We shall make our way through Bowness to the bus turning area and small car park at the west end of the village. From here we can survey the vast estuary that is the Solway Firth and think on our journey.
To the west are the remains of the bridge that used to carry the Solway Junction Railway across the water to Scotland (and, before it was dismantled, the occasional drunken reveller – seeking to bypass national drinking laws – to their watery doom). According to Bishop Nicholson, writing in 1707, the terminus of the Wall lay a quarter of a mile west of the village and other writers confirm his observation. To the north, across the estuary, lies what is now Scotland but was in Roman times Caledonia: no Picts were harmed in the making of this mural barrier, they were almost certainly not around until long after it was constructed; the Picts’ Wall was a local term that came to be used to describe the Wall in the post-Roman period. To the east is the low drumlinoid we have just left that provides the slightly elevated platform for the fort of Bowness-on-Solway.
This is as good a place as any to reflect one last time how the emperor Hadrian’s visit to Britain in AD 122 (now immortalised as the route number of the Hadrian’s Wall bus) led to the construction of this massive monument, unique in form in the Roman world. Why did he do it? In the Historia Augusta, his biographer offers a simple explanation: ‘he was the first to construct a wall, eighty miles in length, which was to separate the barbarians from the Romans’ (HA Hadrian, 11).
There you have it: Hadrian’s Wall. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey. Except… that is not necessarily the end. In fact, there is much more to come!