The drive from Manchester to Overton is uneventful (thankfully), and I park up next to the familiar bus stop where the No 5 bus dumped me a couple of weeks back. I’ve got 40 minutes or so before the bus comes, so I sit in my car and listen to music. This is the first of three buses I need to take today to get to Glasson Dock, and I hope none of them are running late and I miss my connections – buses aren’t that frequent in these little villages! It should take me an hour and a half to get there, but if I miss a connection it could end up being over three hours!
Looking on the map, the distance between Glasson Dock and Overton as the crow flies is 1.25 miles. It seems crazy that it’ll take an hour and a half to get to the start and four hours to walk to the end, but I guess that’s the deal with estuaries!
Everything turns out OK with the bus timing, and the total cost of £8.70 was less than I was expecting for three buses. This walk fills in the remaining gap in my sections, caused by there being no buses on Sundays round here, so psychologically completing this section should make me feel more complete! In addition, starting at the pretty little village of Glasson Dock, in the sunshine, should lift me even more.
Even better than that, the trailer-cafe is open, and I buy a bacon barm (they seem to call them baps here, barms are a Manchester thing I think) and a cake. What better way to start!
But today I’m just not happy. Some days are like that, aren’t they? I’m going through a bad time at the moment, which I’ll explain in a later blog post, and it’s dragging me down, and I just can’t get happy. Normally at the start of these walks, once I get going I get a grin on my face because I’m enjoying it so much (that’s at the start before my legs begin to ache!) but today it’s just not going to happen.
It’s lovely here, for sure…
…as these Eurasion Wigeon’s will testify (no, I had to look it up before you ask!). Anyway, that’s enough moaning. Jeez, pull yourself together Paul!
Away to the north, further upstream the two power lines from Heysham power station cross over the River Lune.
This walk is another estuary walk – I’ve already done half the Mersey, and the Ribble, and I’ve got the Kent yet to walk, and to be honest I’m a bit sick of estuaries. Lots of mud and birds mostly, and generally no seaside. Stop moaning!
This bit of the walk curves around the bay on a footpath which bisects the marshes, and crosses a footbridge over the little River Conder which flows into the River Lune.
I drop down onto the marsh to get off the tarmac for a bit. There are huge piles of debris from the high tides, mostly branches and reeds, but also far too much plastic waste. I don’t remember the beaches in Cornwall having so much plastic waste on them when I was growing up in the ’70s, this must be a relatively new thing.
I remember big balls of tar on the beach from the Torrey Canyon disaster though. We used to play with it as kids, which must have been several years after the shipwreck as I was born in 1966 and it was wrecked in 1967.
Back then they had little clue how to deal with massive oil spills. In an effort to reduce the size of the oil spill, the government decided to set the wreck on fire by means of air strikes by the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force. They dropped 1,000-pound bombs on the ship, then they dropped cans of jet fuel to boost the blaze, but the fire was put out by high tides and further strikes with napalm were needed to re-ignite the oil! Napalm!!! Bombing continued for two days until the ship finally sank. It sounds bizarre these days that they would consider doing that.
My foot sinks into a particularly wet patch of marsh which drags me out from my childhood memories, and I decide it’d be easier back up on the footpath. I pass under a farm track bridge, where local schoolchildren have painted the walls, it’s really lovely.
Some councils pay tens of thousands of pounds for pieces of art, particularly sculptures, and although they are often nice enough, in times of austerity it seems crazy to me, when there are plenty of schools that would be happy to do outdoor art lessons for free. Or maybe the council could pay the school a few hundred quid for the paint, it’d still work out far cheaper. Children’s art always makes me smile – its enchanting innocence and brightness. I love this.
Daffodils, gorse – and whatever this flowering tree is – remind me that we are now officially in spring. A happy time. Happy springtime everyone!
Although the path along here is really nice, I can’t help feeling that I started this adventure to be near the sea. The sea inspires something within me, I love being near it. It’s like a deep basic human need to be near water. I would have been very naive to think that this walk would be all sandy beaches, rugged cliffs and the occasional seaside town with ice creams, but in reality, I didn’t really think of it as anything. I just felt an urge to do it, and in a weakened emotional state just started it in Liverpool a couple of months back. It’s not that I’m losing the will for it anymore, I’m still determined to finish it, but today I just can’t get into it. On top of that I feel knackered and I’ve only done about four miles! There’ll be better days I’m sure.
