I wasn’t feeling very friendly towards Greenodd because of my experience yesterday. It rained heavily, the bus I was expecting never arrived, and the ‘tea’ shop closed at 3pm. But today, with the sun shining, I decide I quite like the place.
It’s impossible to walk along the shore from here, and the main A590 is too busy, so I head inland to pick up a quiet country lane
The views over the Cumbrian countryside are lovely. Bright fields. Dry stone walls. Tidy farms. And plenty of sheep.
When I do see some bullocks, they are behind a sturdy wall. And they seem terrified of me, galloping away in a flurry of hooves and tails. I manage to catch a blurry shot of their retreat.
At a safe distance they turn round and look at me, somewhat accusingly I think. It’s not often I find cattle are more scared of me than I of them, so I regard this as a minor victory.
Further along the road I hear a whooshing noise. What is it? A mystery… until I spot a man down a driveway who appears to be cleaning his bicycle with a pressure hose. I take a quick photo and send it to my husband, who is horrified by this form of bike-abuse.
He texts me with detailed reasons why you should never clean your bike this way. I confess I don’t bother to read the whole text (yawn, I’m not a cyclist), and I carry on with my walk.
The lane winds up the side of Arrad Hill and then down to a place called Arrad Foot. Here there is an abandoned hotel, which is perhaps a casualty of the A590 bypassing the hamlet. The hotel is for sale, if you’re interested.
At Arrad Foot my lane joins the horrible A590. But I pick up a public footpath – hard to spot as the finger sign is hidden in a hedge – and head up a steep field
The ground is very uneven and rutted with deep pits… uh-oh… I recognise the footprints of cows. And multiple sticky cow pats add to the difficulty of climbing the slope. This is ominous.
As I feared, at the top of the field, just in front of the exit stile, is a welcoming committee of the creatures. Should I turn back and risk the A590 instead? While I’m considering this, the beasts spot me, and instantly turn tail and hurtle into a patch of woodland.
Victory number two!
I feel a little guilty as I hear the cows crashing about among the trees, but I head towards the stile and nip over quickly before they decide to return. From here the path is a pleasant walk along the slope…
… until I end up in what appears to be somebody’s private garden. I walk past play equipment, push through a shrubbery, and make a quick exit out of a garden gate. I’m pretty sure this IS a public footpath, but I always feel awkward when I appear to have intruded into a family’s personal space.
From here I follow a little lane down the hill…
.. and enjoy some splendid views over the estuary of the River Leven. On the other side of the water is the ridge of hills where I walked yesterday. The crest of How Barrow, and Bigland Heights.
My lane takes me down to join the A590. I cross over the dual carriageway and turn right, marching quickly down the verge, buffeted by traffic whizzing past at 70 mph, until I reach the continuation of the lane on the other side.
This is MUCH better. The only traffic I meet is a tractor.
Off to my right, across fields, I can see the tall lighthouse tower, the one I’ve been spotting off and on for a couple of days.
I walk past farm buildings, a few cottages, and some minor industrial yards. The hump of a hill ahead is called Great Oath Hill (wonderful name). The lane I’m walking down takes me as close to the shore as I can get at this point, but I hope to eventually rejoin the estuary on the other side of the hill
I cross over a dismantled railway line. To my surprise, it looks as if the old line is being used as a track. The gate isn’t locked and the track looks very tempting… but I’m following a cycle way that’s marked on my map, and it doesn’t take this route. So I carry on.
[Later, I will realise it was a BIG MISTAKE to NOT take the old railway route!]
My lane becomes a rutted track, and then runs along the base of Great Oath Hill. It’s become a wonderful grassy lane. Stone walls on either side. Unlocked gates. There are no footpath signs, but polite little notices ask me to close the gates and keep dogs under control, so clearly they expect members of the public to walk this way.
And so what happens next takes me by surprise. The lane becomes more and more overgrown, and then comes to a sudden end. The way forward is blocked by a fence strung with barbed wire. Beyond I can see neat grass, either a lawn or a paddock, but there seems no way forward.
I check my Garmin and my map. Well, never mind. I’m a little short of the marked cycle route, but I can clearly see that just beyond here the route takes a right-angled turn anyway. No longer following a lane, it crosses fields, over the dismantled railway line, and through an area of woodland called Newland Moss.
