Clouds building and breaking, cold brackish sandy water ebbing and flowing and the echoing sound of the many different sea birds that feed along the vast flat sand, these are the first things that you picture in your mind when you think of the Solway Plain. The River Eden empties its sixty mile long channel of flowing water into the Solway Firth home to oystercatchers, geese, ducks, curlew, and many other aquatic seabirds. With its formation set down during the pleistocene era when there was waves of warm and cold spells that lasted more than half a million years. Criffel an extinct volcano stands as a subtle mountain in the north and with the high peak of Skiddaw in the south these enclose the Estuary that fills with the water of the Rivers Nith, Esk, And Annan from the Scottish side of the Solway Firth. The Solway divides England from Scotland Hadrians wall lead to the end of its western limit at the Fort at Bowness on Solway one of the villages on the south side of the estuary. Once a busy estuary with canal boats heading up the canal into Carlisle followed by trains crossing directly over the water on the old Solway Viaduct With the canal giving way to the Railway boom and the Viaduct giving way quite literally to the shifting sands of the Firth the Solway is now a peaceful place with the only noisy traffic being the coming and going of migrating geese ( a much more pleasing sound on a cold day!)
The Solway has always had its hunters and fishermen. There earliest prototypes were from the mezolithic age. Many micro flints, small arrow heads, and harpoon blades have been found between the Mull and Gretna. Since Viking times there has been haff net fishermen in the Solway plying there trade for the great runs of Atlantic salmon that swim up the channels of the Solway heading for the river of their birth. A haaf net is a rectangular frame with wood on three sides to which it is fixed to a billowing net stretched tight to make the fourth side. An extra peice of wood sticks out from the middle of the long side at right angles for the fisherman to hold. The frame is about sixteen feet by five feet and even though a light type of wood is used, you can imagine that carrying and swinging a haff net is not a job for weaklings! The numbers of these fishermen that brave the perilous sands of the Estuary have sadly dropped in numbers, just as the numbers of salmon have dropped due to over netting by the many trawlers that reaped the rewards of finding their feeding grounds out at sea off the Greenland coast and the increasing use of farmed salmon stations along the Scottish coast that cause many problems for the wild fish and the surrounding habitat in which they have been hand reared in. Long gone are the fixed engines on the south shore of the Solway but they are still operated on the Scottish side.