Workington harbour, Harrington & Whitehaven

The day after my visit to Silloth I’d wakened to a grey and drizzly morning which turned into a grey and drizzly afternoon so I stayed on site and only went out briefly to get a few supplies from Cockermouth. By 4pm it was raining properly, heavy rain which continued for the rest of the day and all through the night but by the following morning it was fine, the grey clouds were clearing away and the sunshine was back. Taking a chance that the day would improve even more I decided to drive over to the coast again, this time to revisit Workington harbour, Harrington and Whitehaven. There were still some grey clouds around when I got to Workington but they soon cleared from the west and it turned into a beautiful day.
Parking briefly near the beach I took a walk along the nearby pier/breakwater to the ugly square tower with the beacon light on its roof and which is one of the two official west coast starting points of the C2C cycle route. Many people refer to C2C as being Coast-to-Coast but it actually means what it says – Sea-to-Sea. There was nothing special about the tower but round the back was a circle set on the ground and showing the distances from there to various other places, presumably as the crow flies, though I can’t see what connection it has to the C2C.
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Driving past the harbour entrance and the port on the far side of the river a left turn took me to Town Quay on the riverside. With a mixture of new houses and older small commercial premises it was a long quiet road with pink pavements, pleasant roadside parking areas, colourful planters on the railings and benches overlooking the river where many fishing boats and a few pleasure craft were moored. At the harbour end of the road was a patch of rough ground with a few private garages; the pavement ended just beyond the garages and I came to a small quay and the attractive yacht harbour which I didn’t manage to photograph properly on my previous visit.
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From the riverside I drove the three miles down to Harrington but this time I didn’t go anywhere near the harbour. While researching the area for a previous post a while ago I came across something on another blog which mentioned some pastel coloured houses on Rose Hill, a single sided street on the hillside overlooking the parkland and the harbour, so checking out the area on Google maps street view I thought it was worth taking a look.
The Cumbrian Coast railway line ran between Rose Hill and the parkland and the road took me under a viaduct, past the end of the harbour, back over the line via a bridge and up the hill, where there were several gravel parking areas set in the wide grass verges opposite the houses. The top end of the street narrowed into a farm track with vehicle access only to the farm and another couple of houses up there, and the steepness of the hillside meant that the railway line ran out of sight below street level so there was an uninterrupted view over the parkland, harbour and coastline.
The top two houses were large double-fronted 1950s semis while the rest of the properties were split into two long terraces of Georgian and Victorian houses and cottages, many painted in pastel colours and all well kept with small neat front gardens. It was a lovely street well worth a few photos and I was glad I’d found out about it even if it was by accident on the internet.
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From Harrington I went the five and a half miles down to Whitehaven, leaving the van in Tesco’s car park and walking along the Millennium Promenade past the harbour and marina. At the far side of the harbour a flight of wide steps and a path led up the steep hillside to the Candlestick. Reputed to have been modelled on a candlestick in Whitehaven Castle, the ancestral home of the Lowther family, it was built by architect Sydney Smirke as a ventilation shaft for the Wellington Pit which was sunk in 1840 and closed in 1933. The surface buildings of the pit were also designed and built by Smirke and were in the form of a castle with a keep, turrets and crenellated walls.
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On May 11th 1910 Wellington Pit became the scene of Cumbria’s worst mining disaster when 136 men and boys died following an explosion and fire deep underground. Just below the Candlestick were the remains of the surface buildings’ retaining walls and on the ground a colourful modern mosaic commemorating the mine workers, although Wellington Pit wasn’t the only Whitehaven mine to suffer fatalities. Not far from the mosaic was quite an attractive white building, Wellington Lodge, which was once the entrance lodge for Wellington pit but is now used as a coastguard base.
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Although I’d been up to the Candlestick a couple of years ago I hadn’t gone any further along the hillside so anything beyond Wellington Lodge was all new to me. A tarmac lane and a footpath led from the Lodge to a residential road further up the hill and halfway along, set up above the grass, was a paved area with a modern circular seat and good views over the harbour and town. Surrounding the seat were several curved paving slabs showing the goods once imported into Whitehaven and the countries they came from.
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Along the road was a building which looked very much like a ruined castle but was actually the remains of the Duke Pit Fan House built in 1836. It initially housed a steam-driven fan wheel measuring 8ft in diameter which circulated 23,000 cubic feet of air per minute through the mine workings below, but in 1870 a much larger fan wheel was installed – at 36ft in diameter it was capable of circulating 70,000 cubic feet of air per minute. Duke Pit suffered three explosions between 1842 and 1844 with the 1844 explosion killing eleven men and eleven horses. The pit closed later that same year and the shaft was then used to ventilate the nearby Wellington Pit. The fan house itself is now regarded as being the best surviving example in the country.
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Just beyond the fan house the path doubled back on itself and took me lower down the hillside to a narrow flight of stone steps which led to the car park of the Beacon Museum opposite part of the marina. Heading back towards the Millennium Promenade I came to the bandstand, a modern structure with a tent-like canopy and a colourful circular mosaic floor, then along the promenade itself I found two random metal fish. I’d already seen several of these on a corner and as an art installation, if that’s what they were, they looked quite attractive but these two didn’t seem to serve any purpose except maybe as a trip hazard for someone too busy looking at their phone.
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In the late afternoon sun it was a very pleasant walk along the promenade and I would have liked to sit on a bench and watch the world go by for a while but my two hours were almost up on Tesco’s car park so I had to get back to the van. Since getting back home I’ve realised that there are a couple of other places in Whitehaven which I’d like to take a look at so no doubt I’ll be making another visit during my next holiday in that area – it’s now on my list.

