Day 139, 140. Sat 2nd & Sun 3rd September. Gretna to Bowness on Solway.
It was a shame I never got to see the lodge in Gretna, I think it would have been the most southerly lodge in Scotland and it is lodge with a very sad story to tell following a tragedy that occurred on 7th April 1941. The township of Gretna was built during the First World War to house many of the workers who produced cordite at what was possibly the largest munitions factory in the world which straddled the English and Scottish border. Having such a low population desity, Gretna was considered an unlikely target for a German aerial attack but on that fateful night, German bombers had conducted a bombing raid around the Glasgow area dropping 400 bombs, on their return to Germany, one lone Dornier bomber dropped its payload of bombs on the township. Seven bombs were dropped diagonaly across the town destroying homes and buildings killing 28 people, the third of the seven bombs crashed through the roof of the Masonic hall and exploded inside killing 27 Freemasons that were just finishing their meeting. When I read through the list of names and occupations of the brethren that lost their lives on that awful evening, it was interesting to see that diverse occupations of the lodge members was no different than it is today, there were retired soldiers, butchers, bakers, a scrap merchant, a tailor, a train driver, a blacksmith and a minister. It must have been devastating for the community and equally devastating for the Masonic fraternity as the lodge meeting had been moved forward a day to accommodate visitors from nearby Dumfries, Longtown, Lockerbie and Carlisle, had the meeting taken place the following day on its designated day, it would have been a very different story.
Neil walked with me for the first 6 miles back into England and after a couple of miles we stopped in a lay-by where we were met by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master and the Deputy Grand Superintendent. Bill and Glyn had driven a long way to join Neil in welcoming me into the Province of Cumberland & Westmorland and I was blown away when they presented me with a cheque for £250 for my cause. Considering this province is also in Festival right now and are working hard to raise their aspired amount for the MCF, I hadn't been back in England for an hour and they were already demonstrating what Freemasonry is really all about, extending the welcoming hand of freindship and unbridled generosity towards charity. After a brief chat, Neil and I continued on for a few hours until we reached a pub at Rockcliffe, it was a scorching hot day so we sat in the garden with a pint of ice cold coke. Yes, Coke, not beer !!! Neil's wife drove out to pick him up as he had to return to Gretna to pick up his car, thank you Neil for giving up your Saturday, I know how busy you are and I'm very grateful to you.
Once over the river Eden I joined the westerly end of Hadrian's wall which I would be following until I reached Bowness on Solway where the majority of walkers start the Wall walk. Arriving in Monkhill I was surprised to find a lovely little pub which wasn't on my map, I was starving so I had a meal and Becky made a very generous donation to the cause, she also pointed out the little campsite just down the road which also wasn't on my map. It was dark when I pitched up so I jumped in the shower which I was very grateful for, it had been a very hot day and I was honking, scrubbed up and fed, I went to bed.
The walk to Bowness on Solway was a mixture of roads and trails but it was well marked and easy to follow. There wasn't anything of Hadrians Wall to be seen on this stretch as the stone from the wall had long ago been recycled to build houses but there were plenty of interesting facts to learn. The wall was built 1900 years ago, it only took 6 years to build and it stretches only 73 miles from coast to coast, it was built to guard the North West frontier of the Roman Empire. The sign I read actually said it was built to keep the unruly Scottish out as the Romans were getting a bit cheesed off with the marauding Scottish tribes who kept stealing their sheep !!! It was a serious defence at 2.4 meters in depth and 3.7 meters in height and was considered the border between the civilised world and the unconquered Barbarian wilderness. Would I describe some parts of that west coast of Scotland a Barbarian wilderness, yeah probably... but what else did the Romans do for us ??
Edward I died in Burgh by Sands in 1307 while having a rumble with Robert the Bruce and this statue was unveiled on 07/07/07 by HRH The Duke of Kent to commemorate 700 years since King Edwards death.
I only walked 12 miles as I needed to find a campsite, I was to be picked up at 6pm by Neil and driven down to Cockermouth, the other Assistant Provincial Grand Master had kindly offered to take us out for dinner, we met Ian and his wife and had a lovely meal before Neil drove me all the way back up to Bowness, he then had to drive back to the other side of Carlisle, this man is a real gentleman and I'm feeling truly honoured to be getting to know him, there's something about these Provincial Communications Officers you know, I don't know where they breed them but the ones I have met to date, really are sterling chaps.