss of him. Usually collie farm dogs look like they want to rip you to shreds or at least give you a good nip on the ankles but this one was lovely, bouncing around excitedly. He was also very wet and muddy.

We branched right here, down a steep hill on wet shiny limestone steps. I took it carefully. It was steadily raining. We followed the path until it dropped down to the Ingleborough Cave path. The cave was a few hundred yards further up. I’ve walked past it before so had no urge to check it out again – it has an entrance charge too, so I would only admire the front of it anyway. We turned left. The Dog was excited as there was the river, but it was high and flowing fast.

We walked a few more yards to a gate, so we could drop down to a little wooden bridge across the river. The Dog paddled here. It’s far too cold for a swim for her. The ground veered sharply up, and I carefully made my way up by the side of the wall. The Dog made a half hearted attempt to round up the sheep, but she was on lead and thwarted. The sheep still ran so she got some satisfaction out of it. We came up to a stone wall, with a stile built into it. The Dog ignored my request to wait and bounded over, still attached. Lucky she was on her extendable and made it to the other side without being garrotted or yanking me over with her. She leapt over nimbly despite her advancing years and watched me lumber over without an inch of elegance.

I took The Dog off lead here as it was another walled lane and we headed back down to Clapham. The rain had kind of stopped, but it was still damp and wet. We followed the path back where it joined the path we had walked on our last trip. We turned right and strolled down, under the two tunnels and burped back into the village. It was a typical November day – dank and miserable. We had a quick wander round. The little waterfall next to the Ingleborough Cave entrance was in full spate, water gushing down in a torrent.

Feeling chilled and discovering my shoe had developed a leak and I now had a soggy sock, we headed to the organic shop for provisions before heading home for lunch. And typical, as we drove home, the sun poked its head out through a gap in the dark brooding clouds and lit up the surrounding countryside in the most gorgeous autumnal colours. The gloominess has lifted, so you could see for miles – the sharp definition of the Lake District and The Howgills, in the distance, bathed in a beautiful deep purple hue. The contrasting colours and the angry sky was stunning. I soon forgot that I got wet – this view made me feel so much better . This is why I love Britain – it changes so quickly and can be so dramatic. I was very happy with life.

Down South

Travelled a little further afield this weekend to visit relatives in the county of Essex.

Essex is a funny county. It’s got this awful reputation that its citizens are brash, blingy, wide boys with trophy high maintenance girlfriends and wives who have got less intelligence than a bacteria and who dance around their handbags in white stiletto heels, thanks to dreadful TV programmes like “The Only Way Is Essex” and other tasteless programmes. It may of started back in the 1980’s with its proximity to London and all the so called Yuppies and high City earners making their homes there, but it’s got this label and the poor county can’t shake it off.

In reality, it’s a lovely county in its own right. Okay, the southern end blights it slightly with heavy industry and docks, but as you travel further north, it becomes more charming and delightful. Londoners have always emigrated to Essex, especially the Eastenders. They used to buy little plots of land, build a little cottage and use it as a holiday home. Then as London became more of an attractive workplace, they moved in permanently and commuted in. North Essex still retains the rural and rolling countryside that has been lost further south and its here that we stayed.

We had booked a little cottage just outside a little village called Little Baddow, near Chelmsford. It was in the middle of nowhere and trying to find it in the dark was a bit of a challenge, down tiny dark lanes. In the morning, we found ourselves looking out into a ploughed field with trees and fields in the distance. Partridge birds pecked in the soil and got The Dog in a froth. It was pretty in the autumn sun. In the front, was another cottage and a large farmhouse, built out of the traditional black clapboard which is common in Essex. Hubby went investigating with The Dog and found the river and a pleasant circular stroll.

The Old Calf House

The view from the kitchen

The day was spent with our relatives, but later we drove to a place called Rayne near Braintree for a walk along the Flitch Way. It’s a disused railway line and stretches for 15 miles from Braintree to Bishops Stortford. We started at the railway station, now a cafe and where a railway carriage has been converted into museum. The Dog wasn’t allowed in so she and I lurked outside. I peered in through the windows. There was a very small miniature railway and lots of old pictures telling the history of the line. The family spent about ten minutes in there – the elderly curator want to engage them in conversation but they managed to make their excuses and we went for our stroll.

We walked off the end of the platform and onto the rail bed. It was a pleasant walk along a tunnel of autumnal trees. There was rain in the air. The Dog was off lead and had found an abandoned football, so we kicked that around for her. That kept her occupied. We crossed a busy dual carriageway by bridge and skirted another bridge that was under repair. We walked up to a certain point – Bishops Stortford was a little too far for today – and so turned around just as the light was starting to fade.

(And somehow, I failed to take any photos – my apologies)

https://www.friends-of-the-flitch-way.org.uk/flitch-way.html

Despite this part of Essex being relatively rural, I was dismayed to see huge housing estates being built on edges of towns and communities. Years ago I lived in Essex and contemplated in living in Witham, before I came to my senses and moved to Yorkshire. Now my heart sank as I came across two large developments where before there had been green fields. One development, admittedly had made an effort by giving the houses a little 1950’s character and chimneys, but still another piece of England had been nibbled away. On the other side of this pretty little town was another field earmarked to be buried under concrete. Witham does abut the main A12 road into London and it’s all very commutable with a railway line, so people want the best of both worlds – live out in the country and work in London. Ironically, they all live in brand new houses on monolithic dull cramped estates, that’s just eaten the very countryside they crave.

The next day, we all piled into cars and headed towards Saffron Walden and in particular, Audley End House, an magnificent pile set in acres of countryside. We put on the satnav and it took us along a rather exquisite route through rural Essex. We followed a back lane through tunnels of trees, along ploughed fields and rolling countryside. With a weak sun, there was just another light to highlight the colours. We drove through little villages, past century old buildings and thatched cottages. We passed through Finchingfield, a well known tourist hotspot, with its chocolate box houses and delightful duck pond in its centre. Just doing the drive made our day. There was a lot of oohing and arring going on.

We drove through Saffron Walden, another gorgeous town stuffed with old and quaint buildings. There is just an abundance of beautiful buildings in this area.

http://www.visitessex.com/thedms.aspx?dms=3&venue=0725990

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finchingfield

http://www.visitessex.com/saffron-walden.aspx

We followed the brown tourist signs for Audley End, past a high brick wall for seemingly ages, thinking someone had to build that and actually it’s Audley End’s back garden wall. We pulled in and gave English Heritage a huge chunk of money for admittance and parked up.

The back of Audley End

We parked on the grass that faced a modest man made water course, another expanse of highly maintained lawn and then the stately home, a beautiful solid building. It was impressive. We wandered around the grounds, admiring ancient trees with thick gnarled trunks and splendid majestic canopies which almost reached the ground. We kicked the autumn leaves, exciting The Dog and strolled across the Falconry display where a husband and wife team, dressed in Victorian garb, oversaw a group of falcons, hawks and owls. We asked questions and waited for the display to start, which was excellent. Four birds flew, whilst their handlers gave a detailed and interesting commentary, the birds swooping over our heads. The Dog got sent on a walk as she spotted one of the hawks and kept barking. We were very impressed as a group.

