This turns out to be one of those glorious autumn days when the scenery is so visually delightful I take photograph after photograph, and so this blog post is going to be image heavy and text light.
I set off from my B&B in Grange-over-Sands, and walk down to the promenade, which nowadays overlooks marsh, not sands.
The walkway and surrounding gardens are cared for by volunteers from the Grange Civic Society, and they have done a wonderful job. It’s the time of year when most flowering plants seem to have shut down for the winter, but these borders are still a mass of colour. And tucked among the plants are interesting sculptures, like this dragonfly…
… and these giant, metal poppies.
The marsh, too, is full of colour – bright yellow-greens and russet-browns – while the trees are just turning golden.
After a while the promenade comes to an end and I walk along quiet streets for a short distance, until I find another marsh-side walkway to follow.
Then another road, and I reach the railway station. Kents Bank. It’s one of those delightful stations, like the one in Grange, which overlooks the marsh and is surrounded by trees.
Beyond the railway station is an area of wooded, high ground called Kirkhead. My map shows a tower on the top and a cave on the other side, so my plan is to climb over Kirkhead and explore the area. I set off down a promising path, but it only leads to the tea rooms of a rather fine building, Abbot Hall
Normally, I would have walked around the grounds and tried to find a way through, but the place seem busy with visitors and maintenance staff – and they all seem to be watching me! So I chicken out and turn back to find the road. It’s a long march along a residential street, and most of the way is uphill..
… until I turn off along a lane to the left, which takes me down to where I can pick up a footpath.
Now I’m walking up a farm track, along the other side of Kirkhead hill. I can see the tower on top, but I’m surrounded by notices warning me it’s all private land. After a while, the farm track becomes ‘private’ too. The owner is obviously fed up with walkers wandering onto his property, because he’s constructed a rather crude footpath sign. At least the route is clear.
Unfortunately the footpath from this point onwards is very unpleasant. First there is cow-trampled mud to navigate…
… and then there is a series of marshy fields. After which I come across a barrier of reeds lining a ditch. It takes me some time to find the continuation of the path. Luckily the ditch is crossed by a bridge and I spot the bright sign on the gate. CLOSE IT. Written on the top of a plastic tub.
By this time my feet are soaked, because I’ve been sinking into boggy grass with every step and water has flooded over the top of my boots. This dampens my good mood slightly.
The ground grows firmer and the path leads me under a low bridge, passing under the railway line. This looks like an old sunken lane, now grassed over.
I come to a halt on the edge of the marsh. To my left is a stone wall. To my right are farm buildings. Ahead is a wall and a wooden gate with a painted sign across the slats – NO BIKES.
I pass through the gate and find myself in a narrow space with the footpath exiting over a stile to my immediate left. But suddenly there is a ferocious barking and growling. A sheepdog flings himself against a very flimsy fence to my right.
He could easily get through if he wanted to. I decide he probably is all bark and no bite, but I also decide not to hang around to test this theory, and I nip over the stile pretty quickly.
Now I’m walking along the edge of the marsh itself, along the side of a promontory of land called Humphrey Head. I wish I’d checked the tide times, but the marsh actually seems drier than the fields I’ve just walked across. A train chunters past.
I think it might be possible to walk all the way around Humphrey Head, keeping to the edge of the marsh. But the footpath actually turns inland after a few hundred yards and, in any case, I have my heart set on climbing to the top of the headland and enjoying the views.
The footpath climbs upwards, past the side of an Outdoor Centre, and reaches a road. Unfortunately the junction of path and road is covered in a wide puddle, which is also rather deep. Luckily my feet are already so wet that I don’t mind wading through the water.
There is no right-of-way marked on my map, but I turn off the road and walk past the entrance to the Outdoor Centre. This is festooned with private signs too. It seems ironic that a place supposedly designed to encourage outdoor activities seems to be so active in prohibiting people from enjoying the outdoors!
Anyway, I carry on, up the steep slope, towards the top of Humphrey Head. And when I stop to catch my breath, I’m rewarded by excellent views looking back the way I’ve just come.
Onwards and upwards. My B&B hosts mentioned there were intimidating cows on top of Humphrey Head. But today the creatures seem unusually blissed out, and are just lying around chewing the cud, too lazy to get up.
Humphrey Head is a long finger of land, sticking out into the surrounding marshes. I walk along the top, heading for the tip. To my right are wonderful views over farmland and marsh. In the distance is the mouth of the River Leven, the Ulverston Channel. Beyond must be Ulverston and, somewhere in the hazy distance, is Barrow-in-Furness.
Near the tip of Humphrey Head is a trig point. I look past it, across the gleaming expanse of sea and sand that makes up Morecambe Bay, and can see the blocky mass of Heysham Power Station. It seems so near – and yet it’s four days of walking away!
I sit down and have a picnic lunch. The tide is out, I think, and the water has left swirling patterns in the marsh. I think it might be possible to walk across the low ground towards my next destination, a holiday park. In fact, there’s an embankment that curves around towards it and could provide a short cut.
But I’m not sure about tides, and decide not to risk the marsh. I’ll stick to the roads.
Reluctantly, I leave the tip of Humphrey Head and begin walking back. I look over towards the east and can see a hump of high ground across the water. Arnside Knott? With Silverdale below it.
I never did climb to the top of the Knott. Perhaps I’ll do it one day.
Towards the west I can see the holiday park I’m heading for. And on a hill in the distance is a mysterious white tower…
… which looks like a lighthouse, but later I discover is a monument to Sir John Barrow, a local dignitary.
The views are beautiful and I’m lucky with the light. Although there are fleeting clouds in the sky, they only provide temporary drifts of shadow across the landscape.
Coming down off Humphrey Head, I follow tarmac…
… which takes me on a 3 mile circuit inland, along quiet lanes and then a busy road lined, bizarrely, with car dealerships and other motoring-related industries. And past fields of horses, cattle, and an airstrip. Until finally I reach the holiday park, where I turn off to the right.
I’m back on the marsh bank. Ahead is a sea of grasses. In the far distance, the familiar lump of Heysham Power Station.
The bank – called the Old Embankment on my map – is dotted with sheep. They don’t seem used to intruders and I take them by surprise.
This is a wonderful stretch of walking and I enjoy it tremendously. I meet nobody. The bank curves gradually, with firm ground and easy walking. The landscape inland is beautiful – lush fields, stone walls, scattered farms, and the hills of the Lake District as a backdrop.
I’m reaching a place called Cowpren Point, where marsh is replaced by estuary. Over the water is Ulverston, the white tower is even more clearly visible.
Now I’m walking along a rutted track, alongside a dry-stone wall…
… and heading up the estuary of the River Leven. (The naming system seems a little odd, because yesterday I walked through a village called Levens, but it was on the estuary of the River Kent, not the River Leven.)
Ahead is a wind turbine, and as I get nearer the air is filled with the whump-whump sound of its blades.
Is the tide high? The estuary seems full of water, and covered in birds. Beyond are the hills of the Lake District.
I reach an area where piles of bricks and slabs of concrete litter the ground. Is this a tip for old construction material? Or was there something here that has been demolished? My map gives no clues. A rather ramshackle farm nearby has the name Canon Winder.
The ground becomes more difficult to navigate. I stumble across stones and slabs…
… and round a point of slightly raised land, called Lenibrick Point. Now I can see a road ahead, with a couple of parked cars. I meet a dog walker. It’s nearly time to leave the marsh bank, because at this point the footpath turns inland towards Cark…
… first following a narrow road, where I have to stand aside to let tractors pass, and then heading off to the left, along what would once have been a cart track. It’s marked on my map as a road, but no modern traffic could pass along here. It has the feeling of an old route, a hollow way, a secret lane.
By the time I get to Cark it’s nearly 5pm and the sun is too low for decent photographs. I do manage to catch a shot of the railway station, which has an odd name, being called Cark and Cartmel. I check my map. Cartmel is a village another couple of miles inland.
The journey back to Grange-over-Sands takes all of 7 minutes. I seem to walk so far and yet travel no distance at all!
High points: Humphrey Island and the Old Embankment.
Walked today = 11.5 miles
Total distance around coast = 2,805.5 miles