The ivy berries are ripe and look appealing. The berries are poisonous of course, although apparently (i’ve never tried it) they taste so bitter it would be hard to eat enough to be poisoned. They always seem to be the last berries eaten by the birds too. Why would a plant produce berries that birds don’t want to eat and spread the seeds? What evolutionary pressure ended up with that result? Strange isn’t it! They’re pretty though.
I pass this incredible tree stump, washed up on the shore, looking like something out of a Tolkien story!
Then I pass under the majestic pylons, humming with power, passing current from east to west over the River Lune. These ones hum, the ones near Preston over the River Ribble were crackling!
These transmission lines come from the power technology of the twentieth century – nuclear, these days renewable sources are more pertinent considering our climate crisis, and the questionable safety of nuclear power. However, it’s still a surprise when I come across a solar power station here, in northern Lancashire. A large field has been given over to row upon row of solar cells – I love the curve of them as they hug the land.
I know that the efficiency of photovoltaic cells has increased a lot in recent years, and the cost has dropped hugely, but still….. they’re certainly not going to be generating much on this dull day. I guess the feed-in tariffs make it commercially viable.
Meanwhile the path leads on and on and on….
A splash of red catches my eye, and I look down expecting to see litter, but it’s these beautiful fungi, poking their noses up through the luscious moss. It’s called Scarlet Elfcup I find out later. Nice name, nice fungus.
Apparently it’s quite common in areas of high rainfall. This patch is next to the solar power station! It might be common, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before. Until I started this walk there were so many things I’d never seen before. Funny how it’s taken me ’til the age of 53 to encounter all these new things!
Out on the marsh I spot a pair of what turn out to be curlews. They do look like that f***wit that I saw a couple of weeks back near Sunderland Point though… I’m thinking now it’s probably me who’s the f***wit, and that was another curlew!
My legs are feeling so tired for some reason on this walk. Last week I did nearly 15 miles and felt I could have gone further, but I’ve done less than five miles so far today. I know I can go on, but I just don’t feel like it. My feelings are irrelevant though, because of course my car is in Overton! Luckily I come across a bench and decide to sit down and have some lunch. I normally eat and drink on the go, but maybe a rest will help.
After fifteen minutes I decide I just have to get on with it. A flash of white on my left causes me to turn and see this pretty egret.
Apparently they used to be very rare in Britain, but they’re becoming quite common now. I’ve seen a few on my travels. The Wildlife Trust website says “Little egrets are now a common sight around the coasts of southern England and Wales as they expand their range, possibly due to increasing temperatures caused by climate change.” This is the north west of England, and I’ve seen quite a few, so perhaps they’ve extended even more since that website was written! They are very elegant.
The path comes to a junction of a couple of paths and a lane, which has several signs explaining that motor vehicles are not permitted. Looking down the lane shows the signs are wholly unnecessary!
The path runs along the west side of the flooded lane, and gradually drifts away from it following close to the shore of Aldcliffe Marsh. The lane is flooded for several hundred yards. It’s been such a wet winter with a succession of storms. Although I’ve managed to get out walking at least once every weekend in dry gaps, the wind has been ferocious some days. Today it started off gentle but it’s picking up now. I hope I don’t get rained on – it’d be more than my current mood could take!
The path has been heading north since shortly after leaving Glasson Dock, but it now swings round to the east and heads towards Lancaster. The bus trips this morning came through Lancaster, and it looks like a nice place. I did manage to spend around 15 minutes wandering some of the streets waiting for my third bus. I’ve lived in Manchester 23 years now, but I’ve never been to Lancaster before. I may go and visit it again one day.
The path passes a place called Freeman’s Pools, a “mosaic of interconnected pools, ponds and other wetland habitats was formed after the digging of borrow pits for the Lower Lune flood alleviation scheme.” according to their website blurb.
Nearby I come across a couple sat on a rock eating their lunch. I say hello and stop for a chat. For some reason I start off telling them how shit I’m feeling today, which I’m sure makes me seem a bit of a miserable prat, so I quickly move on to asking them how their day is going. They’re just doing a short circular walk today, but after hearing of my trek they tell me they’ve done loads of coastal walks over the last few decades, amongst loads of other epic trails. They’ve slept in bothies in Scotland, tents in scrubland next to industrial estates, and caravans in central London. They make me feel like a right miserable self-indulgent old git – even though I’m 25 years younger than them! Humiliated, I make my excuses and wander on. I think I’m going to start asking the people I meet if I can take their photos, it’d be nice to see and remember all the nice people on this blog. However, in my haste to get away I forgot to ask them, so this discreet backwards shot will have to do. I realise I didn’t even ask their names!