When it finished, most of our group wanted to go into the House to look around. Hubby and I are not ones for looking around stately homes and The Dog wasn’t allowed in so we went for a walk through the gardens and up to the folly higher up in the grounds. It was large grassy area with lots of trees and very pleasant.

We headed back to the main area and found a little cafe where we refreshed ourselves with a cuppa and a rather large scone and waited for the others. They reported on their return, that the House was excellent and had not seen all of it. Once regrouped we wandered off into the organic garden, laid out in Victorian orderliness with beautiful white glasshouses. It had clouded over since we had arrived, but now the sun made another appearance and lit everything up.

We sauntered around to the various outbuildings and stables on the estate, very impressed. It was well worth the money. We wished we could stay longer as there seemed more to explore but it was on the verge of closing for the day. More than satisfied, we jumped back into the cars where the satnav took us on a magical mystery tour, briefly into Hertfordshire and back home for tea.

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/audley-end-house-and-gardens/

The next day was our final day and to give The Dog a stretch of the legs before being stuffed into a car for 5 hours, we strolled out of the cottage, down the track and along a footpath to the little River Chelmer. It was quite warm – we were only in jumpers – as the sun was out and made it all very pleasant. It was all farmland with little copses of trees. You felt you were in the middle of nowhere.

Eventually we had to leave. We packed up, said our goodbyes, stuffed The Dog in the boot (not impressed) and began our long journey back to our little corner of England.

Ingleton

I’ve succumbed.

Yep, the wellies have finally made an appearance. It’s that time of year and I have resisted, believe me. But one too many walks in walking trainers ending up with soggy feet has made me reluctantly dig them out.

The Dog and I headed off to Ingleton to walk around the countryside there. It wasn’t going to be a particularly long walk, but got us out into the fresh air.

We parked just outside the village centre, on the road. I donned the wellies and we trotted off towards the main A65 road which runs from Leeds to the M6. It catches the western edge of Ingleton and is lined with light industrial units and housing. It’s a busy road, taking people to the Lake District. I’ve never found this stretch of the road very inspiring and feel for Ingleton. It just doesn’t look nice and inviting.

https://www.yorkshire.com/places/yorkshire-dales/ingleton

With an OS map, I tried to work out where the path was. There were no finger posts so I took a gamble as I led The Dog over the A65. It turned out to be the track I wanted, past a small static caravan site and out into fields. We followed the track, passing fields with small sheds made of metal and the odd large caravan. It was a bit unsettling. We came to a house, and the track turned into a grassy path. Since we got onto the path proper, it’s been clearly marked with little footpath badges nailed to gate posts. Makes life easier.

The surrounding land was just rolling farmland, but it offered great views of Ingleborough, majestically watching over the town. We wandered through squelchy grass, having to duck under an enormous branch that had sheared off a nearby tree and blocked the path. We looked out for our left turn and wandered into a sheep field. The Dog was on her extendable lead and headed off to the right as she had heard water. There was a ditch covered in long grass which she didn’t realise wasn’t solid. She stood on it and sunk up to her chest in it. She looked a bit shocked as she tried to figure out what had happened. She’s a water lover, but doesn’t like being surprised. She stalked out unimpressed, shook and trotted off as if she meant to do that all the time.

We hadn’t gone far when we came up to a stone stile. The Dog leapt up to go through and got briefly wedged between the stones. Just not her day. Her shoulders and chest area got stuck and she had to wiggle through. I laughed as it was comical. Payback after all those times I’ve got wedged in stiles and she’s watched in some kind of awed embarrassment.

We crossed another field towards a cluster of buildings. It was one of those farms that had heaps of junk everywhere and many different vehicles parked haphazardly, few of them looking like they haven’t moved for years. These places are always deathly quiet and a touch creepy. They always feature in TV series involving murder and intrigue. We didn’t linger. We studied our map and bore right into another field, but despite the path clearly defined on the map, I just couldn’t find it on the ground. There was no signs or stiles, only twine tethered gates which don’t give you much encouragement to go through. After a couple of minutes of discussing it aloud with The Dog, who was more preoccupied with having a good sniff of something disgusting, I decided to take the easier option of following the track and cutting through another field further up.

It was a good call. It was easy to find, and you could see other people’s footprints which is comforting. We were burped out straight back on the A65 with juggernauts and other large vehicles whistling past us, making my hair dance. Luckily there was a pavement opposite and we walked a couple of hundred yards to the next fingerpost pointing towards Ingleton across the fields.

We strolled across a field, skirted a little woodland and then across a scrubby field towards a modern housing estate, back into Ingleton.

Ingleton is a funny place. I feel quite sorry for it. It’s got a sweet little centre, with a church perched up high, the disused railway viaduct striding prominently across the river and little independent shops selling mainly tourist gifts. But on its periphery, it’s dominated by pebble dashed or faux Yorkshire stoned square, featureless housing, spread haphazardly, with large swathes of open land, ideal for filling in with more housing. It looks like it’s been dropped from a height and splodged. It just seems messy and incoherent, but saying that, Ingleton seems to attract visitors. Ingleton Waterfalls is a big attraction in the area as well as White Scar Caves and the start of several walks up Ingleborough just outside the town – I haven’t visited these places for years, so check out the links below. Ingleton is also a popular base for cavers and potholers – it has a couple of great outdoor shops. There are several caves including Gaping Gill, where on certain days of the year, the cavers will lower members of the public down on a bosun’s chair, into the cavernous depths of Gaping Gill. That’s one on my bucket list to do.

http://www.ingletonwaterfallstrail.co.uk/

https://whitescarcave.co.uk/

https://www.daleswalks.co.uk/walks/ingleborough_from_ingleton/

As I say, the village centre is very pleasant and just outside the village centre, you can find Ingleton’s popular outdoor heated swimming pool by the river which opens during the summer months. The Dog and I wandered past it now, but it was shut. I was a bit alarmed to see the pool uncovered, full of water, the tiles green and slimy. It looked like it hadn’t been used for ages. There was a board by the gate informing the public that there were plans to extend it. Perhaps work had already started and they hadn’t bothered with the main pool. It looked very neglected. Let’s hope the work is done quickly and the pool gets back to its usual vibrant self. It’s a little treasure.

https://ingletonpool.co.uk/

We strolled back into the Main Street. I was going to take photos, but the Co-op’s ugly frontage and a tacky Indian sign put me off. There really should be a law that stops businesses putting up gaudy, bright and totally out of synch with their environment signs on their shops. There’s nothing more disheartening that pretty little row of shops, then a big company putting its national corporate badge slap bang in the middle, regardless of its surroundings. Tone it down, it’s not difficult. And while I’m on this brief rant, people should also be banned putting cheap modern white plastic doors on little cute cottages. One of my bugbears.

