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Bowness-on-Solway lies within the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, west of the City of Carlisle.
Hadrian’s Wall is the most important monument built by the Romans in Britain. It stretches seventy-three miles from Wallsend near Newcastle, across the neck of England to Bowness-on-Solway, in North West Cumbria, and stands today as a reminder of the past glories of one of the world’s greatest empires. Now that the walk has been defined as a ‘National Trail’, many people are now visiting Bowness at either the start or end of the walk.
Bowness sands are popular with summer visitors. Local bird life is another reason to visit. Sand dunes, salt marsh, shingle beds, and peat mosses make it a favourite spot with a number of species. There are viewpoints and lay-bys for spotting the waders: oystercatchers, curlew, golden and grey plover, lapwing, knot, dunlin, bar-tailed and black-tailed godwit, redshank, and turnstone.
In 1869 a rail line, the Solway Junction Railway, was opened between Bowness and Annan in Scotland, connecting to the Maryport and Carlisle railway. The one mile 176 yard long iron girder viaduct across the water was damaged by an ice build-up in 1875 and again in 1881. It was repaired and continued in use until 1914 for passengers, and until 1921 for freight, and was finally demolished in 1934. Apparently, part of the reason was that Scots, who then had no access to alcohol on Sundays, used to walk across to the more liberal English side, and returning in a less than sober state occasionally fell into the Solway, and were lost.
The 12th century St Michael’s Church (restored in 1891) sits on what is thought to be one of the Roman fort’s buildings, possibly a granary. The structure, like that of many of the village houses, includes stones taken from Hadrian’s wall. It consists of a wide single chamber, a nave, a north transept, a south porch, and a double bell tower.
It was not until the 18th Century that the Border Country between England & Scotland finally came under English & Scottish Law. Before this, family feuds between raiding families caused every village and house to defend itself with fortified houses or towers. (see link for pictures of nearby Drumburgh Castle).
St.Michael’s church had its bells stolen by raiders in 1626 but they lost them in the Solway when returning to Annan on the Scottish shore. Bowness villagers retaliated by taking the church bells from Dornock and Middlebie. Every new vicar of the church in Annan continues to request the return of their bells. His entreaties are always refused – nowadays politely!
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