Natural Eden Images Nature Photography by Stephen James Thompson
Natural Eden Images Nature Photography by Stephen James Thompson

Wildlife of the Engine Lonning

Gateway to the "top of the lonning"

The Engine Lonning has always been a special place to me from when i was a boy to the present day.Engine Lonning is a green belt in the City of Carlisle on the banks of the river Eden,a wild place left to 2 of this  section will hold images of its wildlife and landscape within the surrounding area.

History of Engine Lonning

Engine Lonning gets its name from the railway days when it contained the old Canal sheds that stood at the bottom of the Lonning feeding Engines out onto the Waverely line and the line to Silloth on the West coast.Built around 1850 the Canal Sheds were built in the vicinity of the old Carlisle Canal as the age of steam locomotives replaced the short lived water coarse of the canal boat days.Once a busy line the Waverley ran to Edinburgh over the North British railway bridge that spans the river upstream from where the Engine sheds stood.Crossing the river with a slight curve the" NB" Bridge is a work of art built in the days of work horses with no mechanical machinery just men and horses.There are acounts that two men drowned whilst building the bridge.Today the bridge stands derelict and sealed off,closed in 1963 when the beeching report closed many lines throughout britain.

The curved span of the NB bridge

Hadrians wall

The coarse of Hadrians wall ran through Engine Lonning when the roman army built there boundry under the power of emperor Hadrian.As they were building the Canal sheds a roman bracelet was discovered as they dug the foundations.During the construction of the bridge a large stash of roman coins were unearthed in the bank.A large section of Hadrians wall was unearthed when the sewerage works were installed upstream from the NB bridge.Today there is no real evidence that the wall ran along this part of the river, any remains long gone in the mists of time.

The old Bonemill

Along from the railway bridge stood a bonemill built into the high bank above the river.The would have been built before the days of the Canal and was possibly used when boats navigated the river up this stretch.The mill was ran by a couple of brothers by the name of Mattinson.Now the mill is just a ruin with small signs of its existance hidden in an overgrown corner freqented only by an odd Dipper and a resident wren.

The Bonemill in its shaded position along the riverbank

From transport to wildlife haven

After the Canal had meandered its way along this stretch of land and steam trains had gracefuly powered over the large tracks the area was finaly deserted its many hundreds of sleepers dug up and taken away and all the railway buildings dismantled the area was left to go back to nature which it has done since the closure of the line in 1963.Used only by off road motorbikers for a good few years the site became a great place for many diffrent species of wildlife which will be covered in the following pages.

An old image from 1960 from the coaling tower at the Engine Lonning

Roughly five miles from the Solway estuary sits the Engine Lonning and the NB stretch of the Carlisle Angling Association.The railway bridge being the first crossing on the river Eden until the recently built Western bypass bridge just downstream.Over the years the Engine Lonning has become home to many diffrent bird species and is now seeing a population of Roe Deer.Many a sighting of Foxes are seen each year between the NB bridge and the caledonian railway bridge further upstream.  

North British railway bridge as seen from the Bonemill

The Fishermen of the" NB"

The stretch of river that flows along past the Engine Lonning known as the "NB" is home to the local Salmon anglers that fish on the Carlisle Angling Association water.Throughout the long history of Salmon Fishing in this area the Anglers of this stretch have always been regarded as the gentlemen of the river always helpful to strangers that turn up to fish the streams that flow through this part of the river.Nowadays the numbers of these regular fishers are dwindling fast with only a handful left that fish here on a regular basis.

Raymond Temple a well known Angler of the NB fishing a devon minnow in the bonemill circa 2013

During the fifties and sixties the NB saw many large spring salmon captured from Willowholme weir downstream.Some very noteable fish were taken in these decades with magnificent specimens upto 38lbs.Unfortunatley them days are long gone and not likely to return any time soon but this stretch of water still has that look of character and holds a certain charm even to the angler who never fished it during those special days in the middle of the last century.Today you can walk down the Engine Lonning and expect to see many forms of wildlife that you would normally see further into the countryside rather than on the doorstep of a city hospital and large housing estates.The bank of the river has been well maintained in the past by the local anglers making access easier the above angler Raymond Temple has done most of the work over the years keeping the paths in order and keeping the himalayan balsam at bay!

Raymond doing vital repairs to the flood damaged riverbank circa 2007

A Summer evening at the "NB"

the backdrop of a mid summer eve at the River

The sun slowly drops down on the NB after a long hot summers day,the sound of swifts and sandmartins echoe downstream as the slurp of a large seatrout sends gentle ripples across the calm low water of the river.A white moth flutters amongst the hawthorn bushes as the red and subtle pink hues of the thin clouds hang in the still air reflecting on the low stale river water that emits an earthy smell of drying algea that has been exposed on the stones as the level dropped during the hot mid day sun.The temperature starts to fall away with the sinking sun as a pair of Mallard ducks feed in the Bay there shapes appearing in sillhoette as the light fades and the colours in the sky gone along with the sandmartins.A gentle breeze kisses the rivers calm surface sending a shiver of cool refreshing air downstream after the intensity of a hot summer day.The last wave of seagulls dissapear over the horizon as the darkening sky silences the landscape as the birds song falls quite for another night as the shadows fall across the old arches of the Waverely bridge.Suddenly and swiftly the first Bat of the night emerges from its day time sleep flying low over the water breaking the silence with its curios high pitched sqeak.The lone seatrout angler rustles through the overgrowth heading for the river which startles a tawney owl that stands on an overhead branch above,the owl calls out his eerie screech as he takes off to another perch downstream.V shapes and bubbles can be seen on the surface of the river in the half light as an otter works the pool for his night time hunt that will see the large dog otter cover his long stretch of territory before the early morning light slowly starts to shine onto the misty water.Walking away from the dark river headed towards the lights of the populated city of Carlisle you leave behind the distant sound of a fox bark and the nervous call of ducks in the stream the full moon behind you casts its light across your path as you walk up the Engine Lonning your mind full of thoughts of leaping seatrout and secretive movements of the otter and the crafty fox over the fields across the river, you have felt the magic of the river.

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