Another one of Ingleton’s little treasures is its 1940’s weekend in July where the village becomes overrun by all things WW2. There’s soldiers, ARP wardens, Americans GI’s, Home Guard and Land Girls wandering around – old jeeps, motorcycles and cars arrive. There are stalls, music and dancing in the square. It’s all great fun. Sadly in this day and age of overwhelming PC, the Germans are apparently not welcome anymore, so nobody’s allowed to dress up as a German commandant, Gestapo or SS which is rather sad in a weird way. They were part of the story, so shouldn’t be erased out, however uncomfortable it is, which is odd as if we were going to be uncomfortable, it would of been years ago, not in 2019. Anyway, it’s touched somebody’s sensitive nerve and Germans no longer strut through Ingleton in July.

The Dog and I sauntered around, noting the butchers had gone and there was no bakery, though I then remembered that there is Seasons Bakery on the outskirts which is a oasis of bakery products. It’s one of those places so full of pastry delights, you spend ages cooing and choosing. Many a time I’ve gone in there for a loaf and come out with an armful of cakes, buns and tarts. Very yummy. We dropped down to wander under the viaduct, a magnificent piece of Victorian architecture and past Ingleton Pottery, full of ceramics at very reasonable prices. It’s tucked away, so how it gets visitors I don’t know, but they do sell their wares in other shops.

We had just about exhausted Ingleton, and with nowhere else to check out, we wandered back to the car. Another glorious, though chilly day, the sun shining through the clouds. The trees were now showing their full autumn glory – it seems someone has flicked a switch and they’ve all turned from green to gold, orange and red overnight! It made a very pleasant drive home.

Clapham to Austwick

Another glorious day and with our fickle weather, you grab these days and make the most of them.

The Dog and I drove to Clapham, a pretty little village just off the A65 and just inside the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It was quite busy with cars. We parked up and wandered towards the Cave Rescue HQ on the Main Street and found the footpath between two buildings. We followed the narrow ginnel to a kissing gate and popped out in the middle of a farmyard.

https://www.yorkshiredales.co.uk/villages/clapham/

The fingerpost pointed to the left so we crossed the yard and went around the corner. A wide concrete track went up between between fields and turned right by some glorious trees in full autumnal colours. We followed the fencing, as instructed and started crossing fields. The views were far reaching and beautiful. In the distance I spotted a group of cows. I sighed deeply – they were in our field, they were actually on the path we needed and right next to the gate that we needed to exit.

I didn’t want to abort this walk – it had taken me ages to decide to walk it in the first place. Let’s see what happens when we’re closer. We were now in their field and they were not for moving. Two walkers came through the gate – the cows were right next to the fence so the walkers had to divert up the steep incline next to the path. The cows hardly moved. I felt slightly happier, but I had a mad dog who liked to bark and round up large animals. I shortened her lead, gave her a stern warning and started to clamber up the incline. I hoped The Dog wouldn’t take off as I would go flying. She must of felt my vibes as she was very self controlled and we passed the beasts without incident.

We carried on, crossing through stiles with little gates, strolling across wide meadows. We came across medieval terracing in a field where small holders cultivated small strips of land. Finally we dropped into the small village of Austwick, a mile and half from Clapham.

We walked through Austwick, another pretty village. I was pleased they had retained their bright red telephone kiosk. Many years ago, BT decided to update their boxes. They chose a design of complete ugliness, all glass and steel, with the charm of an urinal. It looked like it had been designed on the back of an envelope, late on a Friday afternoon after a liquid lunch. BT decided to blight the country with these monstrosities – they’re bad enough in the middle of a city – so many pretty villages suffer the indignity of these dreadful boxes, usually in a prominent place. Luckily, Austwick has resisted somehow and hung onto their original one. Usually they are turned into a mini library or hold a defibrillator or some other useful community project.

We strolled up the Main Street towards the little dinky primary school. It was full of little stone cottages, but here and there some thoughtless developer, back in the 70’s, had been allowed to build a squat little bungalow or boxy house with no imagination whatsoever. Thank God for planning permission today, so new homes today are built out of stone and got some character though there seems to be an aversion to add a chimney, even just for aesthetic purposes.

https://www.yorkshiredales.co.uk/villages/austwick/

We turned into another lane and started to climb. It was a steady pull. I could stare at the houses better – one of my favourite hobbies while walking. They were all pretty, with lovely gardens and views.

Our pull up the hill was short and we branched off onto a field via a wall stile which took some effort. I paused to take off my coat. It was pleasantly warm. We walked across a couple of fields to a ladder stile, where The Dog totally misjudged it and fell back onto the grass. She’s usually pretty good on all stiles, but occasionally she makes a dogs dinner out of it. She recovered and gave me a look of “I meant to do that” before a more successful attempt.

We jumped down into a lane lined with stone walls. The Dog was off lead and we trotted together back towards Clapham. The views were splendid – Ingleborough peeked over the fells and Robin Proctor’s Scar, a limestone cliff, was prominent on our right. It’s a good climbing area. Not far from here are the Norber Erratics, where during the last Ice Age, boulders were dumped by the glacier on top of limestone. The limestone has weathered away so now boulders balance on boulders. It is a natural phenomena.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norber_erratics

https://www.rockfax.com/wp-content/uploads/intros/northern-limestone-sample.pdf

We came up to woodland, a path to our right. We carried on and dropped down on a steep path down between a wall. At the bottom we passed under two long tunnels, dark and dank, before being popped out back into the sunshine and back into the village.

The Clapham tunnels were constructed by the Farrar family to provide a route underneath the Ingleborough Hall Estate connecting the village ofClapham with Fell Lane, which leads along Clapdale.

We wandered down to the beck for The Dog to have a paddle and then I went to the village shop for a loaf of fresh bread. It’s a brilliant little shop, stocked full of everything – groceries, gifts, fruit and veg, jams, tourist books, cards and all sorts. I ended up getting all my shopping I had planned to do the next day. I’m very much into supporting these small little enterprises – they are usually run by the community and staffed by volunteers and I shop most of the time in such places. I even got a free cloth shopping bag made by the locals and donated to the shop. I was very happy.

We wandered back to the car, I had to cajole The Dog into the boot. She looked tired, but wanted to stay. She finally jumped in and we drove slowly home.

Wrayton circular walk via Melling

The sun was out!

After a period of unsettled weather, the sun shone across the countryside, highlighting the fells and valleys. There was a chill in the air first thing, so The Dog and I waited and had our lunch before heading out.

We parked in the little hamlet of Wrayton in Lancashire and armed with an OS map, we walked through the village to a footpath on the left. It was a narrow, slightly overgrown path – a garden fence on one side and shrubs on the other. Trees had grown on the path, so we had to skirt round them. The garden fence gave way to a field of sheep and shortly after, we clambered over a stile to join them.

We strolled across the field, The Dog ignoring the sheep who watched us warily. Suddenly The Dog barked and a few of the sheep skitted off. Feeling pleased she barked again, despite me remonstrating her. Between us, we managed to spook the sheep and they all took off en masse down to the other end of the field. The Dog wore a very satisfactory look on her face.

We came to a gate and steps in the corner of the field and were burped out by the A683, next door to the road bridge under which the River Greta flowed. A short walk to the footpath opposite, down steep stone steps, a quick check for livestock and The Dog was unleashed. She galloped off straight into the river for a paddle. It was still high and fast flowing after the recent rains. We strolled along a low embankment, following the river on its way to join the River Lune. The Dog was very happy, a big grin on her face. The sun was now quite warm and I was regretting wearing my jacket. It was a beautiful autumn day.

