Today’so leg of the tour would easy I had said. And it was true, at least as far as the terrain was concerned. The only thing that was exhausting was the high temperature which easily topped 30C in the sun.
From Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway
I started out at about 9.30 as I had always done in the days before. The path led me back River Eden and the beautiful park I had passed the day before. Yes, the Brits know a bit or two about gardening. I could not linger, however, because I had to reach my destination. The first stop was at the so-called Sand Center which had been built on the same place as a Roman fort almost 2000 years earlier. There I got my next stamp. I also tried my first Dr. Peppers coke which turned out to be nothing more than a sugar drink with artificial cherry aromas. From my point of view, you cannot underrate this drink. I could only endure it chilled. I cracked on quickly because I still had a long way ahead of me.
The path followed the River Eden for quite a while now which was really lovely. There was an impressive bridge, too. I had an interesting encounter with a person and his German Shepherd with a muzzle. He pulled his dog close to his side, saying, “Sit down now.” Then he urged me to move on quickly. “He gets a bit snappy sometimes.”
The path quickly took me out of Carlisle and into a rural area onto the fields that I had become so familiar with during the past days. It was an effortless and pleasant walk, and I quickly found my rhythm.
A surprising turn of events happened between Kirkandrews-upon-Eden and Beaumont (which is pronounced like Beemont according to my guidebook). Because of a big landslide, the Hadrian’s Wall Path had been blocked. A diversion route had been marked, but I had to walk on the road which was much uglier and more dangerous. The local drivers, however, seemed to be accustomed to the presence of cattle and walkers and the road and always made a big sweep around me.
The road took me straight to Beaumont. It is a dreamy little village with the beautiful old St. Mary’s church at a very photogenic place on top of a small hill in front of a bright blue sky, accompanied by a not too small number of rustic English tombstones.
Right next to the church underneath a large tree a set of benches had been arranged for walkers. A group of five Americans and one guide dog had accepted this welcome invitation for a rest. They were sitting there having a snack when they saw me checking my map, and they were very eager to show me the right way.
We got talking. The Americans were really friendly, and both proved and falsified the cliche of the typical American. On the one hand, they hadn’t cared care about the diversion route and had stubbornly followed Hadrian’s Wall Path, only to climb a barbed wired fence to circumvent the blocked path, thus entering a farm whose owner clearly didn’t like intruders. They also picked a fight with the farm’s guard dog. On the other hand, they had a refreshingly ironic attitude towards themselves (“We are stupid Americans.”), valued natural orange juice (even to pasteurize it wasn’t acceptable to them), and the proved to be both knowledgeable and interested in Roman history. Such a trip to Europe isn’t exactly cheap, so it’s safe to say that these people didn’t suffer from a scarcity of money. If this is true, then they didn’t show it in their behaviour. They were open-minded, friendly not even a little bit arrogant. On the other hand, they weren’t the quiet type. They acted natural and casual and evidently saw no reason to hide from anybody or anything.
I went on to Burgh by Sands. A public faucet had been installed at the village church, and a sign offered thirsty walkers to refill their bottles. They didn’t have to ask me twice.
Next stretch of the path was without the doubt the longest perfectly straight line on the whole trip. For more then 5km the road cut through the marshlands as if it was drawn using a ruler. On the grass next to it there were quite a few cows and sheep. Sometimes they were walking on the street, too. Drivers had to go slalom.
After this 5km with hot midday sun and absolutely no shadow, a self-service tea shop was highly welcome. Walkers could help themselves to an ice cream from the freezer and put the designated amount of money into a small wooden box next to it. A sign asked walkers to turn off the light after using the toilet. Well, all right…
After a refreshing cone of ice cream, I promptly missed the next Hadrian’s Wall Path signpost and had to pay for my inattentiveness with walking on the road for a short stretch. Luckily, it wasn’t much of a detour. Using my map, I quickly found the way back to the path.
Now there was only a short way left to go. Bypassing a camping park the path took me back to the shore and westbound to Bowness-on-Solway. In about 2 km my journey would be over. An elderly man slowly overtook me on his bike, looking over at me and approvingly pointed his thumb up, saying, „Not far now, lad.“ Another man was busy unloading his Haaf-Netting-Gear from his car, saying „You’ve almost made it.“ These people recognize a walker when they see one.
And indeed, the end of my way was only 150 yards ahead. Bowness-on-Solway is a really nice and sleepy village. It is little more than one street with a row of houses on each side. These houses are simple and rustic and in their simplicity truly beautiful in the warm afternoon sun. I found my accommodation „The Old Chapel,“ and as it turned out, the path leading to the pavilion that marks the end of Hadrian’s Wall Path and holds the stamping point was right across the street. I had made it.
In the evening I went to the local pub and ran into the Americans again that I had met in Beaumont earlier this day. They invited me to their table, and we got talking again. The guide dog belonged to Phil, a Vietnam veteran. He had been hit by a shrapnel and suffered a brain injury which had lead to a heavily impaired eyesight. He was a funny guy who was constantly pulling off jokes. His wife Norma just had the right amount of heartfelt surliness to deal with him. The dog was called Jeff and slept like stone underneath the table the whole night.
Norma and Phil were accompanied by Ellen and Jeff (no, not the dog) as well as Allen whom they had met on the road. Allen joked that the other four were constantly following him ever since.
After quite a few laughs and some fascinating information on the qualities and the training of guide dogs our ways parted. We all would start our way home on the next day.
I didn’t go straight to bed though. I went back to the pavilion, and my hopes had come true: There was a magnificent sunset going on. I quickly fetched my camera and my tripod and made quite a few photos. It turned out that I hadn’t carried the tripod all the way for nothing.