This was a walk of two halves. The first half was easy and pleasant. The second half… well, I’ll talk about that in another post.
It’s another dull day today, I’m sorry to say. But Silloth is a lovely place and – despite the dismal weather – I’m enjoying my stay here.
I cross The Green and head down the road to the shore, where there’s a small car park and a lifeboat station.
First I walk southwards until I reach the edge of entrance to the dock, just to make sure my coastal circuit is complete, then I turn back and head northwards along the promenade.
I pass a group of students on a field trip, huddling around a teacher, looking cold. A few dog walkers. Someone on a mobility scooter with two lively springer spaniels. And then the Cote Lighthouse, standing on stilts beside the promenade.
The promenade comes to an end, and I continue walking along the stepped sea wall. A warning sign tells me it’s not suitable for wheelchairs, etc.
Eventually the steps end, and I follow a footpath that runs along the back (or is it the front?) of a row of gardens. Meet nobody.
The path becomes more rural, and then peters out. I walk along the shore, across shingle and pebbles, and following a line of strewn seaweed. The bank of bushes at the top of the beach seems to have taken a battering. Perhaps the path has been washed away?
I’m walking out to Grune Point, along a shingle bank that stretches for a mile or so. On the way I stop to pick up pebbles, loving the wide variety of stones you find on this shore. Nobody in sight.
Eventually, as I approach Grune Point, I’m overtaken by a couple of men wearing rucksacks. Another walker appears in the distance, but turns back.
It’s nearly high tide. The spit of land I’m walking along is very low-lying, and the small channel (just visible beyond the walkers in the photo above) begins to fill up. Threatens to cut me off.
I reach Grune Point. At low tide I suspect you can walk even further out, but for some reason there’s a barbed wire fence across the Point. Seaweed and old fishing nets hang from the wire, flapping in the breeze, so that the fence looks like a washing line.
It’s time to turn around and walk down the other side of the spit of land. I’m walking alongside Skinburness Creek.
I join a track, and pass another group of students, standing around a woman with a clipboard. They look as if they’re on a field expedition and about to start measuring something. They have marked sticks, and the leader seems to be giving them instructions.
A mile along the track I come to the tiny village of Skinburness. It’s an ugly name for a pretty place. Several houses are for sale and I note the protective raised bank and wonder if they were flooded in the winter storms last year.
Skinburness Marsh lies ahead of me. An information board displays a map of the Access Land along this part of the coast, and the map – surprise, surprise – shows a public footpath running right through the marsh. The path would take me all the way to my intended destination, Abbeytown.
A footpath all the way to Abbeytown? I can’t believe my luck.
But why didn’t I know about the path when I was planning this walk? I pull out my paper OS map and discover no sign of the footpath. My map was revised in 2013, so is reasonably up to date, and certainly looks more recent than the map on the information board.
I can’t see any obvious footpath posts to follow either, although there is an old footbridge spanning a drainage ditch, which might be the point where the path runs onto the marsh. You can see it in the photo below.
Could I get through? Or has the footpath become unusable, and that’s why it’s been taken off the recent maps?
I stare out across the flat land, and can just make out posts sticking up, which might mark the route of the path. But between the marsh and the bank is a channel of water called, rather unpleasantly, Great Gutter. This barrier means that, if I come to a dead-end, I would be forced to turn and retrace my steps all the way back to Skinburness.
I really don’t want to battle through mud and swamp, or be forced to turn back. And it looks desolate out there.
So, after dithering for a while, I decide to stick to my original plan and follow the road instead. I set off walking along the raised bank. Called Sea Dike
And then along the road itself. Straightforward but – to be honest – rather boring. Shame the weather is so dull.
The road swings inland and passes over a cattle grid and through farmland. Sea Dyke End. The Wath Farm. Hartlaw.
A terrible bleating noise starts from a field to my right. Sheep. Bellowing and protesting. At first I think I’ve scared them into a panic, and then I realise they’re chasing after me.
They follow me right along the field and, when I stop to take a photograph, give me pleading looks. One even starts pawing at the barbed wire fence that separates us, as if trying to barge her way through.
Odd behaviour. But I decide they’re hungry. It’s that time of year when many farmers will be feeding their sheep with extra grain or sheep nuts. They obviously saw me and decided I was the dinner lady. Sorry girls. I’ve got no food for you.
In fact, I’m hungry myself. But there’s nowhere convenient to stop for a rest or a snack. Everything is damp and the mucky roadside verges aren’t very appealing.
A cyclist overtakes me. I realise I’m nearing the main road.
The second part of my walk is about to begin…
[to be continued]