I catch the morning bus to Baycliff and walk down to the beach, where a flock of noisy seagulls is chattering on the sands. Visibility is poor, and I can barely see across to the other side of Morecambe bay.
Although there is no public footpath marked on my map, I’m hoping to be able to stick to the shore today. I’ll see how far I can get, anyway.
The October sun is low and shining in my eyes, making photography difficult if I look ahead, so I turn around to take a photo of the grasses and shingle bank behind me. Large trees, mainly oaks, cling precariously to the rocky slope above me.
I meet nobody else, but I pass a spot where a tyre swing has been hung from a huge branch, so people must come here for fun and recreation.
Further along I pass a spooky looking shack. A man cave, maybe. This one seems to have an outhouse attached, probably a toilet cabin. It seems an unusually sophisticated arrangement for what is, basically, a garden shed.
[I’ve recently published a little booklet of short stories, called The Shed: a collection, and had to take a suitable photograph for the cover, so my eyes are more attuned to sheds than normal at the moment!]
And a little further are some more – well, not exactly sheds, more like upmarket and rather large beach huts. I wonder if people live here permanently?
At this point the foreshore seems to disappear into a mess of stones and marsh around a little headland (Maskel Point). So I leave the shore and follow a tiny lane for a short distance, before arriving back at the coast.
Tractors are parked on the beach. For what purpose? I don’t know. And, looking ahead, I’m not sure if I can continue along the shore. The tide is high and the water is right up against the stretch of rocks at the top of the beach. But the alternative route involves a longish detour around by the road, so I decide to carry on and see if I can get through.
Progress is slow. Large boulders have to be climbed over, while shifting shingle underfoot makes every step a balancing act. But I make it to the next little headland…
… and to Aldingham. Here I meet the first person out walking this morning. A man with a dog. Turns out to be his daughter’s dog and he isn’t local, so he doesn’t know how far I can get along the shore.
I can tell from the colour of the rocks – now with a dark, wet line showing above the water’s edge – that the tide had turned and is going out. So I’m now more optimistic I can find a way through.
Aldingham is a tiny hamlet, even smaller than Baycliff, but it has a pretty impressive looking church. I don’t go inside – just admire it from over the beach wall.
At the other end of this little bay are a couple of diggers. They’re working furiously, dredging up sand and mud from the waterline and heaping it into piles at the top of the beach. I’m amazed by the skill of the operators, who seem able to scoop with their mechanical arms while keeping their machines continually on the move. Like a dance.
I have to keep well above the high tide line to get around the trench they’re digging. It’s only after I’ve passed them that I begin to worry… what if I can’t get around by the shore? Will I be able to return this way? Or are they digging some enormous and impassable drainage ditch?
Oh, well. I’ll worry about that later if I need to. Onwards.
The going is rough, and I make slow but steady progress, across slippery rocks and treacherous shingle. This is Elbow Scar. Somewhere to my right is the coast road, invisible behind a crumbling bank shored up by concrete barricades. I can hear the noise of traffic. But down here, on the shore, there is nobody in sight.
A great flock of oyster catchers rise and scream in annoyance at my intrusion into their private world.
The shingle sounds crunchier than normal. I look down. Among the stones are thousands of tiny shells.
I love the names of these shingle banks – Maskel Scar, Aldingham Scar and Elbow Scar.
(Once I thought ‘scar’ was an ugly name for a coastal feature. Now I understand it simply means a rocky outcrop, although it more usually seems to refer to a messy reef of stones and shingle exposed at low tide.)
I’m rounding Moat Scar. Oh, and now my isolation has ended. There are buildings ahead.
This is Newbiggin. I find a bench overlooking the bay, and sit down for a snack and a drink. I’ve only travelled 3 miles, but it’s been difficult underfoot.
As I ‘m sitting there, a bus slows down. I realise I’m sitting near a bus stop! I smile and wave the driver on. It’s an example of Sod’s Law. Yesterday, when I desperately needed the coast bus, it was nowhere in sight. Today, it appears out of nowhere when I don’t need it at all!
Onwards. I walk along the grass verge of the road for a while and then down on the shore again. I’m walking around a shallow bay where an impressive sea wall is both holding back erosion and preventing further marsh from forming.
I run out of beach at a rocky outcrop with an intriguing name – Point of Comfort Scar. Climbing back up to the road, I’m delighted to find a proper walkway stretching ahead, running alongside the road, but separated from traffic by a wall.
Unfortunately, it seems a favourite spot for dog walkers to use as a doggy toilet. Here is just a single example of one of the many deposits I had to avoid.
All this mess is, of course, alongside a series of warning notices about dog fouling.
Why do dog owners do this? There is a beach below, for goodness sake, which is washed clean with each high tide. I guess the wall alongside the walkway acts as a screen, hiding their dog from view, and so they do it because they can get away with it.
Yuck. It spoils what should have been an enjoyable walk. You can’t look at the view if you’re constantly having to look at your feet.
I’m glad to leave the concrete and walk along sand again. Ahead is Cunninger Scar (weird name and sounds slightly obscene) and Back House Close Scar, and the village of Rampside is just around the corner. But what’s that strange tower. A lighthouse?
