The Story of the Solway


From space (using images from satellite arrays on Google), you can see how the Solway is a finger of water that reaches in from the fist of the Irish Sea to prise apart England and Scotland. From lower, aerial views (in my case from a slightly terrifying flight in a gyroplane) you really begin to understand how the water – the sea, the estuaries – has been so important to humans, animals and algae, who live along the edges. You can see the geological and more recent history, and the way the margins and the inhabitants of all kinds are dependent on, and influenced by, each other.

In the book I have tried to bring together the ways the different forms of life interact with the Firth and with each other: a difficult task, but wherever possible I have enjoyed using those charming and ubiquitous inhabitants of the mudflats, the mudshrimps Corophium volutator, as the link.

Here, first, is a gallery of photos taken from the gyroplane flight: apologies for the fuzziness of some images – holding a camera one-handed out of the open side of what seems like a vibrating, flying scooter was unnerving.


For more about Port Carlisle, and its wharfs, the canal and the railway, see here.

In this chapter I also mention the concrete arrows on the dunes that guided WWII pilots towards offshore bombing targets. Near to the arrow on the Mawbray dunes is a shallow pool where natterjack toads breed. Since I haven’t written about dunes in general, here are some photos of plants and anmals that can be found in these dry, sandy and salty places.


The Solway shows many different characters from benign and colourful sunsets to angry, sediment-laden waves. People who work along or on the Firth hold it in great respect, and their many comments about its character are noted in the book’s Introduction.


And as I explain in The Fresh and the Salt, the charismatic little mudshrimp Corophium volutator, barely one centimetre long, which lives in colonies of hundreds of thousands in burrows that each has constructed in the mudflats, is one of the keys to understanding the Upper Solway’s malleable margins.