|Businesses in Bowness-on-Solway||Towns and Villages of Cumbria|
(See also Solway Coast)
Bowness-on-Solway lies within the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Solways name may originate from the Norse: sul (pillar) and vath (ford). The ford refers to the low tide crossing of the estuary here. The name of the village may originate from the Anglo-Saxon word baelg, a swellng, and ness, a nose of land as it sits on a rounded peninsula.
It is an ancient crossing point of the estuary, and guides used to conduct people across to Scotland. There is a legend that a battle took place on the sands between the two countries. In 1845 land was reclaimed from the sea to use for agricultural purposes, but, at high tide, some of the roads and land flood.
In Roman times a fort called Maia (meaning larger) occupied the village site with its coastal views across the water to Scotland. Maia was also the name of two Roman goddesses, so it is possible the fort was named for one of them. The fort, on the site of the 80th milecastle, was the second largest on Hadrians Wall, which ended here. Now, the Hadrians Wall National Trail ends at Bowness.
Originally the fort it was built of turf and timber, then timber, and finally of stone. Visit the Kings Arms Inn in the village and look at the map on the wall to see the details of the Roman fort.
12th century St Michael's church (restored in 1891) sits on what is thought to be one of the Roman forts buildings, possibly a granary. The structure, like that of many of the village houses, includes stones taken from Hadrians wall. It consists of a wide single chamber, a nave, a north transept, a south porch, and a double bell tower. The east memorial window was presented by Thomas Wilson, formerly of Thistlewood, in memory of his parents. The Norman font was dug up in a garden adjoining the church in 1848.
The tower bells are not the original ones, at least according to local legend. They were stolen in 1626 by the Scots in a raid, who then ditched them in the Solway. In retaliation, bells were stolen from Scotlands Middlebie church in Dumfries to replace the originals.
An old rectory house was demolished in 1860 and a new one erected. In 1872 a Wesleyan Home Mission Chapel was constructed.
Industry in the area consisted of farming and shallow water fishing using haaf nets.
In 1869 a rail line, the Solway Junction Railway, was opened between Bowness and Annan in Scotland. It connected to the Maryport and Carlisle railway. The one-mile-plus-176-yards-long iron girder viaduct across the water was damaged by an ice build-up in 1875 and in 1881. It was repaired and continued in use until 1914 for passengers, and until 1921 for freight. In 1934 it was demolished, with only a bit of stonework and a few iron piers surviving. Besides the usual safety concerns, there was also the consideration of the Scots who crossed on Sunday to buy alcoholic beverages in England and then returned across the viaduct while inebriated. Apparently some disappeared into the waters.
In the village is a signpost to the Banks. This promenade was constructed during Edwardian times (the early 20th century). Here there are views over the Solway Firth. On the Banks the village is planning to install interpretive panels that tell the history of the village and the area and give information on local bird life. In addition, a Roman style interpretative mosaic is planned to show the bird life of the Solway, and Roman water gods will be shown on pottery plaques. Carved seats are to be added with poetry depicting the languages of the village throughout its history. The project is expected to be complete by September 2005.
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 May look for skua.
Hadrians Wall National Path: www.nationaltrail.co.uk/hadrianswall/
For more information on the skua and other birds visit www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/
When bird watching, check tide times published in the local papers, and pay attention to the flood notices. Stay away from the old viaduct as it is dangerous, and public access is not allowed.
Bowness-on-Solway, overlooking the Solway Firth, is 14 miles north-west of Carlisle.
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