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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A day where I end up almost in Scotland. Well not quite, but it was only just across the water….
Wall to wall sunshine and blue sky on the first dog walk showed the promise of a lovely day to come, with an early morning mist slowly clearing from the valley where the river ran down below the fields. Other than the occasional bleat of a sheep everywhere was completely quiet and it all looked so lovely that I went back to the tent for the camera and repeated the walk just so I could take a few photos.
My destination for the day was Bowness-on-Solway and Port Carlisle, two villages within a mile or so of each other on the eastern end of the Solway Firth estuary where the rivers Esk and Eden meet. I’d seen a photo of Bowness ages ago – on someone else’s blog I think – and though there didn’t seem to be much there it had intrigued me enough to want to go there on a nice day.
Set just off the road on the western edge of Bowness was a small parking area with just about enough space for half a dozen cars. Unfortunately it was full and the road through the village was too narrow to park anywhere else so I drove on to Port Carlisle and was lucky enough to find a small lay-by close to a section of Hadrian’s Wall Path at the start of the village. Now to be honest I really don’t know what some people find so fascinating about walking 84 miles from coast to coast along a path which supposedly follows the line of an old wall, much of which now doesn’t exist anyway, but for curiosity’s sake I went along the short section through the village.
The village itself is little more than a hamlet of less than 100 houses mainly situated on the landward side of the coast road. Originally called Fisher’s Cross it was renamed Port Carlisle in 1819 when it became the sea terminus of the short lived Carlisle Canal. The Hadrian’s Wall Path actually bypassed the village, running behind a handful of houses on the seaward side of the road where not far from the shore were the remains of a long brick-built wall which was once the sea wharf for the port.
Through an area of scrubland I eventually found an offshoot from the path which took me back onto the road at the far end of the village and a hundred yards along I found the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, built of brick in 1861 though much altered internally over the years. In 1873 it had enough pews to seat a congregation of 150 but by 1940 these had been reduced to seat 90, then by 1980 they had been further reduced to seat 60. In the years since then the front of the chapel has been partitioned off to provide a lobby and a small kitchen, the ceiling has been boarded in and the remaining pews replaced with chairs.
Delighted to find the chapel open I went in to take a quick look and found a simple little place with just two identical stained glass windows and a rostrum at the far end, while a table at one side and the absence of any rows of chairs suggested that the building is probably used for things other than worship.
Walking along the road through the village I passed a couple of terraces of Georgian houses. The first row was fronted by a long cobbled area used for residents’ parking while the second row had very small front gardens, then at the end of the row was the Hope & Anchor pub with the Port Carlisle Bowling Club opposite. Between the road and the bowling green was a long, wide and very empty car park with a notice on the fence saying it was for the use of club members only. To be honest I thought that was a bit selfish when any visitors to the area have to find somewhere to park at the edge of the narrow road; I’m sure the car park is big enough to allow a just few spaces to be set aside for visitors, especially if there’s no-one there playing bowls.
Driving back to Bowness I was lucky enough to find just one available space in the small parking area with extensive views across the water to Annan Beach in Scotland and the outskirts of Annan itself. Leaving the van I walked back through the village, an attractive little place with a primary school, the King’s Arms pub, a bistro and a mixture of old cottages and more modern houses and bungalows with well kept gardens.
Sharing the same open courtyard with the bistro was a very small cafe with two or three picnic benches outside. I would have loved to stop for a coffee and a snack but several fancy hens and a whole load of tiny little chicks were roaming about and sitting under the tables – I didn’t want Snowy to grab an early dinner so I kept walking to the far end of the village then turned and retraced my steps back to the van, and with one final shot of the nearby signpost I set off on the drive back to the camp site.
Since returning home from the holiday I’ve found out about a few things of interest which I missed that day, both in Bowness and Port Carlisle, and though I won’t have the opportunity to go back again this year I’ll certainly make a longer return visit to both places the next time I’m camping in north west Cumbria.
In which I find an unexpected and economical solution to the tv problem….
My quest that day was to go in search of a new tv so the fact that it was another grey and cloudy morning didn’t really matter. Just like my previous tv the current one came from Tesco four years ago – one of their own brand – and I’d always been happy with it so Tesco in Workington was my first port of call. Now this place calls itself a Superstore but in reality it’s not that big – you could put it in one corner of my own local store – and it didn’t seem to have an electrical department so I had to have a rethink. I knew from my previous holiday that there was a Currys/PC World not far away so I decided to try there and was so glad I did.
