Yesterday I walked from Barrow to Kirkby, about 15 miles, and I’m tired, really dog tired. This is the first time I’ve done two long walks one day after the next. It was a bit of a gamble attempting it… I know I can do it, it’s just a question of how bad-tempered I’ll be in the last two or three miles!
I slept at a B&B in Millom after yesterday’s walk. This morning, I park my car down near the Salthouse Pool – what counts as a coastline in Millom – just half a mile from the station and my B&B, and catch the train back over the estuary to Kirkby-in-Furness. The train traverses another viaduct over the estuary…
There are so many of these railway viaducts in South Cumbria, each one cocking a snoop at us coastal walkers, as we are forced to tramp around the disheartening main roads that skirt the estuaries, so much further inland, while the trains take a shortcut over the water.
The sun is shining brightly already, and I can feel the sunburn re-awakening on my head and arms, the new day’s rays searing into my skin where they left off yesterday evening. I was wearing my sun hat most of the day yesterday – the one my friend Helen said was girly – but it doesn’t seem to have thwarted the sun’s attempts to punish me for carelessly losing my hair over the last few years.
The train arrives in Kirkby just twenty minutes after leaving Millom. “If only this walk could be so brief“, I think for a moment. It’s easy to fall into a way of thinking where the objective of this adventure is simply to conquer the colossal distance, and each walk is just another small chip off the monolith, to prove to myself that the overbearing magnitude of this journey really can be beaten.
I do often have doubts about whether I will finish this, and these are the strategies I employ to keep me going, but they forsake the enjoyment of discovery, the joy of nature, and reduce it to a mechanical beat that my mind can cope with. I need to enjoy the moment more, to relocate the numerical progression of the project to the days at home planning the next section and updating the progress map, freeing me up to enjoy my surroundings when I’m actually walking. Anyway, enough pontificating.
I’ve just had a nice cooked breakfast at the B&B, a real treat, but within yards of Kirkby station is a small cafe, where the aroma of sizzling smoked bacon seeps from the open windows, a cruel temptation that I struggle successfully to resist. When I’m full I normally stop eating, but there are some insatiable foods for me. Chocolate biscuits and bacon among them. If it’s there it has to be eaten. I don’t buy chocolate biscuits normally for that reason. I don’t have any cash on me today, and convince myself that the cafe wouldn’t take cards in the lockdown to help me walk on by. Of course they’d take cards, but these strategies of mine work for me, they don’t have to be true!
I like chicken as well, but these are less of a temptation for me. I couldn’t stand all the plucking…
The lane stretches out straight ahead, but luckily my route takes me on a footpath into a field to the left, and north-west towards the Angerton Marsh. The field is bisected by an unnamed small river, the collapsing banks of which provide shelter from the late morning sun for the local residents…
The path crosses the anonymous river, accompanied by a pair of pipelines, perhaps drains from one of the many pumping stations that preserve this rich farmland from the poison of seawater.
Very shortly after the bridge, the path crosses the railway line at a simple pedestrian crossing. These types of crossings are very common around here.
On the other side of the railway, the river swirls into an enticing pool of cool water, as it slowly meanders its way towards the sea.
It looks quite inviting on this warm day, but I don’t want to put the sheep through the trauma of seeing me in my underpants, so resist the temptation to dive in.
The path indistinctly skirts the edge of a field of long grass, passes through a farmyard and an assortment of angry tied up dogs before re-crossing the railway and joining a lane of straight lines which slice through the scattered dwellings of Waitham hamlet… Waitham Coppice, Waitham Hill, Little Waitham, and Waitham Common, all sheltering below the purple tinged ridge of Woodland Fell.
In the summer heat, a multitude of Peacock caterpillars thrive amongst the verdant hedgerow nettles, and grown up butterflies flit nervously from Starwort to Thistle…
There’s a good website for identifying butterflies… like birds and wildflowers I really don’t have a clue.
