At the end of the Ulverston Canal, a footpath sign points optimistically towards the water. If the tide was out, you could actually walk across the estuary to reach Cark on the other side. But, due to treacherous tides and sinking sands, you would really need a local guide.
I did consider trying to arrange a guide, but in the end decided I would enjoy a walk around the estuary instead. After my struggles with the boggy marsh this morning, I’m beginning to think the crossing would have been the easiest option!
Isn’t it funny how you always mull over the route you didn’t take and wonder whether you should have gone that way after all? Anyway, it’s too late now. Onwards.
Around the tip of Hammerside Point is an area of waste land, where I find a half-hidden trig point, and the playing fields of a sports club. I was hoping to find a shortcut through to the next section of coast, but am foiled by a deep dyke and high fences.
So I cut through the playing fields and join a road. Now I’m walking through an industrial estate on the outskirts of Ulverston, but this road seems to consist entirely of a Glaxo-Smith-Kline factory. I wonder what pharmaceuticals they’re brewing up inside? Or perhaps it’s just an office block?
I find a quiet lane and follow it to where a footpath branches off to the left. This should take me back to the shore.
Unfortunately the sky has clouded over again, and now it begins to drizzle. Before I stow my camera away, I manage to take a photo of the raised bank I’m walking along, and the old chimney standing in the field next to it. I’m following, roughly, the path of the dismantled railway – the same old track that saved me this morning!
The rain has stopped by the time I reach the shore and then comes a very pleasant walk along the bank. If the weather had been better, this would have been the nicest stretch of my walk so far today.
The path goes past the grounds of an old priory – Conishead Priory. It’s now a Buddhist temple. The sign gives permission to walk through the grounds, along with the temple’s opening times. It all seems very welcoming and I would like to pay a visit, but decide I’d better keep going. I have a bus to catch!
My path takes me through woodlands, with the estuary never far away on my left. It’s beautiful and peaceful – and seems the perfect site for a Buddhist retreat.
Sometimes I walk along the shore itself although the shingle is rough underfoot. The storm clouds clear and give way to a lighter sky. Heysham Power Station remains my constant companion. And the tide has really retreated now – leaving miles and miles of sand.
I pass a small parking area, and meet a few dog walkers. Beyond this the ground rises and I suddenly feel hungry, and so I sit on a wall, on a piece of high ground, to eat my snack lunch.
Below, on the sands, I watch horses cantering. What a wonderful place for a horse ride.
From my seat I can look ahead along the path. I must be approaching Bardsea, because I can see a sweet looking church on the hill. Just around the next headland is Baycliff, where I will end my walk today and catch the 15:37 bus back to Ulverston.
Onwards. I’m looking towards the mouth of the estuary. I see a lone walker setting off towards the distant water. He is carrying a basket and a spade. Hunting for bait? Or cockles? The clouds come and go, and streaky sunrays drift across the sand.
I’m approaching another car park. This one is busier and seems a popular place…
… with motorcyclists, plenty of cars, benches, and an ice cream van. (I’m full from my picnic lunch. Wish I’d known about the van. I would have left room for an ice cream!)
Looking at the parked cars, I’m anticipating a crowded path from here onwards. But as soon as I’ve walked 100 yards past the end of the road, I’m alone again.
Now I can barely see the water or the sands, as I’m walking along the edge of the marsh and tall grasses and reeds form a wall to my left. I’m pleased to find the path is firm, first a sand and then a gravel track.
Soon I reach Sea Wood. Great name! Now I’m walking beneath the branches of oak trees. Acorns plop to the ground around me.
The views across the estuary are tremendous. Despite the dull light, the colours are lovely. The grasses are a lovely russet/gold colour and the distant hills are various shades of blue and purple.
I reach a place where there ae buildings close to the shore. They have high viewing platforms, so at first they look like tree houses!
This is where I must turn off to Baycliff. Along the steps that lead up from the shore are a series of brightly painted posters. The first one is very encouraging. ‘WAY UP. COAST ROAD. BUS STOP. PUBS. TAXI.’
