This week was my last day in Scotland and then on into Cumbria. The weather has been really good, which is helpful for camping now that Autumn is here. It’s definitely colder and damper at night and I am ore conscious of it getting dark earlier (not so good for drying washing and towels at the end of a long day).
As for the Cumbria Coastal Way…well, they shouldn’t advertise it! It doesn’t really exist in most places, generally wherever the way gets a little more difficult. A good game around here is spot the CCW sign.
Still, despite suffering from a cold, another great week with wonderful scenery and some help from friends.
What a beautiful, sunny day for a drive through the Lake District. Jenny kindly drove me all the way back to Whitehaven to start walking again and it was a lovely drive via Keswick with great views of the mountains.
As it was Sunday, Whitehaven was quite peaceful and the views across the harbour were lovely.
When I cycled the Coast-to-Coast in 2010 we started our ride from here and I had been told that it was good luck to take a stone from one coast to the other. When I was in Robin Hood’s Bay I found the smallest stone possible and carried it all the way around with me so I threw it into the Whitehaven harbour.
The Candlestick was rather imposing on the cliff and there was a monument to signal the end of mining at Whitehaven when the Haig Pit closed in 1986.
There was a steep climb up the cliff to the site of the coal pit, which is now a museum.
From here it was more uphill to get around St Bees Head, which looked beautiful in the sunshine.
It was an excellent, and well travelled, cliff top walk. The views across the sea and back to Scotland were outstanding on such a sunny day. Of course if I had the added bonus of great views of the mountains if I looked inland. It doesn’t get better than this.
As I rounded St Bees Head I waved goodbye to Scotland and looked ahead towards Sellafield Nuclear Power Station and Morecambe Bay.
There was a beautiful little beach tucked into the cliffs between North and South Head and there were a few people sat enjoying the day.
I carried on to the town of St Bees, the actual start of Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast walk. I think people thought that’s what I was doing.
I decided to stop here and get a late lunch at the cafe as I didn’t think I’d find anywhere to eat near the campsite (this proved to be a good decision). So Slab pie and peas it was for me.
From St Bees I walked a mixture of the stony beach and the cliff top or minor roads, depending on whether a path was visible across the fields or not. It looks like some of the cliff top path has been eroded away.
The last section was along the shingle beach and I was surprised to see a long row of houses built on the beach. The ‘road’ is just the beach and most cars were 4x4s. Very strange.
In the middle of this ‘street’ of houses was Braystones train station and the entrance to my campsite for the night. Great views.
I was grateful for a lie in. Mark had to work at a shooting range in Yorkshire so Jenny and I dropped him off and headed into Ilkley. It was strange to be in Yorkshire, which borders the East coast. We went for a lovely brunch in Betty’s cafe, quite a well known Yorkshire chain. It was excellent.
I was able to do a little bit of planning in the afternoon before we watched England play Wales in the Rugby World Cup. That was disappointing. Fish and chips in front of the TV made a nice change.
Jenny and Mark made me very welcome and looked after me while I struggled to get rid of my cold. I was in need of a day off!
Back to walking on my own today. Ade and Jackie dropped me off at Maryport, at the Alavna Roman Fort.
It was early in the morning so the Fort Museum was not yet open. This fort had once been Command HQ and supply base for all of the Roman fortlets and watchtowers in the area. As the NW frontier of the Roman Empire, Hadrian’s Wall was built with fortlets at every mile.
Maryport was built on a hill down to the rather nondescript harbour. I didn’t walk through the main part of town.
I walked beach-side of the railway line to Flimby, a typical mining town with its rows of terraced houses. It seemed like all the small towns on this section to Whitehaven had mining roots.
Unlike the previous 2 days, the coastal path was well signposted today and continued alongside the train line to Workington. I passed an enormous industrial building and a man I passed told me it was a factory for making the ink container inside pens. I found that hard to believe.
I had been struggling with a cold the last couple of days and today I felt worse. I stopped at Tescos on the edge of Workington for a cup of tea to try and revive myself. Jackie’s packed lunch and treats didn’t last long either as I tried to perk myself up. Fortunately the walking was all fairly easy, if hemmed in between barriers overlooking waste ground. This was clearly once an industrious place.
I passed through the small towns of Harrington, Lowca and Parton and finally rounded the corner at Redness Point and walked into Whitehaven. I was exhausted.
Fortunately I had arranged to visit my ex-neighbours who now live in Kendal, so I didn’t have to camp when not feeling brilliant. I walked straight to Whitehaven train station and got the train back along the coast I’d just walked (mostly next to the path I’d walked) to Workington. From there I got a bus to Keswick and had some dinner in a pub while I waited for Mark to pick me up. I was looking forward to a day off tomorrow.
Yesterday had been a late finish and I could still feel the effort to cross the marsh in my legs. Today was to be no easier as we were walking into a 25+ mph headwind nearly all day. Oh joy.
The first part was lovely; a walk out to Grune Point along a spit of sand and dunes. We found a well preserved pill box hidden in the bushes; it was made of sandbags that had cemented over time. From here we faced the huge MOD aerial array across Moricambe Bay at Anthorn. This structure had been leering at us all day yesterday and we always seemed to be behind it wherever we were.
As we turned around at Grune Point the Galloway coast was looming across the Solway Firth and we bent almost double trying to walk into the wind. The water was being whipped up into choppy waves.
Silloth was just along the (pebbled) beach. We stopped in the park, behind some tall trees, for a break from the wind and our morning hot chocolate and treats. All too soon we were back fighting our way along the beach and the dunes all the way to Allonby. Occasionally a path was visible and sometimes it wasn’t. Either way my legs were cut to ribbons by the maram grass that was wind blown straight into me. It was quite a painful walk.
Conversation was more difficult today as generally we were walking single file and the force of the wind prevented me from hearing anything. We got some good views of birds on the shoreline; oyster catchers and curlews were prevalent amongst the gulls.
Allonby was a colourful little town facing the sea. It was just after here that we headed inland and back to Ade and Jackie’s house. We had an interesting altercation with some cows who chased us out of their field. We actually had to run for the stile. Fortunately we made it before they arrived snorting and mooing at us.
Not as long a day as yesterday but another good walk. I had really enjoyed having walking company.
Another evening in front of the fire. Bliss. The heavens opened early evening and I was very glad I wasn’t camping.
Today was to be the first time on my trip that I would be joined by friends for a whole day’s walk. I met Ade and Jackie when we were all camping opposite Holy Island, Northumberland. They are friends of Maggie, and now also of me. They are experienced walkers, climbers, mountaineers and expedition leaders, so I was in good company for the day that was to unfold. It was nice to have good company for the walk and to have someone else navigating.
We drove a couple of miles back to Drumburgh, from where we could pick up the Cumbria Coastal Way and we set out to follow this all the way to Skinburness. The main thing I want to point out is how pleased I was that someone as experienced, and qualified, as Ade had the same navigational problems as I’ve suffered and several times we lost the non-existent path. Hallelujah, it’s not just me!!!
Things started off ok but it wasn’t long before the signposts disappeared, the path disappeared and we were fighting our way through, almost impenetrable, thick reeds and other vegetation. We saw a couple of deer, who seemed very surprised to see us. Jackie found a stile – it was buried in the head-high vegetation with no sign of a path either side, but it did have a CCW sign.
We worked hard for our 15 miles today; it should have been shorter but crossing the Skinburness Marsh at the end was a wiggly affair. There were dykes crisscrossing the plain and finding places narrow enough to cross them was sometimes difficult.
We all got wet feet at some point. We also had cows to worry about (some are really inquisitive) and fences barring our way that needed to be crossed. I managed to rip my waterproof jacket in one fence that we had to climb through (fortunately Ade mended it later).
Walking with Ade and Jackie meant regular breaks with treats, sandwiches and hot chocolate. What a luxury. The route did take in New Abbey and we took a look in the magnificent building that was destroyed by fire in 2006 and has been rebuilt. It was worth a look.
By the time we reached the (second) car at Skinburness we were tired. It had been a long day fighting the lack of paths. We made it back home just before the rain came. It was nice to have an evening in front of the fire.
It was a misty start to the morning but the sun was going to burn through. I walked down the road to the River Sark and the border. Just before the border is the first (or last) house in Scotland, The Old Toll Bar. Another scene of many weddings.
Unlike when I crossed the border into Scotland on the East coast, this time it didn’t rain. I’m hoping that’s a good omen.
Having walked across the border (where were the pipers and Dougie MacLean to bid me farewell?) I promptly walked back into Gretna and caught a bus to Carlisle to avoid a road walk. I was in Border Reiver country and all day I was to be reminded of the incessant tribal warfare that blighted this area for about 300 years, mainly between 1296 and 1603. It wasn’t just between the Scots and the English, but was tribal in the 40 square miles of ‘Debatable Lands’. I have learned the origin of the term bereaved (be-revived).
I needed some new inner socks as my feet have been a bit sore and I worked out that it was my threadbare socks. I popped into Cotswolds to buy some new ones and then walked down the High Street. I couldn’t resist stopping at Watt’s Victorian Coffee Shop and was rewarded with an excellent coffee and cake.
The place is full of Victorian knickknacks and a visit to the toilet involves walking through a basement that could be a museum! It was a shame the man who roasts the coffee wasn’t in as apparently he happily shows customers round his tiny office.
Carlisle has an historic quarter, a castle, a Roman fort and of course it is Hadrian’s Wall country. There is a lot to see in Luguvalium!
I walked past the Norman castle that was once the temporary prison of Mary Queen of Scots and headed out of the city along the River Eden and out to the the route of Hadrian’s Wall and Vallum.
I passed through the villages of Beaumont and Burgh-By-Sands, and stopped in both to look at their respective churches. St Mary’s in Beaumont was built on the site of a fort, the only church on Hadrian’s Wall, and has great views over the surrounding countryside, including Carlise and the Solway plain.
St Michael’s church in Burgh-By-Sands is typical of many of the local churches in having a tower at one end where the locals used to barricade themselves in when their village was attacked by Reivers. This was also where King Edward I (The Hammer of the Scots) lay in state after he died whilst his Army was crossing the Solway Firth to wage war on the Scots in 1307.
I took a detour out onto the marsh land to look at the monument that was erected on the spot where he died (he was old and ill). I can’t believe an Army attempted to cross this marsh land; surely it would have got stuck in the same mud I have sunk in!
The last section of the walk was along the road that crosses the edge of the tidal plain and evidently gets covered regularly during high tides.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path was well signposted all day; it makes such a difference.
I had booked to stay in a bunkhouse and was the only one so I had plenty of room to spread out.
The old lady who owns Kirkland Farm, Daphne, keeps the cleanest Bunkbarn I have ever seen and we had a lovely chat. She has lived in Port Carlisle all her life and she was showing me photos of her at school in 1952. Funnily enough nearly all of her school mates also still lived in the locality; this is one of those places where people never leave.