Easy. I’ll just walk down through the woods and pick up the route in Newland Moss.
Up until this point, I hadn’t realised the significance of the word ‘Moss’ in a name. Moss, to me, is a soft, green plant. But ‘moss’ has another meaning too. It can mean a marsh or a bog.
The woodland turns out to be a swamp. It’s difficult to capture in a photo, but each step is squelchy, and I have to keep moving or risk sinking.
In places where there seems to be a clear path through the trees, when I reach these apparent paths, I realise they are actually streams of water.
Squelch, splash, slip, slide. I work my way through the wood and meet another obstruction. Another barbed wire fence. But this one can be navigated through, with the aid of stick propping up a loosely laid wire strand.
However, on the other side of the fence the ground is even worse. I lose the tip of my walking pole in deep mud, and nearly lose my boots too. I’m no longer worrying about getting my socks wet. By now I’m wading – and I have to keep moving or risk sinking!
I cross over the old railway line – a blessed line of dryness in the bog – and plunge into the boggy woodland on the other side. I haven’t got very far when the trees come to an end and I find myself standing on the edge of a pond. Reeds tower above my head and make the margins of the pond impossible to see, so I can’t tell how wide it is or how extensively it stretches on either side.
Defeated, I turn back.
Am I really going to have to walk all the way back to the wretched A590? And walk along it until I find another way through? What a miserable – and dangerous – prospect. But it’s better than drowning in the marsh.
I reach the old railway line again. It’s clearly being used as a track by vehicles and I realise it seems to be heading in the right direction. Although it’s not marked as a public right-of-way on my map, I decide to follow the line and see where it takes me.
Through a gate and up past houses and some sheds, the line eventually becomes a lane. Hooray!
A little further along I see some cute little Shetland ponies in an adjacent field. They cheer me up. So ridiculously tiny! As I’m taking their photo, they come trotting over to see if I have any food. It’s good to see some friendly faces. But, sorry ponies, I don’t have anything you would like to eat.
By now I realise I’ve joined the lane I was heading for anyway – the one that will take me over the not-disused and very-active railway line. And so it does. From the railway bridge I can’t resist taking another photograph of John Barrow’s monument on the hill.
The lane comes to a dead-end on the shore of the estuary at a place called Plumpton Marsh. It’s wonderful to be beside the water again. Finally!
This is National Trust land – although not marked as such on my map – and has a small parking area and a sign warning of ‘SWIFT TIDES, DANGEROUS GULLIES AND QUICKSANDS’. But having survived the swampy woodlands, I have no plans to venture onto the sands. I’m just grateful to be on a firm shore.
The tide is in. Looking up the estuary, with my camera on full zoom, I take a photo of the Leven Viaduct. If only I could have walked along the line… I would have saved a couple of days of walking around the estuary. Then, right on cue, a train trundles across the viaduct.
Looking down the estuary, the extensive sands of Morecambe Bay are covered by gleaming water. I’m squinting into the sunlight, but can see… yes, it’s the familiar block of Heysham Power Station.
I guess I won’t lose sight of it until I get around to the other side of Barrow-on-Furness.
Onwards. I walk along the shore, under the branches of oak trees, over a loose scree of shingle and rocks, until I reach a group of houses and the shore opens out into a wide patch of grass.
This is Canal Foot. The light ahead is too bright for good photography, but I take a photo looking back the way I’ve just walked.
A group of swans huddle on the mud. (The tide is going out, at the same ferocious pace at which it comes in.) The sky over the hills has darkened. I hope it’s not going to rain, but I can’t resist taking more photos of the swans, the river, and the viaduct.
This is Hammerside Point and here the Ulverston Canal empties into the Leven estuary. There’s a car park and a pub, and a number of people strolling about. If I turned and walked up the Ulverston Canal, I could be back at my B&B in an hour…
… but I have more walking to do. Not far now. To the village of Bardsea and then to Baycliff, from where I plan to catch the bus back to Ulverston.
As usual, I’d carefully researched the return route before I set off this morning, using the Traveline website. After the debacle of the bus-that-never-arrived at Greenodd yesterday, you would think I’d have learnt my lesson. And, after the marsh experience, I really thought my day couldn’t get any more difficult… [to be continued…]