My girlfriend Pauline and I were on holiday in the Lake District, and decided we would do a section of my coastal walk together. I was really looking forward to showing her what coastal walking is like. I selected this particular section as it’s not too far, about six miles – a couple of hours – and it’s more scenic than the continuation of the previous walk would have been (Bootle to Ravenglass). This was going to be the first time I’ve done one of my sections with someone else, so I wanted it to go well, but being such a short section, what could possibly go wrong?
We drive to Seascale, and catch the train back to Ravenglass. Even though we arrive at Seascale station 5 minutes before the train is due to arrive, the service doesn’t appear on the ticket machine so we can’t buy a ticket at the station. Once on the train I go online to buy tickets, but the website doesn’t allow that either. Fine, no worries at all, we get a free train ride and Northern Rail loses out on £6… they could really have done with that, judging by the state of their service.
It only takes a couple of minutes to walk to the coast from Ravenglass station. The sun is shining brightly out at sea, and I use the iPhone camera to get a picture pointed right into the sun. The iPhone takes really nice pictures directly into the sun…
My posh Panasonic camera probably has a setting for that as well, but the manual is very dull and I’ve only ever managed to read the first few pages. One day I’ll look up how to use it, until then I just leave it on ‘auto’.
Looking south, the houses of Ravenglass back onto the coast which is a bit strange. They face onto the Main St, eschewing the scenic views across the water.
A hundred yards from the station and we’re crossing the River Mite over the railway bridge. This is one of the rare railway bridges in Cumbria that has a footpath fixed to the side, I only wish they all had, it would have saved me 50 miles or so of estuaries over the last couple of months.
In many places on my walks, I’ve been amazed at the number of derelict boats left rotting away on the shoreline. What’s the story behind all these? Are they damaged in storms, or just unloved, left to rot away in their solitary oblivion…
At Saltcoats, the route follows a lane – also called Saltcoats – slightly inland. The lane is part of Hadrian’s Cycleway which starts at the Roman baths in Ravenglass and goes all the way up Cumbria’s coast and along Hadrian’s wall, 170 miles or so. I wonder if Hadrian had a bicycle…
The sun is shining, wild flowers thrive in the hedgerows, birds sing of their excitement to meet us as we bound along, and even the sheep seem pleased to see us….
A mile or so down the lane, at the hamlet of Hall Carleton, we pass a bungalow with a strange tree in the front garden, reminding me of the Madagascan upside down Baobab trees.
To our right, a train passes over the River Irt on its own bridge, selfishly unshared with us poor coastal walkers.
Around the corner the tarmac comes to an end, and the lane becomes a farm track. This quickly turns into a bit of a mudbath and we have to pick our route carefully to avoid the water coming over the top of our walking shoes.
You know that feeling that you’re being watched. That sixth sense that some malevolent demon has you in its sights….
…well you get a similar feeling when three young cows can’t help their curiosity and are desperate to know what you’re up to.
The track just gets wetter and wetter, and progress slows to a crawl. I’m starting to feel this walk isn’t going as well as I’d hoped. I’m not sure what Pauline is thinking.
We turn a corner, climb over a gate into a drier field, and just as I think we’ve passed the worst…
…it gets significantly wetter!
My walk planning app, Komoot, is normally really good. However, it relies on map data from OpenStreetMap, which relies on anyone with an account entering data properly. They have to tag the path as going through a ford, and without that Komoot happily sent me this way. I study an OS map of the area, and can see the dreaded word “Ford” printed next to the dot showing my position. I’m starting to feel very guilty, and I’m going to have to tell Pauline that we need to retrace our steps back through that mud-bath of a farm track. Hmmm.
The nearest bridge up-river is the railway bridge I spotted earlier, but like most of the Cumbrian railway bridges, it’s greedily reserved for trains only. I look closer on the map and spot a footbridge a mile or so upstream. I decide not to mention that this is going to add a couple of miles to the journey. Not yet anyway.
The new route follows Hadrian’s Cycleway along a lane called Carleton – strange names these lanes have – until a footpath signpost directs us down a farm track… a dry one this time, thankfully. The path leads into a grassy field, and in a short time we arrive at a delightful little packhorse bridge.
My spirits are lifting a little, it seems I’ve got us back on track, and in the most scenic way possible. We cross the bridge and enter the field on the other side… and our feet sink into the sodden grass, over the top of my boots. Oh dear. A torturous winding route through the field avoiding the worst of the flooding leads us to a rough track, and eventually up onto the main B5344 road, into the village of Drigg. Drigg isn’t a very exciting place, but I remember from the last time I was here, a couple of years back, that it has a lovely sandy beach. There’s a road that leads down to the beach that I drove down, past a lovely fenced off woodland if I remember correctly. I’m sure that part will be nice.
First, we have to cross the railway though, and as we approach the level crossing a Network Rail guy appears and closes the barriers as there’s a train coming. Seeing that we wanted to cross, he helpfully tells us to come over as long as we’re quick. That was nice of him. He recounts stories of allowing dog-walkers to cross at the last minute, when the dogs went bounding up the railway line oblivious to the danger, disobedient to their owners calls to return. Pauline is less likely to be so unruly (I think) so it should be safe enough.
Once across the railway, we encounter the fenced off woodland that I remembered. I drove down here last time so didn’t notice what it was all about. It seems a lot more serious than I expected…
After taking the photos of BAE Systems factories in Barrow and getting accosted by security guards and the MoD police, I decide it’s probably not a good idea to take many more photos around here.
When I last drove down this road it only took a couple of minutes to get to the beach. It’s a wide, quiet road, and takes a lot longer to walk down than driving. It’s not very interesting either. And our feet are still wet. I’m getting distinctly grumpy vibes from Pauline… maybe I could crack some jokes to lighten the mood? I decide now’s probably not the best time.
A mile and a half later we arrive at the beach. I do like this beach, but I think I might have bigged it up a bit too much in an effort to cheer Pauline up, as it’s clearly not having quite the impact I had hoped for.
It’s now just a straight walk from Drigg beach to Seascale beach, about 2 miles up the coast. The sand is hard and pleasant to walk along, and we collect a few nice shells as we amble along.
Pauline is quite tired now, not used to walking quite this distance, and still seemingly unaware that we’ve walked a couple of miles longer than I said it was going to be. The sand gives way to dry shingle, the type that drains the energy from your legs with each step, and it turns out she is very aware that we’ve walked significantly further than I said it was going to be ?.
Sheep are grazing amongst the dunes at the top of the beach. I wonder if the grass is salty and whether they have to drink more because of that. Do sheep drink? I guess they must do. Perhaps there are streams around here for them.
After a tiring half mile across the shingle, we reach the outer reaches of Seascale, and the concrete sea defences allow us a smooth, firm path, relieving the stress on tired calves.
Out west over the sea, the sun is slowly slinking herself down onto her horizon.
The path leads up into the village, through a pretty little green adorned with a decorated boat.
We pass underneath the railway and past the 19th century water tower, which stands in what was the goods yard of the Furness Railway Company. It supplied water for the steam engine used to marshall wagons around the goods sidings, and also for the railway company’s houses. In World War 2 it was used as a look-out for ‘fire watching’ along the coast.
The sight of my car in the station car park brings a huge wave of relief, to Pauline because the walk is finally over, and for me because nothing else can possibly go wrong…..
I wonder if my car will start…? ?
This walk was completed on 3rd September 2020, and was about 8 miles long, including the detour. Here’s the map:
Here’s the real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around…: