Sauntering round Silloth

A day where I meet a big man and his dog sitting on a bench….
It was another morning of blue sky and fluffy white clouds, just right for a drive over to Silloth on the coast, but unfortunately the further west I went the more the clouds joined up until the blue disappeared and Silloth itself became very dull and grey, although the sun did occasionally manage to pop out from behind the clouds. The main reason for going there was to visit Christ Church situated on a very pleasant corner opposite Silloth Green – I’d been in there two years ago and found it to be a lovely place with unusual interior brickwork but sadly a revisit this time was out of the question as the place was closed due to building work being carried out inside.
Further along the wide cobbled road I came to the replica Lockheed Hudson Bomber installed at the edge of the green in 2018. Sunday April 1st that year marked the 100th birthday of the Royal Air Force and to commemorate the occasion the replica WW2 plane was constructed by apprentices at the Gen2 technology college near Workington and gifted to Silloth town. A raised flower bed was created round it by the Town Council’s ground maintenance team and planted up in the blue, white and red colours of an RAF roundel although a bit of yellow now seems to have crept in from somewhere.
The Lockheed Hudson was an American-built light bomber and coastal command reconnaissance aircraft designed by Clarence ‘Kelly’ Johnson. A military conversion of the Lockheed Model 14 Super Electra airliner, it was built for the RAF shortly before the outbreak of WW2, serving through the war years with Coastal Command and in transport and training roles as well as delivering agents into occupied France.
Silloth Airfield, originally designed to be used by RAF Maintenance Command, opened in June 1939 but was handed over to Coastal Command during November that year, with No.1 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit being responsible for training pilots and crews from the UK and Allied countries. During the Unit’s time at Silloth 64 Lockheed Hudsons were lost – at least 24 of those crashed on take-off or landing while a further 17 went down in the nearby Solway estuary, resulting in a number of fatalities and later earning the area the nickname of ”Hudson Bay”. The war graves in Christ Church cemetery and the name ”Hudson Bay” remain today as a poignant reminder of the young men that so many families lost.
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Across the road from the replica plane was the Silloth branch of the Royal Air Force Association club and on part of the side wall round the corner was a very colourful artwork, while further along on the edge of a small and pleasant green was a bus shelter with some artwork on its inside walls. Across the green was Silloth Discovery Centre and Tourist Information, housed in an attractive building which looked like it had once been a church but was actually the old St. Paul’s School, said to be the first public building in Silloth. A short pathway from the green took me past a primary school and back out onto the cobbled road close to a couple of rows of attractive terraced houses and a little way along, facing the pedestrian promenade and the sea, was the Big Fella sculpture.
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The sculpture, made of steel and almost 9ft tall, was produced by Durham artist Ray Lonsdale and unveiled on August 1st 2019, erected in memory of Silloth resident Peter Richardson who passed away in 2017 at the age of 72. Peter had seen one of Ray’s sculptures elsewhere in the country and was so impressed that he tracked down the artist and asked if he could do something for Silloth Green. Sadly he passed away before he saw his wish fulfilled but his son was determined to complete the job his dad had started and provide a sculpture as a gift for the town.
Peter had always loved the view looking across the sea to Criffel in Scotland and was often heard to say “Look at that view” so the sculpture, while not being a copy of Peter himself, depicts a man taking in the beautiful sea views and shielding his eyes from the evening sun while his dog lies beside him on the bench. The dog must have looked quite realistic to Snowy and Poppie as they both seemed curious and Snowy even stretched up to sniff its nose.
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From the sculpture I walked along the promenade until the docks got in the way then headed back north along the green. Planned landscaping along the green began to develop from the mid 19th century; in 1859 the seawater baths were built and at each high tide a steam engine would pump gallons of water from the sea to fill the plunge type pools. A century later a new sea wall and repairs to the promenade in the 1950s gave Silloth Green a chance to re-invent itself; the building which had once housed the Victorian baths and a later tea room was transformed into an amusement place and a miniature railway and paddling pool became popular attractions to both visitors and local people.
Fast forward to 2010 and a successful bid for Heritage Lottery funding enabled the restoration and enhancement of the Green, with work including the restoration of the pagoda and Edwardian toilets, the replanting of the rose garden and the installation of a children’s water splash park. Unfortunately the rose garden was now a bit of an overgrown mess; one of those currently fashionable ‘bug hotels’ sits in the middle of it and what were supposed to be flower beds contained a mish-mash of everything except roses.
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East Cote Lighthouse was established in 1841 as a navigational aid for ships sailing across the Solway Firth between Port Carlisle and Annan; originally manned by Silloth man Edward Dalglish it was later maintained by the Silloth Port Authority. As the navigable channels in the Solway changed with the tides the lighthouse was reportedly placed on a short rail track so that at any given time it could be moved to shine a light down the latest navigable channel whilst also working in conjunction with the Silloth Pierhead lighthouse. In 1914 it was fixed in its current position with a small keeper’s cabin below the tower, then in 1997 it was rebuilt in its original style. 
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Although there were several patches of blue sky showing through the clouds the sun didn’t really stay out long enough to make visiting somewhere else worthwhile so abandoning my intention to drive down to Allonby and spend some time there I headed back to the camp site – Allonby wasn’t going to disappear so I could always visit another time.

22 thoughts on “Sauntering round Silloth

  1. When we stayed in Bassenthwaite a few years ago we drove up the coast as far as Silloth. It was so different to anywhere we’d been before with that wide cobbled main street. Sadly when we went it was throwing it down and a bit bleak but we had a walk to the lighthouse which we found fascinating, we would definitely go back to explore it a bit more as we didn’t see the sculpture and the plane has been installed since we went. We loved that Coast … we spent a day exploring from Maryport to Silloth 😃

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    1. I first went to Silloth two years ago, it was a lovely sunny day then which made all the difference to how the place looks. It’s a bit of an odd place really – no town centre as such, just a couple of very short rows of shops opposite the green and the only thing that makes it look anything like a seaside resort is the small amusement place. Fine as a base for exploring other areas but not really the sort of place for an actual holiday, in fact I would describe it as being somewhere where old people go to die. Saying that, with its wide tree-lined streets it’s a very attractive place and the green and promenade are lovely for a walk.

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  2. That’s a nice sculpture and a shame Peter didn’t live to see it in place. What a lovely photo of Snowy checking out the dog, I wonder what she thought of it 🙂 Such a shame the rose garden’s been neglected, looks like it’s full of weeds to me.Considering the history of the town it really lets it down.

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  3. It’s a shame the rose garden is such a mess, it could be really pretty if it was tended to properly. Silloth Green extends for quite a long way and other than the rose garden it’s all really well maintained. I don’t think Poppie knew quite what to make of the dog on the bench, while Snowy wasn’t sure whether it was friend or foe 🙂

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  4. The sculpture is actually steel although it does look more like wood. I was quite surprised at Snowy doing what she did, I thought she would have barked at it as she doesn’t like other dogs 🙂

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  5. somewhere where old people go to die.
    You made me choke on my coffee – that is what we said the first time we visited Silloth 😜 but you are right, it is an odd place with no proper heart. But it does have a sort of faded elegance and is very popular with local folk.

    The statue looks brilliant and your last photo of Snowy is one of the best I have seen of her.

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    1. I was going to write that in the actual post but didn’t want to seem too critical 🙂 It makes me wonder what young people do for entertainment there as other than one pub and a tapas bar there doesn’t seem to be much nightlife. Apart from having no atmosphere as such it is a nice place and I do like it – I think ‘faded elegance’ is a good description 🙂

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  6. Looking at the plants in the rose garden and the fact you mentioned a bug hotel – I suspect it is a deliberate act of rewilding – roses on their own are a bit of a monoculture and not really (insect and bird) worthy apart from a visual delight and looking at the surroundings there may be a shortage of pollinating flowers and seed heads. It may not have the traditional kept look that is in keeping with the green and bandstand but I understand why it is filled with wild flowers (not necessarily just weedy).
    Interesting that the dogs saw the sculpture and recognised the dog shape as being ‘a dog’!😊🐾 We’ve explored Allonby (came up from Maryport side) the weather was atrocious so in the end we just drove through Silloth and turned back inland – might have to just try again

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      1. Morning Jayne – oops yes it was recently – it was one of those weekends where we just snuck out the house on a whim and despite the weather we ‘went out’! The weather was particularly rubbish but the jolly-out was fun – Next time we are that way I will let you know 💚💚🐾

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    1. I find the drive from Maryport along the coast road to Silloth is quite a pleasant run and on a sunny day Allonby is a lovely little place to stop for a while. It has so much hidden history to it that I wrote a couple of posts about its past and present two years ago.
      As I understand it the bug hotel has been there for quite a while, I photographed the rose garden two years ago and though it was a bit scruffy it was nowhere near as overgrown as this. I thought maybe it had been neglected last year due to all the pandemic restrictions but your explanation of rewilding is certainly a possibility.
      The dogs’ reaction to the dog sculpture was quite cute – I wonder what Moss would make of it? 🙂

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      1. Moss does not ‘notice’ usual dog things – odd little thing, she blanks (for the most part) all dogs and unless they are jack russell or border collie (and male) . As for dog-shaped things – nope. Unless it is a ball or a stick or a chew or a frisbee or a rope-tug (this particular list can be endless!!)

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    1. It’s worth having a look round the green and promenade if you’re ever up that way but as a town itself there’s not much there so not really worth making a special trip for.

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  7. Your lovely photos do make Silloth look very inviting Eunice. Maybe there’s more to Silloth than we have found. I will definitely look out for the sculpture if we ever get there again. X

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  8. It all looks so much nicer in the sunshine, especially in late spring/early summer when the rhododendrons are in full bloom along The Avenue through the green 🙂

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