The River Greta

We turned an abrupt left and came up to a stile. I consulted the map – straight ahead. The path went through a small corpse of trees, but on the ground, there was no defining track. It was a mass of mounds and dips. I headed into the general direction, looking for some sort of sign. We headed towards a fence in the distance and ended up on the edge of a rather soggy area. The sun was directly in my eyes. I was juggling a dog lead, a map, my glasses had steamed up whilst on my head, keeping one eye on the dog and squinting at the scene ahead of me. I caught sight of a railway viaduct which we needed to be heading towards as well as a stile. I squelched across the bog, and realised the stile wasn’t actually a stile, but a random piece of fencing and impossible to clamber over. I wandered to the left – nope, there were cows there, so wandered the other way where the path (and The Dog) plunged into a deep body of water. The field in front of us was being liberally sprayed with muck.

I was getting cross and frustrated. Muttering, I declared to The Dog that we were going to retrace our steps and return to the car. I tiptoed across the boggy bit and clambered back up the little bank, where I found a faint path worn into the grass heading to the right. I looked at the map again. I realised then that I shouldn’t of crossed the boggy bit and kept to this side and I was actually focussed on the wrong section of viaduct as well, which hadn’t helped. I followed the path feeling rather silly and it suddenly all made sense. “As you were” I declared to The Dog who rolled her eyes and peed on a nettle.

We popped into a lane lined with hedges. It was heavily used by tractors and other farm vehicles as there were deep ruts where the wheels had sunk deep into the mud. It was still very muddy. My foot sunk deep in the quagmire and there was a brief struggle as it hung onto my boot before I managed to yank it out. I tried to walk on the grassy section, but that was uneven , narrow and gloopy too. It was a bit of a slog. I was glad I had my proper walking boots on.

It was halfway down this lane when I remembered that I had walked this way before. About 4 years ago, this area suffered a lot of flooding. Hubby and I went for a walk one day with The Dog and our daughter’s Spaniel and ended up on this lane. It was full of water, totally flooded. Hubby ended up clinging onto the hedge as he took the edge of the lane. I waded through with my wellies with a stick poking the ground, hoping I wouldn’t disappear down a hole, The Dog was up to her chest in water and the Spaniel just swam. The dogs loved it, leaping around, creating bow waves which crashed against my wellies and threatened to overflow into my shoe. It took us ages to walk through it.

The Dog and I heard a cow moo from the other side of the hedge, and a sound of hooves as cows trotted alongside us. At a gap in the hedge, they slithered to a halt and stared at us as we stared back at them. The Dog woofed and they took a collective step backwards. Then one barged forwards again. They were inquisitive, but skittish. We carried on and the cows followed, chasing us to the next gap. They were comical.

Our Cow friends with Ingleborough in the background

We left our new friends, and went under the railway (ahh, our viaduct) and walked up towards the village of Melling. We patted two horses who had their heads over the gate and walked to the main road. We strolled a few yards and turned off the main road, down a little lane lined with houses and big gardens. We passed the little village school looking for the green lane. We passed a patch of grass in front of a large garden wall which had a sign. “Private Land – no right of way”. I frowned. How territorial. How snobby. It even had white painted rocks on the edge. It reminded me of a little sign stuck in a plant planter in a nearby town “please do not let your dog wee on my planter”. Oh for goodness sake. But then I changed my judgment. It’s not nice having dogs wee up your stuff and perhaps these poor residents had found people picnicking on their land or unwanted cars parked on it. Perhaps they had no choice but to defend it because of other people’s thoughtlessness. I quietly apologised to them and headed on.

We followed a tarmac lane before turning off into a field, climbing uphill. On the brow, a wonderful view of the Barbon Fells and up towards the Howgills. It just glowed in the sun. Just gorgeous.

The Barbon Fells

The Dog discovered pheasants in the field and gave chase. She got yelled at, but not before she managed to get them airborne. She went back on the leash as we went into a woodland surrounded by high fencing. Initially I thought it was where pheasants were raised, but think it was deer proof fencing for this little wood. At first I thought it was full of conifers – those dark, dank, creepy trees that overwhelm everything and creak loudly, but it was a mixture of trees and was reasonably pleasant. A bit agoraphobic, but I was too busy watching where my feet went. The Dog, still excited by the pheasants, was on red alert and was keen to seek them out. She was forgetting I was on the end of her leash and didn’t have her four paws or lower centre of gravity for stability. I slithered, squeaking in alarm, through the mud and slime a few times, berating The Dog. It was like waterskiing.

The Forest of Bowland moorland

We left the little wood behind and strolled along another little lane, with puddles and mud that didn’t look deep, but was. I followed The Dog and watched how far she sunk. We dropped back into Wrayton, opposite where we started. We read the Parish noticeboard before walking back to the car, feeling quite pleased with ourselves. We had found a rather pleasant circular walk (now we knew where we were going) and it would be one we would do again – when it had dried out!

Feizor to Stainforth and back!

It had been raining all morning, but the forecast said the sun would come out by midday.

And it did! The low miserable clouds gave way to blue sky and their fluffy relations. We decided to head to the little hamlet of Feizor, just outside Settle. We drove down a little dead end lane to the cluster of buildings which included a small tea rooms called Elaines. As it was going to be a circular walk, we promised ourselves a celebratory cuppa when we finished. Parking was a bit tight, so we parked in the tea rooms car park (basically the farmyard opposite) and asked the staff nicely if we could leave the car there. Not a problem.

We followed the path through the farmyard and into a field beyond. The ground rose upwards and it was a steady heave. The Dog was with us and was totally giddy despite her advancing years. The sun was out, the views behind us absolutely gorgeous. It was lovely to be out after days of rain and overcast skies. We climbed stiles, went through gates, pulled ourselves over ladder stiles and reached the brow of the hill.

Here was Big Country and Big Skies. We wandered downwards as the landscape opened up before us. Pen-y-Ghent, one of the Three Peaks of Yorkshire hoved into view, majestic in the distance. The Dog tried to round up sheep, thwarted by her leash, making them take flight and trotting briskly across the tufty grass. We were starting to drop into the valley and towards Stainforth.

It was stunning. The trees were starting to reveal their autumnal colours and the shadows were long. After the recent prolonged rains, the grass was vibrant. It was one of those days when you felt you could ping the sky. We found a track which dropped us to the edge of the village and after being chased by an extremely large tractor, we sauntered down to a single track lane past a caravan site and picked up the river.

We had feared that the walk would be a quagmire after days of rain, but the ground had been quite firm. There was a rather muddy bit by the river, the result of many feet traipsing along the path, but it soon petered out. People had wandered off towards the falls and today there was a cluster of people watching salmon leaping up river to the spawning grounds.

We joined the group and watched. Suddenly a large fish leapt out of the water, flying against the flow, desperately trying to reach the higher level. It seemed futile. He sploshed back into the churning water, having achieved nothing. Another appeared from the frothing maelstrom and hit the rock with a sickening slap. We gasped as he slithered back into the water. How on earth did they ever get up and this was the third tier of the waterfall. They must be exhausted. Another fish leapt up and landed high on the rock, his body writhing madly as he tried to push himself further up, but the water was too strong and he lost the battle.

We stood there for ages watching. Photographers sat there, cameras poised to catch the perfect picture. It was just fascinating. We pulled ourselves reluctantly away and continued our walk. We followed the riverside walk, past a fisherman fly fishing further downstream. The Dog was unleashed and she bounded down to the waters edge, very happy. We clambered over little streams, balancing on stones and boulders before climbing up to another stile.

We took a slightly unofficial route here and got ourselves onto the back lane and picked up another path. We walked across the fields, through a cow field where the cows lazily lifted their heads, chewing the cud. We squeezed through stiles and crossed a sheep field. They scattered as we walked past them, The Dog straining at her leash. The sheep regrouped further down and watched us warily as we continued our walk. Suddenly they started to come towards us, getting a little trot on, moving as one large group. We were a bit unnerved as usually sheep are so flighty. We stopped and they stopped. They then crept towards us, getting nearer. Then they checked themselves. They were nervous, but equally intrigued. We clambered through the wall and tried to encourage them closer, but they stood their ground. They were funny creatures.

A plane flew over our heads moments later, on a practise run through the dales. A lot of military aircraft fly across the fells and valleys of this area, flying low and noisily. We carried on and started to climb back up over the hill, back towards the car. It was a steady pull. The sun was getting lower and hazy. We came up to a field with a scattering of cows. They were large. We started walking, watching warily. A big black cow appeared and started to take an interest in us. The Dog barked madly. We shushed her as we went past the beast. The cow refused to move as we made noises and waved arms. It was then, as we carried on, she started to follow us. Our pace quickened somewhat as we tried to stay outwardly calm, but panicking inside. Cows have been known to charge and trample people so we didn’t really want to participate in a stampede. The big black cow sauntered sedately up an incline, parallel with us, watching us all the time. It didn’t help ease the rising panic – it felt that she was getting extra advantage. Was she going to charge towards us at any moment, gaining momentum from her vantage point? It would be very messy if she did.

A couple of her fellow bovines started moving too, but they soon lost interest including our big black instigator and they left us to trot across the field, glancing behind us on regular intervals, straining our ears to the noise of thundering hooves. We were soon back with the sheep and the hill sloped downwards, back to Feizor. We picked up the pace. It was now gone 4.30 and we feared our planned visit to the cafe would be thwarted.

There was a couple sitting on the outside picnic tables, but the sign told us they closed 4.30 ish and now it was a quarter to five. The door opened and we went inside. And God bless them, though they were practical finished, they made us tea, coffee and cake as long as we were prepared to sit outside to eat it. That seemed a deal. It was warm, out of the wind and we were making the most of this splendid afternoon. We sat, sipping our drinks, making lots of approving noises over the cakes and dropping titbits to The Dog, who was equally approving of the food. Happily fed and watered, we sauntered over to the car and headed home, pleased to find such a lovely, gentle walk with such spectacular views. Perfect.

Hadrian’s Wall Walk – homeward bound ☹️

Our last morning was bright and sunny. A glorious morning.

We went for breakfast and was joined at our table by a middle aged brother and sister who had just finished the walk too. It transpired that they were slightly ahead of us yesterday as it was them, from Worcester and Banbury, we had replaced on the white finger post with our village.

Our feet couldn’t quite believe that they were in normal pumps and it was nice to wear jeans and a top, looking vaguely smarter. We realised that we hadn’t really taken photos at the finish, so we headed down there again. And what a difference. It was beautiful. The view stretched across the Solway Firth, towards Annan and Dumfries. That was Scotland. Towards the west, mountains rose towards Stranraer. It was glorious – early autumnal colours. So different from yesterday. We took our photos and went on the pebbly beach. Lovely.

We retrieved our bags and waited for the little Hopper Bus to Carlisle. We admired the scenery on the trip back. It was bright and pretty. We were pleased to see how beautiful it was and erased the gloom of yesterday.

We were dropped off at the bus station and wandered through Carlisle town centre again. There were several shopping malls that were architecturally fashionable in the 1980s, full of Saturday shoppers. We found John Watts, our little cafe and enjoyed a lunch there. On trips to the toilet, you had to pass through a cavernous cellar full of antiquities of the tea and coffee trade. It was like a little stuffy, dusty museum that had been forgotten and really demanded more attention. It had low ceilings and dark corners, a little spooky – I half expected to meet Jack Nicholson hiding there, welding a axe. I hoped the cafe didn’t suffer a power cut while I was on the loo and the furthest from the exit. I would of had a good look but with someone holding my hand.

We waddled down to the railway station, dragging our cases noisily behind us. The railway station was busy and I was delighted to see it was a lovely Victorian edifice, all mellow brick and high curved glass ceilings and ornate ironwork. It was lovely and airy. A steam train with a long line of dining cars with little table lamps in each window, hissed patiently as people boarded. What a great way to dine. We studied the departure board. We had two trains to catch to get home, but the second one had been cancelled due to a mud slip on our little line. It wasn’t really an issue, but then we saw a departure on the famous Carlisle – Settle route. We looked at each other and made an instant decision. Let’s conclude this really great trip with a ride on this train.

Carlisle

Court Square, Cumbria, Carlisle CA1 1QZ

0333 103 1031

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlisle_railway_station

The Settle – Carlisle line was nearly lost when British Rail deemed it expensive and unviable, some 20 years or so ago. But it was saved for the nation and what a spectacular journey it is. Through the heart of the Eden Valley, past heather moors, wide rivers, little towns, farms and green fields, with a backdrop of big blue skies and fluffy white clouds, it is beyond beautiful. Past Pen-y-Ghent, across the Ribbleshead viaduct. It was just perfect.

https://www.visitcumbria.com/carlset/

And then, at Settle station as we waited for a taxi to get us home, another steam train hurtled through, chuffing billows of white smoke into the air. Such a romantic sight. Such a perfect ending.

Hadrian’s Wall Walk Day Eight

Friday

Our last day of walking. 15 miles from Carlisle to Bowness on Solway. We pulled on our walking clothes for the last time, made our last flask of tea and topped up our bag of mangled fruit.

We went to breakfast and enjoyed the cooked breakfast on offer. We did our usual obsessive checking – perceived injuries, miles covered, route today and on top of the list – the weather.

We had been tracking the weather on the BBC app and on television for the past couple of days. A big ugly band of rain was covering most of the north. It was payback time for the rest of the week.

We packed, said goodbye to our hosts and spent many minutes putting on rain jackets, waterproof trousers, rain covers over our rucksacks. We eased our feet into our boots, reassuring them that it would be the last time for quite a while. We looked like Michelin Men. It was already steadily raining. A fellow Wall walker came out, dressed in full walking gear. He looked like he was going on a major expedition and asked us where we were heading. He sucked his teeth and shook his head when we told him. “There’s a horrendous part, an enormous field with a line of pylons and cows. It’s a quagmire. Awful. I’m an experienced walker, walked many miles and I’ve not experienced anything like that.” We looked at him in disbelief. I had visions of us spending hours crossing this field, our feet sinking up to our knees and having to pull each limb out of this muddy apocalypse. Thanks mate.