Unfortunately the cheapest set they had was £179, far more than I was willing to pay just for a small bedroom tv I could also use when camping, however the very helpful assistant suggested a much cheaper alternative in the form of a small HD set top box which would connect to the tv by an HDMI cable, with the aerial plugged into the box instead of the tv itself. Now not being technically minded it took a minute or two to get my head round this, also I couldn’t believe the solution to my problem was so simple, but at £35 compared to the cost of a new tv it was a no-brainer so I bought one there and then.
Driving back to the site from Workington took me through Maryport so I decided to stop off there for a mooch round and to give the dogs a decent walk. The road past the harbour and marina ended in a rough surfaced car park close to the beach and backed by a long sea wall at the top of a grassy slope, where the overgrown ruins of the old harbour master’s house stood on the corner. A pavement of rough sandstone slabs ran for quite a distance along the top of the slope so I walked to where it ended, took a shot of the view back towards Workington then retraced my steps and went down to the roadway.
At the entrance to the harbour was the old lighthouse, an octagonal cast iron tower on a single storey stone base, built in 1846 and almost 36ft tall. Thought to be one of the first of its type built in the UK it’s possibly one of the world’s oldest cast iron lighthouses. It was deactivated in 1996 after a smaller, 15ft high aluminium square tower powered by electricity was built at the end of the pier.
Needing to find a cash machine I drove back to the other side of the harbour, parked near the aquarium and took a wander into the town centre – what there is of it – where I found a couple of bits of street art. The multi-coloured sweets were actually part of a window covering inside a shop but I liked their bright colours enough to take a photo.
Just to one side of the harbourside bridge over the River Ellen was A Fishy Tale, a sculpture of fishermen created by Colin Telfer, a local artist whose workshop is in the town centre. The sculpture was created using a unique process of bonding haematite iron ore from Florence Mine, Egremont, with resin and Telfer is the first artist to use iron ore in sculpture.
Although there were other photos I wanted to take there was no sign of any sunshine anywhere so I decided to call it a day and return to the camp site. Back at the tent the first thing I did was connect the new set top box to the tv and tune it in and I was really pleased when it found more channels than I’d had previously. So the problem of the broken aerial connection was well and truly solved without the purchase of a new tv and thanks to the very helpful Keaton at Currys/PC World, Workington, I was a very happy little bunny.
The morning after my bank holiday visit to Hest Bank and various points north I was back on the M6 again with plans to visit Morecambe and Heysham, however the weather gods decided in their wisdom that they would screw things up for me. I’d looked on the live webcams before leaving home and seen cloudless blue sky and sunshine but in the hour it took me to get there a fair amount of fluffy white clouds had appeared though it was still sunny.
Parking right at the north end of the promenade my first port of call was Happy Mount Park, though first I wanted to look at the nearby Venus and Cupid sculpture. I’d previously seen photos of it on other blogs and personally thought it looked ugly so I wanted to see it ‘in the flesh’. Sculpted by Shane A Johnstone it was originally intended to be sited at St. Georges Quay in Lancaster but was erected at Scalestone Point, Morecambe, in 2005.
In 2011 the artist threatened to destroy the sculpture as the local council was unwilling to pay for its insurance and upkeep so in 2012 the Venus & Cupid Arts Trust was formed to raise money for its purchase. Thanks to public donations enough money was raised in three years to cover the cost and in September 2015 it was taken over by the Trust. During the winter of 2017/2018 frost caused some of the mosaic tiles to fall off so in November 2018 it was moved temporarily into Morecambe’s Arndale Centre for repairs; the sculptor replaced the missing tiles with gold leaf to accentuate the repairs rather than hide them and the sculpture was returned to the sea front in June 2019.
Seeing the sculpture up close did little to change my opinion. I still thought it was ugly, and the name Venus & Cupid seems to bear no relation to what it actually is, however the colours did look quite attractive and my photo of it seemed to make it look better than in real life.
Across the road and a couple of hundred yards away was the entrance to Happy Mount Park and straight away I could see things had changed from when I visited last September. Back then most of the flower beds were unkempt and untidy but now laid out with summer plants they looked really colourful, and wandering round the park it seemed as though most of it, especially the children’s areas, had undergone a fairly recent makeover. Unfortunately after a while the weather decided to make a change and the fluffy white clouds joined together to obliterate the sun, resulting in what I call ‘the dreaded white sky’, so I decided to return to the van.
