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.
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.
After my brief visit to the pharmacy in Cockermouth and a look round the hardware shop and heritage museum I returned to the campsite to decide on the next part of my day. The first antihistamine tablet, which I’d taken as soon as I came out of the pharmacy, was already working its magic as the swelling in my arm had gone down considerably, and the previously purchased painkillers had seen off most of the pain in my foot. Not wanting to aggravate it any more than I needed to I decided to drive out to Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket; both places seemed to be fairly small so I shouldn’t have too much walking to do.
The villages had previously been suggested to me by my blogging friend Jayne and though I didn’t remember it at the time Caldbeck was actually featured in my ‘111 Places’ book. The village’s history can be traced back to before medieval times and since the Lake District was designated a National Park in 1951 Caldbeck, being very close to its northern boundary, is classed as being the last (or first) village within the Park. Looking at the photo in the book and reading the details it sounded like it was quite a picturesque little place so with sunshine, blue sky and fluffy white clouds I was looking forward to seeing it.
From the camp site there were two different ways to get to Caldbeck so I decided to go clockwise, one way there and the other way back. My route from the site took me onto the A595 then several miles north to the B5299 heading roughly east. The narrow road seemed to go on and on and I thought at one point my usually good sense of direction had failed me and I’d somehow taken a wrong turn somewhere but eventually I arrived at Caldbeck and a sign directed me to the village car park where I was able to leave the van in the shade of some trees.
My walk started from the far end of the car park where a path led up a slope between the rear gardens of two houses and curious to know what was up there I went, coming out by an extensive village green with a large duck pond. Unfortunately I couldn’t walk all the way round the pond as the green was bisected by a couple of deep drainage gulleys with water running down them. They were only narrow but still too wide to jump across with two dogs so I had to walk quite a distance along the nearby track before I could cross the green, where I came out onto the road opposite the attractive Cornerstone Methodist Church.
Down the road and across from the car park entrance was Friar Row, a pleasant lane with a handful of detached houses on one side and stone cottages on the other. Eventually the lane turned into a track across a field and my way was barred by a field gate; it seemed to be private land from there so I retraced my steps to the bridge over the beck.
Across the bridge I skirted the rear wall of the church grounds and came out at Priest’s Mill, a restored early 18th century water mill originally built by the village rector at the time. Initially used for grinding corn, from 1933 it was used as a sawmill and joiner’s workshop until floods destroyed the mill dam in 1965. The mill was eventually restored, with the work being completed in 1985, and it now houses a couple of craft and gift shops, a cafe and a tea garden, and there’s a picnic area beside the river. The only machinery left is the 14ft diameter water wheel which has been restored to working order, and though I didn’t go inside anywhere the wheel pit area apparently displays a local collection of old rural implements.
A short walk up the track past Priest’s Mill brought me to a row of attractive cottages set sideways on to the road and a few yards along was the gate to St. Kentigern’s Church, also known as St. Mungo’s. Built on the site of a previous church dating from the 6th century the earliest parts of the current church date from the 12th and 13th centuries, with alterations made in 1512 and again in 1727 when the height of the tower was increased. In 1880 the building was restored by Carlisle architect C J Ferguson and a further restoration was carried out in 1932 by J F Martindale.
Close to the church is St. Mungo’s Well, a holy well where Christians were baptised in the 6th century, and in the churchyard is the grave of John Peel, a well known local huntsman who became the subject of the song D’ye ken John Peel? written by his friend John Woodcock. Also buried in the churchyard is Mary Robinson who became known as The Maid of Buttermere.
Mary was born in 1778, the daughter of the landlord of the Fish Hotel in Buttermere. At the age of 15 she caught the eye of Joseph Budworth, a soldier and writer who described her beauty in great detail in his light-hearted ramblers’ guide to the lakes and as a consequence she became quite a sensation. Five years later she married the Honourable Alexander Hope, MP for Linlithgowshire, and her wedding was reported in the London Morning Post by Wordsworth’s friend Coleridge, though several people expressed their doubts about it. It turned out that they were right and the man was an imposter by the name of John Hatfield, a forger and swindler who was already married; convicted of his crimes he was hanged a year later leaving Mary heartbroken. Her popularity had grown though and she became the subject of many theatre plays, novels and poems. She went on to marry Richard Harrison, a local farmer, and they had four children together; she died in 1837 at the age of 59.
Along the road from the church I found the village store and a row of cottages with pretty gardens, and set in a triangle between three lanes was the local pub, the Oddfellows Arms. Heading back to the car park I passed another couple of rows of cottages and some more very pretty gardens separated from the road by Gill Beck, then a hundred yards or so further on I was back at the car park.
With my circuit of Caldbeck completed I headed the mile-and-a-half along the road to the neighbouring village of Hesket Newmarket and I have to admit to being totally underwhelmed. Although there wasn’t a great lot at Caldbeck it did have several interesting features and it was a very pretty place but there was hardly anything at Hesket Newmarket. Just a pub, a small chapel and a very small shop tucked away in a corner but other than that, zilch, nada, nothing, and no pretty gardens anywhere. Its one saving grace, for me at least, was the attractive view down the village green with the fields beyond, and with just one photo taken I returned to the van.
My route back to the camp site took me back through Caldbeck and towards Bassenthwaite, passing through the hamlet of Uldale before eventually reaching the A591 where a couple of miles north I reached the turn off which would take me close to the site. I’d previously only been along that particular lane just once, on my way to the site on my first day, and I hadn’t taken much notice of the surroundings but this time I did and the views were lovely.
At one point I could see Bassenthwaite Lake, which wasn’t really all that far away, so I stopped the van in a convenient place and got out to take a couple of photos. Unfortunately no amount of editing has been able to get rid of the overhead electricity cable very visible in the zoom shot but in reality it didn’t spoil the view at all.
Thinking about my afternoon out, if Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket hadn’t been suggested by Jayne, with Caldbeck also being featured in the ‘111 Places’ book, I would probably never have known about either of them or even gone there. Being a bit off the beaten track they certainly weren’t touristy places, in fact Hesket could best be described as ‘sleepy’, and though I wasn’t particularly impressed with the place I did like Caldbeck, so maybe some day in the future I’ll make a return visit.
Yesterday I made my second visit to the big car boot sale at St Michael’s, this time to collect something which I’d ordered last week and which I can’t get from anywhere else. It was a beautifully sunny day and very warm but yet again clouds were hanging over Garstang; it looked like my canal walk would have to be postponed again, though looking west towards the coast the sky was clear so I decided to drive round the country lanes to Knott End, a place I hadn’t been to for about ten years.
Knott End-on-Sea, to give it it’s full title, is a large spread out village at the estuary of the River Wyre and opposite the seaside town of Fleetwood. The area has Norse roots dating back to the early Bronze Age and the village’s name is said to stem from when the Norse seafarers made their way into the dangerous Wyre estuary; they used knotted ropes to aid their navigation, with the knots marking the distance, and Knott End was the end of the rope.
With just a very small handful of shops, a golf course, a chippy, a sea front cafe and a pub, but with no hotels, B & Bs, parks or seafront gardens it’s definitely not a holiday destination though on a nice day it’s an okay-ish place to pass a couple of hours – you wouldn’t want to be there any longer than that as there’s nothing there. Probably the most interesting thing about the place is the quaint little passenger ferry which runs a frequent five-minute journey across the estuary to and from Fleetwood at a cost of £2 per person each way.
Arriving on the esplanade I was surprised to see that in spite of the place not being very exciting it was still quite busy; seafront parking spaces were all full but I found a place in the large free car park between the cafe and the golf club and set out for a wander. Over the low wall bordering the car park was a concrete walkway running along the riverside, with a steep grass bank separating it from the nearby golf course, and a couple of hundred yards along I came to two whitewashed cottages with very pretty gardens set back off the path. Farther along still was an attractive row of terraced cottages and in the garden of the first one I saw a beautiful peacock butterfly.
At the end of the terrace the path turned a corner and ended in steps leading down to the sand. Close to the water’s edge was the seaweed covered skeleton of a long-dead fishing boat and though I would have liked to take a closer look I could see that the sand was very wet and probably slippery so I stayed firmly on dry land. Looking out to sea I could see in the distance the Ben-my-Chree ferry as it sailed on its way from Heysham across to Douglas on the Isle of Man; this modern Ben-my-Chree certainly looks very different to the one I remember seeing while on holiday on the Isle of Man during my childhood years.
Heading back along the concrete walkway I decided on the spur of the moment to scramble up the grass bank to see if there were any good views from the top. Being quite steep it wasn’t an easy climb but with Poppie pulling me up I made it to the top without mishap and ended up by one of the golf course greens with a path running along the edge. Seeing a couple of people walking towards me who obviously weren’t golfers I realised the path was a public one; it seemed infinitely better than sliding back down the steep grass bank so I followed it past a couple of greens and came out by the two whitewashed cottages. Across the river a handful of yachts were sailing out to sea and the small red and white passenger ferry was on its way over from Fleetwood.
Intending to take a photo of the ferry at close quarters I made my way past the car park and the coastguard station to the slipway but halfway down it my attention was caught by a cute little dog lying on a towel in a small inflatable dinghy; by the time I’d finished chatting to its owner the ferry was halfway back to Fleetwood so I photographed some guys on jets skis instead.
Across from the top of the slipway was the Knott End Cafe with a small and very full parking area at the front and a long queue for ice cream from the side window. Today’s modern cafe sits on the site of an old railway station building; in 1870 a railway line was opened between Garstang and Pilling then in 1908 an extension to Knott End was opened. The line ran profitably for over twenty years but closed to passenger traffic in 1930, with the section from Knott End back to Pilling closing fully in 1950, followed by the complete closure of the whole line in 1965. The cafe itself has been owned and run by the same family since 1946 when it was still part of the old railway station building.
At the end of the esplanade and across from the cafe was the Bourne Arms pub/restaurant and as I walked past a quick look at the menu in the entrance window told me it wasn’t the cheapest of places to dine. Looking out across the nearby salt marsh and the vast expanse of sand I could see Heysham power station in the distance; there was nothing along the esplanade except private houses and flats and a couple of bus shelters so with nothing else to see I headed back to the van.
At the far end of the esplanade the road turned back inland and as I turned the corner I could see that the esplanade continued as a traffic free footpath; it was worth checking out so I nipped down a side street on the left and was able to park at the far end within just a few yards of the path. Past a long row of nice looking bungalows with pretty gardens, then the long back gardens of more houses, with the sea wall on my left and flowering shrubs and bushes here and there it was a very pleasant walk. The path looked like it could go on for miles (I found out later that it did as it was part of the 137-mile long Lancashire Coastal Way) so I only went a certain distance before retracing my steps back to the van.
Heading for home my route took me across Shard Bridge over the River Wyre near Hambleton village; the river was at high tide so looking for another few photo opportunities I parked at the Riverside Inn and took a walk under the bridge and along the riverside for a distance. Away from the bridge it was very quiet and the only people I saw were a father and son fishing; after fifteen minutes walking time was getting on so I headed back to the van but not before I got my last wildlife shot. Butterfly or moth? – it had the markings of a peacock butterfly but was brown rather than brightly coloured so I’m not sure which it was.
With my final shot of the day being the old riverside jetty I headed for home without stopping again. It had been quite an interesting afternoon and I’d enjoyed the walk along part of the Lancashire Coastal Way, but as for Knott End itself – even after ten years there’s still nothing there!
A few days after my unplanned walk to White Coppice I found out that there was a chain of three lakes in the vicinity of the hamlet; they seemed easy to get to and would probably make a good dog walk so a very warm and sunny Sunday morning a week ago saw me setting off from home to explore pastures new. My original intention was to start the walk from White Coppice but the plan was scuppered when I came to the turn off for the hamlet and encountered problem No.1, a large wagon taking up the whole of the narrow lane and a board saying there was a 15-minute delay. Okay, I could live with that, so I reversed into the end of a nearby farm track and waited…and waited…and waited.
