30. Newton Arlosh via Bowness to Glasson

I park up at a nondescript junction of two lanes just north-east of Glasson, then ride my bike the six miles down country lanes to Newton Arlosh. When the walk is around a peninsular like this, the bike ride from end to start is mercifully short! I lock my bike up to a park bench outside the tiny church of St John the Evangelist, and set off north-eastwards.

The lanes are straight and quite dull. The weather is cold and quite dull. The only things which remotely grab my attention are silvery drainage channels, red willow branches, and a farmer feeding his cows in a waterlogged field, but I’m happy enough. It’s nice to be out on the beat again.

I come to the first crossing of the old Solway Junction Railway line which was built to carry ironstone across the Solway Firth from mines in Cumberland to ironworks in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. I’m going to cross this line three times today, the third time being the most interesting. At this first crossing it’s decidedly uninteresting, the only remains being a couple of brick walls. There’s not even any trace of the old line.

The remains of the B5307 bridge over the Solway Junction Railway.

Entering the hamlet of Angerton, a pleasant duck pond reflects the trees and winter sun. Past the pond I turn left, heading north towards Anthorn.

Angerton pond

Angerton may be a small hamlet, but it hosts the Kirkbride Bowling and Tennis Club, which has its own stadium. Bowls is clearly a mass spectator sport around here, and I heard the Kirkbride Killers senior bowls team have a fearsome reputation.

The grand amphitheatre of the ‘Killers

I soon reach the rickety narrow road bridge over the River Wampole. A sign indicates a maximum weight-bearing capacity of 10 tons, but I wouldn’t fancy driving a truck over it. Actually due to my Christmas eating it’s questionable whether I’ll make it over there on foot….

Wampole Bridge

Vegetable roadkill signals the presence of fans of American heavy alternative rock around these parts…

A left turn takes me westwards, following the lane which skirts around the edge of the coast, and to my second crossing of the Solway Junction Railway. The only evidence of it this time is an old stone wall, and the gates of the Whitrigg Station building, which was demolished and is now the site of a private house. Again, no sign of the path of the line save for a line of trees, the rest having been appropriated by farmer’s fields and private gardens.

A mile further down the lane, I arrive at the village of Anthorn. Anthorn was just a cluster of small cottages and farms for centuries until 1918, when the Royal Naval Air Service built Solway House Airfield here. That was abandoned between the wars, but in 1942 the air force handed it over to the navy, who built many of the new houses in 1952. There are still occasional old buildings dotted about the village though.

New houses in Anthorn, 1952

After the airfield closed in 1958, a large radio transmitting station was built, which now provides radio services for the UK’s submarine fleet, the National Time Signal, and LORAN marine navigation signals. The masts of this station not only dominate Anthorn, but can be seen for dozens of miles around. The submarine communications antenna consists of 12 outer towers supporting a massive “umbrella” of wires emanating from the top of a 750-foot central mast.

A central mast is surrounded by 12 towers supporting the umbrella cables

As an electronics engineer I find this stuff fascinating, but I get it, it’s really not… at least not to 95% of the population anyway! Despite this, I’ll continue, so feel free to skip this next paragraph.

The central tower and the 12 outer towers are actually only a support for an ‘umbrella’ of wires, that form six huge diamond shapes parallel to the ground – a trideco umbrella antenna. The six diamonds are fed by wires from the transmitter, and it is these six wires that transmit the very low frequency (19.6kHz) signal – the towers and diamonds don’t transmit anything. The frequency is set so low to enable it to pass through several metres of seawater to reach the submarines without them surfacing.

The diamonds make up the top plate of a giant capacitor which ‘sucks’ current from the six feed wires into the umbrella, thereby causing the current in the feed wires to be much greater than it would otherwise be, and increasing the strength of the signal transmitted. The bottom plate of the capacitor is made from equivalent wires buried just underground. Cool!

There are some other “T-antennas” strung between the support masts to transmit the National Time Signal as well. The cone-shaped things in the picture below are insulators, like the ones found on electricity pylons.

