Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/276

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268

ONCE A WEEK.

[Feb. 27, 1864.


VII.

And ere the mother awoke from her sleep,
Or ere she had left her lone bed,
And while she was wond’ring why he had stay’d,
They had brought him home to her dead.

Margaret Swayne.




A BORDER WOOING.


I had spent some very pleasant time at the Shaws' Hotel, Gilsland, famous in the north country for the virtues of its mineral spring, as well as for the romantic beauty of its wooded and precipitous banks, which overhang the waters of the river Irthing. But it was not as a votary of Esculapius that I had bent my steps, or rather, taken my second-class ticket by the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway, to this temple of the northern Hygieia; the attraction being, indeed, the Roman station of Amboglanna, at Birdoswald, the finest upon the whole line of the justly celebrated Roman wall which traverses the isthmus that stretches across Northumberland and Cumberland, between the German Ocean on the east, and the Solway Firth on the opposite hand.

Having tarried long enough at my pleasant quarters at the Shaws, to make drawings of every portion of this noble relic; having, I say, completed my task at Amboglanna, I fell, according to my wont, under the influence of the erratic spirit which has ever governed my roving life; and after some little cogitation, I resolved that the next stage of my pilgrimage should be the out-of-the-way nook on the edge of the debatable land be tween England and Scotland, where Bewcastle, famous for its Runic cross, and the ancient stronghold of the Bueths, De Vallibus, Swenbacnes, and Grahames, is situated. Accordingly, having paid my foy, or parting glass, to my friends and comrades at the Shaws, I strapped on my knapsack, and with many kindly farewells, followed up by a hearty cheer from the whole of the male part of the company, I wended my way, a free rover, once more.

By the road my route ought to have covered not more than ten miles, but as I was desirous of taking up the Roman road called the Maiden Way, I took to tho moors soon after leaving a small change-house, where I stopped for the common refreshment of oat-cake and peg-cheese, with a little whisky, well diluted with spring water, cool as if iced. This I have always found a good walking staff in the absence of churn-milk, a most refreshing beverage; next to which I would rank cold tea, naked, and without milk or sugar.[1]

Thus reinvigorated, I wended stoutly on my way, and leaving the road presently struck the Maiden Way, which here traverses the country to Bewcastle.[2] It is a broad road, showing in some parts quite distinctly for miles, in others concealed by heather and moss flows; it is well paved, with a compactly laid kerb on its borders. This lone track I pursued to a considerable length without seeing any living thing, except now and then a pack of muir-fowl, or a blackcock exhibiting his grotesque antics before an admiring bevy of grey hens. After a time the way became broken and confused among the undulations of the moorland, and after many times losing it and again taking it up, it became entirely swallowed up in a wide peat moss, on which I had to leap from hag to hag over black treacherous-looking pools, suggestive of the water-kelpie lurking below to snatch the unwary traveller to the sullen depths of his darksome abode. The sun was now getting low on the horizon, and I became very dubious of my way, all around being a dreary and darkening waste, where only the wild querulous scream of the curlew, or the deep guttural cry of the solitary bittern, could be heard, and my situation began to assume a critical aspect. However, there was nothing for it but to push on, which I did, with perspiration pouring from my brow, so as frequently to obscure my view. As there now appeared a rising ground a little way ahead, I made for it in a straight line, taking, under the spur of necessity, some extraordinary leaps over the gaping wells which obstructed my progress; until, completely exhausted, I passed the boundary of this dreary swamp, and sunk panting and breathless on the welcome hill-side.

After having rested for some quarter-of-an-hour, I made my way up the hill, and, looking down, saw, just below, the antique church and
  1. In reference to this beverage, I have been told by a keen sportsman that nothing sustained him so well, and its only fault lay in the artificial stimulus it imparted to muscular energy, which was liable to induce undue exertion. This property is probably due to the amount of azote and tannin contained in tea.
  2. The road called the Maiden Way branches from the Roman road at Kirby-Thore, passes between Cross Fell on the right, and Kirkland on the left. It is seen in the east part of Ousby, in Malmerby and Addingham parishes. In some parts it is eighteen feet in breadth. It crosses Blackburn, and running within about two miles of Aldston, enters Northumberland, bearing for Whitley Castle, a Roman station; thence to Caervoran, passes the Roman Wall at Dead Water, and re-enters Cumberland, and proceeds to the station at Newcastle, which it leaves a little to the left; then under the name of Wheel Causeway, proceeds to Kirksop, and into Scotland at Lamyford. Here it crosses the Catrail, and is supposed to join Watling Street near the Roman station Ad Fines. This, which was originally a British road, appears to have been adopted by the Romans for a military way. The name, Maiden Way, is derived by Wharton from the Celtic word, Madan-Fair, probably made or constructed.