I couldn’t see what was going on behind the wagon but even after almost half an hour there was no sign of it moving so I gave up waiting and drove on to what would have been the turn around point of the walk, the third lake in the Heapey area – and that’s when I found problem No.2. There was a car park adjacent to the lake but as I drove in I saw the sign – ‘Wigan & District Angling Association – Car park for anglers use only – non anglers will be clamped’. That may or may not have been true, I certainly didn’t see anyone walking round checking the cars already there, but I didn’t want to take any risks so I drove out again and managed to find a safe parking spot a short distance along the road.
Back at the car park steps took me down to the end of Lake 1 where I had the choice of a path along the dam or one to the right; I chose right first but I hadn’t gone far when I met with a large and extremely wet and muddy patch right across the path. It was too long and wide to negotiate without wellies, Poppie would have got filthy, and trying to get round the side of it could have ended up with the pair of us tumbling down the steep bank into the water so I retraced my steps and went along the dam instead. I could only go so far though before the outflow channel stopped me so with just a few shots taken I headed back to the car park and the gate to the next lake.
Lakes 1 and 2 were separated by a second dam with a very pleasant wide grassy area overlooking Lake 2 and a footpath leading to the far side, but once again I came up against another obstacle blocking the path at the end of the dam. This time it was a semblance of a low dry stone wall topped by strands of a wire fence with a gap at one end and a notice saying ‘Access for anglers only’ – so back I went and continued the walk along the main path, getting a few lake view shots as I went.
Past the end of another dam which carried a track from the fields up to a farm across the other side I came to Lake 3. It was narrower, darker and more overshadowed by trees than Lake 2 meaning decent photo opportunities were few so I headed on towards White Coppice. Near the end of the lake a wooden footbridge crossed a narrow brook almost hidden in a deep ditch then a boardwalk ran along the edge of a field to another wooden footbridge which came out at a pleasant grassy lay-by on the main lane through the hamlet.
Across the lane were the cottages set at an angle which I’d photographed on my previous visit and growing above and behind the large driveway gate of the end house was a profusion of bright red flowers which seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere – I was sure they hadn’t been there before as they were so bright I could hardly have missed them. Along the lane the ford had a bit more water running across it than before; Poppie enjoyed a little paddle and while I was there I took a few more shots of the cottages and gardens across the stream.
On the corner by the ford was a footpath sign pointing up the steep narrow lane so I decided to walk up the hill to see what was up there. The answer was not much; after a few hundred yards and three bends the tree shaded lane ended in the driveway to a couple of cottages and several farm buildings. Walking back down to the main lane a movement at the top of the bank on my right caught my eye; a dark bay horse was standing by the fence and a few yards farther on an inquisitive donkey was staring at me from up above.
Back down on the main lane I took a couple of shots of the pretty garden with the stream flowing through it then headed back to the lay-by where the wooden footbridge would take me back towards the three lakes; there was no point walking up to the village green and cricket pitch as nothing would have changed within the last two-and-a-half weeks.
Walking along through the field near Lake 3 I was suddenly surprised by a flash of bright turquoise blue flying up from the grass right in front of me and landing just a few feet away. It was a damsel fly, something I’ve never photographed before, so hoping it wouldn’t suddenly take off again I lay flat on the grass to get a couple of close-ups – and it was only when I got back home and put the photos on the pc that I realised I hadn’t photographed just one damsel fly, I’d got two and they were in the process of mating.
I must have looked a bit odd lying flat on the grass like that so I was glad there was no-one around just then to see me. The damsel fly (and presumably its partner) flew off after a few minutes so I got back on my feet and continued the walk back to the van, with my final shot being another one overlooking the end of Lake 2.
The walk hadn’t been a long one – time-wise less than two hours including stops to take photos. Being almost level for most of the way it had been an easy and very enjoyable walk, and seeing the two damsel flies had certainly been a very unexpected and delightful bonus.
