Wednesday 30 September 2015
Haverigg to Barrow-in-Furness
Conrad and Nicola, Barrow Island (AirBnB)
Another stunningly beautiful morning followed a chilly night. I had been very snug in my dew-soaked tent. It was cold this morning when I packed away. Just as I was readying to leave Lee drove up (he had been in the rugby club bar last night). He offered to buy me breakfast and show me around a bit this morning as he wasn’t due on shift at Sellafield until the afternoon. Naturally I accepted the offer and had a great morning. Lee is ex-Staffordshire Regiment (they’re always the friendliest guys) and seems to know everyone in Haverigg. We stopped at the corner shop to get a takeaway brew and a hot pasty and then he drove me up into the foothills of the local fells. From there we had a short walk up to the stone circle at Swinside. I’ve never been to the more famous Castlerigg stone circle near Keswick, but Lee says this one is better. I certainly couldn’t beat sipping a cup of tea in such a tranquil setting surrounded by fells on one side and then the view down to the Duddon Estuary on the other.
Next we drove over the Duddon Bridge and in to Broughton-in-Furness to have a look around this quaint little town with its square in the middle, rather like a French town. It has a rather large church for such a small town.
I had always planned to catch the train across Duddon Sands this morning, rather than walk all the way inland, along roads, to Duddon Bridge. Instead I got a lift from Lee to Foxfield Station and flagged the train down (it only stops if you wave at the driver) to go 2 stops further along the estuary to Askam in Furness. From here I planned to walk the last section of coastal path to Barrow-in-Furness (assuming I could find a path as the map indicates it goes through the marshes on the edge of Duddon Sands and I now know what that can mean!). As it happens I didn’t have to look for a path as it all went wrong from here.
I alighted the train at Askam and as it departed the station I realised I had left my walking sticks on board. What an idiot. I have been so careful about keeping hold of these items and then I went and did what I had been afraid of…I left them behind. Shit. Not only are my sticks a walking aid, they double up as tent poles, so without them I can’t use my tent.
I can’t believe how difficult it is to contact anyone at a train station or from Northern Rail. (Askam Station is unmanned.) I even sent a tweet asking for help! I was still trying to get somewhere on the phone when the next train to Barrow arrived 45 minutes later. I got on it. I had managed to find out that the train with my sticks on board had terminated in Barrow and no one had handed my sticks in. Only once I’d boarded the train to Barrow did I find out that the train with my sticks on was now heading back to Carlisle – I waved at it as we passed. How annoying. The very kind conductor not only didn’t charge me for the ride to Barrow but managed to contact the first manned station (Whitehaven) and get the lady there to look out for my sticks. She promised to phone me. I sat at Barrow sweating it out for over an hour.
Would you believe it, the lady at Whitehaven found them and arranged to give them to the guard on the next train South. Fantastic news. I am so grateful to kind people. So I spent another hour or so sat at Barrow station waiting for that train to arrive.
The second mishap of the day was just around the corner. By now it was mid-afternoon and I was in Barrow-In-Furness despite not having walked. I headed to the post office where I had arranged to collect my next set of maps. I have nothing good to say about Duke Street Post Office. The lady in charge was rude, unfriendly and unhelpful. Without even blinking I was informed nobody had phoned the post office and arranged for this service and they didn’t provide it. Seemingly a parcel had arrived yesterday and she’d sent it back to the sorting office in Barrow so I could try there. Naturally she offered no sympathy, nor did she offer to phone the sorting office. Upon finding the number and phoning the sorting office I discovered my maps had already been sent away to a secret location where the parcel is opened to see what it is and if there’s no return address (they’re wasn’t) it is incinerated. Excellent news! (Since phoning the Head Office to complain I will hopefully get my money back as Duke Street Post Office should offer that service.)
I trudged through Barrow town centre looking for a shop to buy more maps. I found Waterstones and the lovely sales assistant sympathised with my plight and was blown away that I was walking around the coast. She made me smile.
It was another glorious day and I had just enough time to walk across to Walney Island. BAE Systems has a large presence here: lots of office buildings and try most enormous hangars. I didn’t realise that this is where our nuclear submarines are built.
From Walney Island I looked out across the sea to the enormous wind farms. Apparently it was unusual to be able to walk along the Walney coast without having to bend double into a fierce headwind. There were lots of people out enjoying the sunshine.
I walked back over the bridge to Barrow Island and past the huge blocks of flats that looked like they were built as barracks for factory employees.
I had a lovely evening with Conrad and Nicola. They treated me like a visiting friend and I ate dinner with them.
What could have been a disastrous day had been stressful but it had all worked out. I had also met some lovely people, and just one horrible one.