I’ve got plenty of time before the bus arrives. A good 20 minutes. So I stop to take photographs of the posters that line the wall. I have no idea why they’re there, but they’re cheerful and rather wonderful.
[I’ve assembled a collection of photos of this art work on my other walking blog, Ruthless Ramblings. So hop over to the ‘Story Wall’ post if you want to see more.]
A steep lane leads up to Baycliff. As the name suggests, it’s a small village sitting, literally, on the top of a cliff above the bay. I’m delighted to see the bus stop…
… but not so delighted when I look at the notice on the side with the bus times. The next bus isn’t due to nearly 5pm. That’s more than 90 minutes to wait!
I do something I’ve never done before. I phone the Traveline number. The guy on the phone has never heard of Baycliff. Even worse, he doesn’t seem to have heard of Ulverston either and I have to spell the names out for him. Anyway, he looks on the computer and assures me the next bus will arrive in a few minutes time.
I wait. And wait. A lady stops nearby in her car and I ask if there is another bus stop in the village. There isn’t.
It’s windy up here and the sun has gone. I’m getting cold. The views are lovely, but what I really want to see is a BUS!
I carry an extra top in my rucksack, and I pull that on. But I’m still cold. And finally I have to admit the bus isn’t coming.
It’s too cold to wait an hour for the next one in the drafty bus stop, so I wander into the village to see if there’s a café or a shop. There isn’t. Then I see a sign for a pub, leaning against a stone wall. I climb up a narrow street to find the pub has been converted into a private house. Taking the longer route back to the bus stop, I finally find a pub (it’s on the main road, just out of sight of the bus stop). It’s 4pm and the pub is shut, of course.
I check my map and realise it’s a 5 mile walk, inland, to reach Ulverston. That will take me a couple of hours to walk – maybe less if I get a move on – and perhaps walking is preferable to waiting an hour for the next bus, which may or may not arrive. I’m already cold, and it’s going to rain later. And it will get dark soon.
So I climb out of Baycliff, following a lane, which becomes a track, which becomes a bridleway, to the next village. Well, barely a village. It’s a collection of houses, called Sunbrick. From Sunbrick I follow a delightfully quiet road up and through an area called Birkrigg Common. It reminds me of the New Forest, with open moorland, no fences, and sheep wandering over the road.
I consider leaving the road and taking a footpath up to the top of the common, but the light is gloomy and rain clouds are hanging over the hills ahead. I don’t want to be caught in the rain – I’ve had enough of mud – or in the dusk on an unfamiliar path, and so I stick to the road.
My mood lifts. I’ve warmed up. The views are wonderful. And there’s Ulverston ahead.
The last couple of miles are difficult. I’m tired, having walked further than planned. It begins to rain – not heavily, but spits and spots that speckle my glasses and make me pull my hood up. And the traffic on my ‘quiet’ road suddenly becomes frenetic, as 5pm approaches and workers speed home to Ulverston from Barrow.
Additional Info: There are a number of local guides who can take you across the sands of Morecambe bay, missing out lengthy detours around the various estuaries. Details of these guides were kindly supplied by David L, and can be found in the comments section of my Freckleton to Warton blog post. In the end, I decided to walk around the estuaries instead. The logistics of arranging dates and times to suit both me, the tides and the guides seemed too overwhelmingly difficult, and the area is so beautiful I was happy to prolong my walk. Perhaps one day I’ll go back and do the sand crossings!
Walked today = 10 miles coastal route + 5 miles inland to Ulverston
Total distance so far = 2,830 miles
My actual route is in black on the map, as usual. To show the Great Oath Hill and Newland Moss difficulties, I’ve added some additional information.
Cycle route (shown on my OS map 2015) in orange.
Cumbria Coastal Way (from LDWA site) in green.
Alternative old railway line route in red.
(all routes are roughly drawn and transposed by hand onto Google Maps, and so may not be entirely accurate)