My Monday walk this week was done the day after my Heysham visit and on the second extremely hot day of the week, and though not immediately local the start of the walk was only just a 20-minute drive from home. During a conversation with a friend a few days previously she had told me about a lake she and her partner had stopped at briefly while on an afternoon out round the countryside; it sounded nice for a walk round without going too far so after checking out the location on Google maps off I went.
At the far side of Belmont moors a left turn took me another couple of miles to Brinscall village and the lake which was situated behind the swimming pool building and had a small free car park. At the end of the car park was a pleasant looking small park area with a playground and benches overlooking the lake but looking down the lake itself I could see it wasn’t as big as I first thought and it wouldn’t take me long to walk round it.
The lake was bordered on one side by a densely wooded area and as I set off along the path I came to a signpost for the hamlet of White Coppice, just one-and-a-half miles away. I hadn’t been there for easily twenty years and as I had plenty of time I decided to abandon my round-the-lake walk and head for there instead. A short boardwalk took me over a bit of a boggy area then from there a long almost straight path followed a shallow river, with the trees opening out occasionally to give views of the surrounding hillsides.
The path seemed to go on for ever but eventually I caught a glimpse through the trees of a couple of buildings and soon a slope led me down to a rough track and I emerged at the side of White Coppice village green and cricket pitch with its pretty cottages over the far side. Benches were set at intervals around the edge of the green and though there was no cricket match to watch several people were taking advantage of the sunshine and nice views. On a corner down the lane from the village green was a very pretty lake but it seemed to be private, belonging to one of the houses set just up the hill off the lane, so unable to walk round it I had to be happy with just one shot from over the wall.
A bit farther on a shallow brook ran parallel to the lane for a short distance, creating a ford across a minor lane and skirting the edge of a very pretty garden before disappearing under the road, and at the far side of the brook an attractive row of cottages was accessed by wooden footbridges over the water.
A little way on, and round a bend, I came to the last row of cottages, set at an angle to the lane and with the garden wall of the end one covered in pretty red and yellow flowers and lots of foliage. Back at the ford Poppie decided she wanted to cool off a bit so I spent several minutes with my feet just about on dry land while she paddled about at the end of her lead.
Heading back to the village green I came to the gated entrance to what was obviously a fishing lake; I wasn’t sure if I could go in to take some photos but there was a young guy repairing the fence just inside the gate so I asked him and he said it was okay. The lake was only accessible on that one side and at the far end of the bank was just one lone person sitting peacefully fishing.
With the last shot of the lake I made my way back to the footpath beyond the village green and as I headed back to Brinscall the cooling shade of the trees made a welcome change from the heat of the afternoon sun. When I got to the bottom end of Brinscall lake I continued with my original plan to walk all the way round it and went along the far side back to the car park. This side was more open than the other side, with a road bordered by a wide well kept grass verge with benches set at intervals, views across the lake and nice looking houses and bungalows with attractive gardens, and just by the last bench before the car park I came across a Muscovy duck pecking about on the grass.
Although the visit to White Coppice had been totally unplanned the walk there and back had been very enjoyable and it had been nice to see the hamlet again after so many years, but now it was time to go back home and relax for a while with a much needed long cold drink.
My Monday walk this week was done just five days ago – June 24th – on what must have been one of the hottest days of the year so far. I don’t usually watch weather forecasts but I’d heard that the weekend was probably going to be very wet so I decided to take advantage of the midweek sunshine and explore a couple of places I hadn’t been to before.
Driving up the M6 I took the turn-off for Lancaster and headed along the A683 which bypassed the city itself and led straight to Heysham port, though on the spur of the moment I took a minor road down to the River Lune to check out a particular spot which – I’d been told by someone ages ago – was quite nice and had good views over the river. I didn’t have to go far before I came to a pleasant looking static caravan site and next to it The Golden Ball Hotel set several feet higher than the road.
