Friday, September 16, 2011


On an overcast Sunday morning several weeks ago, I found myself in the Carlisle, UK railway station, with two hours to spare before the arrival of the train that would take me to London.  Having just completed my walk of the Hadrian's Wall path, I was still hungry for the incomparable beauty of the English countryside.  Inside the terminal, however, everything appeared to be hard-edged, gray, and lifeless.  The details of individual features seemed to be lost in the sheer vastness of the place.

While these were my initial impressions, I abandoned them immediately because I have learned through the years that we limit our perspective when we confine ourselves to beauty that is obvious.  Whatever the circumstances, there is always another kind of beauty that is calling us.  Its a shy beauty, one that hides from plain sight, one that needs to be seduced.  This is the beauty that attracts painters and photographers.  Like snake charmers, we want to coax beauty out of the shadows, make it visible, let it speak — perhaps even sing — in its own inimitable voice.

Thus motivated, I set out to see if I could find anything of visual interest in the train terminal.  My goal was to find compositions in which something interesting was happening in the dance of light and line, color and texture, shape and shadow. Camera in hand, I simply asked the terminal to speak to me, either loudly or in whispers.

My first shot was beneath the crosswalk that towered above the tracks.  I loved the geometrical aspects of this view, the contrast between the intense colors and the neutral stone walls, and the continuity of the blues from the crosswalk's ceiling to the doors and stair rails.

After walking to the other side of the tracks, I took this shot because I loved the juxtaposition of colors and lines — the red bench in contrast with the backdrop of greens (placing complementary colors next to one another always creates intensity) and the diagonal lines of the ramp rail in contrast with the vertical and horizontal lines that otherwise dominate the composition.

This composition appealed to me for several reasons.  First, it has two situations (luggage carts and the row of columns on stairs) in which there are repetitions of form, which always help to establish unity in any composition.  Second, the intensity of the colors in the door and the stairs offers an interesting contrast with the neutral grays of the remainder of the composition.

The reflections in this window to a small cafe also caught my interest.  They seem to create a triptych, with the lower third being somewhat whimsical, the middle third revealing an mysterious interior, and the top third revealing the complex geometrical lines of the terminal roof.

Turning back toward the tracks and looking upward, I found myself entertained by the  abstract designs of the steel and glass work in the train station's roof.

I found the above composition to be interesting because it was asymmetrical but balanced, and the three primary colors screamed with intensity against the background of the neutral walls and walkway.  The question that remained, however, was whether the photo would be improved by eliminating the yellow cone and thereby simplifying the composition.  That photo is below, and I think I like it a little better.  There is something to be said, however, for finding three, intense primary colors against a neutral background.

Finally, before boarding my train, I took this little abstract (below) from the face of some kind of industrial storage locker.  I liked the texture, the dominance of the turquoise blue, and the radiance that is often exuded from things that have been in use for a long time.

That's it.  Nothing more than a few musings about photography — a passion of mine — as I remember waiting in the Carlisle railway station for my train to London.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


RobertDominic, and I celebrated the end of the fifth day of the walk with a fine dinner at the local pub in Newtown.  As planned, Dominic returned home later that evening, and Robert and I left the following morning for Carlisle, where Robert would catch his train home and I would spend the night before the final day's walk to Bowness-on-Solway.

Between Newtown and Bowness-on-Solway, there is little remaining evidence of Hadrian's Wall, though one occasionally sees the vallum and ditch that once flanked the southern and northern edges of the wall, respectively.  One hardly misses the Roman stoneworks, however, for this section of the walk has its own charms — woodland paths, wildflowers, quaint cottages, and a delightful stroll along the River Eden before reaching the interesting town of Carlisle.  It was a fitting time to reflect upon what a wonderful trip this had been.

Day 6:  Newtown to Carlisle

Woodlands Path

Cottage Along the Path


Through a Field

Knapweed and Yarrow (I think) Between the Path and the River Eden

Taking a Break

Named "Linstock Cottage," this working farm  is an
extension of the fortified remains of Linstock Castle.

Path Shared With Cycleway Near Carlisle

 Carlisle Town Center and Market Hall

An Fascinating Exhibit On Walls That Divide and Separate Us

After Robert's train departed from Carlisle in the afternoon, I went to the Tullie House and Museum and saw an exhibit on walls that have been constructed throughout the world to divide and separate populations.  I wanted to see the exhibit because it was a fitting reminder that, in many respects, we are still approaching our problems as Hadrian did when he ordered the construction of the Roman wall in the early 2nd century.

Tullie House and Museum

The walls exhibit consisted of a series of concrete walls, each of which had a large fissure revealing a montage of relevant photographs.  On the concrete walls themselves, above and below the fissures, there were reproductions of some of the graffiti that has been discovered on the partitions in various countries.  I took photos of a few sections of the exhibit, and I will let the photos speak for themselves here. Personally, I found the exhibit to be very moving.  (Clicking on the center of the photos below provides enlargements which permit some of the smaller writing to be read.)