13 thoughts on “Workington harbour, Harrington & Whitehaven

  1. Years ago – when the boys were rather small, we did a similar jaunt around Workington and Whitehaven and I remember those fish sculptures, in my memory there was a longer row of them (but this is going back about 15 – 16 years ago) so may be like in fishermen’s tales – they got longer!!
    It looks to have been a good day weatherwise – lovely blue skies 🙂

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    1. Weather-wise it turned out to be a glorious day and still warm enough for t-shirt and cycling shorts 🙂 The first fish things I saw were on a grassy corner where a side street meets the promenade, there were two or three rows of about four or five set one behind the other but these two were just slap bang in the middle of the promenade. I thought they must have been fairly recent as I walked along there two years ago and don’t remember them but maybe I walked to one side and just didn’t see them.

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  2. The rainy day day was definitely followed by a very pleasant day. It’s horrible to think about all those who lost their lives in the mining disasters but that’s a nice commemorative mosaic. I agree that those fish however nice would be a trip hazard and I’ve been to Workington and Whitehaven but don’t remember seeing them. I’m sure you’ll be returning to Whitehaven it’s a lovely place to visit.

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    1. Maybe the fish weren’t there when you went, modern art seems to be popping up all over the place these days. Weather-wise the day couldn’t have been better, especially for the photos I wanted to get 🙂

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  3. I love how you find all the places I never stop to look at when I am shopping!

    Very glad you saw Town Quay with the tide in – it’s a big muddy mess a few hours later 🙂

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  4. I often wonder what you, as a local, think when you read my blog posts about places you’re familiar with but written from the perspective of a non-local (I refuse to call myself a ‘tourist’!) It was good to see Town Quay with the tide in, that’s what I wanted and I’d roughly calculated the times from my visit to Maryport a few days earlier when the tide was out. Boats beached on sand/mud CAN sometimes provide good shots but that’s not what I wanted this time 🙂

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  5. I spent some time working in Whitehaven in the 1990s. Thanks for the memory nudge. I always think that Workington is a great name for a town. Sort of gives it a real purpose and identity.

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  6. It’s so sad to think of all those lives which have been lost in mining disasters, it’s good to see that they haven’t been forgotten and that there’s a lasting tribute to them. I don’t know this area at all so I’ve enjoyed seeing your photos and hearing about your travels.

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    1. It’s incredible to think that the Wellington mine extended for five miles under the sea. A lot of those who lost their lives in the explosion weren’t killed by the blast itself, they died from methane gas poisoning but lived just long enough to chalk messages on the walls – it really doesn’t bear thinking about 😦 The mosaic memorial is really colourful but I couldn’t photograph it the right way up as the sun was in the wrong direction.
      North west Cumbria/Lake District is really lovely and beyond Keswick it’s much less touristy so it’s always possible to find some quiet places. If you like scenery then my next post includes some really nice views 🙂

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  7. The north west Lake District is actually just over a 2-hour drive from home, near enough that it doesn’t take all day to get there but far enough away for it to be a real holiday. The three places in this post are only a half hour drive from the camp site where i stay so I get countryside and coast all within a relatively small area 🙂

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  8. I like the planned Georgian architecture in Whitehaven. I’ve mooched around there a few times when I was staying nearby with work. One memory is when I went into a resteraunt one evening to grab a bite to eat and was asked whether I was there for the speed dating, a meeting that was taking place in their function room upstairs.

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