The “umbrella”

I take dozens of photos of the different antennas, feed stations, counter-weights and guy rope mountings as the road circles around the site, then remember getting stopped by the MoD Police in Barrow after taking pictures of the submarine factory there. I suddenly realise this is a NATO site and I probably look quite dodgy. Not wishing to waste half an hour chatting to grumpy men in uniforms and having to show my photo collection again, I get back on with the walk.

This side of Anthorn, the road skirts the estuary of the River Wampool, and it feels a lot more coastal than the country lanes I’ve followed so far. The sun is low in the south and reflects off the water and wet mud.

I come to a public footpath sign pointing across the river. No, it hasn’t been swung around by kids, it is actually an official footpath, marked on the OS map. It would have saved me a 5-mile detour, but I’d have had to wade through salt marsh, mud and a river to achieve it. On balance, I reckon I’m happy with the detour.

The shortcut

Coming out of Anthorn, someone has set up a small shop in their garage selling free-range eggs. There’s also a table full of general junk, and an honesty box. I’m tempted by the eggs, but have no means to carry them. I could eat them fresh of course, but I’d have to be a lot hungrier than I am now before I start scoffing raw eggs. I’m even less tempted by the coffee mugs and 1980s Haynes car manuals on the table. Time to move on.

A little way out of Anthorn I come across three brick and concrete structures called “firing butts” that were built in WW2 for aircraft to test their guns. The plane was parked up in front and fired into banks of sand at the back of the building. Each one has a traffic cone on top… probably not part of the original design.

A couple of miles later I come across a lonely bench facing out across the Solway and decide it’s time for lunch. I sit down and the rain promptly arrives. Lovely. My trusty umbrella is the first thing out of my rucksack, and I then spend a quarter-hour tucked under its cramped cover, munching. Twice, a car pulls up into the clearing, presumably to enjoy the views across the water, but they soon realise that the drizzle restricts their view to a tramp slumped on a bench under a yellow umbrella.

A sign tells me I’m now entering RSPB Campfield Marsh, but even the birds have got sick of the rain and none are in sight. However, the rain then stops as quickly as it started – presumably it only came to make my withered sandwich even more miserable – and I then get a good view of the town of Annan on the other side of the Solway. It’s a 30-mile walk to get there, but I have plans for that.

Annan, Dumfries & Galloway

Rounding a corner I come across the biggest bird-bath I’ve ever seen, tucked away in the gorse bushes by the side of the road. It’s more a human-bath, but it’s only 4°C today and I don’t think the locals would appreciate me partaking, so I give it a miss. And anyway, the gorse puts me off.

The road goes up a sharp incline, and for the third time today I’m crossing the Solway Junction Railway. This time it’s a bit more exciting though. This point is where the Solway Viaduct started.

The viaduct took trains across the Solway to Scotland. The iron structure had 193 spans each 30 feet across, and was wide enough for a double track, although only a single track was ever laid. It was opened in 1869 for freight traffic, and the next year opened for passenger trains too. However, only a few years later, Spanish iron ore became cheaper for Scottish importers than that coming up the railway line from Cumbria.

Then in 1874 cracks started to appear in the ironwork, and in the cold winter of 1881 ice flows came down the river, some up to six feet thick, hitting the cast iron pillars at 10 miles per hour. The shocks could be felt by anyone standing on the bridge, and several pillars were swept away. The previous year had seen the Tay Bridge disaster and the railway inspectorate were in no mood to be imprudent. In almost every year of its existence, the railway lost money, and so in 1921 the last train ran over the viaduct, and in 1933 arrangements were made to demolish it. The 5000 tons of iron were reclaimed, some of which was fatefully sold to Japan to build up their armaments for their war in China. I wonder how that turned out?

It seems the viaduct was most successful as a means for Scottish drinkers to visit pubs in England on a Sunday, when Scottish pubs weren’t allowed to open.

Remains of the Solway viaduct

Anyway, being similar enough to a pier, I feel the need to go to the end of it. After brushing through the bushes I discover a much-trod path through the gorse.

My eye is distracted by vibrant patches of orange on the trunk of a gorse bush. This is the delightfully named Yellow Brain jelly fungus, a parasite and a frilly sign of a witch’s curse – apparently. Its alternative common names of yellow tremble and witches’ butter don’t help endear me to it either, although golden jelly fungus sounds nicer.

The path opens out onto the side of the embankment, where huge stones mesh tightly together.

At the end of the embankment, just a single row of cast iron pillars remains to remind us what this substantial structure would have been. Looking across the water, the remains of the north embankment can be seen stretching out towards me.

Parked near the end of the embankment is a device sat upon a large scattering of seashells. I’m guessing it’s some sort of shaker table for sorting the size of the shells, but I’ve no idea why you’d want to. Fertilizer perhaps?

Acme’s Patent Sea Shell Sorter. I could really do with one of them.

Here you can see how the viaduct looked back then, and compare it to now…

I shortly reach the pretty village of Bowness-on-Solway, and the infamous “Rome Signpost”. The reason for it is that Bowness (or Maia as the Romans called it) was the start point of Hadrian’s Wall. From Ravenglass up to here was a series of “milefortlets“, which is why it’s on the signpost too I guess. The 1150 miles to Rome is actually as the crow flies, which not many Romans did back then. I expect those that flew Pegasus Airlines from Bowness International Airport to Rome would have had a very uncomfortable and cold flight. Still, better than Ryanair.

A painted pebble in a garden near the village primary school makes me smile…

I see a tea-room – I would love a cup of tea and a cake – but unfortunately it’s closed until 14th January. Don’t you hate it when your hopes are raised only to be dashed again!

The village church of St Michael’s in Bowness was built from stone stolen from Hadrian’s wall in the 12th century. Later, in 1626, its two bells were stolen by Scottish border raiders, but were accidently dropped in the Solway on the way back. In retaliation, the villagers of Bowness raided Dornock and Middlebie in Scotland and stole their bells, which are still in St Michael’s church today. Traditionally, a new vicar of Annan petitions the vicar of Bowness for the return of the bells, and the vicar of Bowness tells him where to stick his petition. Most politely I expect.

Just the other side of Bowness I get the chance to walk a few hundred yards along the beach. It is probably one of the worst beaches I’ve walked on, pebbles and rubble, and a drain outflow for decoration. Further out on the mud away from the grim beach, two curlews are taking an afternoon stroll.

The road eastwards out of Bowness is hardly any higher than the water level, and flooding is common. By pure luck it’s not long after low tide, as otherwise I could have been wading!

The road soon reaches Port Carlisle. This village was originally called Fisher’s Cross, but when the Carlisle Canal was built it was renamed. It was a major port for Carlisle, handling both freight and passengers, but when the much bigger Silloth docks was built it lost its trade and closed. The remains of the canal and the substantial docks can still be seen.

A path leads through trees squeezed between the Solway and the old canal, which is a pleasant change from lane-walking, and a lot easier on my feet. There is very little left of the canal now, just waterlogged patches and pools amongst the trees.

The path eventually rejoins the road, and a mile or so later, quite tired after my first walk in a few months, I reach my car.

This walk was completed on 9th January 2022, and was about 15½ miles long. Here’s my annotated map:

And here’s a real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around.

Read some other coastal walkers’ write-ups for this section, just click on their icon…

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17 thoughts on “30. Newton Arlosh via Bowness to Glasson

  1. Nice to see you back in the coast. I don’t remember this as the most exciting walk but it must be good to see the coast of Scotland ahead (but are you going to go there…? or head to the east coast of England).

    Thanks for explaining what all those aerials and masts were. I think my reaction was just “hmm a lot of aerials, I wonder what they are for” 🙂 You can see them for a long way as it’s so flat around there.

    I remember hearing the same about the Solway Viaduct, that it was mostly used by drinkers! A shame it isn’t there now, it would be a handy short cut for coastal walkers.

    There is a small little garden at Bowness on Solway to mark the start/end of Hardrian’s Wall with some mosaics. Not sure if you saw it.