At this point the coast road veers away from the shore. Now the sand runs out and I’m walking on mud next to an area of marsh. The coast curves and it’s not clear if I can get through. Should I go back and follow the road around to Rampside instead?
Ah, I see some footprints in the mud. They look recent, and are heading only in one direction. No return prints. Good. That means someone else has walked this way and must have got through. Or – an alternative thought strikes me – they’ve disappeared into sinking sands, never to be seen again!
It’s a bit of a scramble to get around Back House Close Scar – wellies would have been helpful – but I make it through without getting stuck in mud or sinking sand.
There’s the tower ahead. I check my map. Yes, it seems to be a lighthouse.
I continue along the edge of the marsh and take photographs of the tower.
It’s made of brick and is very tall and thin, with a square base, not rounded like most lighthouses. It’s clearly disused now, but still pretty impressive. I’ve seen lots of weird lighthouses and daymarkers around the coast, but I’ve not seen anything like this before.
The next bit of the shore is very marshy and difficult to walk along. There is a sort of path between the reeds and the bank, but it’s only just visible.
I’m relieved to climb out of the marsh and onto the road again. Time for a quick pub stop at the Concle Inn. Concle? What a weird name.
Just off Rampside village is Roa Island, which is linked to the mainland by a causeway. In the summer, you can get a ferry across from Roa Island to Piel (or Peel) Island. From there, as other coastal walkers have told me, when the tide is low you can walk across from Piel Island to Walney Island. But the ferry stops running at the end of September, and so the only way to get to Walney Island now is via the bridge from Barrow.
I hesitate, because I had been planning to walk along the road to Roa Island and back again. But, to be honest, the long straight road doesn’t look very inviting…
… and I’m already behind schedule, so I decide to give the island a miss and carry on my way to Barrow-in-Furness.
I’m following a cycle track. I meet a few bird watchers and dog walkers, but no cyclists.
To my left is a view across mud flats towards Roa Island. Piel Island (with a castle) is immediately behind Roa Island. And the low lying land beyond is the southern end of Walney Island.
To my right is farmland, with a series of bright yellow markers that indicate where gas pipes run underground. It’s the first indication that I’m approaching an industrial area.
Round a bend, and there is Barrow-in-Furness ahead, across a bay of mud and sand, called Roosecote Sands.
As I head along the edge of the bay, tall tanks, chimneys and other industrial structures appear above a screen of bushes and trees.
And, occasionally, a cyclist appears, leaping down from pathways through the bushes, slinging rucksacks over their shoulders, and heading off towards Barrow at a pace. Going home from work?
The sun comes out and lights up the industrial unit above me. The metal gleams silver and gold, streaked with rusty bronze. It looks like an alien spaceship. I love these structures – the sheen and curve of metal tanks, and the haphazard filigree of gantries and walkways, and so, as usual, I slow down and take far too many photographs.
I reach the end of the bay where a power station is marked on my map, but it looks as though it’s in the process of being demolished. I like the sign – particularly the font used for ‘Demolition Project’. But what is really striking about the sign is the number of flies that have gathered on its surface. Why? Perhaps they like the bright lilac colour?
Here the cycle way takes a right-angled turn, around a pill box. I wonder why we take time and spend money demolishing power stations, while our pill boxes are simply left to fall into ruin?
Actually, I’m pleased the pill boxes weren’t systematically destroyed after WWII, because I think they’re achieving a new status as part of our cultural heritage. I love to see them punctuating our coast, and am reminded of the brave men and women of my parents’ generation who defended our shores against the threat of invasion.
I wonder how long before we start classifying them as historic monuments? Perhaps we already have?
Onwards. The sun has disappeared behind thick layers of haze and the light is dim. So this final part of my walk is remarkably uninspiring from a visual point of view. To my left is the marsh…
… while to my right are more industrial structures, including some giant pipes running across wasteland close to the path.
This section of cycle route isn’t marked on my map, so I’m expecting to come to a dead-end at any moment. But so far, so good. I pass through some yellow gates that are decorated with a graceful fish design.
The cycle route is long and straight with some weird-looking umbrella structures, which appear to be shelters for cyclists and walkers if it rains. Ahead is Barrow Island and the docks. To my right is a large expanse of water. Square and uncompromising. Cavendish Dock.
Cavendish Dock? I think my middle daughter mentioned the name when she worked for the MoD and was involved with our nuclear submarines.
I look at the water with more interest. I see the line of a pier in the distance. And cormorants. But no submarines.
The above photo is the last decent one I take today. The rest of the walk involves a rather boring slog around the perimeter of Cavendish Dock to reach the streets of Barrow-in-Furness, and then a pleasant walk through the town to the railway station.
My train back to Ulverston leaves the station dead on time. If only the buses were so reliable!
I discovered the meaning of the name ‘Concle’ on the My Dad’s a Communist Blog site. It’s a deep hole where ships can lie at anchor.
Walked today = 11 miles
Total distance so far = 2,841 miles