Within half a mile the path joins a road where brand new houses stand overlooking the River Lune. I’ve reached the suburbs of Lancaster now, although I’m probably less than a mile or so from the centre. I guess it’s not a big city.
I hear a gunshot from across the river, and peer over between the trees on that side to see loads of cyclists in their flourescent gear racing along the path. A starting pistol presumably. It seems there’s an organised bike race over there. I guess I’ll encounter it shortly.
Another half mile brings me to a bigger housing development where apartment blocks nestle next to the Carlisle Railway Bridge.
They’ll be lovely apartments when they’re finished, so close to the river, and I do like the railway bridge too, with its old piers and modern deck. I check the map and see that the footpath actually goes over the railway bridge, which is accessed by a set of concrete steps.
The footpath is sandwiched tightly between a couple of pipes and the railing, which makes for a cool photo if I crouch down!
The view upstream towards Lancaster from the top is not exactly spectacular, but quite nice.
The mud below me has formed what look like rock pools, but I know if you tried wandering over them you’d sink up to your knees in mud. I know exactly what that feels like, except with cow slurry. I’ll just admire the patterns from above.
The path now runs westwards back towards the coast, under the first arch of Carlisle Bridge.
I then reach a signpost that tells me Overton is only 3 miles away. Thank god for that, I’m shattered and I’ve had enough. It turns out to be a lie though – it’s a good 5 miles from this point!
The path swings round near the river passing a bicycle racing track, and the races are still running.
The path then runs along the river bank, past an old landfill site with all it’s accompanying explosion warning signs! These signs alarmed me when I first saw them on a site way back south of the Ribble, but I guess if it was that dangerous there wouldn’t be footpaths running along right next to them! Maybe the signs are there just in case the tiny possibility of an explosion does happen, and they can say “well we warned you!” I wonder how that would stand up in court….
The sun is getting lower now, and the weather forecast said it would rain later today. I really hope I can avoid that…
The path comes to an end at the Golden Ball pub, otherwise known as Snatchers Inn. There was another Golden Ball pub in Pilling I passed last week, near Fleetwood, that I read was also called Snatchems, and heard a story of the press-gangs that kidnapped people to serve in the Navy, hence the name of the pub. This pub seems far more likely than the one in Pilling to be the location of that story, since the one in Pilling isn’t even very near to the sea.
I only heard about the press-gangs a few years ago. In the Napoleonic wars the Royal Navy needed plenty of sailors, and used sometime nefarious means to get them, including gangs of sailors roaming port towns and snatching drunk men from pubs! The stories are great, but apparently it wasn’t nearly so common as the histories often make out.
The reeds in the marshes round here sometimes look quite spectacular with their golden hues.
Unfortunately the rest of the walk is now along roads with no pavements. The first road isn’t too busy so is no problem. However, this then joins a busier one, with no grass verges to jump on to. Luckily a little lane leads off it after a few hundred yards which my route follows – Back Hollow Lane – on which the neatest, prettiest farm I’ve ever seen is situated.
Shortly after the farm the lane turns up the hill to rejoin the main road, but my mapping app, Komoot, tells me to go straight ahead along a farm track. However, a prominent “Private – no through road” sign makes me hesitate. My experience last weekend with the irate farmer causes me to re-assess. Komoot uses the Open Street Map project mapping data. I found this is not entirely accurate when it comes to rights of access a couple of weeks back, when it directed me through Heysham Nuclear Power station! I decide against the private route and head up the hill to join the main road.
The main road is fairly busy, and I have to constantly change from side to side to keep to the outside of the bends to make sure drivers can see me.
The road seems to go on for ever, but eventually I reach the welcome sign to Overton. Unfortunately they placed it quite a way outside the village so it raised some false hopes in me!
Eventually I reach the outskirts of the little village, and pass the naffest road name I’ve ever seen. I’d be embarrassed every time I had to write my address if I lived there!
Just beyond Kevin Grove, a field is being landscaped presumably to build more housing.
I wonder what the roads on this estate will be called. Dillon Close, Dwayne Crescent, and F***wit Fields perhaps….
This walk was completed on 7th March 2020. It was about 10.4 miles long. Here’s the map: