A day where I end up almost in Scotland. Well not quite, but it was only just across the water….
Wall to wall sunshine and blue sky on the first dog walk showed the promise of a lovely day to come, with an early morning mist slowly clearing from the valley where the river ran down below the fields. Other than the occasional bleat of a sheep everywhere was completely quiet and it all looked so lovely that I went back to the tent for the camera and repeated the walk just so I could take a few photos.
My destination for the day was Bowness-on-Solway and Port Carlisle, two villages within a mile or so of each other on the eastern end of the Solway Firth estuary where the rivers Esk and Eden meet. I’d seen a photo of Bowness ages ago – on someone else’s blog I think – and though there didn’t seem to be much there it had intrigued me enough to want to go there on a nice day.
Set just off the road on the western edge of Bowness was a small parking area with just about enough space for half a dozen cars. Unfortunately it was full and the road through the village was too narrow to park anywhere else so I drove on to Port Carlisle and was lucky enough to find a small lay-by close to a section of Hadrian’s Wall Path at the start of the village. Now to be honest I really don’t know what some people find so fascinating about walking 84 miles from coast to coast along a path which supposedly follows the line of an old wall, much of which now doesn’t exist anyway, but for curiosity’s sake I went along the short section through the village.
The village itself is little more than a hamlet of less than 100 houses mainly situated on the landward side of the coast road. Originally called Fisher’s Cross it was renamed Port Carlisle in 1819 when it became the sea terminus of the short lived Carlisle Canal. The Hadrian’s Wall Path actually bypassed the village, running behind a handful of houses on the seaward side of the road where not far from the shore were the remains of a long brick-built wall which was once the sea wharf for the port.
Through an area of scrubland I eventually found an offshoot from the path which took me back onto the road at the far end of the village and a hundred yards along I found the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, built of brick in 1861 though much altered internally over the years. In 1873 it had enough pews to seat a congregation of 150 but by 1940 these had been reduced to seat 90, then by 1980 they had been further reduced to seat 60. In the years since then the front of the chapel has been partitioned off to provide a lobby and a small kitchen, the ceiling has been boarded in and the remaining pews replaced with chairs.
Delighted to find the chapel open I went in to take a quick look and found a simple little place with just two identical stained glass windows and a rostrum at the far end, while a table at one side and the absence of any rows of chairs suggested that the building is probably used for things other than worship.
Walking along the road through the village I passed a couple of terraces of Georgian houses. The first row was fronted by a long cobbled area used for residents’ parking while the second row had very small front gardens, then at the end of the row was the Hope & Anchor pub with the Port Carlisle Bowling Club opposite. Between the road and the bowling green was a long, wide and very empty car park with a notice on the fence saying it was for the use of club members only. To be honest I thought that was a bit selfish when any visitors to the area have to find somewhere to park at the edge of the narrow road; I’m sure the car park is big enough to allow a just few spaces to be set aside for visitors, especially if there’s no-one there playing bowls.
Driving back to Bowness I was lucky enough to find just one available space in the small parking area with extensive views across the water to Annan Beach in Scotland and the outskirts of Annan itself. Leaving the van I walked back through the village, an attractive little place with a primary school, the King’s Arms pub, a bistro and a mixture of old cottages and more modern houses and bungalows with well kept gardens.
Sharing the same open courtyard with the bistro was a very small cafe with two or three picnic benches outside. I would have loved to stop for a coffee and a snack but several fancy hens and a whole load of tiny little chicks were roaming about and sitting under the tables – I didn’t want Snowy to grab an early dinner so I kept walking to the far end of the village then turned and retraced my steps back to the van, and with one final shot of the nearby signpost I set off on the drive back to the camp site.
Since returning home from the holiday I’ve found out about a few things of interest which I missed that day, both in Bowness and Port Carlisle, and though I won’t have the opportunity to go back again this year I’ll certainly make a longer return visit to both places the next time I’m camping in north west Cumbria.