18th June, 2018 and we’re off! This time we are taking on Hadrian’s Wall Path – west to east. The journey north was primarily by train – Stoke-on-Trent to Crewe, and then up to Carlisle. A 93 ‘bus took us the 15 miles west to the sleepy village of Bowness-on-Solway. As always, despite the huge amount of negative publicity being thrown at it by commuter travellers, public transport, for those of us who have the luxury of being able to pick off-peak times, worked extremely well.
The train from Crewe to Carlisle was Virgin, and so inevitably we had to travel like couped-up chickens. Part of the problem was that their overhead baggage space isn’t deep enough; it’ll take a bag which passes the Ryanair cabin test, but not a proper suitcase. As a consequence, customers had baggage where people should be. Hence many customers were standing; there was a great deal of musical chairs being played; people moving to the toilets or for a drink had to try their hand at triple jump. At least we knew it was a Virgin train before setting off. We had emptied our bladders. The loos on Virgin Trains are for me somewhat like Proust’s madeleine; within seconds I am transported back to my early years, and the joys of the pachyderm house at Chester Zoo! In fairness to Virgin, it isn’t a class issue; on occasion I’ve slipped into a first-class loo, and that carries the same olfactory memory.
No such problems at Bowness. The pretty village was being well ventilated by a brisk westerly off the Irish Sea when we arrived. The firth reflected the glowering sky and the austere Scottish hills to the north. Why Hadrian’s Wall you might ask? Well, we came because we know nothing about this land so close to our northern neighbours. We also hoped that we might learn a little more about what the Romans did for us!
We were staying at The Wallsend Guest House….well, we couldn’t actually get into the guest house, but they own four “wigwams” just down the lane. They were more like travellers’ caravans stripped of their axles and wheels. And they did not come cheaply! £75 for the wigwam, £15 for bedding, and £5 for a single set of towels! it was even more for a toiletry set (£3.50) and a breakfast hamper. We’re not mean, but having already spent 95 quid, we reckoned we would just have to go hungry and dirty!
In the evening, we walked up the lane to the tiny but beautiful church of St. Michael. Well established, and quite probably built of the stone originally used by Hadrian, it exuded an ancient peace and tolerance. Not far beyond the church sits the village pub, The King’s Arms. This is another old establishment at present undergoing major refurbishment. The lady at the bar told us that they were way behind schedule. Early in their scheme of renovation, they discovered serious damp issues in their walls, spring water rising in an extension at the back of the main building, and even hidden stairwells! Given that the dining room and bar reflected such work in progress, the service and provision of food was nothing short of bloomin’ marvellous. We had salmon with a full complement of vegetables, and polished off with syrup sponge. So much for going hungry!