Day 7: Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway

The final fifteen mile walk from Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway began along the River Eden and passed through several charming villages before reaching the Firth of Solway.  Among the charms of the day were a couple of interesting churches, one of which has great historical significance.

Leaving Carlisle

Bridge Across the River Eden

A Woodland Path

Along the River Eden Again

St. Mary's Church in Beaumont
(constructed in the 13th century
on the site of a turret on Hadrian's Wall,
using stones taken from the wall)

St. Michael's Church in Burgh-by-Sands

St. Michael's Church, which was also constructed in the 13th century with stones from Hadrian's Wall, is located in the center of a five-acre area that was once the site of the Roman Fort, Aballava.  The church has additional, historical significance because the body of King Edward I (known also as "Hammer of the Scots") was laid to rest here in 1307 after the King died of dysentery on Burgh Marsh while waiting to cross the Firth of Solway for an encounter with the forces of Robert the Bruce.

Door to St. Michael's Church

Vicarage at St. Michael's Church

Being from Easton, Maryland and headed for Bowness on Solway,
I obviously found this road sign to be of interest.

The Firth of Solway at Low Tide — Scotland on the Distant Shore

The Last Woodlands Path Into Bowness-on-Solway

The Official End of the Hadrian's Wall National Trail

Thanks to Robert and Dominic for helping to make this walk one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  As the travel writer Tim Cahill has written, "a journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles."

Where to next?  No limits except my imagination.

Photo Credit:  The photo of Tullie House and Museum is from  All other photos taken by author.

Monday, September 5, 2011

WALKING THE HADRIAN'S WALL PATH: Days 4 and 5 — Once Brewed to Newtown

Day 4:  Once Brewed to Gilsland

This would be the day that The Solitary Walker and I would meet the inimitable Dominic Rivron, author of the multifaceted blog, Made Out of Words.  Precisely where we would meet Dominic, however, remained a mystery, so we left Once Brewed (yes, this is actually the name of a village) and returned to the undulating path that followed the wall westward.

Robert and I at Green Slate, the Highest Point of the Hadrian's Wall Path

The Path and Wall Above the Village of Once Brewed

Heather Along the Pathway

The Solitary Walker

The Surrounding Countryside

Passing Through a Small Farmstead

Robert (left) and I Meet Dominic on the Path

A Young Family Walks Above the Windshield Crags

Lunch with Robert and Dominic Inside the Ruins of a Milecastle

The Wall and the Path Westward

Dominic Climbing up to What Remains of Thirlwall Castle, a Fourteenth
Century Structure That Was Constructed With Stones From Hadrian's Wall

Dominic and  Robert Walking on Top of a Turf-covered Portion of the Wall

A Scene That Prompted an Extensive
Discussion About Various Types of Relationships

A Point at Which the Path Dips Through The Front Garden of a Cottage

Day 5:  Gilsland to Newtown

Robert and Dominic Crossing the River Irthing

An Old Barn That Appears to Have Been
Constructed With Stones Taken From Hadrian's Wall

A Peaceful View From the Path

A Lovely Cottage Under the Darkening Sky

Spotting this straight line of cairns on a small stream, we initially thought we had discovered a work of environmental art by Andy Goldsworthy.

After further exploration, however . . . 

. . . we discovered a strange but fascinating spot, with a large canvass containing the drawings and scribblings of myriad people, many of whom appeared to be walkers along the Hadrian's Wall path.

Someone had also lined the stream bank with tattered pieces of furniture, covered in plastic to protect them from the elements.  As you can see from the photo of Dominic above and the photo below, we sat beside the stream . . . 

. . . listened to the water's music, and had a lengthy discussion about the possible meaning of the place.  One thing seemed clear:  Previous visitors had taken the time to mark their passages with additions to the line of cairns. 

In keeping with that tradition, we decided to construct our own cairn.  (For more on this streamside adventure, see Dominic's post, Almost Heaven)

In the funniest episode of the entire walk, we encountered a herd of cows at the corner of a field, blocking our access to the gate through which we had to pass. Oddly, the farmer who owned the herd approached us in the adjacent field on an ATV and said, "What are you going to do now?"  Since he seemed to enjoy our predicament, we decided to approach the herd calmly and maturely.  Our plans went quickly awry, however, when someone recalled a story about walkers being trampled by cows in a stampede.  The herd must have heard the word "stampede," for they immediately executed an about-face and began heading in our direction . . . 

This called for a brief retreat until the farmer, undoubtedly rollicking with laughter, decided to open the gate and allow his hungry herd to pass into the adjacent pasture.  

Mysterious cairns on a stream, inhospitable cows, some grizzly carrion found on a section of the road we had crossed in the morning — what would be next?  Perhaps two dead crows hanging form a post advertising nearby accommodations. Needless to say, we skipped the bunk house and moved on to Newtown.

Next Post:  Days 6 and 7 — Newtown to Bowness-on-Solway