WEEK 25 – Annan, Galloway to Braystones, Cumbria

  

85 miles walked 

(total 1,347 miles walked)

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.  

 

Day 175 St Bees Head

Sunday 27 September 2015

Whitehaven to Braystones

11 miles

Tarnside Caravan Park

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. 

Whitehaven harbour – once a fishing port
 
Looking down on The Candlestick and the harbour
   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
 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.  

“The End of an Era”
 There was a steep climb up the cliff to the site of the coal pit, which is now a museum.  

The Haig Pit (now a museum)
 From here it was more uphill to get around St Bees Head, which looked beautiful in the sunshine.  

Looking towards St Bees Head
 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.  

Looking back along the cliff, Galloway just visible in the distance
  
The view back to Whitehaven
  
The Lake District mountains
  
St Bees Head
 As I rounded St Bees Head I waved goodbye to Scotland and looked ahead towards Sellafield Nuclear Power Station and Morecambe Bay.   

Looking down the coast towards Sellafield 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.

A beach nestled in the cliffs at St Bees Head
  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.  

St Bees

No, I’m walking around the coast
 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.  

Homemade slab pie (meat and potato) with gravy, yum
 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.  

Looking back at St Bees Head
  
The train line is always closest to the sea
 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.  

The start of a ‘street’ of houses along the beach
 In the middle of this ‘street’ of houses was Braystones train station and the entrance to my campsite for the night. Great views.  

 

Day 174 Rest Day in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales

Saturday 26 September 2015

Rest Day

Mark and Jenny’s house, Kendal

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.  

Me and Jenny enjoying breakfast at Betty’s
 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!

Day 173 Wind Farms and Coal Mining Towns

Friday 25 September 2015

Maryport to Whitehaven

15 miles

Mark and Jenny’s house, Kendal

Back to walking on my own today. Ade and Jackie dropped me off at Maryport, at the Alavna Roman Fort. 

The Alavna Roman Fort Museum at Maryport
  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.  

Walking into Maryport harbour, the wind already whipping up the sea
 Maryport was built on a hill down to the rather nondescript harbour. I didn’t walk through the main part of town.  

A rather colourful mural amongst drab town buildings in Maryport
  
“A Fishy Tale ” sculpture by Colin Telfer, made out of iron ore from the local Egremont Haematite Mine
 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.  

Typical terraced housing in the small towns (this one is Parton)
 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. 

A big factory – for making pens??
  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.  

Looking over the barrier across the waste ground towards the railway line and the sea at Workington
 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. 

Looking down at Lowca, another mining town
  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.  

 

Day 172 Battered by the Wind

Thursday 24 September 2015

Skinburness to Allonby

16 miles

Ade and Jackie’s house

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.  

Walking towards Grune Point and the Anthorn aerials
 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.  

Sea-side of Grune Point – a lovely, windy beach
 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.  

The Silloth lighthouse
 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.  

A beautiful little garden in Silloth’s park on the seafront
 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.  

Colourful and interesting houses at Allonby
 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. 

Day 171 The Cumbria Coastal Way

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Drumburgh to Skinburness

15 miles

Ade and Jackie’s house

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!!! 

A stile but no paths!
 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.  

A mini “Stone Henge” at Newton Arlosh
 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.  

A random sculpture in the middle of the marsh
 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).  

Jackie making her way across the marsh (jumping from tuft to tuft)
 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.  

New Abbey
 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.  

 

Day 170 Welcome to ENGLAND – Walking Hadrian’s Wall

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Gretna to Port Carlisle (via Carlisle)

17 miles

Kirkland House Bunkbarn

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.  

The Old Toll Bar – the first/last house in Scotland
 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.  

I made it around Scotland!!!
 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.  

A wonderful coffee shop in Carlisle
 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. 

Is this a museum or the way to the toilet?
 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! 

Crossing the bridge to Carlisle Castle
  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.  

The River Eden from Carlisle, the Pennines in the background
 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 Mary’s Church, Beaumont
 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.  

King Edward I statue, Burgh-By-Sands
 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! 

King Edward I memorial on the Solway marsh
 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.  

Beware of the tide on this road
 The Hadrian’s Wall Path was well signposted all day; it makes such a difference.  

Cows grazing on the tidal marsh with Galloway acros the Solway Firth
 I had booked to stay in a bunkhouse and was the only one so I had plenty of room to spread out.  

Spreading out in the bunkhouse
 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.