We set off in the drizzle, along urban streets, skirting Carlisle’s centre and back to the Sands Leisure Centre. We picked up the Path and followed the River Eden. Almost immediately, we found another handsome park, being tended by workmen and we were in different world. Such a contrast. It was very pleasant. We passed the Castle, sitting high, dominating the town. It was beautiful, built in red stone – solid, strong and watching. The riverside walk was nice too. The Council had installed these chunky rectangular signs inscribed with Roman words and giving brief descriptions. Apparently Carlisle has no evidence of the Wall at all. How sad. I couldn’t blame the 1960’s for that one (though it would be ironic if it was under one of those horrendous office blocks). So we made do with the information boards and our imagination.

The river path was leafy, but went pass the modern world. A rugby club car park, churning factories, a buzzing electrical sub station, derelict warehouses poked in between the trees and bushes. On the other side, cows chewed the grass as the city ebbed away. There were a few steep stairways to negotiate along here and we were soon panting and warming up. I was getting hot with all wet weather gear. The sun had popped its head out too, making this strange scene strangely attractive. It was also making the huge black clouds amassing around us, look even blacker, but somehow they skirted around us. I wanted to take my leggings off, but it’s such a palaver and a lot of hopping uncontrollably to get them off that I kept them on. Anyway as soon as I’d packed them away, the heavens would open, so I didn’t chance it.

We eventually came to a field with pylons and cows and swallowed hard. Was this the aforementioned quagmire? It was muddy, you slipped and slid, a few places where your boot sunk into squelchy water and you did a quick tiptoed run across the boggy-ness, but we walked on the grassy edge and though it was cumbersome walking, it wasn’t too bad. We looked at each other, trying to convince each other that this was the field and it wasn’t further up. If it was, that chap more than over exaggerated it. How strange. We plunged on.

We went under a busy ring road, across fields. The countryside was back, lush with the rain, soft and gentle. There was rain in the air, the clouds pushing the sun out of the way, but not the expected deluge forlornly predicted by the forecasters. We passed through the villages of Grinsdale and Beaumont, quiet and sheltering from the weather, nobody about. It was rolling countryside. Everything was sodden. We met a couple with a spaniel who told us that a lovely cafe awaited us towards the end of the walk – he kind of mangled all the village names together so we didn’t quite get the name, but it was something to aim for.

We walked to Burgh by Sands, a long pretty village. We had been diverted onto the roads as the Path had been temporarily closed – for what it didn’t say, but presume it was for repairs. We had already avoided one field as cows had congregated around the gate and were not for moving, despite us waving arms and being noisy. They just nonchalantly eyed us up and refused to budge. We let them win. The sun had sort of reappeared again. Again, it was a quiet community. Towards the end of the village, the house names featured the word Marsh – Marsh View, The Marshes, Marsh House. There was good reason. The land dropped down onto the flat marshes leading to the estuary and the tidal coastline.We got our first proper sighting of the Solway of Firth, the broad river estuary splitting England and Scotland. A long black ribbon of tarmac stretched across the marsh. It was so long it had a vanishing point.

We took a deep breath and set off. Signs warned us how deep the water got across the road when the tide was in, but it only happened with high spring tides. We were safe today and anyway, cows were grazing on the marshland. The clouds were low, dark and moody. It was misty and gloomy. It was like being in a plastic box. We walked towards a rise in the road, expecting the next village, but as we reached the top, we were dismayed to realise that we weren’t even half way across and the road disappeared into the distance again.

Cars passed us as well as large dumper trucks, whizzing past at speed, spraying up muddy water lying on the road. It was half way that we got caught in the biggest cloud burst ever. It was like standing under a shower on full blast. We zipped up our coats under our noses, pulled down our hoods, hunkered down and plunged on. You couldn’t look up so we watched our feet methodically eating the miles.

God knows how long we walked along that dead straight road. Later we found out it was 2.6 miles long. We limped into Drumburgh, dripping and damp. A sign declared there was a cafe – was this the promised oasis by the spaniel couple? No, it was another flipping depleted snack shed. It was brick built and relatively roomy with benches. We plonked down and ate our own provisions. This was dismal.

The Shed did have a loo which we made use of. We looked at the map, which showed the Path heading down a track and across fields, to connect up with another village further up. The road also went to the same village. We made an executive decision – there was no difference in distance, the fields would be horribly wet and boggy and looking at the map, the road seemed to follow the remains of Hadrian’s Wall. So we decided to keep on the road and marched along the twisting country lane towards Glasson.

The Acorns markers reappeared and veered onto a little footpath, in between bushes. It popped us out by Port Carlisle, a little hamlet. The remnants of a harbour wall and jetty jutted into the estuary – an information board informed us that in the 1800’s, it was a busy port with a railway and could of rivalled Liverpool as a dock. Then the industry all collapsed and Port Carlisle reverted back to a quiet backwater.

We were close to the waters edge when we came across a tall white finger post, like the ones at John O’Groats and Lands End. It was marked with Worcester and Banbury. As we lined up a photo, an elderly man appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and asked us where we were from. It transpired that he had created the post and would change the destinations, putting your home village or town name on it for £1 each. So we did.

In an adjoining shed, he had a heap of letters and numbers. He picked out our letters and asked how far away it was. He then got rid of Banbury, slotted our village name in and used our phones to take photos of us standing underneath it in the pouring rain. He was very chatty – he seemed that he didn’t get out much – and he could of talked all day. We chatted for awhile, before waving goodbye and walking the last mile of our walk.

The last mile was on the road. The road sign “Bowness on Solway” hove into view, sparking more photos. We wandered into the village and dropped down a little alleyway to a wooden gazebo and the official ending of the Hadrian’s Wall Walk. I had expected more – not exactly a brass band and ticker tape reception, but at least a little manned gift shop and cafe to greet us. We sat in the gazebo and gazed out across the estuary. The view still hadn’t improved. So this was the end, no more walking. We were quite proud of ourselves. We had walked 84 miles across our country and it had been a fantastic experience. Loved every single minute. It was a bittersweet moment. Pleased to have completed it, but sad it had come to an end.

We walked back up to the Main Street looking for our guesthouse, but were distracted by the appearance of an actual proper cafe serving coffee and food. We didn’t need much encouragement. We collapsed into chairs and ordered large coffees and sarnies. Hubby’s sausage sandwich came with three whole sausages! He must of felt pity on us, a pair of drowned rats.

Hunter Leisure Cafe

Bowness House Farm, Bowness-on-Solway, Wigton CA7 5AF

We loitered here for a while, chatting to the owner. He was struggling to convince the locals of his intentions as he did have a small empire with the cafe/village shop, motor homes, apartments and other projects on this small site. We didn’t care. He had fulfilled our basic human needs who had just completed an epic walk and in our minds, he was okay. I bought my promised hoodie and a t-shirt for hubby

http://www.wallsend.net/mobile/contact.aspx

We found the Wallsend guesthouse down a side lane, a rambling rectory. It was lovely. The owner fussed around us, taking our boots to dry. We stripped off our damp gear, made warming cups of tea, ate the complimentary biscuits and chilled on the bed. We watched their four dogs chase their doggy friend, a bonkers spaniel around the garden, ignoring chickens pecking in the flower beds. Chickens were equally unfazed. It kept us amused for many minutes.

http://kingsarmsbowness.co.uk/

Refreshed and dry, we walked to the nearby pub, the Kings Arms for tea. It was okay. We sat in the dining room and realised that the weather had cleared and it was a beautiful sunny evening. How weird. It had been so awful that afternoon and now it was gorgeous. That’s British weather for you. We were planning a celebratory game of pool, but solitary youth turned up with his cue in a case to practice looking professional. We would be many hours trying to pot just one ball, so we downed our drinks and slid out of the pub. We waddled back to our room and chilled.

And we never came across that awfully muddy field.

Hadrian’s Wall Walk Day Seven

Thursday

We were doing good. The last two days had averaged 10 miles a day. My blisters were a little bothersome but apart from that, we were feeling great. We had another 10 miler today, from Newtown to Carlisle.

We waddled down to breakfast. The hostess was there with a young girl, but it was a “help yourself” affair. Little dishes with a muesli compote, freshly baked bread, crumpets, just a great choice – it was a little different from the bog standard breakfasts we had eaten. It was one of the best.

Our luggage courier was early and it was the first time we had met the mystery man who transferred our bags every day. It was nice to thank him personally. Our taxi appeared shortly after and took us back to Newtown. The clouds were gathering again in the distance and it was quite a cool wind. The t-shirts and shorts had been replaced by jumpers and long trousers. We set off through the village and walked across flat fields, farms and footpaths. The Wall was represented by grassy mounds in this part of the walk. It was nothing on the scale of the middle part and we wouldn’t be seeing the stone wall again. ☹️

The landscape was relatively flat, heading towards the coast. There was nothing to note. The rain showers scudded past us and the sun shone in between. We passed by Carlisle Airport and watched as a couple of planes took off. It was noisy and reminded us we were heading back into modern life. We strolled along the river Eden, along paths and roads. It was varied. We came across another Snack Shed. It tempted us with an ice cream, but it was a cruel deception. The main Wall Walk season is encouraged between April to end of October to conserve the path and prevent erosion over winter (you are reminded to walk side by side, rather than in single file to preserve it), so these Sheds weren’t being stocked for the few stragglers like us.

We heard the roar of the M6 motorway a long while before we crossed it. A village sat right next door to it and the noise was awful. We followed the road into Carlisle and then onto a cycle path. It was here where the clouds finally got us and emptied their contents on us. We didn’t have time to get our waterproof trousers out (and we were close to the end of the walk) so our legs got soaked. Yuk.

We were close to the river and as the rain eased off, we entered a large and handsome parkland. We walked across it, noting that there was some very large and fresh cow pats, but no cattle. It was a bit worrying – were they hiding behind the trees, lying in wait for us? We crossed the river by a sturdy iron bridge and studied the map. Our accommodation was just over there, but the Path followed the river round for another half a mile or more. We didn’t want to cut out a chunk, so we walked around the loop so we didn’t have to do it in the morning. It was a bit of a waste of time, following a riverside path with no views in the city centre, but it had to be done. We stopped at the Sands Leisure Centre for the loo before heading into the centre, looking for a cafe.

Carlisle is a strange place to try to love. We had just walked through a splendid park with a tall stone memorial and handsome trees, but now we were negotiating one of those awful pedestrian underpasses under a roundabout and were burped out next door to a seven storey high 1960’s building, a box of spectacular blandness. I wished I had packed some dynamite. Next door, was another equally ugly building resided by the government body, Defra. They were both massively out of synch with the town, a ghastly blot on the landscape. Further up was the 1980’s red brick building, home to the department store, Debenhams, which wasn’t much more of an improvement. Poor old Carlisle. What a introduction. What had the City Fathers been thinking to blight their town with such monstrosities?

The High Street didn’t help our mood either. It was like any other British High Street dominated by big chains like WHSmith, Marks and Spencer’s, Primark and the other usual suspects. It was repetitive and monotonous. I felt sorry for Carlisle. I wished I had more time to find the heart and character of this city and look beyond the corporate desolation of its centre.

We spotted a Costa Coffee outlet. They are everywhere these places, but we knew you could, at least, get a decent cup of coffee there. We weren’t that desperate yet, but noted it’s location as a possible last resort. Then on a street corner, a little wooden A board was pointing down a side road and was promising an independent coffee shop!

https://www.johnwatt.co.uk/

Oh and what a find. What a little gem. The coffee shop was a tea and coffee purveyor, with tea caddies lined on shelves and the smell of delicious freshly ground coffee. It was old fashioned, but small, cosy and warm. We sat down and ordered a meal. It was huge. Hubby’s sandwiches were like doorsteps, the bread inches thick. There were many different blends of coffee. It was very popular too and had a great atmosphere. It was a little oasis. We ordered banana bread for pudding and that came up as two slabs, the size of a stone from Hadrian’s Wall. We wanted to stay for the rest of the afternoon, but made a decision to come back on our last day.

Suitably refreshed, we walked out of the centre towards our guesthouse – down a busy, but attractive road of Victorian terrace houses. There were road upon road of them, with pretty windows, fancy porches and some of them, built in two tone brick. They were elegant and I really liked them. I was also starting to forgive Carlisle. And in amongst these rows of sturdy, proud houses was our guesthouse, The Howard Lodge.

https://www.howard-lodge.co.uk/

It was slightly faded, stuck in a time warp of swirling patterned carpets into which you could lose things if you dropped anything. I liked it. It made a change from the modern standard. It was clean, tidy, airy, light and had everything we needed. We had a large room with high Victorian ceilings with a double bed and two singles, which made it a little cramped, but we at least could leave our suitcases open. We chilled and watched the sky get dark and rain showers whip by.

After chilling, we looked for somewhere to eat. Just down the road, we found a Greek restaurant called Alessandro’s and enjoyed a fabulous meal. It went straight to the top of our restaurant meal rankings. It was beautifully cooked, tasted amazing and was just perfect. The staff were excellent too. We were very happy.

http://www.thegreek.co.uk/

We had a wander afterwards to walk off our meal before bed and experienced a brief, but eye brow raising glimpse of Carlisle’s nightlife. By the restaurant, it was genial and sleepy, but just down the road, it was rowdy, noisy, and grubby. What a contrast. We didn’t linger and headed back into the quiet backstreets. We headed back to our room and settled down. Tomorrow was our last day of the walk, 15 miles from Carlisle to Bowness on Solway. The last week had whizzed by and we couldn’t believe it was coming to an end. I had mixed feelings – I was tiring of walking every day, but wanted to carry on at the same time. I was sad, but felt ready to go home, fed up living out of a suitcase. And anyway, we were running out of clean underwear…………….

