Throughout published information from outside sources and the Solway Review, there is a distinction made between the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer’ Solway. A line drawn between Southerness on the Scottish side and Dubmill Point on the English side, across the Solway will have the ‘inner’ Solway to the east, and the ‘outer’ Solway to the west. Based on physical features, there is a distinctive character difference between the inner and outer Solway.
The inner Solway is made up of intertidal mudflats, sandbanks, and saltmarsh. This area is constantly moving with the tides as sediment is shifted. Looking between Scotland and England in the inner Solway provides a sense that the two areas are closely linked. It appears that someone could easily walk between the two sides of the Firth at low tide, though crossing the Solway is in fact a dangerous feat. The Solway viaduct crossing which once physically linked the two countries between Annan and Bowness-on-Solway no longer stands. Rolling lowland is typical for the land on either side of the Solway coast.
The outer Solway has relatively shallow waters with depths rarely reaching over 50 metres. However, this is significantly deeper than the inner Solway and it provides habitat for a variety of larger species than those which inhabit the wetlands and shallow waters of the inner Solway. The outer Solway becomes deeper and with a steeper gradient west of the Rhins of Galloway, between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Beaufort’s Dyke is located here, where depths can reach 300m. Due to the depth, and proximity to ports, this natural trench was used for dumped munitions in the past. There have been reported incidents of washed up munitions originating from this site and the surrounding area where some munitions were dumped before reaching the Dyke.
The sense of proximity to the opposite side of the Firth is maintained in the outer Solway, especially with Criffel visible from much of the English side of the Firth. Robin Rigg Wind Farm is also located in the outer Solway, midway between Scotland and England, and visible from both coasts.
Cliffs are characteristic of both the English and Scottish sides of the outer Firth, both St Bees Head and Mull of Galloway providing steep cliff faces. St Bees Head features red sandstone cliffs whereas the Mull of Galloway cliffs are composed of greywacke, yet both are towering edges to the Solway Firth and are important sites for bird species. Both of these cliff sites host Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserves, and have a variety of additional designations to protect and conserve the habitats and species found in there.
Image; Blitterlees. © Solway Firth Partnership