Run, run as fast as you can!

The drive from Land’s End in the far south-west of England to Hadrian’s Wall in the far north of England was uneventful except for a stop in the small village of Arnside, in Cumbria.

Low tide in the small village of Arnside

Sleepy Arnside was where my father spent much of his childhood and where my grandfather and step-grandmother continued to live after he left home.

Arnside taken from Ernseat Prep School (my Dad’s school in his early school days)

The village sits facing a massive estuary on the north-east corner of Morecombe Bay and was a thriving port until a viaduct was built there in 1857.

The massive estuary Arnside looks out to. The viaduct, built in 1857, is in the distance.

Our visit was a trip down memory lane for me as we had several holidays there when I was a small child.

Arnside looked just the same as it did when I was a child and this old fashioned bus helped create a nostalgic atmosphere!
My Dad’s family lived in one of these houses facing the sea when he was a child

My chief memory of Arnside is going for a walk with my Dad, two older sisters and younger brother (he was probably about two and I was maybe three or four years old) along the sweeping beach.

The beach where I was walking with my Dad and siblings

Suddenly my Dad told my sisters and me to run towards home as fast as we could. I had no idea of the danger we were in but I still remember the urgency in my Dad’s voice.

Run, run as fast as you can for home!

Arnside has a world famous tidal bore which at high tides can move (in one big tidal wave) at the rate of 20 knots (37 kilometres a hour). It has been known to take many a poor soul by surprise despite the warning notices along the quayside. There have been numerous rescues and a number of drownings over the years.

The tidal bore in full flow

Nowadays there are warning sirens when the tidal wave is due but on the day I was there with my family there was no such thing. Our poor Dad, despite growing up there and knowing the dangers must have been shocked to see the wave heading our way.

You have been warned!

I can’t have been running fast enough as in the end my Dad who was already carrying my brother, plucked me from the sand and tucked me under his other arm and with my two older and faster sisters we made a frantic dash for safety!

Ernseat School just visible behind the trees

Arnside was also renowned for its boat building – from 1838 until the 1980s the famous Crossfields boatyard turned out 35 foot prawners carrying 900 square feet of sail, racing yachts, row boats and other pleasure boats.

Arnside has hardly changed over the decades

The yard even built the “Swallow” of the famous book Swallows and Amazons for the author Arthur Ransome.

A reproduction of “Swallow” made for the 1974 movie based on Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons.
Sailing lessons for the boys from Ernseat School

From Arnside we drove to Greenhead, a village in Northumberland which lies close to Hadrian’s Wall, Britain’s largest archaeological remains from Roman times. Here we found the fascinating Roman Army Museum which depicts Roman army life in a fort on Hadrian’s Wall through artefacts, reconstructions and an incredible 3D film.

The Roman Army Museum was very well done With many interesting displays and artefacts

Models of some Roman weapons

Begun in AD122, Hadrian’s Wall was 117.5 kilometres (73 miles) long and ran from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea and marked the northern limit of the Roman Empire.

On our way to Hadrian’s Wall. Were some of these stones originally part of the wall?
Curious sheep wondering why on earth we were walking in their paddock in the rain
Walking the Wall!

A significant amount of the wall still exists and it was amazing to be able to be able to walk up to a section near the museum and stand on this ancient Roman frontier.

Standing on the ancient Roman wall

Later we went for a beautiful walk
One way to climb a wall
Momma cows protecting their young
Pretty as a picture! The River Tipalt near Thirlwall Castle

We also went for a lovely long walk to the mystical remains of the 12th Century Thirlwall Castle which fell into decay in the 19th Century. There wasn’t a lot to view but it was easy to see that it was once a sizeable and impressive fortress.

The mystical remains of Thirlwall Castle
Local legends says the Castle is haunted

Thirlwall Castle is derelict now but it is safe to walk round its exterior
More curious sheep

The following day we spent several hours at the fascinating site of Vindolanda, a fort pre-dating Hadrian’s Wall under Roman occupation from roughly 85 AD to 370 AD.

Vindolanda is spread over a huge area
Only 24 per cent of the huge site at Vindolanda has been excavated

This huge site on which nine forts were built over nine centuries, with accompanying villages, barracks, a bath complex and stone huts, is unique because the whole of it is in private hands.

It was fascinating to see the archeologists at work

It was purchased In the 1930s, by archaeologist Eric Birley, who began excavating the site. The excavations have been continued by his sons, Robin and Anthony, and his grandson, Andrew Birley, up to the present day. There have been many amazing and valuable findings including two caches of tablets that at the time of their discovery, were the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain.

An ancient Roman lane
This drain was once near a butcher’s shop and a necessity to carry away the detritus from slaughtering animals

It is now run and excavated by the Vindolanda trust and it is estimated that despite annual excavations, only 24 per cent of Vindolanda has been excavated to date.

In the small museum on site there were many fascinating items including some the Vindolanda Writing Tablets which are like postcards from the past; lots of pottery, weapons and tools and an amazing array of shoes.

A copy of the kind Roman temple that would have been part of Vindolanda
Shoes, shoes, shoes!
Some of the shoes were very elegantly made
The remains of a Roman horse head stall with a present day version to show what it would have looked like in Roman times
Roman hairpins and needles.

While wandering around the extensive site we were fortunate enough to be able to watch the excavations, talk to the volunteers and even saw Andrew Birley carrying on his family tradition of excavating this fascinating window into the Roman occupation of Britain.

It was great to watch and chat to archeologists as they worked
Jonathan was even allowed to handle “a bit of pot”

Published by

Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

2 thoughts on “Run, run as fast as you can!”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this, Dot! You’ve got some great photos of Arnside and of course I remember it from all those decades ago. But Vindolanda looks really interesting as well – we must add it to our list!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s