Stage 17



Stage 17

Map of stage 17 Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
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Getting There - Friday 2nd September 2011

Like last year - it's all a bit odd this. The date at the top is correct - we really are off on our walk two months later than usual. This is due to the job situation - or rather lack of job situation. Both Brian and I are out of work - both redundant!

It is a long saga that needs a book to explore all the ins and outs. Twinings - my employer - saw fit to close the factory where I work with the loss of over 260 jobs. My last day was in the middle of August - we were down to a score or less when I finished.

Brian's college have gone through yet another re-organisation following acquisition of yet another local college. These re-organisations have loomed over our walks for a number of years now, but finally events have reached a climax. The long and short of it is that the offers Brian received amounted pretty much to an Irishman's rise - so he applied for and got voluntary redundancy. All this was building up through the spring and early summer so we decided to let the dust settle before our walk.

The die is cast and we head off from Guiseley on a Friday morning and two trains and three hours later we are in Blackpool. Lunch and a bus see us in Fleetwood for the ferry to Knott End-on-Sea [1] just across the River Wyre. Knott End is a largish village - with a few shops, a pub and a sailing club. We get settled into the Bourne Arms and can see along the prom and across Morecambe Bay we can see the large cuboid blocks of Heysham nuclear power station. We think we can just about make out the far Furness shore. Despite its "on-Sea" appellation Knott End is no place for a beach holiday - the prom is fronted by extensive mud flats.

The pub has a dining room at the rear of the building with large picture windows that give excellent views across the bay. Well they did when the sun shone but in the twilight after sunset the clouds and mist gathered and the rain began to fall. The views of Heysham and the Furness coast became a misty memory.

Ferry Returning to Fleetwood
Ferry Returning to Fleetwood

Day 1 - Saturday 3rd September

Knott End to Conder Green

Day 1 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

After a good night's sleep we wake to a grey misty morning with the rain hammering down. It promises to be a wet start to the walk. Breakfast is pretty reasonable and the rain starts to ease off a little. By the time we are ready to depart - kitted out in full waterproofs - the rain had stopped! The forecast for the day is not good however so we decide not to strip the waterproofs off but head out along the promenade on the Lancashire Coastal Path. We can just about make out the blocks of the power station through the mist.

Apart from a brief diversion for our sandwiches we follow the path along the sea wall out of town and into the country. We see few people on this miserable morning. The surface is good though so no mud to plodge through. The pattern for the next hour or so is set. We follow the seawall; see a couple walking their dog; are passed by a jogger heading in our direction and get variable views as the rain and drizzle come and go. One minute Heysham power station [it has become something of a talisman in judging the weather] is in view across the bay to our left as are the hills to our right, the next they fade into the mist. During a short break our jogger from earlier passes us again as she heads for home. Our conversation during this break has to compete with the rather loud noise of poultry coming across the field.

Leaving the warmth and dry of the Bourne Arms!
Leaving the warmth and dry of the Bourne Arms!

After an hour the Path leaves the sea wall and takes to the road as it heads for the village of Pilling about half a mile inland. We follow suit and are soon cheered by the thought of a drink in the Golden Ball. The Golden Ball is quite an imposing building at the road junction where the coast road meets the main road through Pilling. It is also closed. One good thing is though that the rain and drizzle disappeared about 30 minutes earlier and we are able to take a break on a bench next to the bus stop opposite the pub. Pilling is quiet this morning with little traffic on the through road or using the road to the coast we recently walked down. One car does stop by us though and the driver asks us where the local Post Office. In the ensuing banter it is apparent he is a visitor like ourselves and needs to get a form from the PO.

We leave the village by the main road and on the edge of town meet a woman who can shed some light on the seasonal path along the coast. The leaflet on the Lancashire Coast Path alludes to its seasonal nature, but doesn't say when it's open! In the event it is indeed open and runs to the public amenities site [rubbish tip in plain English].

We leave the road and head across the field to the flood defence bank that skirts the shoreline. The ground is very wet - decidedly squelchy in places although there is no standing water. The day is getting better - we've had no rain for a while now, but everything is still soaking after the heavy overnight and early morning rain.

Once we reach the skips at the civic amenities site it is back to the road for the next hour or so. We inadvertently follow the cycle route down the main road rather than the coast path which follows the lanes and tracks about a kilometre further inland to the East. The road is quiet with relatively few cars and vans. Mercifully we see only one artic and that was going quite slow. Our relative calm was shattered however by the archetypal boy racer who screamed past us and overtook some other vehicles at a less than ideal spot. At one point we attract the attention of a herd of cows in the adjacent field who insist on following us [on their side of the hedge] for the full length of the field - about 200 metres [or a furlong in old money].

About half a mile after we left our bovine fan club behind, we find a bench and munch on our lunch before setting off for the next stage. We will have some navigation to do soon as our path leaves the road just past the River Cocker and heads back to the coast. The bridge over the river is soon upon us and a sharp left turn once across sees us heading off through the fields. The land next to the river in this little valley is quite marshy but our path avoids all this and gently rises as we head for Bank End. It is around here that the weather turns wet - very wet - again. Within minutes it is virtually impossible to see anything through my specs as the rain drops cover the lenses. What could have been a pleasant stroll turns out to be anything but in the rain. Even if my specs were clear of rain drops the views were limited by the mist and cloud. Yet 10 minutes or so earlier we had enjoyed some vistas across and down the Bay.

There is one bright spot in this mass of grey and rain - we pass by a caravan park and Lo! They have a bar which is open and we can take tea and shelter therein. What is more nobody seems to object too much as we quietly steam and drip on their carpet for the next 20 minutes. Unfortunately such good things must come to an end and we must depart. Mercifully it has stopped raining but the ground is even more soggy than before.

The walking continues to be pretty easy with no difficult bits although the path did become perilously narrow at one point as it squeezed itself between the low "cliff top" to our left and a wall on our right. We passed the ruined Cockersand Abbey [2] and a lighthouse before swinging inland at Crook Farm to head toward Glasson Dock. The path is clear in the fields we cross but it doesn't follow the line on the map. There is a definite dog leg to the right on the ground that moves the path several hundred yards off the straight ahead indicated on the map. We follow the lines in the ground and after a brief uphill section that became quite steep for a while we are "rewarded" by reaching the road as the map suggested.

A left turn followed by another brief uphill stretch means we reach the highest point of the day's walk - probably 25metres or less! This is a bit of a viewing point in this neck of the woods and is marked so on the map. We take a brief rest on the benches provided and take in the views across the Lune.

After our brief rest we head down the hill past the neat houses and bungalows to Glasson Dock [3] itself. At the bottom of the hill we cross the bridge and head straight for the pub in front of us. Glasson Dock was built as an industrial port in the late 18th century to serve the thriving town of Lancaster a few miles up the Lune. It has an outer section leading to the sea linked to an inner section at the end of the canal to Lancaster. Later a railway link was established to supplement the canal but that is long gone - at least it has been put to good use as a path and cycle way to Lancaster. The dock has seen changes too - the inner section is a marina with the outer section only showing hints of its former industrial heyday.

The Stork At Condor Green
The Stork At Condor Green

In the Victoria Inn we decide that after such a wet day a nice pot of tea each is the drink of choice. We do make a tactical error as I order tea for two twice on the basis that tea for two once just wouldn't be enough. In the event a pot for two is enormous and arrives with a matching jug of hot water and some rather nice biscuits. There is no way we will consume this lot!

Whilst we sup our tea we decide the next stage. What is obvious is that all my contingency planning in obtaining bus times from Glasson to Conder Green are, like us, redundant. It is just after 4pm and the digs are a mile away! We have made better time than anticipated and the 13 miles covered so far has not proved onerous at all. A real bonus is that the cloud has cleared significantly so the walk along the disused trackbed to Conder is very pleasant indeed.

Our digs at the Stork Inn prove to be very comfortable. Despite no rain in the last couple of hours our packs have not dried out and we are pretty sticky and sweaty under our waterproofs. One good thing is that the polybags protecting our stuff in the packs have done their job and our clean clothes are dry. Despite this our room soon resembles a laundry as we try to dry the day's clothes. After a shower and a rest we go down to dinner and are very pleased we reserved a table on arrival. The pub is full with diners and others. Some people arrive and leave with looks of disappointment when told there will be no free stables for a couple of hours. The local beer is very good, but pricey like the food.

Day one has been good and tomorrow will be a short 8 miles or so. All we need is some decent weather.


Day 2 - Sunday 4th September

Conder Green to Morecambe

Day 2 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

After a pretty good breakfast we set out on the second day. Our main wish for the day has been granted - it is not raining. We make our way back the quarter mile or so the Coast Path and head off to Lancaster. The first stretch of the path is between trees and bushes and it is rather humid. The contrast with the previous day could not be more marked though. The cloud base is high; there are blue patches to be seen and the sun makes occasional appearances to cheer everyone up. And there are a lot of folks out walking and cycling this morning. .

There are frequent benches overlooking the marshes edging the Lune and we have some wonderful views across the river. In the distance the South Lakeland hills are in clear view - their cloud caps of yesterday have been put away. As we go along it is easy to understand why our 18th and 19th century forefathers built the canal and railway to Glasson and its dock. The Lune must have been a nightmare to navigate - it is not particularly wide as it meanders through the mudflats and flanking marshes.

As the morning progresses the clouds get higher and higher and the patches of pale blue become larger and brighter. The sun starts to beat down in earnest. We pass the golf course and continue toward Lancaster. The sun has brought out the local populace in force and the path becomes very busy.

After a couple of hours the scenery changes dramatically from a rural to an urban landscape as we reach the outskirts of Lancaster. This stretch is rather sad as we pass a succession of derelict and part demolished factories. There is some evidence of the docks as we approach the city centre, but it is all a little depressing. The sun is out in force now and clouds are but a memory. We also change our thought processes slightly. So far today we have been walkers; tourists enjoying the scenery and revelling in the warmth. Now we become hunters - on the look out for lunch. Our prey is the sandwich shop - or any shop that will provide lunch. We make what could be a tactical blunder as we approach the centre. We cross the river by means of the footpath alongside the bridge that carries the main West Coast Railway Line. This shortens our journey but also reduces our opportunities of finding out prey. To accommodate the railway line the bridge is very tall and the climb up comes as a shock to the system after what has been a virtually climb free walk so far today.

The next couple of hours into Morecambe are to tell the truth pretty boring. The Lancashire Coast path follows another disused railway line - the ex-Midland Railway line from Lancaster to Morecambe. To those steeped in railway history this stretch of disused railway is of historical importance. In 1908 the Midland electrified the line using not only an overhead system but also utilising what for the day was a high voltage alternating current. As such the line between Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham pioneered the use of overhead cables for electrification. Heysham-to-Morecambe was electrified on 13 April 1908, extending to Lancaster Green Ayre on 1 July and to Lancaster Castle on 14 September. The system used 6.6 kV at 25 Hz, from a power station at Heysham,

We join the path where it swings away from the river and heads directly to Morecambe. The "views" such as they are those of suburbia or the banks of the odd railway cutting. We pass a sports centre then finally catch our prey in the shape of your local ASDA super store. We adjourn to their cafe and partake of refreshments which are sorely needed. After the early cloud burnt off several hours ago the day has been very hot.

We resume our passage to Morecambe - passing an industrial estate and the back gardens of a myriad of houses before we are joined by the real railway heading for the town's station. The railway parallels the path as far as the station - a new affair with little character. A hundred yards away across several busy roads stands the late Midland Railway station - a much grander affair that houses the Tourist Information Centre amongst other things,

Statue of Morecombe's famous son - Eric Morecombe
Statue of Morecombe's famous son - Eric Morecombe - and two not so famous visitors

It is early - not yet 2pm, so what should we do? We head for the Tourist Information office and they are not very encouraging. Most of the guests houses and B & B's are within a half hour's walk and they are not too optimistic about digs another couple of hours down the road as it was out of their area. We decide to stay in Morecambe.