Hadrian’s Wall Walk Day Six

Wednesday

We woke to a heavy overcast world. It had mercifully stopped raining, but was threatening. Morning ablutions over, we walked to the dining room for breakfast and met fellow walkers. It was very genial. We chatted about our routes, the weather, what we were doing next, where we were from. A delicious breakfast was served – all organic, fresh and home baked. In between we were visited by Alan the collie dog who patiently eyed up any leftovers and two cats who briefly rubbed themselves against your legs. A lovely start to the day.

Today’s route took us from Gilsland to Newtown, though our accommodation was in the small town of Brampton and would require a taxi once we got to Newtown. We donned our waterproof jackets and played safe. It was very damp and wet.

We picked up the Path and the Wall right outside our door, wide slate steps helping us down the field to the river. Across a lovely arched metal bridge – rusted and brown. It was very elegant. We walked along the path before suddenly being thrown upwards along a very steep gravel lane. A bit of a shock to the system so early in the walk! It got the old heart pumping and seemed to go on for ever. We stopped to get our breath back!

We came across another English Heritage site at Birdsowald. It was closed, another half hour before opening. We walked across fields, with evidence of the Roman ditches, disturbing the resting sheep who laid across our way. It was squelchy underfoot. Parts of it became a quagmire where animals had congregated by stiles, our feet slipping into a muddy goo. It was hard work. Slipping and sliding. It was a morning of alternate walking on the road and fields. The Wall on one side, then the road and then the Path, all parallel to each other. The Wall looked like a ordinary farmer’s wall, only the old mile castle remnants reminding you it was there. The road was hard on the feet, the Path slippy and narrow. We were on a ridge and could see across the valley. The clouds were trying to break up and brief shafts of sunlight broke through. It was stunning. We went through a couple of little pretty hamlets with little white crofter cottages. It was a reminder of how close to Scotland we were. We were losing the Wall. It was making sporadic appearances now. It was there spiritually, hidden under the pastures, the woodlands, villages, but not physically.

I wanted it back. I had touched it thinking that I could of been the first person to have touched that stone since a Roman centurion. I had admired it, up close and into the distance. Now I felt I hadn’t appreciated it as much as I should, that careless thought that it would be with us for much longer. I wanted to go back and enjoy it again and do the job properly. Now it felt we were just doing a walk in the country.

But it wasn’t. The ditches and Vallum were still there. The Wall, this side of the country, was initially built with earth and turf, then if it was rebuilt in stone, not so robustly. No wonder it was lost to nature.

We strolled through rolling country, crossing pretty rivers, through copses and sheep fields. At one point, the hill dropped away, giving us a wide panorama to the west, the land lying low. We squinted to see if we could see the sea, but it was too murky.

A hand painted sign informed us a cafe was 500 yards away. Mmm. Coffee and cake. We were ready for a coffee break. We quickened our pace and came to someone’s garden. There was a shed/summerhouse with a honesty box. You chose what you wanted, looked at the price list and popped your money in a box. The trouble was the cupboard was bare. There wasn’t much on offer that was an improvement on what we were already carrying. You could make yourself a cup of tea, but there was no milk. Another shed offered Hadrian Wall t-shirts and hoodies, which I didn’t fancy carting around. That was going to be my reward in Bowness. We wandered off and refuelled ourselves with tea and lumps of apricot, Oreo chocolate and dates that had welded together from our bag. Unusual taste.

We continued our journey. The day was brightening and the threat of rain disappeared. Over more farm fields, little woodlands, wooden bridges over swollen rivers and streams. We ended up on another road that lead steeply into the village of Walton. Coffee and cake weighted on our minds – it was becoming a craving. We reckoned on the chances of a cafe here being very remote, but as we turned a corner, a blackboard pointed to a cafe – 200 yards, 10am – 4pm. We couldn’t believe our luck.

We met a New Zealand couple picnicking at a table and asked where the cafe was. They shook their heads. “It’s closed”. We looked at them incredulously. They had done the same thing and had resorted to eating their own food. Even the loos were shut.

We stalked off after a chat with the NZ couple, muttering why the board was still out. In the long grass at the base of the board was a little sign marked “Thurs – Mon”, having fallen off. We just didn’t see it. And today was Wednesday.

We weren’t happy. Denied an infusion of caffeine and the delights of a scone with lashings of jam and cream, we headed to Newtown, another 3 miles away. We stopped at the main road. This is where we needed a taxi to Brampton. We had been given two numbers to call. One we couldn’t get through, another was in Carlisle and would be a couple of hours. Oh. We googled taxis and got another number. “I’m in Carlisle, it will cost your £25”. No thank you. This was getting desperate. I spotted a sign – Snack Shed. Maybe we could do an afternoon tea while waiting for the original taxi. Alas, the Snack Shed was what it said on the tin – a shed in someone’s front garden stocked with Pot Noodles, chocolate bars and other nibbles. Dejectedly we headed back to the main road. We tried another tact to get to Brampton. Stuck our thumbs out for a lift. But to no avail – there was little traffic heading the way we wanted to go, the vans full of workmen and cars owners gave us a wide berth completely.

There was only one ending to this. We started to walk down this busy road with no pavement, jumping into the verge when a big lorry bore down on us. We still tried to hitch hike, but no one offered. We were foot weary and didn’t want to walk another 2.5 miles. We should of booked the taxi earlier, but it was difficult to judge the time of arrival.

We staggered in Brampton and realised why we couldn’t get taxis. It was home time for schools and everyone was on the school run. Doh. We found the Scotch Arms Mews easily enough and wandered round the back to the entrance. It was closed! All we needed.

https://www.thescotcharmsmews.co.uk/

It was all easily solved and sorted in minutes. It was a mixture of our penchant of arriving early and how the guesthouse worked. There was a number on the door which we called and within five minutes we were being let in. It was all good. We pulled off our boots and socks, putting them by the wood burning stove before being taken up to our room. Again it wasn’t particularly big. We began to settle down, when we heard a noise outside the open window. It was lashing down with rain. We had timed it to perfection – big black clouds had been gathering as we risked life and limb on the road and now they were off loading. We were very thankful.

Scotch Arms Mews was quirky in its operation. The owner showed us around downstairs and basically told us it was self service. There were comfy chairs, deep soft sofas, the fire, a well stocked bar and a warm ambiance. She was heading home next door, but we could help ourself to drinks behind the bar (another honesty box), visit the one or two eateries in town or order takeaway food and bring it back there. So we did. Fed up with eating restaurant food, we phoned through for a pizza each, walked down to collect them, brought them back, got a beer out of the fridge (noting on a pad what we took), settled in front of the fire, found some reading material and essentially blobbed for the rest of the evening. It was like being in your own lounge back home. Very very relaxing. We had it all to ourselves. A wall mounted telly was on and we half watched that. This was perfect. Just what we wanted.

We were mulling about retiring to our rooms, when two other guests appeared, helped themselves to drinks, asked us if we were watching the telly before finding a football game and settled down. We sauntered up, liking this arrangement very much and loved the whole idea. What a different way to run a hotel guesthouse.

Looking out of our window later, over an unglamorous car park and the backs of shops opposite, I spotted another taxi firm. I had spotted it when I was Googling, but thought it was in Carlisle. I cursed under my breath. It soon passed as I fell asleep with the comforting thought that those guys were booked to take us back up the hill again tomorrow morning.