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March 6, 2015

To Bowness-on-Solway in the hope of catching a glimpse of Barnacle Geese.

Only we didn’t!

Admittedly the tide was out, but even so.  Our rarer birds always seem to skedaddle whenever I go looking for them.

But this bit of the Solway Firth is very attractive, with views across the sands and water to distant Scotland.

Bowness-on-Solway Church (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Bowness-on-Solway Church (c) John Bainbridge 2015

We followed the lane to the RSPB reserve at Campfield Marsh. A lane that’s either the first or last lane in England depending on your viewpoint.

Not that the bird reserve was exactly heaving with our feathered friends either. Though to be fair we did catch a view of some distant lapwings and a fair number of ducks.

Oh, and two herons on the lake on Bowness Common. And the second heron made it all worthwhile. Flapping into the wind like a tacking sailboat for a very long period of time. I like herons. There’s something quite unworldly about them.

Walked back into Bowness-on-Solway, which is near enough the start of Hadrian’s Wall. In fact the village is built almost within the boundaries of a Roman fort. Some very nice cottages and a shelter with a seat marking the start of the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail.

Edward Longshanks or Patrick McGoohan? (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Edward Longshanks or Patrick McGoohan? (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Solway (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Solway (c) John Bainbridge 2015

The pub sign bears a portrait of King Edward I. “Longshanks” died on the nearby marshes on his way North to hammer the Scots – as was his wont. I thought the portrait looked familiar. It should do. Its the actor Patrick McGoohan who played the King in the film Braveheart. I’m sure it is. Have a look at the picture and see for yourself.

The parish church is worth a visit, a beautifully carved font, Norman in origin, but found in a garden and restored in the time of Oliver Cromwell. The past is never very far away in England. There are traces everywhere. In the graveyard is a stone to the Isle of Man smuggler Thomas Stoal, who drowned nearby. It’s said his wife Elizabeth had it made from Snaefell Slate and shipped to Maryport, carrying it on her back as a penance to Bowness.

And the church bells are of interest too. The Scots pinched the originals during a raid in 1626. Pursued by the locals, they dumped them into the Solway. In retaliation the aggrieved parishioners of Bowness went on a retaliatory raid into Scotland and stole the bells from the churches of Dornock and Middlebie.

The Scots have been asking for them back ever since.

We returned to Carlisle along the lane by the Solway, which is tidal and floods when the waters are high.

We paused to see the church at Beaumont (pronounced BeeMont). Originally the site of a Roman milecastle on the Wall. The church is supposedly built by stone from the Wall itself, of which virtually nothing remains this far west. Inside are some medieval grave slabs, and there’s a most interesting Victorian porch.

Medieval grave slab at Beaumont (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Medieval grave slab at Beaumont (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Well, we didn’t see the geese, but we did encounter a great deal of history.

This part of the Solway is well worth a visit.

You might even be lucky if you go now, for the Barnacle Geese are there for another few weeks.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2015 7:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Jason Andor's Web Collection.

  2. March 6, 2015 7:59 pm

    I know the other side well…but have never visited the English side: something to regret now that I’ve read your post.

  3. March 6, 2015 10:30 pm

    Patrick McGoohan for certain!

  4. March 7, 2015 7:36 am

    Thank you all and for the reblogs. I think this is the most interesting bit of the English Solway from an historical point of view. Must try and get to know the Scottish side better. Regards John

  5. March 8, 2015 12:21 am

    Why was Elizabeth doing a penance? sounded more like Thomas should have done it before he drowned!

    I drove down some of those roads in that area – from Carlisle to Port Carlisle or some such – it was quite nice from what I remember.

  6. March 8, 2015 12:22 am

    Like the Church bells story too by the way! 😉

  7. March 9, 2015 7:42 am

    Many a good yarn there.

  8. March 9, 2015 10:28 pm

    Interesting the pub used the Patrick McGoohan image because in the film Edward didn’t die on the Solway marshes of dysentery, he died in a castle down South after his daughter-in-law whispered in his ear that she was having Mel Gibson’s baby.
    Great piece. Must get myself back to Solway sometime because it’s a fascinating area.
    Cheers, Alen

  9. March 10, 2015 7:21 am

    Yes, Alen, the film does take considerable liberties with history all the way through. I do think the story of Wallace deserves a more literal telling. Cheers John.

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