30 March 1993: Day 1 – Ravenglass to Eskdale Youth Hostel – 10 miles.
A wet start to the day.
After a wholesome breakfast, we crossed the narrow road along the Ravenglass front to descend some steps to the beach. The tide was high, so that we didn’t have far to walk to dip our toes in the sea. It was not until some months later that I discovered that someone had found a Roman Diploma on this very beach. The Romans made Ravenglass their naval base for the whole of their occupation of north-west England; it was called Glannaventa. The Roman diploma was sent from Rome during their occupation of Britain between AD43 and 410 and represented a soldier’s discharge paper awarding him, after twenty-five years service, Roman citizenship. You can imagine the Diploma arriving by ‘horse-post’ and the soldier saying, ‘Well, I’ve been in Ravenglass for twenty-five years and I’ve only got to walk some 1,000 miles to get back to Rome.’
Ravenglass received its market charter in 1208, one of the first in what is now known as Cumbria.
Continuing along the pebbly beach a footpath sign came into view, a little yellow arrow stuck on a pole, half submerged in water. Not very encouraging for the start of a coast to coast walk! Fortunately, the sea could be skirted to reach terra firma.
We soon reached a Roman Bath House. The Bath House, known as Walls Castle (near Walls Mansion) is one of the highest-standing remains of a Roman building in this country and is all that remains of Glannaventa.
The above photograph is of an 84 year old gentleman from Antrim who completed my coast to coast solo some years later in 2002 and who wrote to me enclosing this picture amongst the Roman Bath house ruins. Amazing – so I sent him a certificate of completion !!!
He said in a letter to me about his coast to coast:
‘Thank you for so much for certifying me. My son and grandsons say I’m mad anyway. He came across a child in a farmhouse who played trombone so he joined in. The men of the house in the Dentdale B&B played cornet. His worst experience was climbing over the the hills to Coniston in drenching driving rain only to find the hostel closed until 5.30. His best experience was that of walking into the drying room, locking the door, stripping to the skin, and turning up the heat. Fully changed and dressed, sitting down to a marvellous meal cooked by mine host. Truly memorable’.
His last bed and breakfast insisted he phone in his arrival at Scarborough at the end of the walk as they were worried he would get lost in the woods.
His next planned walk in 2003 was the up West Highland Way in Scotland and down the Lowland Highland Way. Incredible as he would then be aged 85.
Your never too old for long-distance walking!
Back on my own coast to coast a gentle climb led to Muncaster Castle, an enormous granite and sandstone structure, which surprisingly houses an owl centre, home to the World Owl Trust. In the castle are beautiful tapestries, furniture and paintings. In 1464, Henry VI hid here and, in gratitude, presented the lovely glass ‘Luck of Muncaster’ bowl to Sir John Pennington; a replica is on view. It is said that as long as it is intact the Penningtons will live and thrive there.
From near the castle terrace, Ruskin described the view north-east to Scafell as ‘the finest in England’, this he felt was the entrance to Paradise; clearly he didn’t say this on a wet Lake District day, when the only thing you can see is rain dripping off your nose. A further climb led up to Hooker Crag. This is not a hill where ‘ladies of the night’ gather (as far as I am aware), but is in fact a fine viewpoint looking towards the Isle of Man out to sea and the Scafell range to the north. A little more worrying, Sellafield nuclear power station can be seen to the north-west and it is noticeable that glowing red skies are very frequent in this area – I would not of course suggest there is a connection. One of the notable features about the Lake District is that you can often see the weather coming towards you and, on this day, fine blue skies were heading towards us and were to stay with us for many days – wonderful!