Abandoning my plan to go to Heysham I drove down to the car park near the Midland Hotel and had a mooch round the stalls in the Festival Market then went to Rita’s Cafe nearby for a snack lunch, hoping that the day would soon brighten up again. Unfortunately it didn’t, and though there was still some blue sky over the bay the sun stayed stubbornly behind the clouds, making my photos very dull, so I had a wander round by the fairground and the gardens then cut my losses and set off for home.
I did actually take a lot more photos along the promenade but they deserve a post of their own so I’m saving them for another time. Tomorrow I’m off on my travels again for another ten days at the quiet camp site in Cumbria where I stayed not long ago – no internet access means no blog posts so there’ll be lots to come when I get back.
Back in January this year I watched the second series of a crime drama shot in and around Morecambe. Most of the locations I instantly recognised from previous visits but there was a house featured in a place which I felt I knew even though I also knew I’d never been there. Some logical thought and a study of Google maps and street view eventually showed me where it was so the Saturday morning of the August bank holiday found me driving along Morecambe promenade and the coast road to arrive in Hest Bank just a couple of miles northwards.
The road to the shore was crossed by the west coast main train line and the barriers were down when I arrived so I had to wait a few minutes for the trains to pass. Just beyond the level crossing was a parking area and a small cafe, with a long and pleasant green overlooking the bay and a few more small parking areas set at intervals just off the tarmac lane. With just a couple of large semis and a very small residential static caravan site there was nothing there but it was a nice enough little place which seemed to be popular with walkers with or without dogs, while the vast expanse of sands provided good cantering for a couple of horse riders.
Walking northwards I soon found the house I’d seen in the tv series; the lane turned into a gravel track there which ended in another small parking area and a grassy foreshore above the shingle beach. I would really have liked to walk on a bit further but I could see quite a few people in the distance with several off-lead dogs, something which Snowy doesn’t like, so I turned round there and headed back the other way. Back at the van I got chatting to a couple about to set off on a bike ride along the Lancaster Canal; it seemed it was only a short distance away so I decided to leave the van where it was and go check it out.
I found the canal quite easily and my walk northwards started from Bridge 118, built in 1797, but if I’d been expecting to pass through some nice countryside I was destined to be disappointed as the canal was lined on both sides with houses and bungalows. Many of the properties on the far side had large attractive gardens reaching down to the canal side while those on the towpath side were set just below the canal bank. Long strips of well mown grass separated the boundary walls and hedges from the towpath and I got occasional views over the rooftops to the bay.
Not knowing how far I would have to go to find some countryside I gave up at Bridge 122 and set off back to where I started; I had other places to go to so I didn’t want to spend too long looking for something which could possibly still be miles away. Bridge 120 was a ground-level swing bridge which seemed to provide access to just one house set on its own and not far away was a quirky looking cottage with a not-very-straight roof and an overgrown garden. I couldn’t tell if it was lived in or empty but it intrigued me enough to take a quick photo.
My next port of call was Silverdale but knowing how to get there and actually getting there were two completely different things. What should have been a relatively easy drive from Carnforth turned into an epic all-round-the-houses, miles-out-of-my-way journey round unknown country lanes due to a closed road and diversion at a crucial point, but I got there in the end.
Now I remember going to Silverdale as part of a coach trip with my parents when I was about 9 or 10 years old and though I don’t recall going to the village itself I do remember being totally unimpressed with the coast part of it as there was absolutely nothing there, so I was hoping that after all these years it might have changed a little. It hadn’t – there was still the same rough parking area, the same row of cottages set back behind a high concrete sea wall, the same ankle-twisting rocky shoreline and vast expanse of sand. Yes, the view across the bay was good but other than that there was nothing – in less than ten minutes I had all the photos I wanted and I was back in the van.
Next on the list were Jack Scout nature reserve and Jenny Brown’s Point, a relatively short drive from the village and neither of which I’d been to before. Unfortunately I couldn’t get remotely close to either of them in the van; about halfway there I was met by the second Road Closed sign of the day so I had to find a convenient place to park on a nearby lane and walk from there.
Jack Scout is an area of low limestone cliff owned by the National Trust, with its name thought to have come from old English or Norse meaning a high point where oak trees grow. Well known for its wildlife and extensive views over Morecambe Bay the area features a partially restored 18th century lime kiln and the Giant’s Seat, a huge limestone bench. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see either of these as a notice on the gate leading into the grassland warned of cows in the area and sure enough I could see several of them mooching about among the trees and shrubs. Not wanting to put myself and the dogs at risk I decided not to go there so another few minutes walking finally got me to Jenny Brown’s Point where a couple of benches set down off the lane gave great views over the channels flowing into the bay.
No one really knows how Jenny Brown’s Point got its name. One story says she was a young maiden hopelessly scanning the distant horizon for the return of her lover, another that she was a nanny, cut off and drowned by the incoming tide while trying to rescue the two children in her care, though the more believable theory stems from the 1660s when a mother and daughter, both named Jennet Brown, lived at Dikehouse, the farm at the Point. The area has also been known as Brown’s Point (1812), Silverdale Point (1818) and Lindeth Point (1828) though Jenny Brown’s Point was in use on an 1829 estate plan and has been used by the Ordnance Survey from 1848.
One story which is certainly true is the tragic tale of the Matchless, a converted fishing boat used for taking holidaymakers on trips across Morecambe Bay during the summer months. On September 3rd 1894, carrying 33 passengers and just one skipper/crewman, the boat left Morecambe to sail to Grange-over-Sands but just off Jenny Brown’s Point it was hit by an unexpectedly sudden strong gust of wind. Within seconds it capsized, throwing people into the water where many became fatally tangled and trapped in the sails and ropes. Although other nearby pleasure boats came to the rescue only eight passengers and the skipper were saved; 25 holidaymakers including five children, the youngest only 2 years old, all perished.
A few hundred yards away from the benches the lane ended at the 18th century Brown’s Cottages where huge slabs of limestone looking almost like a slipway led down to the waterside. Nearby were the remains of what would once have been a small quay and part of a broken bridge which would have crossed the channel known as Quicksand Pool.
Just beyond the cottages was an old chimney, now Grade ll listed and believed to be the remains of a short-lived copper mining and smelting project set up in the 1780s by Robert Gibson, Lord of the Manor of Yealand. He wrongly assumed that he had the right to mine for copper on nearby land owned by the Townleys of Leighton Hall and the copper was processed in a furnace at Jenny Brown’s Point, but after several lawsuits the whole operation was abandoned in 1788; Gibson died three years later in 1791.
From Jenny Brown’s Point I walked back along the lane to the van then drove the four-and-a-bit miles round to Arnside. Normally I wouldn’t like to drive into to Arnside on a bank holiday as it would be extremely busy and parking wouldn’t be easy but it was gone 5pm by the time I got there and many day visitors had already left so I was able to find a parking space near the far end of the promenade.
Arnside village is situated on the West Coast main railway line in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. At one time it was actually a working port but building the viaduct across the Kent estuary in 1857 caused it to silt up, making the port no longer viable. The viaduct itself is 552 yards long with 50 piers; it was rebuilt in 1915 and is a very prominent feature of the village, being more or less the first thing to be seen when coming into Arnside past the railway station.
The pier was constructed by the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway Company in 1860, replacing an earlier wooden structure and also providing a wharf for ships after the building of the viaduct prevented them from reaching the inland port of Milnthorpe. In 1934 a storm destroyed the end section of the pier which was subsequently rebuilt by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, then in 1964 Arnside Parish Council bought the pier for £100. Following a storm on the night of January 31st 1983 it was rebuilt by the Parish Council after the cost was raised by public subscription and grants, and it was officially re-opened on April 12th 1984.
Walking along the promenade I heard the sound of singing coming from upstairs in the sailing club building which was once the Customs House. A board outside said the place was open so for curiosity I popped inside; a steep wooden staircase led up from the corner of a very simply furnished room and from up above came the sound of laughter and the chink of glasses. There was nothing to say if this was a public event or a private one but I don’t like sea shanties anyway so I didn’t bother finding out.
My walk took me to the end of the pretty promenade gardens before I turned round and headed back to the van, with a quick detour up Pier Lane on the way. It was well after 6pm by then, the lane was in shade and the few small shops were closed but as I’d never been up there before it was worth a quick look.
My route homeward took me down a part of the A6 which I’d never previously been along and as I headed south I caught the brief sight of an air balloon floating somewhere above the trees. Eventually I could see it properly and with not a lot of traffic on the road I was able to pull up in a couple of places and snap a handful of shots before it disappeared behind a ridge in the fields.
It was almost 8pm when I finally arrived home, with the evening sun having stayed with me all the way back. Having set out reasonably early that morning it had been a long though very enjoyable day but now it was time to make a brew and relax for a while before the dogs needed their bedtime walk.
The penultimate day of the holiday and after some heavy overnight rain – very unexpected as the evening before had been lovely – the sunshine and blue sky were back. My first port of call that morning was Harrington, a coastal village between Whitehaven and Workington. As far as I knew there was nothing much there but it did have a small harbour with a handful of boats, and having been caught by the rain after just one photo the previous day it was worth going back for a bit of a look round.
Back in 1760 Squire Henry Curwen built a small quay at Harrington on the south side of the River Wyre (not to be confused with the River Wyre running through the Fylde area of Lancashire) though there were no ships registered to Harrington at that time, but by 1794 there were around 60 ships and trade in the village was increasing. Shipbuilding and its associated industries were established by 1800 and during the 19th century Harrington became quite an important port, exporting coal to Ireland and lime to Scotland and importing iron ore. Unfortunately by the turn of the 19th/20th century a decline in the manufacturing industry saw the harbour’s use gradually drop and the Port of Harrington eventually closed in 1928.
In 1940 the Ministry of Aircraft Production set up a hush-hush Magnesite plant at the former Harrington Ironworks site at the south side of the harbour, which was sealed off and used as a reservoir for the works. The plant extracted magnesium from seawater for use in aircraft components and incendiary bombs; it was operational until 1953 and during its time was one of only two plants in the country. Eventually the plant was dismantled and the buildings demolished and in 1966 the land was completely cleared.
Today Harrington is largely a dormitory town for employees of the shops, offices and light industry in Workington and Whitehaven and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (formerly British Nuclear Fuels) down the coast at Sellafield. At the height of its industrial past the town had five railway stations but now only has one, situated on the Cumbrian Coast railway line close to the harbour.
The harbour itself has found a new lease of life as a mainly leisure facility with 14 moorings for boats up to 35ft and 25 moorings for boats under 20ft, plus six moorings for fishing boats up to 35ft. There’s also a sailing and fishing club based on the north side of the harbour and a slipway for ‘trailer-sailors’ to access the water. On the south side is an extensive and very pleasant parkland area where the Magnesite plant once stood and a road runs along the harbourside to a large free car park overlooking a rocky beach.
Halfway along the road is Sea Legend, a sandstone statue sculpted by Shawn Williamson and unveiled in 2000. Possibly inspired by Norse mythology, viewed from one side the figure appears to be carrying a large fish but on the other side the figure’s hand is clamped firmly in the creature’s huge teeth so maybe it was getting the better of him.
Walking round the inner harbour to the north side I came to the small beach of the outer harbour. A couple of old fishing boats and half a dozen dinghies nestled in the nearby grass and a narrow path led northwards between a pebbly rocky beach and a low grassy cliff. It wasn’t the prettiest of places along there so I didn’t walk too far before turning round and retracing my steps back to the harbour. Round the south side and past the Sea Legend sculpture my harbour walk ended where it began, in the car park overlooking the rock pools and the sea.
The next part of the day was a visit to Workington harbour at the mouth of the River Derwent, three miles or so north of Harrington. I’d been aiming to go there a couple of years previously but a wrong turn had taken me to a dead end near a wind farm premises at the far side of the port, however directions from Jayne and a previous look at Google Maps had given me a good idea of how to get there and this time I found it with no problems.
A long road took me through an area of commercial premises then a pleasant heath alongside the mouth of the river to a car park at the end of what was essentially a spit of land jutting into the sea. A concrete walkway along the nearby breakwater led to an ugly square two-storey tower surrounded by railings and a staircase; not exactly a lighthouse it did have a beacon light on its roof and it’s also one of the two recognised west coast starting points of the coast-to-coast cycle route – the other is in Whitehaven.
Next to the breakwater was an area of shingle/stony/rocky beach strewn with boulders, not the nicest of places to spend any time, so with just one photo taken I drove back along the road to where there was a lay-by next to a strange circular little building with a conical roof and a boarded-up door and window. This was built in the early 1800s as a harbour workers’ shelter – a workman would watch the tide in the estuary from the shelter and raise or lower a marker to inform seamen of the water depth. The chimney stack is apparently a more modern cosmetic addition.