The tranquil lane, lined with hawkweed in full flower and overseen by Black Combe mountain, is a popular route for weekend family cyclists, who frequently pass me by, slowly and politely.
The lane crosses the railway line yet again, and skirts the beach at Galloper Pool, where youngsters play an informal game of cricket on the sands, and a couple of cyclists appreciate the hard-packed sand on this small patch of gold.
In the distance, the spire of St George’s in Millom dominates the vista. It’s just four miles away, but my route will be a lot longer than that, more like nine miles.
The lane reaches the railway line near Foxfield station, and for the fourth time today I cross over, and join the main A595. This is a busy road, but luckily there is a pavement next to it.
The same cyclists from the beach join me on the pavement, all of us avoiding the speeding cars and lorries. The main road passes Foxfield station, and a farmyard with a collection of old tractors, machinery, and this nice old truck…
The pavement runs out up ahead for a while, but the route I’m going to take passes through the village of Broughton-in-Furness, avoiding the A595 even though it’s closest to the coast, for safety. Occupation Lane (strange name) runs parallel to Foxfield Road up to the village.
When I reach Broughton I meet three women having a chat in the middle of the lane. They’re social distancing, a good three metres apart from each other, but that forces me to walk through the middle of their group, for which I apologise. One asks me where I’m off to, and I tell her about my adventure. When she hears I’m from Manchester she backs away, saying “Oooh, don’t bring that urban virus to us up here!”.
I think she’s actually quite serious, and I explain to her there’s no need to worry from me since I’m immune and can’t carry it, but she still seems nervous. We chat for quite a while about how the virus spreads, and another of them explains that the virus came to the village from a local returning from London (not a visitor from Manchester), so they’re much more likely to have it than I am! I bid my farewells and follow the route through the middle of the village, which is quite busy.
The road leads up a steep hill out of the village, and my tiredness hits me again. It’s a hot day, and even the cows can’t be bothered anymore.
Eventually the road from the village rejoins the A595, but luckily the pavement has returned to the main road, and it’s not too dangerous. I reach a sort of landmark as I cross into the Western Lake District. I’m not very excited about it.
The pavement soon runs out as I head west, but before it does, the route turns left down a track, and through a farm field. At a gate a large stone sits in front of the field gate. Whether this has been placed there deliberately by the farmer, or if it’s an “erratic” I’m not sure, but it’s a strange thing.
The path eventually reaches the River Duddon, which at this point is a tranquil slow flow, so easy and safe to wade across if I wanted, unlike the far more dangerous situation further downstream, where I was so tempted yesterday.
The path rejoins the A595 to cross the River Duddon at Duddon Bridge, where a small cottage oversees a kink in the road, and I have to dodge the traffic for a while.
Around the corner, the main road continues on to Millom, but there’s no pavement for quite a while, so my app decides to take a path a little further inland. It starts up a nice leafy lane towards Corney Fell…
A path off the lane leads to Duddon iron furnace, established by the Cunsey Company in 1736 and operated up until 1866. The restored remains are one of the most impressive charcoal-fired blast furnaces in Britain apparently. If you like that sort of thing. And I do.
After the remains of the furnace, the path climbs steeply up the slopes of Knott Hill. It’s a beautiful peaceful route, through the thick forest following the course of a small stream.
I pass the remains of an old small stone building, perhaps a sheepfold, which is marked on the OS map around here. The path eventually crosses the stream by a large flagstone, and continues upwards into the drier woods.
The path on my app continues onwards, but in front of me I only face a rough recently cut track heading very steeply up the side of the hill. Assuming this must be the path I start climbing. Its about a 45 degree slope, rough underfoot, and I’m not enjoying it very much. I say to myself I’ll be bloody angry if this isn’t the path and if it just comes to a dead end.
I’m bloody angry.
I think about trudging back down the slope to where I thought the path would be, but it’s so steep and with loose rocks underfoot is a bit hairy. And when I get back down there I’m no more likely to find the path than I was first time round. So I decide to head in the direction I think the path should come out of the woods, straight down the steep hillside, but it’s through the trees and leaf litter.
I grab a large stick to help me balance. The ground is very steep, uneven, and littered with fallen branches. I fall quite a few times, but always backwards onto the soft ground so I don’t mind at all. After scrambling down for five minutes or so I hit a defined path, which leads to a small gate, and out into the open again.
The path passes a house, and leads past a lovely bench set into the hillside. I’m a bit unsure whether I’m in the garden of the house, but the path is marked and the bench is right on the path. I settle down and get my lunch out. I treated myself from Aldi yesterday morning, and have a variety of flavours of posh sausage rolls, and spinach flavoured cheesy snacks. I love spinach. I collect a few blackberries for pudding too. It’s the best lunch I’ve had on my walking adventure so far.
The path leads around an S-bend and passes the entrance to the house, where a wonderful waterwheel turns under the power of the stream that’s tumbling down the hill. The waterwheel isn’t powering anything, but it looks nice anyway.
The route rejoins the main road for a hundred yards or so, and I have to make my way along the verge next to the road. These verges are a bit treacherous, where deep holes are hidden by the long grass, and a stumble could take you tumbling out into the fast traffic.
I soon turn left onto Lady Hall Lane, which takes me down onto the river plain. I’m glad to be off that hill now anyway. A farmer working in his field means I can include the obligatory red tractor for my blog, a very new one this time.
I turn off the lane, and walk through a field of long grass, where another red tractor, more in kind with my mandatory old red tractor theme sits rusting away its remaining years, before it succumbs to its inevitable oblivion.
The lush grass and blue sky, with the mountains in the distance puts me in a serene mood…
…so serene I miss my next turn, and end up walking into a blind corner of the field. Backtracking a hundred yards brings me to a stile and footbridge over a stream, which leads onto the long raised estuary bank which will take me all the way into Millom.
The river winds its peaceful way towards the coast, cutting through green pasture trimmed short by hundreds of sheep that eye me with the sort of curiosity that only sheep can muster… bored disinterest. Well, I’m not very interested in you either, mate.
In the distance I can see the railway viaduct crossing the river, not as impressive as some around here.
Small tributaries of the River Duddon meander across the pasture, cutting deep trenches into the soft soil, that then frequently collapses into the water, causing the streams to meander ever more deviantly.
The path crosses the railway line yet again at High Shaw, and climbs up onto the bank. Aside the bank a tumbledown barn sits amongst the pasture and marsh grass.
Ahead of me a party of sheep linger on the bank until I get very close. They seem a bit pissed off that I’ve disturbed them, and I’m sure the ram gives me a look like he wants trouble. I give him a similar look back, honed by late nights in Manchester city centre. The urban training does the trick and the soft country dweller runs off after his girlfriend, joining the geese and swans who are out picnicking on the lawn.
On the other side of the river, the hills of Bank Side Moor sits beneath the silky clouds, while on my side of the river the church spire in Millom seems as far away as it ever has been. That spire is starting to depress me.
The bank continues on and on and on. I’m starting to get really tired now, the effects of yesterday’s 15 miles really taking its toll. I pass a strange concrete and brick shed that looks like a remnant from the Second World War. Perhaps it is.
After several miles of the raised bank, the top starts to be inlaid with concrete paving slabs, although they are mostly covered in grass. A park bench indicates that we’re getting closer to the town, although there’s still no real sign of it, apart from that bloody spire.
The paving atop the bank becomes more and more regular, and finally I arrive at the outskirts of Millom. The path passes over a little bridge that crosses over the small brook that feeds Salthouse Pool, and up a small track I finally reach my car and collapse into the seat. It’s a long drive back home to Manchester, but at least I’ll be sat down for it!
I’m utterly exhausted after 27 miles in two days. I really need to get a bit fitter!
This walk was completed on 19th July 2020, and is about 12.6 miles long. Here’s the real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around…: