When I arrive at Knott End-on-Sea, the tide is low and the ferry over to Fleetwood isn’t running yet. I could just set off walking from here, but I want to take the ferry to Fleetwood and back, in order to keep the circuit of my walk complete.
The bus from Cockerham to Knott End-on-Sea was an infrequent and subsidised service, with only one other passenger on board, an elderly gentleman with a small dog. He told me he once lived in Knott End, and has travelled back from the southeast to visit old haunts.
Amazingly, he made the journey up to Lancashire along canals in a narrow boat. (Later I wonder how he managed the locks on his own, because he looked about 80 years old.)
I join my new friend in the Knott End Café, and have an excellent mug of coffee (no instant muck this time!) Then it’s down the slipway to wait for the ferry.
Our embarkation is delayed because the ferry crew must first clean the slipway with a high-pressure hose. Health and safety. The amusing thing is that we all have to walk back up the slippery slope, in order for them to clean it.
The crossing doesn’t take long. I amble around Fleetwood for a few minutes – feeling rather sad and lonely, because the last time I was here was with my daughter and her husband. Then I notice the ferry crew are untying the mooring ropes, so I hurry back and catch the same ferry back over to Knott End.
Knott End-on-Sea is another one of those places that probably once was a seaside resort, but now overlooks a marsh.
The walk gets off to a good start, following a tarmac track along the top of the esplanade and then along the marsh bank.
Unfortunately it’s a gloomy day, with spit-spots of rain falling from time to time. The horizon is obscured by murky clouds. So the views aren’t exactly spectacular. With little opportunity to take good photographs, I make rapid progress.
Unfortunately the footpath along the bank comes to an end after about 4 miles, and the Lancashire Coastal Way turns inland and follows the road. I’m fretting about this inland diversion when…
… I spot a sign telling me there is a permissive footpath along the bank after all! Yippee.
After crossing a couple of fields, I’m back where I want to be, on the raised bank. A sign tells me there is no public access between Boxing Day and Good Friday. Because of wildfowl shooting, I presume.
In my excitement at finding this alternative route, I ignore the first set of warning signs I come across on a gate. But I can’t miss the second set.
‘Warning. Construction site. No unauthorised persons allowed beyond this point.’
And ahead, on the bank, are diggers and other machinery. But I notice nothing is moving. Perhaps I should ignore the sign and carry on?
I hesitate. But I’ve already spent about a mile of ‘wasted’ walking. If I continue further, and still have to turn back, it will be even more frustrating. Sadly, I decide to retrace my steps.
On my way back to the road I notice a sign. Worm Pool Tidal Flap.
And, when I rejoin the road, I come across a street sign. Fluke Hall Lane. They seem to have a thing for intestinal parasites around here!
I walk through the outskirts of a village called Pilling, where the streets are lined by tubs of flowers. Very pretty.
Over a bridge, and the road takes me past fields, across which I can see the bank and the point where the diggers interrupted my progress. Now the machines are actually moving, I can see men in hi-vis jackets. Perhaps it’s a good job I didn’t try to cross the construction site, after all.
Ahead is a copse of trees, marked on my map with signs that indicate a parking place, a picnic bench, and a scenic viewpoint. It’s labelled ‘Lane Ends Amenity Area’ – a rather unromantic name, I think. Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting there because it’s where I plan to stop for lunch.
At the Amenity Area, I follow the track until it ends in a small car park on the raised bank. I can see the section further along where the diggers are working.
As I’m eating my snack lunch, an elderly gentleman climbs out of a little van and takes his dog for a walk along the bank. I know he won’t get far, because of the construction work. Sure enough, he soon turns back. The dog comes hurtling along ahead of him and hurls itself into the van.
He stops for a chat, and explains the dog heard the sound of shooting and that’s why she returned at such a pace and leapt into the van. Frightened!
We discuss the frustration of the closed path, and he tells me they’re trying to improve the drainage system because of the recent flooding in Lancashire. He asks where I’m heading and tells me to look out for Cockersand Abbey, which lies across the bay, and which I should pass tomorrow. He says the power station I can dimly see over the water is at Heysham, not Barrow-in-Furness (something several visitors to this blog have already pointed out!)
Also out there, somewhere, is Plover Scar lighthouse. We peer out into the gloom, but neither of us can spot it. He tells me it was rammed by a boat recently and was badly damaged. Perhaps it has fallen down?
I ask him if I can continue walking towards Cockerham along the raised bank, but he isn’t sure if there is a through route. Later, I look along the bank. A sign by the gate has disappeared. There’s a smaller sign warning about keeping dogs on a lead, so people must indeed walk along the bank. But will it come to a dead-end?
I dither for a while, but don’t want any more miles of wasted walking, so I head back to rejoin the official Lancashire Coastal Way, which follows the road.
Lane Ends Amenity Area may not have much of a view today – due to the gloomy weather – but it is a pretty place, with a small lake, swans, and more picnic benches.
Back on the road, I have another decision to make. Do I follow the main road (the A 588), which runs closer to the water? Or the official route of the Lancashire Coastal Way, which takes an inland diversion?
The sight of a constant line of speeding traffic along the A588, and the lack of a pavement, means I soon make my mind up. I have my rules to guide me. Avoiding death is more important than sticking close to the water. I’m heading inland.
First I must walk along the A588 for a short distance. An unpleasant experience. Soon I turn off down a quiet road…
… and I’m pleased to reach a footpath, striking off to my left through a farm. But I have to wait while the farmer, who appears to be a woman, ushers a herd of cattle into a barn. She has a number of people helping her, all of whom are also women.
When they’ve finished, I ask where the footpath runs. One of the young women is delegated to show me the route. She takes me through the mucky farmyard and, for the first time today, I get my boots dirty.
Then she points the way forward, where the footpath apparently runs across the field, and tells me how I must follow the ditch, and then turn left, and then head for the red house.
This is all very helpful and friendly. But, WHERE ARE THE FOOTPATH SIGNS? Luckily for me, there was someone here to help. Otherwise, as walker, you would have no idea of where to go.
I walk through the fields as directed, over a stile, and along the edge of another field towards the red house.
Now where? I walk around the corner of the field and along the far hedge, before pulling out my map and checking my Garmin. I must have missed the exit. I turn back.
There it is. I finally see the yellow footpath arrow on a stile, barely visible because of the overgrown hedge and the tall weeds in front. Can you spot it?
I’ll give you a clue. It’s in the dead centre of the photograph above.
The stile is rotten and, in trying to reach it, I nearly fall into a hidden ditch. A piece of plastic sheeting turns the bank into a treacherous slide.
Once over the stile, I’m faced with hacking my way along an overgrown bank, covered in nettles and thistles. It’s impossible to see the ground, which is not only potholed, but crumbling down into the dyke on the right. Very dangerous.
At the end of this difficult stretch, I squeeze past the side of a shed, past a garage and a rusty container crate, and face another obstacle course.
Yes, the footpath definitely runs here. No doubt about it. But clearly the occupier of the house think it’s OK to leave his mess obstructing the path. (You may have gathered, I’m quite angry now.). It looks like a rubbish dump.
The footpath sign at the end of the drive still stands. One finger points down the road. The other finger, the one that should have pointed down this path alongside the property, has mysteriously disappeared. Hmmphh!
I note there are several parked cars in front of the house. It is obviously occupied, and they’re not short of a bob or two.
In a bad mood now, I stomp off down the lane. Another footpath sign, this one still intact, affirms I’m on the right route.
And from here the going is straightforward, as the Lancashire Coastal Way sticks to quiet lanes. Tarmac is tough on the feet, but safer than clambering over rotten stiles and treacherous ditches.
Ahead are hills, hung heavy with clouds. The sun even manages a brief appearance, lighting up the fields and I feel my spirits lift. I pass neat farms and pastures full of horses.
Eventually, my quiet road rejoins the busy A588. The Lancashire Coastal Way continues straight ahead, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.
I turn right along the road, now called Marsh Lane. It’s a relief to find I can walk safely along a pavement from here into Cockerham, where I’ve parked my car.
[Later I report the obstructions I encountered – in great detail with maps – to the local authority, although I haven’t received either an acknowledgment or a reply.]
Walked today = 12.5 miles
Total distance around coast = 2,722.5 miles