    I actually re-walked much of the section from Bowness on Solway east as last year I decided to walk Hadrian’s Wall Path so it’s quite familiar to me again. There is an infrequent bus from Carlisle to Bowness on Solway. I remember on my coastal walk that I had to stand both times when I used it and that on one of the journeys the driver went the wrong way (as pointed out by some of the other passengers). This time I tried to get it from Carlisle to Bowness on Solway to start Hadrian’s Wall only to find the bus showing “BUS FULL” when it got to me (even though it obviously wasn’t) but they told me due to the dreaded “Social Distancing” (god when well it end…) they weren’t allowed to take standing passengers any more so I was told I’d have to wait for the next one – in 4 hours! I ended up instead walking from Carlisle to Bowness on Solway and taking the bus back (which fortunately, did have room). I mention it because I remember that it turns around by the “Rome” signpost. At the time this was surrounded by cows. When the bus arrived the cows all surrounded the bus can began to lick it. The driver was amused but said it often happens and she doesn’t know why they like to lick the side of the bus and she doesn’t mind so long as they don’t try to get on the bus! (Perhaps it saves Stagecoach money on cleaning!).

    So all in all, probably a better idea to use a bike for this bit, I’ve not had great experiences with the buses round there!

    I don’t think the roads flood every high tide I think it’s only generally unusually high tides (once or twice a month perhaps) though like you I also didn’t have to find out.

    1. Thanks Jon, I’ve decided I will continue into Scotland for the time being, at least along that southern coastline of Dumfries and Galloway anyway. The lure of the Northumberland coast can then take me if I get too fed up with Scotland! I’ve had a couple of weekend breaks in Northumberland over the last year and it really is quite stunning up there, so very tempting.
      It is a shame about the viaduct, yes. Unfortunately most of the railway viaducts in Cumbria don’t have a footpath across them anyway, which always annoyed me intensely, having to walk miles around for the first no-rail crossing! From memory I think there’s only three that do, at Ravenglass and a couple near Sellafield. Anyway, I have plans for the Solway Firth which means I hopefully won’t have to go all the way into Carlisle and Gretna, but we’ll see.
      As I get further north the public transport seems to be getting worse and worse, so that electric bike is really going to be so useful. From reading your recent write-ups it’s a real pain to have to plan the whole walk around when the bus might turn up. Mind, what we really need to make things much easier is a camper-van like Ruth’s!

  2. Happy New Year, if it’s not too late.
    When I saw Glasson I thought you had slipped back into Lancashire, I was there today – the Lancashire one.
    I am kicking myself for not seeing that ‘Rome signpost’ when we alighted from the bus at the start of Hadrian’s Wall a few years ago.
    Good write up as usual Paul with that classic line – “a pleasant duck pond reflects the trees and winter sun”

    1. Thanks BC. I’d stick with the Glasson in Lancashire if I were you, much nicer! I’m not sure how you’d miss the Rome signpost to be honest BC, it’s right on the coast and the road so you can’t avoid it really. Maybe it was hidden by cows (see Jon’s reply above).!

  3. Huddled in my sleeping bag on the Gower peninsula, the nearby sheep would have been alarmed at the chuckling in the dark as I read this one! I did skip the electronics lesson though. 🙂

    1. Thanks Tony. It must have been bloody cold out there, it was cold enough indoors here 😲
      Don’t blame you on the electronics!!!

  4. Glad to see you are back. What was the ground like. From memory it was mainly road and bleak. Its a long trek to Carlisle from there and no wall. You’ll enjoy Northumberland and Yorkshire even Durham is beautiful bar Middlesbrough to Redcar

    1. Thanks Allan. It was tarmac all the way unfortunately which was tough on the feet, apart from the detour down the old viaduct. I wouldn’t call it bleak though, it was mostly quite pleasant. I’m not planning on going to Carlisle actually…. I have a cunning plan!

      I’m really looking forward to Northumberland, I’ve been there a couple of times last year for holidays. I was planning on skipping Scotland and popping over there, but I think I’ll do do the south coast of Dumfrieshire first and see how it goes.

      I do quite like the industrial parts as well, but your description of Middlesbrough and Redcar in your blog certainly don’t sound enticing!!! Hope all is well Allan, and you’re enjoying your Thames walk with your daughter.

  5. I’m not an electronics engineer – I design databases – but I do find almost everything interesting, so the explanation of how the antennae works was much appreciated. I knew what they were for, but not how they did it. Cheers!

    1. Thanks HM. I guess you’re back on the road again this month, are you? I hope so as I love reading your write-ups!

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