It’s another 3-4 miles to Millom, and after my snack lunch I resume my walk along the bank, heading southwards and into the sun.
On my right I pass a ruined brick structure, which at first I think might be some left over WW2 defences, but the rusting silhouette of a flying duck makes me think it’s probably used as a bird hide now.
Across the fields to my right is the railway track, with the occasional train rumbling by, and behind the familiar lump of my old friend, Black Combe.
The bank curves gently. Ahead I can make out a church steeple and someone is having a bonfire. That must be Millom.
I meet the first person I’ve met all day. A dog walker. I’m very taken with his dog – a collie. She’s red like a fox, and very beautiful. She’s also very active, and keeps barking to try to get us to throw her a ball.
Her owner tells me she’s managed to chew her way through a whole 24-roll pack of toilet paper. She also destroyed several pairs of slippers and a couple of walking leads. Hmm… maybe I’m going off the idea of a dog. But, if I do get one, I would like a collie.
Time’s passing. When I look out across the marsh I get a shock! The tide has come in and the muddy channels are quickly filling with water.
You can almost see the water level rising in front of your eyes. The tides here really do come in with terrifying speed!
Onwards, the bank curves round to the west and I’m heading straight for Millom.
I’m not actually going to walk through the village itself, because I’m sticking to the coast, and so I follow the bank as it makes a hairpin bend and turns eastwards.
At this point another treacherous bridleway strikes out across the marsh and would take you, if you survived the sinking sands and tides, all the way across the Duddon sands to Askam in Furness on the other side of the estuary. Needless to say, I’m not tempted to explore the route.
I stop to take a photo looking back over the marshes and the bank I’ve just walked along. This is Salthouse Pool, according to my map. In the distance are the Cumbrian hills . Meanwhile, the water has crept upwards to reach almost the same level as the land.
This section of the walk takes me through an old industrial area, now abandoned and turned into a nature reserve: The Millom Ironworks Nature Reserve. The spit of land to my left looks artificial. A slag heap? Or the remains of a quarry?
When I reach it, I find the top is fenced off and weirdly flat, with a surface of coarse rubble.
The whole area is rather odd, with abandoned boats, the occasional building of unknown purpose, and wide spaces covered in gravel or tarmac. I think it’s wonderful they’ve turned an old industrial area into a nature reserve, but I’m not surprised to discover its local nickname is, simply, ‘Slaggy’.
I’m no longer alone. This is obviously a popular place to bring your dog for a walk.
It’s strange to think I’m looking across the Duddon Estuary. No sign of the Duddon Sands now. So much water!
I walk past the remains of an old wharf, with a few rusty railings and decaying timbers. A startled heron flaps across the water, but I’m too slow to catch a decent photo.
I reach the point at the end of this nature reserve. It’s marked as marshland on my map and is, in fact, called Crab Marsh. So I was expecting… well, I was expecting a marsh.
So it’s a real shock to find myself standing at one end of a beautiful sandy beach.
I wasn’t expecting this. But, when I look out across the water, I see the ‘beach’ is only temporary. In fact, the tide is retreating as quickly as it came, and soon clumps of marsh grass begin to emerge from the water.
This second photo (below) is taken only 10 minutes after the one above. Already you can see that a lot of mud is lying exposed just below the sand, and there’s more grass appearing above the waves.
The top section of the beach is tough going, as sand gives way to rocks and shingle. I try walking along the dunes at the top, but only a narrow strip is left unfenced, and it proves nearly as difficult as the shingle. In addition, the sun is low and troubling my eyes.
I take an over-exposed photo across the bright mouth of the Duddon Estuary. Over there are the dunes of Sandscale Haws, and the tip of Walney Island beyond.
Now the shore becomes impassable, and I follow a footpath inland, walking along a tree-lined path that provides some welcome shade to my tired eyes.
I soon emerge at a place called Hodbarrow Point, beside a ruined windmill. (I only know it’s a windmill because my map tells me it is!) Right next to it – half-hidden in undergrowth – is a trig marker.
I walk over the ridge and now I’m on the coast again. This is Hodbarrow Nature Reserve and ahead is something I’ve been looking forward to – a wide semicircle of water. This unusual feature looks like a manmade boating lake, but was actually formed as a result of flooded mining operations. The strip of land I’m going to walk along is called the Outer Barrier.
There are two lighthouses in the area. One stands to my right (on the right side of the photo above) and the other is straight ahead. This second one – the Haverigg Lighthouse – lies roughly half way along the Outer Barrier.
I have a brief and confusing phone conversation with my husband. He’s arrived in Haverigg. I tell him I’m at the other side of the huge pool of water. He can’t see a pool of water (how can he miss it?!) and he asks if the wind turbines are behind me or ahead of me. Since there are wind turbines almost everywhere I look, it’s hard to answer this question.
Still perplexed, I start walking along the Outer Barrier. The sun sinks lower and goes behind the clouds, and so the light is too dim for decent photographs. Perhaps that’s just as well, because I need to pick up my pace and try to find my hubby.
I do love Haverigg Lighthouse. There is something very odd about it… and it takes me a little while to work out why it’s so unusual.
Then I realise. Many lighthouses have metal tops, but most sit on a stone tower. This one is metal all the way down. It’s constructed, literally, as a metal tube. Well, actually, from curved sheets of iron welded together. And it’s been recently restored.
Just beyond the lighthouse I meet a man in a bright cycling jacket. It’s my hubby. So he managed to find this enormous pool of water after all!
We walk together, along the barrier, towards Haverigg. Over on the other side of the pool is a holiday camp and beyond that is Black Combe. As a perfect end to a near-perfect day, we are given another unexpected treat. A rainbow over the hills.
You can see a photographic record of the restoration of the Haverigg Lighthouse here.
Walked today = 11.5 miles
Total distance so far around coast= 2,898.5 miles