I catch the train from Maryport to Workington. Today, due to transport logistics, I’ve only planned a short walk. So I can relax, take my time, and enjoy the day. And I’m following the official England Coast Path – so nothing could possibly go wrong, could it?
From the train station, I follow the England Coast Path signs along a road, and then climb a footbridge over the railway line. On the other side, I stop to take a photograph looking back at Workington. The Cumbrian hills make a dramatic backdrop.
Shortly after I pull my camera out, I realise I’ve lost the polarising filter from off the front of my lens. Not a good start.
I’m walking on a narrow spit of land that runs between a little inlet and the main course of the River Derwent. This is one of those pieces of wasteland you often find in industrial areas. Not big enough for development, and now a popular place with dog walkers – judging from the state of the path.
It turns out to be a dead-end. Still, I get a nice view of the open mouth of the Derwent, and a bunch of cranes.
I return over the footbridge, over the railway line, and eventually discover the England Coast Path. It’s cunningly hidden, tucked between the railway line and the high fence of a sports stadium. (A football ground, I think.)
I pass discarded supermarket trolleys. A train trundles by, and heads for the railway bridge over the Derwent.
The railway bridge doesn’t take walkers, so I must find the road bridge. I cross another patch of wasteland – which seems in the process of redevelopment because there are white vans and construction lorries milling about – and manage to lose the footpath again.
Then I spot the road bridge, and see some more ECP signs beside it. Whew. Back on the right track.
Workington is an industrial town with an apt name. Workington is a working town, not a seaside resort. Some people don’t like industrial structures, but I find them fascinating. So I’m glad I’ve only planned a short walk and am in no hurry, because it’s an opportunity to take masses of photographs. I just wish I knew what was going on inside these buildings.
The England Coast Path is supposed to be taking me back towards the coast but, as the road rises to cross a railway bridge, I notice some signs of reconstruction going on…
… and a sign tells me the railway and the path have been damaged by winter storms. As a result, the path is closed, and a diversion is in place.
The diversion follows a cycle track and runs on the landward side of the railway line. It looks fine, to start with.
I pass more discarded supermarket trolleys and then join a roadway along the edge of an industrial estate. What a mess! Clearly it’s being used as an illegal fly tip. I walk past piles of household rubbish, building materials, and gardening waste.
At the far end is a small travellers’ encampment. I don’t take any close-up photos, because I feel intimidated by a couple of men who are tinkering with an old van, but you can see the caravans in the distance in the photo above.
I must walk around the van to find the continuation of the cycle route. The trouble with cycle routes is that they are often dead boring for walkers. This is easy hiking, but isn’t exactly the pretty coastal walk I anticipated when I looked at the maps this morning!
I spot a bridge under the railway line, and duck under (it’s very low, and I almost have to crawl!). There’s a muddy service track running along the other side of the line. I know the sea is somewhere to my left, but a steep slope covered in trees and undergrowth forms a formidable barrier.
As soon as I spot a possible path up the slope, I turn off the muddy track and head upwards. The path turns out to be a scramble near the top, but it was worth taking the chance, because I emerge above the shore. And in the middle of a wind farm.
I’m back on the coast. Yippee! This is where the England Coast Path should run. I half anticipate being forced to turn back, either by a fence or some other obstruction, but in fact the way is clear.
I only meet one other person, a dog walker. This gentleman (in a thick Cumbrian accent) tells me I can walk all the way to Silloth along the shore, if I want to.
Then he looks me over and adds. ‘It’s a bit rough underfoot though. You’ll find it easier to follow the road.’ Obviously, even after all this time, I still don’t look like a proper walker.
To my right is a great, steaming factory. A paper mill, I learn later. It makes folding cardboard for packaging.
The bank and path disappear at times, presumably washed away by recent storms. I follow the edge of the beach. Yes, it is rough underfoot, but perfectly passable. On my right I pass more industry – a succession of factories and a parade of wind turbines.
I come to a place where the path reappears. There’s a mysterious blank signpost (always something that makes me nervous – was it a warning sign?) but I’m reassured because the England Coast Path is clearly marked.
But what’s with all these colour changes? The signs started white on blue (in Whitehaven), changed to white on green (in Workington), and now this one is yellow on green. And surely they could invent a more distinctive symbol? When the England Coast Path is finished it will be the longest coastal path in the world! It deserves something better than that boring old National Trail generic acorn.
Onwards. Sections of the bank are washed away. Sometimes I’m almost tempted to head inland, as the dog-walker suggested, but always manage to find a way along the shore instead.
Eventually, I reach Flimby. This seems to mark the end of the active industrial zone, and I leave the rough shingle of the beach to walk along a path across the dunes. I don’t see much of Flimby, only the houses that line the shore and the railway station.
The next section of the walk is lovely. The tide has receded, and I walk along the edge of a beach strewn with stones.
On the other side of Flimby is a striking red cliff. It’s not very tall and has no name on my map, but is a prominent feature.
The surface of the cliff is irregular, and shows signs of erosion and slippage. The red substrate sits uneasily above a beach of grey rocks, and I can’t work out if it’s natural – maybe a glacial moraine – or artificial and created from dumped industrial spoil.
At the end of the red cliff, and merging with it, is a black cliff. This looks definitely like a slag heap.
The beach also has a collection of largish white rocks. Again, I can’t work out if they are native to the area, or have been brought here.
(Just when I thought I was beginning to understand geology, I discover I’m really very ignorant after all!)
I take some photos of the patterns of the cliff, the rocks and the pebbles. You can find a selection on my Ruthless Ramblings blog: Rocks and Stones.
Onwards, towards Maryport. I follow a solitary woman who is walking her dog along the beach. Ahead is a jetty of some sort.
The sand gives way to a rough stumble of stones and pools, slippery with seaweed. So I pick my way carefully up the beach and climb onto the bank at the top.
This section of the shore is popular with dog walkers and the occasional jogger. To my right is a rough area of common land. Ahead are the masts of sailing ships, poking up above a harbour wall.
The sun is sinking. When I reach the wall, the England Coast Path curves inland towards Maryport, but I climb up onto the wall and continue following the shoreline.
The structure at the far end is a pier. It guards the entrance to the harbour, and marks the point where the River Ellen empties into the sea.
I can’t make any further progress along the shore, so turn inland, walk past a lighthouse covered in scaffolding, and discover Maryland has a very attractive marina and harbour. It’s stuffed with a collection of elegant sailing ships and stout, working boats. A healthy sign.
I take photographs in the fading light. Love the soft colours reflecting in the still water.
The inner area of the harbour has been recently redeveloped. It’s a strange juxtaposition with modern houses above a motley collection of battered old boats.
I discover an aquarium. It’s open, but I’m not interested in looking at the fish. I’m hungry, and the place has a café which serves food all day. Time for a hot meal (fish cakes) and a cup of tea. There’s a nice fire burning too, so I warm up nicely.
After eating, I want to prolong the day, and so I walk around to the far side of the harbour and make my way towards a second pier.
At the beginning of this second pier I pass more memorial wreaths. The pavement also has a collection of lettered paving stones, each one carries a fragment of a poem about the sea and shore around Maryport.
Some of the slabs are unreadable, because they’re covered in moss, but I think it’s a wonderful concept, and take another set of photographs. (You can see the others on my Ruthless Ramblings site: Words and Remembrances.)
At the end of the pier I stop, and spend a few minutes enjoying the view of Maryport. It looks very attractive in the light of the sinking sun.
Today started off badly, but turned into a wonderful walk, full of interesting things to look at and to photograph. Now all I have to do is find my car, which is parked somewhere near the railway station.
Addendum: Just discovered a wonderful blog post by Ann Lingard (aka the Solway Shore-walker) explaining the origins of the cliffs I saw: The volcanoes of Workington.
Miles today = 10
Miles in total = 2,969.5