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The Solway Coast
The Solway Coast
The Solway lies at the heart of the old Northern Lands, and around its shores there is evidence of occupation and industry from pre-history up to present day. Starting in St Bees, H.C. Ivison takes the reader on a tour of this fascinating coastline, all the way to the horn of Whithorn on the Scots side.
Themes covered include history, folklore, flora and fauna, saints, rivers, fishing, ports, lifeboats, famous visitors including Dickens and many more.
Paperback; 165 x 235mm
Colour photographs throughout
Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
The Solway Coast by H.C.Ivison. Amberley. £14.99
For H.C.Ivison the Solway is a magical, mysterious place. He wants to believe the name means the sun's way, but, according to one early interpreter, it does not refer to glorious sunsets spreading across the calm waters and sands, but to a muddy ford.
He follows the coast beginning on the cliffs at St Bees and ending far to the west in Wigtown. The legends begin with St Bega crossing the stormy Irish Sea in a coracle.
Whitehaven was the home of George Washington's father, Augustine, when he was a boy.
There is said to be a 'shore boggie' at Salterbeck. "This shaggy, long-haired creature is described as having vicious nails and bright red eyes." It was last seen in the 1930s when a man was attacked when he was going home along the shore after a late shift.
Henry Galloper Curwen is one of Workington Hall's most famous ghosts. Disappearing after a gun-running incident, "he reappeared within a month of a cousin declaring him dead and with a fortune in gold in his saddlebags, claiming his estate."
White Croft Pit was home to the Red Bank Boggle. the white lady appeared at the end of a shift and caused the winding cable to snap. Several lives were lost and it is said that the "White Croft's headless silk-clad lady finally had the distinction of closing the pit down., for in spite of the offer of higher wages, no-one would work in the engine-house."
Sea-wives are said to be seen on the Solway "when the sun lies low and you can scarce tell the difference between land and sea". "They take the form of beautiful women to enchant young men."
Another Solway story tells of two brothers sworn to mortal enmity. One killed the other somewhere near Moricambe Bay and, seeking to hide the body, waited until the tide was out. When he came to unload the body from off his back, rigor mortis had set in and, the murderer being weighed down by his dreadful burden, both brothers, the living and the dead, were sucked down into the quicksands.
There are further tales of the Solway, of horsemen racing the tides and of ghostly horses riding on the leading wave of the tide as it rushes across the sand.
Mr Ivison's portrait of the Solway shore is not always so fanciful. He tells of the planned streets of Whitehaven and Maryport, of the blast furnaces at Moss Bay and the salt pans on Allonby Bay.
He recounts in detail recent excavations of Roman remains at Maryport and describes the line of forts which ran along the coast.
He tells of Mary Queen of Scots' stay at Workington Hall and of her transfer via Cockermouth to Carlisle Castle.
And he also tells of smuggling along the coast, of secret rooms and hidden passageways. "To consider the map of the Port Carlisle area, the number of villages, hamlets and twisted roads show what an ideal smuggling location this must have been. Looking round at the age and variety of buildings, you begin to think of hiding places."
For H.C.Ivison the Solway is truly a magical and mysterious place.
The real magic of the Solway is shown in the photographs. The sun sets in red and gold over the darkening land. Allonby Bay lies calm and peaceful beneath a blue sky. Criffel lies across the choppy waters of the Firth. The skies and sunsets of the Solway are magic enough.
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