Between the road and the river a tarmac path led from just beyond the lay-by and through a grassy area to a slipway and a small yacht harbour where a couple of dozen leisure craft were moored; the tide was going out and many of them were already settled on the mud. Behind the yacht harbour was a longer harbour where there would be more boats, but though there were bright blue skies out to sea dark grey clouds were gathering inland and constantly obliterating the sun. If it was going to rain I didn’t want to get caught in it so I returned to the van; I could always go back to the harbour sometime in the future.
At the far side of Workington and on the A596 coast road heading north I came to a large Asda store and petrol station so I pulled in there to get a few provisions and fill up with diesel ahead of the journey home the following day. By the time I came out the grey clouds were clearing away and the sunshine and blue sky were back so I continued northwards, and bypassing Maryport I eventually reached Allonby, the third and final stop of the day.
I first ‘discovered’ Allonby at Easter two years ago and was impressed enough to return a couple of months later. To many people it would appear to be just a quaint village strung out along the coast road but delve into its history, as I did two years ago, and you realise there’s far more to the place than you think. Parking overlooking the sea towards the south end of the village, and with views across to the hills of southern Scotland, I walked north along the footpath/cycle path to where Allonby Beck flows across the beach into the sea then walked back south, sometimes along the road and sometimes round the quaint narrow cobbled streets behind.
On the side wall of the Baywatch Hotel was a 25ft mural which had been painted last year as a tribute to Colonel Tom Moore and to raise money for NHS charities. Apparently the wall was due to be painted anyway so the work was commissioned by Peter Blake who runs the hotel and painted for free by Maryport-based artist Bethany Grey. Now while it may prove to be a bit of an attraction for visitors to the village I have to be honest and say I’m not particularly impressed with it – it’s out of proportion for one thing. There are far better Tom Moore artworks elsewhere – Akse’s mural in Manchester’s NQ is far superior to this – but if the residents of Allonby like it that’s all that matters.
At the south end of the village I crossed the road and walked along the beach for a while, something which I hadn’t done on my previous visits to Allonby, then returned to the van. With nowhere open to get anything like a decent meal – I’ve often wondered why cafes etc are closed on Mondays, don’t people eat on those days? – I went across to Twentyman’s shop and got a sandwich and can of Coke which I demolished in the van while looking at the view in front of me.
I don’t know what it is about Allonby but I’ve really fallen in love with the little place and the afternoon turned out to be so lovely that I felt reluctant to leave. I would have liked to stay to see the sunset but although it was gone 6pm that was still hours away so after one final photo taken from in front of the van I headed back ‘home’ to the camp site.
Although the dark grey clouds over Workington at lunch time had caused me to cut my harbour visit short any possible rain hadn’t materialised; the rest of the day had been lovely, and relaxing in the sunshine outside the tent on an equally lovely evening was a good end to the final full day of the holiday.
Day 8 of the holiday and I was tying in a look round The Rum Story at Whitehaven with a later visit to St. Bees just a few miles to the south. Leaving the van in Tesco’s car park close to the north end of Whitehaven’s harbour I crossed the road to the end of the pedestrianised Millennium Promenade where there was a large sculpture; known as the Whiting Shoal it was sculpted by Alan Clark in 2001 and depicts the large group of fish which, centuries ago, brought the town its very first industry. Across from the sculpture a long wall had been decorated with street art courtesy of Young Cumbria, a youth work charity for young people aged 11 to 25; I rather liked the dolphins, they looked quite cute.
Away from the harbourside and heading towards The Rum Story I saw that several large circular pebble mosaics were set down the centre of a pedestrianised shopping street. Created by Maggy Howarth of Cobblestone Designs in Lancaster they were inspired by other mosaics which had existed around Whitehaven in the past.
The first mosaic featured John Paul Jones, an 18th century Scottish-American naval captain. Born and brought up in Scotland he began his maritime career sailing out of Whitehaven at the age of 13, then after serving on board a number of merchant and slave ships he rose through the ranks to become a commander. After killing one of his mutinous crewmen with a sword during a dispute over wages he fled to North America and around 1775 joined the newly founded Continental Navy in their fight against Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War. In April 1778 he led two assaults on Whitehaven’s harbour with the intention of setting fire to the fishing fleet on the second occasion but both attacks failed, causing the Americans to retreat.
In 1999, as part of the launch of a series of Maritime Festivals, Jones was given a posthumous honorary pardon by the people of Whitehaven in the presence of Lt. Steve Lyons representing the US Naval Attache to the UK, and the US Navy were also awarded the Freedom of the Port of Whitehaven. The King George ship in the second mosaic is a representation of the Whitehaven-built ship Jones sailed on as a young third mate; it was also the slave ship whose launch was celebrated with a large enamelled goblet, one of the finest pieces of glassware from the 18th century which is now on display at the Beacon heritage centre on the harbourside.
The mosaic of the fox in front of Whitehaven castle and surrounded by running hounds is based on the best surviving original mosaic in the castle courtyard, while the mosaic with the locomotive illustrates the Crampton loco which was made at the Lowca engineering works just up the coast. The first Crampton locomotives were developed between 1845 and 1847, they had a distinctive single pair of large driving wheels and were designed with a low centre of gravity to improve stability at speed on a narrow gauge track, though the design was adopted more in the United States and Europe than in Britain.
The mosaic with what appears to be a couple of men in a hot air balloon basket actually depicts several mine workers descending a shaft at one of the nearby collieries, while the next one seems to be based on the hare coursing events which would take place on Harras Moor above the town. The dragon mosaic doesn’t seem to have any information attached to it but the last one appears to be based on the Lowther family coat of arms. Walking back along the Millennium Promenade after my visit to The Rum Story I just had time to snap a few harbourside photos before my time ran out at Tesco’s car park.
From Whitehaven I drove the four miles south to St. Bees and parked in the large car park overlooking the seafront and beach. I’d been to St. Bees twice a couple of years ago but hadn’t looked round the older part of the village so after a walk along the seafront as far as the bridge across the beck I turned inland and eventually came to the Priory Church, though having the dogs with me meant that I couldn’t go in this time.
Along the road and close to the station was Beck Edge Garden, a small but very attractive enclosed space with a statue of St. Bega and a couple of benches set in a paved area. The statue was sculpted by Colin Telfer of Maryport and was unveiled by the local Mayor on September 16th 2000, when a capsule containing a scroll listing villagers’ names was placed in the plinth by the Chairman of the Parish Council.
Across the level crossing I walked up the main street until I’d almost run out of civilisation then back down on the opposite side. With only one shop which was closed, a couple of pubs and a handful of B & Bs the place didn’t exactly have the ‘wow’ factor but it was nice enough and I did get some quite attractive garden photos.
Back at the van I gave the dogs a good drink then set out for my next intended port of call further back up the coast, however I’d only just got there and taken my first photo when the sky clouded over and it started to rain. It wasn’t heavy but it was just enough to make me abandon my plans and as it was late afternoon by then anyway I decided to drive straight back to the camp site; I could always return the following day if the weather proved to be nice enough.
Until June 1998 Jefferson’s Wine Merchants in Whitehaven was the oldest family owned wine and spirit merchants in the country. Founded by Robert Jefferson in 1785 the family business traded in wines from Spain and Portugal and rum, sugar and molasses from the West Indies. A large proportion of the sugar imported into Whitehaven was from the Jefferson-owned estate in Antigua and it was from there they also imported their famous rum, with all the imports being carried by their own ships.
The wine merchants business operated from the same Whitehaven premises for over 200 years, then after the last two Jeffersons decided to wind things down and close the shop in 1998 plans were put in place to convert the premises into a tourist attraction which explores Whitehaven’s links with the rum trade. Housed within the original 1785 shop, courtyard, cellars and bonded warehouses of the Jefferson family the Rum Story opened its doors to the public in September 2000 and is the world’s first Story of Rum exhibition.
Authentically designed to show the different aspects of the rum trade from its very early days through to more modern times the museum doesn’t shy away from the dark side of the past – crime, drunkenness and slavery, all fuelled by rum, are clearly depicted and information panels tell of the links between rum and the navy, rum and the Titanic, and how Nelson was pickled in a barrel of his favourite brandy after his death.
An archway between what is now the gift shop and the premises next door led to a light and attractive covered courtyard where I found the kinetic clock which performs every half hour and depicts the way rum is made, from the harvesting of the sugar cane to the bottling of the rum itself; it was seeing a picture of this clock in my ‘111 Places’ book which inspired me to visit the museum.
