Day 176 Sellafield, Steam Trains and a Brush with the Law

Monday 28 September 2015

Braystones to Newbiggin

15 miles

Newbiggin Farm campsite

I was up fairly early and packed away a damp tent before setting off along the shingle beach to Seascale. I walked past the ‘street’ of houses built at the back of the beach, actually on the beach. The shingle has tyre tracks along it where all the owners drive to their houses.  

Walking towards Sellafield Nuclear Power Station
 The Cumbria Coastal Way heads off the beach and along a footpath that uses the railway bridge to cross the River Ehan flowing down from Ennerdale Water. Here it all got a bit confusing as yet again the path sea-side of Sellafield Nuclear Power Station seemed to disappear. I found the odd path marker and a couple of stiles but eventually I ended up fighting my way down a steep bank through brambles and ferns that ripped my legs to shreds. I came out at Sellafield train station and then got a telling off from the man in the signal hut. I was trespassing on nuclear power station land. I pointed out there was a way-marked path (sort of) and I hadn’t climbed any fences, only stiles made for walkers. I was still trespassing. He allowed me out of the locked gate and onto the cycle path leading to Seascale.  

Not allowed to stray off the path
 Here I saw a sign informing that the Cumbria Coastal Way was closed until further notice and giving a diversion route. Pity there wasn’t a corresponding sign at the other end as it would have saved my legs from numerous scratches! 

Thanks for putting a sign up after the fact
 At least the cycle path was easy walking. I arrived in Seascale and headed to the first cafe for breakfast and a coffee, and to wash my wounds.  

Looking back at Seascale – the coast path follows the train line
 After a long break I stuck to the minor roads for the next bit to Drigg as I had to go inland a little to cross the River Irt.  

Beautiful views of the Lake District
 The first foot bridge is the Drigg Holme Packhorse Bridge that was built in 1772, although there has been a bridge here since Mediaeval times. 

Drigg Holme Packhorse Bridge
  I walked the farm tracks back to the coast at Saltcoats. Here the foot and cycle path crosses the railway bridge over the River Mite to Ravenglass; the only coastal village in the Lake District National Park.  

This cycle way gets flooded at high high tides

There’s a train coming as I walk over the bridge
 Ravenglass was the last defence point of Hadrian’s Wall and a significant Roman settlement, complete with Bath House. It is also the start of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Narrow Gauge Railway.  

The “River Irt” steam train
 I popped into the station to look at they trains and the next one left in 20 minutes. What a chance for a couple of hours off enjoying the scenery from an open air carriage. It was an opportunity not to miss!  

A lovely route through the Eskdale Valley
 I had a lovely trip up the Eskdale Valley to Dalegarth, a quick stop for an ice cream, and then the trip back down to Ravenglass. Wonderful.  

Passing the “River Mite” steam train
 I left Ravenglass at 3.30 pm and still had a long walk up the Esk estuary, through the Muncaster Estate, until the first bridge over the river.  

Muncaster Castle
 There were options to cross the River Esk at a couple of points but I’d rather walk further than wade through mud.  

Looking back at the coast by the mouth of the Esk
Great views of the mountains at every turn
Once I’d crossed the river via the A595 it was a short walk across marsh land to Newbiggin. The campsite was basic and the facilities were in the farmyard. The farmer and his helper (who looked about 90) were really nice, even though I inconveniently arrived at milking time.  

Walking across yet another tidal marsh
 I was late so the tent went up quickly. I admired the beautiful sunset and headed off a mile up the lane to The Brown Cow pub. 

Nice sunset
  I was the only one in there for most of the evening and the food portions were enormous. Just after 10 pm I set off back for the campsite in the pitch dark. I had travelled about halfway when a car came behind me and I turned into the hedge to avoid the lights. The car stopped. I turned around and there were 2 policemen who wanted to know what I was doing wandering down a country lane at night. They were very friendly as they interrogated me and my answers must have seemed too ridiculous to have been lies. We chatted for a bit and then Mark and Jonathan kindly gave me a lift (in the cab, not in the back) back to the farm.  

Beautiful sky
 It had been a fun day.  


Day 145 The Jacobite Steam Train

Friday 28 August 2015

Trains from Glasgow to Mallaig

Knoydart Ferry Office

I was up early after a comfortable night on Maggie’s sofa. Due to a technical hitch with the shower I had my first bath in ages and then it was a dash across Glasgow City centre to Queens Street train station. Maggie even provided me with a packed lunch, I was feeling very well looked after. 

The train to Fort William was running late and was packed full, although no one sat next to me and I don’t even smell at this point! I sat back and enjoyed the scenery as we headed up some amazing valleys and seemed to be following a bit of the West Highland Way. In spite of the usual low cloud I’ve become used to in Scotland that does its best to obscure the views, the journey was picturesque and the train’s trolley dolly was excellent in pointing out landmarks if she came past you at the right time. 

Although the train went all the way to Mallaig I disembarked at Fort William in order to catch the Jacobite steam train that runs twice a day from Fort William to Mallaig. This is the same one that I had watched go over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the one that Harry Potter catches to Hogwarts.  

Ready to board The Jacobite steam train at Fort William
 What a treat. The scenery was stunning and the sights and sounds of the steam and the train whistle made it a fun trip. This time I was the one waving from the train at all the spectators as we rode over the viaduct.  

The view from the Glenfinnan Viaduct
 I arrived in Mallaig and went straight to the ferry ticket office as I had a notion I’d catch the last ferry to Knoydart and camp there (there are no campsites in Mallaig). Unfortunately the ferry was fully booked, but fortunately the man in the office very kindly offered me the chance to sleep in the office (a bit like a portacabin) overnight. Bonus. Somewhere dry, warm, with a toilet, a kettle and wifi for the night. I didn’t need persuading. This gesture is a good example of Highland friendliness towards strangers. I was left to make myself at home and given the keys to lock the door. I merely have to open the office up for the boat skipper in the morning!

It was nice to be back in a familiar town and I headed to the Clachain Inn for some dinner (my 3rd time in this pub so I must be a regular). My overriding impression of the day was a good feeling to be coming back to the Highlands. I really like it up here; the people, the scenery and the wildlife.  

Heading over the Glenfinnan Viaduct