According to local history there’s been an inn on that site since the mid 1600s; the main part of the existing inn, known locally as Snatchems, was built in 1710 and an extension was added in 1790. Fast forward to the early 20th century and in 1910 William Mitchell bought the inn and it became a tenanted pub with Mitchells of Lancaster being the landlords. In early 2010 the last tenants left and with no-one to run it the pub was closed and put up for sale by Mitchells, eventually being bought in 2011 by the current owner and further extended.
There are a few stories of how the pub’s nickname Snatchems originated though the most interesting and widely accepted explanation stems from when the River Lune was used as a shipping channel. When any tall ship was about to sail out on the high tide the captain would check how many men were on board and if the numbers were short a boat would be sent over to the inn, where the crew would ‘snatch’ any men who were intoxicated – and by the time they sobered up they would be well on the way to a foreign country!
Parking at the roadside near the pub I had a very short walk in each direction and other than a handful of passing cars I had the place to myself. Round a bend just west of the pub the road went over a deep drainage ditch while a hundred yards or so to the east the grass riverbank widened out to quite a pleasant area. The Golden Ball itself was temporarily closed up, with its entrances at road level surrounded by high steel barriers, and coupled with obviously overgrown gardens the place had a distinct air of abandonment about it.
With my curiosity satisfied I drove back to the main road and headed to my first ‘official’ destination, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Heysham Nature Reserve. At the point where the road led into the docks and the power station a lane on the left took me to the track leading to the reserve; unfortunately there was a barrier across the track with a ‘car park closed’ notice on it but I was able to squeeze the van into a suitable space just off the lane and I set off to see what I could find. The first disappointment came when I got to the far side of the car park and found a notice on the gate saying dogs weren’t allowed in that part of the reserve, however there was no way I could leave Poppie in the van on such a hot day and there was no-one around anyway so I took a chance and went through.
The second disappointment came just a few yards farther on when I found a large part of the reserve completely closed off by a high steel fence and a locked gate with a ‘No Entry’ sign attached to it. That was one area I definitely couldn’t get into so I followed the path down a series of steps and found myself on the road to the power station – this couldn’t be right, there had to be more to the reserve than that. Across the road was a grassy area at the entrance to the large EDF Energy place and at the far side I spotted a rabbit so I snatched a quick long distance photo before it moved then went back up the steps into the reserve.
Not far from the top of the steps I found another path which meandered between hedgerows alive with birdsong, and past a quiet little tree shaded pond I came to a large meadow which, ignoring the constant hum and crackle from the power lines above, was quite a pleasant place in the sunshine. The path eventually brought me out not far from where I’d left the van and across the track was another path with a notice on the gate saying this area was where dogs could be walked and could also be allowed off lead, not that Poppie ever is.
In the shade just inside the gate was a metal box with a lid and a dog bowl at the side – a notice on the fence said ‘Dog water – please refill’ and in the box were several 2-litre milk containers full of fresh water, with a couple of empty ones left at the side. Quite a handy provision for thirsty dogs, presumably supplied by a local member of the Trust, and once Poppie had a quick drink we set off on some further exploration. The path was long and straight, bordered by trees on one side and open grassy areas on the other, and a distance along was a pond with hundreds of fish, possibly chub, swarming about close to the edge.
Eventually the path crossed an access lane to part of the power station and I came to an open picnic area with benches here and there; it was overlooked by the huge Heysham 2 nuclear reactor but plenty of surrounding trees did help to screen the building from view. Heysham 2 seems to dominate the horizon from miles away and from a distance looks quite ugly but close up, with its red, blue and green colours, I thought it looked strangely attractive. At the end of the picnic area the path ran for a short distance past the power station’s perimeter fence with its ‘keep out’ notices at intervals; with the continuous loops of razor wire on top of the fence I felt almost like I was passing the grounds of a prison and I certainly couldn’t imagine anyone trying to get in there.
I finally emerged onto a very rocky shore at Red Nab rocks, an area of Permo-triassic rocks of red and white sandstone. A long concrete promenade ran past the power station perimeter towards the port entrance and halfway along was a closed off short pier with the surface of the sea in a turmoil underneath it, which was presumably something to do with the power station; according to the notice on the fence this was the Heysham Sea Bass Nursery Area managed by the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and public fishing wasn’t allowed.
A bit farther along were the remains of an old wooden pier and at the end of the promenade was the old south pier lighthouse at the port entrance. Built from cast iron in 1904 and almost 30ft high the base had originally been red and the lantern gallery white, though it now looks sorely in need of a coat of paint. Information tells me that in spite of its derelict looks it’s still active with a 6-second on/1.5-second off green light, though I’m not sure how correct that information is.
The old light house was the one thing I’d wanted to see so once I’d taken a couple of photos I retraced my steps along the promenade. By then the tide had come in and the turmoil of water under the sea bass nursery pier had levelled out, with dozens of seagulls in the channel – presumably at some point there would be a lot of fish in evidence just there. Walking back along the path through the nature reserve I was momentarily surprised when a bird flew out of a tree and landed right in front of me; it could possibly have been a thrush but without seeing the front of it I couldn’t be sure.
Back at the van I gave Poppie a drink even though she had some from her travel bottle while we were walking, then I drove the short distance to the next place on my itinerary, Half Moon Bay which was just at the other side of the port and another place I’d never been to. There was nothing there really, just a large rough-surfaced car park, a beach and a small café, closed of course; ignoring the ever-present power station building it wasn’t a bad little place but I wasn’t sure about the crooked sign attached to a crooked pole.
On the grass just off the end of the short promenade was a sculpture commissioned by the Morecambe Bay Partnership in 2019. It was just called ‘Ship’ and is supposed to reflect the importance of Morecambe Bay’s maritime heritage, with one figure facing ‘the new’ of Heysham’s nuclear power station and the other facing ‘the old’ of the ancient ruins of St. Patrick’s chapel on the cliffs farther along, and though I quite liked it I failed to see the significance of the holes through the figures’ upper bodies.
With nothing else to see at Half Moon Bay I returned to the van and took the road leading into Heysham village; I hadn’t intended going there but I wanted to find a cold drink from somewhere. Across from the village car park the side window of the Curiosity Corner cafe was open for takeaway drinks and snacks so I went to get something from there and was charged £1.20 for a can of Tango – sheesh, these places certainly know how to charge over the odds for something! I was glad that at least I’d taken my own slab of fruit cake as to buy some cake from there would probably have cost an arm and several legs.
Suitably refreshed I took a walk along to the end of the village’s main street and was delighted to find that the church was open to visitors. I’d wanted to go in there when I visited the village last year but it was closed then so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity this time as I wanted to photograph the carved Viking hogback tombstone which dates from the 10th century. Unfortunately I couldn’t get proper shots of the stained glass windows as much of the church was blocked off but photographing the tombstone was no problem as it was close to the open side door.
Back outside I took a wander round Glebe Garden as due to the palaver of rescuing an injured hedgehog last year I hadn’t seen much of the place at the time. It wasn’t a big garden but it was very pretty and as I walked round I discovered many delightful miniature houses and tiny animals set among the foliage and on cut down tree stumps.
Walking back through the village I shot my last couple of photos and returned to the van; it was still only mid afternoon but I had to go to work later on and it was an hour’s drive back home, plus I wanted to make a brief stop on the way back.
Driving back through Half Moon Bay I reversed the route from there back to the Golden Ball on the River Lune as I wanted to see if the area looked any different now that the tide was in. It certainly did, and far from there being no-one around when I was there earlier there were several cars and trailers parked along the road and a few people out on jet skis, with a couple of families sitting on the grass while their kids and dogs played at the water’s edge.
With my day out finishing exactly where it began I did the journey home with no problems and arrived back with just enough time to get changed before going to work. All in all it had been a good day out, and though I had no wish to return to the nature reserve or Half Moon Bay it had been good to visit them both just to see what they were like – and with the healthy dose of sea air for myself and Poppie we both slept well that night.