Behind the clock was the original Jefferson’s clerk’s office, substantially unchanged since the turn of the 19th/20th century. With its high desks and stools, items of office equipment, old safe and hand written records on display it had been the hub of the Jefferson empire for many many years. Although it was free to look inside the office there was an entrance fee (currently £9.95 for adults) for the main museum where double doors took me into an Antiguan rainforest complete with accompanying sounds and humidity.
One of the busiest ports in the country during the 18th century, Whitehaven had an extensive trade with Africa, America and the Caribbean, and rum and sugar became the town’s driving force. Ships sailed from Whitehaven loaded with manufactured products to be traded for African slaves who were then shipped in appalling conditions to the Caribbean, where they were traded for sugar and rum which were then shipped back to Whitehaven. One of Cumbria’s most famous products, Kendal Mint Cake first produced in 1869, was made with Caribbean sugar imported into the town.
The giant ‘Jefferson Barrel’ could hold 1,720 gallons of rum (7,819 litres) and filled with Jefferson’s Rum today the contents would be worth nearly £40,000 at the current prices. The story of Horatio Nelson’s life and naval career, told on pictorial information panels, was extremely interesting and I learned more about him there than I ever did at school. Starting his naval career at just 12 years old he rose rapidly through the ranks and became a captain at the age of 21, in charge of 200 men in the West Indies. He was respected and loved by all who served under him and after his death at Trafalgar in 1805 his body was brought back to England preserved in a barrel which, although reputed to have been full of rum, was more likely to have been his favourite brandy.
Many of The Rum Story’s settings are so authentic that they are used for scenes in television dramas and period films, and to see these sets for myself I could understand why as they are so realistic. With three floors of well set out displays and shed loads of information the museum was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been in, though I couldn’t possibly photograph everything there was to see as there was so much of it. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the clock performing as I just missed it both going in and coming out and with only two free hours in Tesco’s car park I didn’t want to linger, however there’s a cafe in the courtyard so I may very well go back another time for a coffee and to see the clock in action.
Day 4 of my holiday started with the most glorious sunrise over the nearby fells just before 4.30am, a promising start to the day ahead. This was to be my ‘big day out’ and I left the camp site a bit earlier than usual for the drive down to Ravenglass to meet up with Jayne. We had agreed to rendezvous in the village car park and when I arrived I found she had got there just a short while ahead of me. She had reversed her campervan/mobile home into a space in an empty corner of the car park so I drove into the space on its nearside, meaning our side doors were opposite and we could sit and chat easily without being disturbed.
Jayne had previously suggested taking me for a walk, she had in mind a part of Ravenglass she suspected I hadn’t seen before – she was right – so after much chatting and drinking of cool ginger beer and coffee we set off. Through the car park and over the railway line we came to a pretty little garden set behind the signal box, then past the nearby play park and quite a distance along a lane through a pleasant wooded area we came to the ruins of a Roman Bath House.
The Roman fort of Ravenglass was established on land between the lane and the river estuary and is believed to have been occupied from AD 130 to the end of the 4th century. Standing almost 13ft high in places, the remains of the bath house are among the tallest surviving Roman structures in northern Britain. The building was identified as being Roman in the 19th century, although it was initially thought to have been a villa and wasn’t identified as a bath house until the 20th century.
Further along from the bath house the lane turned to the right and led downhill under the railway line to the estuary, where we walked along above the shore line before dropping down onto the sand for the last couple of hundred yards to the village’s main street.
Back at the car park there was much more chatting to be done until it was time for Jayne to leave but it was still only late afternoon, my car park ticket was valid for all day and I had no reason to rush back to the camp site so I decided to stay for a while longer and take myself off for a walk across the railway bridge to the other side of the river.
Back in the village I had another walk along to the end of the main street then took a path between the houses and past the end of the car park where Jayne and I had started our walk. At the far side of the railway line for the second time I dropped down onto the platform for the steam railway and came out onto the main road into the village. Down the road and under the main railway line I was then on a loop back to the car park and my final shot of the day was taken as I passed a very pretty cottage garden.
It was well after 7pm when I finally got back to the camp site, with the good weather having stayed with me all the way back. Meeting up with Jayne had been lovely, I’d had two nice walks and taken lots of photos in the process; it had been a perfect day, now it was time to make a brew and relax for the rest of the evening.