The Cartref proved to be somewhat old-fashioned, cluttered but comfortable. After an excellent breakfast marred only by bland coffee, we popped out to M&S to buy sandwiches. The overnight rain had just about stopped, but the sky was grim and the pavements puddled.
Not long after nine, we were back on the south bank of The Eden, and soon moving away from Carlisle. It was still overcast, but progressively getting brighter. Quite a number of people were walking Hadrian’s Wall Path, but nobody was overtaking us, despite our slow pace. They were all coming from the East! Three antipodeans passed us early in the day as they headed for Bowness. Later in the day, we passed Americans, three ladies from Norway, and an assortment of natives. They enthused about the delights that lay ahead of us.
On the outskirts of Carlisle we crossed the river by the magnificent Memorial Bridge into Rickerby Park. The park was acquired by the town in 1920; it was opened along with the footbridge in 1922 to commemorate those that had lost their lives during the First World War. Being a garrison town at the time, Carlisle suffered more than most other British towns and cities. The sun made an appearance as we meandered across the parkland with its towering trees and dozy cattle.
We skirted the village of Rickerby. From our brief glimpses of homes and gardens, it appears to be a haven for well-healed eccentrics. Moving east, we crossed over the angry roar of the M6. On dropping down from the motorway bridge, we found ourselves in the well-groomed village of Linstock. We sat at the picnic table on the roadside green and had a coffee. We discussed the fact that the M6 must be comparable to a lion. I’m sure that it’s roar can be heard for five miles!
The promised walk alongside the River Eden to take us to Low Crosby was denied us. The path had been closed due to severe erosion. The diversion took us onto the busy A689, a disappointingly prosaic alternative. Crosby itself was shut; it was too early for the pub, and St. John’s Church was locked. But from Crosby, the Path followed pasture and bridleway, and we came upon our first hints of the Wall – no stone as such, but a raised causeway, below which the wall was hiding. This brought us to the reedy Blea Tarn, which apparently had been a Roman quarry.
We passed eastwards through the hamlet of Oldwall and on to the more substantial and elongated village of Newtown. We were pleased to find an honesty-box snack hut in the grounds of a bungalow. We sat and ate our M&S sandwiches, buying hot drinks and ice creams. The hut is run by a 13 year-old, who had pinned a note to the wall pleading with his customers not to steal his pocket money! He had been the victim of such a crime; I suppose the lessons of entrepreneurship must include how to deal with setbacks and unscrupulous activity.
We had taken our lunch a mere 2-3 miles from our destination for the day. But we seemed to make hard work of what remained of our walking day. We dipped down through woodland to Cam Beck, where we found a bench to admire the waterfall. Eventually we rolled into Walton; it was still mid-afternoon, and so we visited the recommended Reading Room for tea and cakes, before going on to Florries-on-the-Wall.
Florries is classified as a bunkhouse, a type of accommodation that was new to us. It is run by a young, enthusiastic couple. Their common room is a bright and spacious place, with bar, dining area, and sofas. Our bunk room could sleep four; as it happens, Julia and I were to be the only occupants, but there would still have been plenty of room if there had been a full complement. At least I wouldn’t have to share my snoring with anyone unfamiliar! The whole establishment was immaculate and boasted great views of the surrounding, rolling hills.
In the evening, we sat with other devotees of the Wall: a father and son from Jersey, and three women who had known each other since their twenties in Glasgow. They were all heading west, and therefore had much greater experience of the Wall. We regaled each other with anecdotes and tales; the food and beer oiled the wheels of companionship. After watching the ladies play Banana………, a game which sucks spectators into throwing in their own ideas, Julia and I retired to our bunk room, reflecting upon the fact that we both felt pretty useless at building words back-to-front.
Just a note about the photos. Julia and I tend to share snapping duties, although I do feel that Julia has the sharper eye for the idiosyncratic, the out of the ordinary. As by way of evidence, here are three that she took during this day that took us to Walton: