Yesterday, Tara and I set out for Walton taking a detour from Carlisle due to a bridge closure and river flooding. We quickly found ourselves following the Eden River on a "public footpath" and noting, on our newly purchased map, that we could follow the "public footpath" vs Hadrian's Wall Path for the next few miles before we would need to join with Hadrian again. What we didn't know was that the signage along the "public footpath" was subpar and would abruptly stop leaving us boxed in a golf course that was bordered by a river. Any yet, nobody playing golf batted an eye at us walking past. I guess they are used to footpaths cutting across public spaces and farms? We spent a good amount of time comparing maps, looking at the public footpaths and trying to find where it picked up again. Then Tara spotted a gate off the green, hidden in the tall grass and wild flowers. We were off again and it was beautiful. Eden River was to the left and wide open farm and wild space was to our right.
A few miles on, we came to a gate leading us through a farm. During the prior day's walk, we had come to realize that traipsing through farms was normal and most public pathways lead through someone else's pastures. While we had walked past countless milk cows and sheep, this field was occupied by a herd of bulls lounging near. The moment we set foot on the gate ladder the bull's heads shot up and their eyes locked ours. Tara and I, slightly unnerved, backed down and huddled together for a game plan. These bulls were not the lazy cattle of the day before. However, maybe we just needed to forge ahead and they would ignore us. After all this was a public footpath, they must be used to strangers, we thought. In the event the bulls came at us, we'd be loud and make ourselves as big as possible. It was the advice given to Tara if she ever greeted a bear and she figured this would apply well to bulls too. Armed with our plan, Tara approached the gate and the bulls, still eying us, began to protest in a low bray. Tara paused. In what seemed like a swift and agile motion, the bulls popped up and in no time were at the gate challenging us to come into their domain. They even made a point of rattling the fence in a sheer show of aggression (not even exaggerating here). And well, we had no desire to cross their turf. The bulls had made their point very clearly. But what to do? We couldn't go back the way we had come around the river.
We devised a plan B: we would hug the fence and walk to the top of the field and far away from the gate. From there we'd hop the fence and make a dash for the clearing and highway bridge that ran over the top side of the pasture. Picture it, a huge field with bales of hay, the river as the southern boundary curving around the field, and M6 highway running atop a sliver of the field to the north. We had no choice. We walked, hopped and sprang out of sight. Looking back the bulls were still at the gate, mesmerized and holding strong in case we returned. Once we made it to the bridge overpass, we climbed up, shimmied under a broken part of the fence and emerged on the highway shoulder. We walked to the end of the bridge, garnering a lot of honks and waves from truck drivers, until we came to another smaller bridge we thought would connect us back to the detour of Hadrian's Wall. We took our chance, did another climb, another fence shimmy and found ourselves on a nice quiet road. From there the next 10 miles were a piece of cake. One could say our highway climbing was a shortcut back to Hadrian's Wall or maybe getting lost was karma from crossing the earlier mentioned closed bridge whose signs "closed for construction" we disregarded. :)
[Carlisle to Walton: 16.4 miles [with our personal adventure adding some steps to our day]