This morning the sun is shining. The fine weather isn’t going to last for long, but I manage to photograph Maryport looking beautiful, with the tide in and the harbour full, and a line of wind turbines gleaming on the horizon.
And out across the water, looking to the northwest, is a hump of land. That’s Scotland! So close now. (I’ve actually been worrying about Scotland since I left Wales behind. Can’t believe I’m nearly there.)
But I won’t reach Scotland today. I’m only walking to Silloth. It looks a long way on my map – and I’ll cross over from my OL4 map to my OS 314 one, so two maps are needed.
The shore is almost completely covered up by the high tide, so I start off walking along the promenade. It’s a pleasant walk, apart from the constant deposits of doggy poo underfoot.
To my right, a low line of scrubby cliffs run parallel to the shore. In front of the cliffs is a landscaped area, popular with dog walkers.
I pass a little park with the obligatory memorial wreaths. These have a distinctly Christmassy feel. The Xbox controller is an unusual touch.
Onwards, and I pass a sad-looking shelter covered in graffiti. Looks like someone is just as fed up with stepping over doggy poo as I am!
A mile or so north of Maryport and the cliffs come to an end. This place is called, aptly, Bank End. It’s just a collection of houses and tumble-down sheds. I like taking photographs of these types of places too (along with my weird fondness for industrial scenery), but the residents seem to be at home, and so I don’t like to intrude with my camera.
The concrete walkway is about to come to an end, and I see an England Coast Path sign pointing off to the right. (You can see the sign in the photo above.) Going inland? Why? Weird, because my map clearly shows the national trail continues along the shore. Perhaps the path has been washed away?
I meet a sweet little puppy. He or she seems very nervous of me, until I introduce myself. Then just wants to lick me to death. I still love dogs, despite being bitten by a crazy collie last month.
I’m still wondering which way to go when I meet a gentleman with three terriers in tow. and ask him if it’s possible to continue along the shore. He says, ‘Yes. You can walk all the way to Silloth if you want to.’ ‘Oh, good,’ I say, ‘because I’m actually going to Silloth.’ He raises his eyebrows and gives me a look up and down. ‘It’s a long way,’ he says.
It’s the second time in two days I’ve been given a warning about my walking plans. Obviously I still don’t look like a proper walker!
A brisk lady overtakes me. She’s the first person I’ve met without a dog, and so I assume she must be a proper walker too. She doesn’t turn off along the England Coast Path, but continues straight on. Good, there must be a way forward. I follow her…
… only to see her turn around at the end of the concrete path and head back the way we’ve just come!
Beyond the walkway is a golf course. But I’m pleased to see a rough path traced along the edge of the links. Onwards.
At the end of the golf course I hop down and walk along the shore. Ahead are a group of oyster catchers. I manage to sneak up fairly close…
… before they fly away in a brrrrrr of black and white wings. Such odd looking creatures on the ground. So beautiful in flight.
The rest of the walk turns out to be an amazing trek across vast expanses of empty shoreline. It’s not all sandy beach. Pebbles and rocks too. And the occasional stream to wade across. I see very few people – and my heart sings. This is what coastal walking is all about.
I cross an area littered with the remains of smashed up shells. Carried by the waves? Or brought by sea birds? Don’t know.
Sometimes I have to head inland to get over some of the larger streams via footbridges. This walkway-cycleway is probably the official England Coast Path. I join it for a short distance.
The walkway runs close to the road. The road signs here are barely readable, old and weathered, and covered in rust. I work out I’m a mile from Allonby.
I walk along the beach again. The sunshine has gone, and I watch the clouds building up over the hills of Scotland.
Passing Allonby now, and I decide not to leave the beach and go into the village. Can just see the houses peaking over the low line of grassy dunes.
I know this short stretch of the England Coast Path ends at Allonby. Only 35km or a measly 22 miles is in place. Will it ever be finished?
[This official map shows how little of the ECP has been completed and how much there is still left to do: PDF of map]
Anyway, I’m pressing onwards and sticking to the beach. Ahead is Dubmill Point.
Near the Point, I see a man picking litter off the shoreline, and stuffing it into a carrier bag. What a wonderful thing to do! I take a photo of him walking back towards Allonby.
Around Dubmill Point, the beach is interrupted by a parade of wooden partitions . Interesting how different areas have different names for the same things. In Norfolk, these structures are marked on the map as ‘groynes’. Here they’re marked as ‘breakwaters’.
Beyond the Point is Mawbray. Again, I don’t head into the village, but I do have to abandon the shore because my path is interrupted by a wide stream.
I turn inland and find a bridge. Here I perch on a tree stump for a quick snack and a short rest. Although I’ve been warm while walking, I quickly cool down when I stop. With the sun gone, and a cold wind, it’s frightening how quickly you can start shivering.
Onwards. There’s a strip of vegetated dunes running along the shore in front of Mawbray, and it all open access land. I follow a wooden walkway through the dunes for a while…
… before heading back to walk along the shore.
In the distance, looking back across Allonby Bay, is the familiar outline of the paper mill, still emitting streams of steam, and nicely silhouetted against the bright sky. I stop to take photographs, and I’m pleased with the results.
Onwards. The next place I come to is Beckfoot. It’s a tiny place, consisting mainly of a holiday camp. Although I fancy a cup of tea, I don’t go inland to investigate. I expect everything will be closed out of season.
The next stretch of beach is wild and empty. The tide is low now, and I walk out to stroll along the sandbanks, sometimes splashing through pools of sea water. Not a single other human being in sight.
To my left is the constant companion of today’s walk, a hill called Crifell, in Scotland. Very nearly a mountain, but not quite. And I pass the Lees Scar Lighthouse. The top seems to be missing! Is it supposed to look like that? Or has it been damaged by winter storms?
Onwards. I realise I’m getting further away from land, and I head back across the sands and find the shoreline again. The light is fading. I’m approaching Silloth.
I meet a few dog walkers – or rather, I see them in the distance. The sands are hardly crowded!
And then I come to the wall that marks the entrance to Silloth Docks. There’s a strange contraption which I think, at first, is a bell. When I get closer, I realise it’s probably a minimalistic lighthouse.
Time to head inland. I walk over dunes, along the perimeter of an industrial complex.
[Later, I discover the factory I’m walking past is a flour mill, and Silloth has a very apt name. Originally called Sea-lath, meaning the barn by the sea, it’s been an important place for grain farming and related industries since Roman times.]
I’m staying in a hotel in Silloth. It has the usual motley sprawl of holiday parks on its outskirts, but the centre of Silloth is a lovely place with sett paving (not cobbles, thank you for pointing out the difference, Mike Norman!), a wonderful green, a golf course, and fine houses along the main streets.
Today was an excellent day of coastal walking, and I’m grateful for many miles of fine scenery, along with a little bit of winter sunshine – even though it didn’t last very long.
You can read about Silloth and its history: www.sillothonsolway.com
Walked today = 13 miles
Total distance around coast = 2,982.5