So we strolled along the prom and admired the Art Deco Midland Hotel on the seafront. [4] This is a very imposing structure that has only recently been refurbished after years of neglect. The Tourist office has a small exhibition about the hotel which we find fascinating.

We continue our stroll along the prom to join a gaggle of people around the statue of the town's most famous son - John Bartholomew MBE.[5] [6] .

The Auckland Hotel
The Auckland Hotel Morecambe - Shelter for the night

We eventually arrive at the Auckland Hotel where we will stay the night. It turns out to be large hotel on the seafront catering mainly for the coach tour trade. We are shown to an upper floor room at the rear of the hotel. The room is large and airy due mainly to the large dormer extension. It is pretty comfortable and we soon turn it into our particular version of home with gear strewn everywhere!

Today has been pretty good if one glosses over the rather boring stretch from Lancaster to Morecambe. We had considered going around the coast via Sunderland Point but that would involve a lot of road walking and add 10 miles to the 8 we had done on the direct line - too far. Tomorrow will be over 11 miles, a nice distance to cover. All we need is some decent weather.


Day 3 - Monday 5th September:

Morecambe to Silverdale

Day 3 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

We are woken at about 6.30 by a thunderous drumming on the roof of our room. It is rain and it wakes both of us. This lot better clear before we set off or I am voting for an adjournment! In the event the storm passes before we set off so all is well. The weather forecast is for showers off and on all day so we will have to see what happens. We get into breakfast just as a coach party come down - fortunately the service is prompt and we are able to get away by 9.30.

We are greeted by grey skies and a strong wind when we do venture out. Fortunately the wind is coming from our stern quarter so it is not too uncomfortable. It is certainly strong if the speed of the clouds across the sky is anything to judge by. The exit from Morecambe via Bare is along a wide promenade and is fairly pleasant. There is a considerable variation in the buildings to our right and the sea- and sky-scape to our left is constantly varying courtesy of the wind. Depending on the weather we can either see the Furness coast and Lakeland tops or not. Although in this first hour or so we do not suffer any rain it is obvious someone else is copping a load if the frequency and intensity of the squalls out to sea are anything to go by.

Shortly after Scalestones Point the Coast Path leaves the prom and heads for the foreshore down a track that leads to a gymnasium / sports centre which proves to be very convenient - it has a cafe and we are due a break. We start to consider the next stage of the walk and there are three options

  1. Continue on the Coast Path along the foreshore as it threads its way past the marshy land fringing Morecambe Bay
  2. Cross the sands of Morecambe Bay - possibly feasible as the tide is out
  3. Abandon the coast and head for the canal.

It soon comes down to a choice between [a] and [c]. Whilst crossing Morecambe Bay has a certain romance to it the practicalities are daunting. We don't know the best route; there is a strict time limit ie when is the next high tide We really do not want to suffer the fate of the 21 Chinese cockle pickers who got caught by the tide and drowned on the evening of 5 February 2004

Our conversation was overheard by a patron of the gym and she said the canal was a pleasant walk, furthermore it was sheltered and one would be out of the wind. After getting directions to the canal we set off through Hest Bank and are soon marching along the towpath of the Lancaster Canal.

This decision proves to be a good one as the canal is very interesting. Like most canals it is now for pleasure rather than commerce. Its twists and turns mean that there is always a corner to go round and speculate about. One advantage of the canal's route is that it is part way up the hill and so we get some good views of the coast when the breaks in the bushes and roofs allow. Some of the properties on the far shore are calling out to be bought when the lottery provides the cash! There are also quite a few people out and about including the odd cyclist. How they manage to negotiate the arched bridges is an interesting question as the headroom is barely sufficient for my 6 foot frame. Still someone in their infinite wisdom thought it a practicable proposition as this stretch of the tow path is used by one of the national cycle routes.

The rain that has been soaking everyone else finally catches up with us. There follows a bit of a pantomime as I get into my over-trousers only for the really heavy rain to ease off within a couple of minutes and the shower blows over in no more than 7 or 8 minutes. At the next bench I get the wretched things off and decide to take the chance on the showers. Saturday's full day in the waterproofs was quite sticky and sweaty if not uncomfortable at the end and I have no desire to go through that again. Brian on the other hand has been fully kitted from the off.

One thing we have not come across yet is a wayside pub, although we are promised one at Bolton-le-Sands. In due course we arrive there to find the pub nestling [perhaps sprawling would be more accurate] at the foot of the canal embankment. There is a gate and some steps leading down to the beer garden - everything looks set fair - except the door to the beer garden is locked. We assume that is fair enough as it is only 11.40 and the weather is not suited for beer gardens. [We'd suffered a couple of light showers in the last half hour.] We make our way to the front of the pub and it is closed! This is really disappointing as we'd been raising our hopes by the thought of a nice sit down indoors. In the event we have to settle for sitting in the bus shelter across the road.

The next mile or so is spent walking along the rather busy A6 to the edge of Carnforth where we turn sharp left and re-join the cycle route. Our path goes steadily down past some houses, across the railway line from Preston to Carlisle and heads out into the countryside. We take a short break outside a water treatment facility and although the wind is still breezy we can see small patches of blue sky and even very briefly some watery shadows. The road is a very minor road indeed by now and we are on the floodplain [if that is not too grandiose a description] of a large stream / small river on its last few hundred yards into Morecambe Bay. The effect of the past days' rain can be seen around us in the form of large puddles and water-logged ground. A rather dilapidated road sign warning of floods bears testament that this little corner of England can get very soggy! Our route has carried us around the town of Carnforth - a small former railway town [7] probably most famous for its role in the wartime tear jerker Brief Encounter [8].

We continue to parallel the swollen stream for a few hundred yards dodging the puddles as we go. A cyclist passes us just before we cross the stream on a rickety looking bridge and continue over the railway line from Carnforth to Barrow and the Cumbrian coast. We turn left here and follow the cycle route rather than the line of the Coast Path that goes straight on for a few hundred yards before setting off across the fields. Both routes would bring us to the phone box at Crag Foot, and both mean a mile or more on the road. With little to choose between them we take the lower level route.

In the event the lower route is quite pleasant; the road is fairly quiet and we get some good views across the marshy ground out towards Morecambe Bay. The weather is holding as well with a bit of sun and only the most fleeting of light showers. We leave the road shortly after Crag Point and head across the fields towards Jenny Brown's Point It is a lovely spot and we have some good views across Morecambe Bay from here. Apparently Jenny Brown did exist and she sadly drowned here whilst trying to save children in her care. There is also a reminder of the local copper mine that once was here. The workings seem to have been landscaped in woodland, though the smelting chimney still stands next to the beach.

The Silverdale Hotel
The Silverdale Hotel - Shelter for the night

Shortly after this we have a bit of a scramble over the foreshore to get onto a crumbling concrete slipway that leads to the road for Silverdale. The weather that has held fine for nearly all the afternoon finally turns and bites us. The last thirty minutes or so into Silverdale are accompanied by our old friend from two days ago - pouring rain, although he did relent a little towards the end. Silverdale is pretty enough with trees lining our road and some nice houses. We finally approach the centre and espy the Silverdale Hotel. This turns out to be a bit pricey at £89 for the night but it is here and they have a vacancy. Our room is quite large and good for spreading out our wet anoraks and clothes etc. The rain has not penetrated through our rucksacks but the place still resembles a laundry.

We go down to dinner and have a good meal and chat with other guests including a music lecturer about the influence of the electric organ on mid - late 60's rock music. All good stuff! The day has been a good one despite the showers. We were sheltered for a large part of the day from the gusty wind; and we even had some watery sun at times. The canal with its many twists and turns as it followed the hillside contours was interesting - not something we often say about canal walking.


Day 4 - Tuesday 6th September

Silverdale to Heversham

Day 4 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

It's nearly 10am before we get away from our digs and with Arnside not too far away we postpone buying lunch. Our conversations with the hotel staff suggest that the coast route out of Silverdale is difficult / impassable at high tide so most walkers take an inland route across the fields to Cove House about a kilometre away.

We decide that we want to see the foreshore and if the tide is out go that way. So we set off under grey skies between the trees and houses down to the "beach". We are rewarded with the tide being out; a very strong wind blasting across Morecambe Bay and a rock strewn terrain that makes walking interesting! At Cove House we have a bit of a clamber to access the road to Far Arnside. We see the field route joining us from the right and it would have been far easier; but we talk ourselves into believing our chosen route was far superior and much more interesting.

An hour after leaving Silverdale we are sat on a bench in the caravan park at Far Arnside, The road walking from Cove House was uneventful,, and the rain has held off. Of course as soon as we sit down we get a short sharp shower. Our bench is at the far end of the park and we will soon be entering the woods that flank the coast line.

Our chosen path would have been an absolute delight after a period of dry weather, but we have to cope with the after effects of many wet days. The path is not boggy but it is very wet and this makes for slippery conditions. The trees for the most part shield us from the gale outside. Through one the many gaps we are treated to the spectacular sight of more than 50 sea birds landing on the mudflats about 100 yards from us.

There is one tricky part where the path comes right along the shore where we are presented with a narrow path between the trees and bushes to our right and the edge of the 6 - 8 foot "cliff" to our left. Brian seems to revel in this little section almost skipping along the path treating the gusting; hustling wind as though it didn't exist. For my part I am far too preoccupied with the potential injuries from a trip or a slip or the sudden absence or presence of the wind to enjoy it at all. As I make my laboured way through this area I at least have the opportunity to stop and admire the rather good views across the Bay.

Shortly after this we lose our way in the woods and instead of heading to New Barns via Blackstone Point and the coast we end up taking an inland route. We pass some logging activity and go through another caravan park where the caravans are widely spaced in their clearings. We suffer more rain showers but they tend to be heavy and quite short as they are hurried on their way by the impatient wind.

As we approach New Barns we are greeted by the more than welcoming Bob In Cafe. It is warm; it is dry and they have everything we need except a nice weather machine. During our chat with the proprietor and the other customer we are advised to take the road into Arnside, and turn left at the Youth Hostel down to Arnside's riverside prom. There is a coastal route past Grubbins Wood but they reckon it will be pretty messy and difficult after the rain of the last week.

A little reluctantly we leave the steamy warmth of the cafe and once outside we head along the road to Arnside. There is a large gap in the trees and with the benefit of the height we gained walking through the woods we get a panorama of the Kent Estuary below us. This view is soon lost as we progress along the road and into more trees before entering the suburbs of Arnside.

We nearly miss the path down to the riverside - a bit odd really as the Youth Hostel is a large imposing building with all the usual signs and notices. The descent is made by a series of steps and quite steep slopes all liberally covered with leaf mulch. The steps deposit us by the riverside and the views across the estuary are rather good. There is a narrow-ish path for a few hundred yards before it joins a road with some rather large Victorian / Edwardian era houses. The first we come to stands in its own grounds and there is a steady stream of water running down the drive and across the road to the gutters.

The Rail Bridge at Arnside
The Rail Bridge at Arnside

We soon pass some shops and are able to get our lunch. The only thing left is to find somewhere to sit and eat it. The weather is going through one of its better spells but there is a shortage of benches! In the event the train took the strain - or rather the station. We made our way up to the platform and took our rest in the waiting shelter. The station has been modified with several TV displays on each platform listing the next few trains. Whilst munching on our sarnies we reflect on the quirks of life, in particular the railway viaduct that starts a few hundred yards or so from the platform end and finishes less than a half mile later on the Grange shore. Sadly we shall spend the next day and a half walking around the estuary to reach this point. I tried half heartedly to convince Brian that we could get the next train, after all if it was a ferry we would have done that .... Brian was not to be convinced. A good thing really as we would have missed out on some rather good walking.

The rest of the day will be spent road walking through Storth to Sandside and the village of Heversham where we have booked digs at the Blue Bell Hotel. Fortunately the last two miles will be on farm access roads so should be pretty quiet. That however is an hour or more away. Our first obstacle is the flooded road just past the junction where we turn for Storth. The road beneath the railway bridge is flooded for over half its width and about 30 yards. They've had some rain around here!

Fortunately for us the road through to Storth has a footpath for most of its length and we get some pretty good views inland. To our left though it is a different story. There is a pretty substantial belt of bushes and trees blocking our view. We speculate if there is some sort of path beyond the trees but do not investigate any further. This is a bit of mistake because after about 30 minutes a man and his dog appear out of the bushes and cross the road. He has indeed been paralleling our progress from Arnside on the other side of the bushes.

The flat terrain has a local change as the road swings left and rises to the bridge over the track bed of the long dis-used railway line we have been shadowing. Once up and over the bridge we are the beneficiaries of some grand views up, down and across the Kent estuary. Within a minute or so a car pulls up alongside us - it is our host from last night wishing us well. Our next target is the "PH" indicated on the map at Sandside. The weather has been kind to us since lunchtime but we are getting a bit bored by the road walking which the views across the estuary can't quite alleviate.

The pub duly hoves into view and we settle down to nice pot of tea. The room is pretty busy as the local bridge club settle down to their afternoon session. We both wonder what they make of the poor sweaty and bedraggled walkers in their midst.

After a rather pleasant rest we leave the local card players to their rubbers and head off again. We are soon reminded of the quantity of rain in the last few days as several land drains from the adjacent hill are in full spate with water spewing from the mouths of the pipes onto the road. Thankfully we soon leave the fairly busy road we've been walking since Arnside and turn left onto the narrow farm access road.

After 5 minutes of peaceful walking Brian says "At least there's no traffic on this road".

Short pause and Brian says "Look out - car coming"!

The Blue Bell Hotel
The Blue Bell Hotel In Heversham

We are slowly making our way across the flat land skirting the estuary and there is yet more evidence of the rain - many of the fields have large pools of standing water and the roadside ditches are quite full. The road is long and straight and quite boring, but with the clear weather we do get some pleasant views to the high ground around us. We turn right after a kilometre or so and our route gradually rises as we approach Heversham and our digs. We get a surprise when we get there - there is not one TV in the place. The beer is good though and the evening meal excellent. We get into conversation with some other guests. They had to turn back at one point in their journey to the pub - the A6 was blocked by a flood nearby. The hotel has an air of faded glories and could do with a refurbishment but it is clean and comfortable.


Day 5 - Wednesday 7th September

Heversham to Grane Over Sands

Day 5 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

Today our goal is Grange over Sands. Because of the local geography we will spend all morning walking away from the place to reach the bridging point of the River Kent at Levens Bridge. We walk up into Heversham and head of through the village. This is quite pleasant as all the traffic on the A6 uses the by-pass - all very civilised. The village stands about 30 - 40 meters above the river a mile or so to our left. This affords us an interesting new take on the views of the estuary and flood plain. The road gradually drops down and we join the main road. It isn't long before we are watching for gaps to cross the road which we eventually manage quite safely. We pass Levens Hall and make a sharp left over Levens Bridge. Just past the bridge there is a short length of footpath on the other side of the hedge which gets us away from the traffic for 5 - 10 minutes.

We will spend the most of today walking on metalled surfaces - farm tracks though so the influence of traffic will be minimal. The first of these is about a quarter of a mile past Levens Bridge where we leave the busy A590 and head for Low Levens Farm and Sampool. This track rejoins the A590 about a mile or so down the road but the extra distance is a small price to pay for the peace and relative tranquility of our chosen path. There is an additional bonus as we pass a lady picking damsons at the farm. We chat for a few minutes about the cultivation of soft fruits and get to sample some of her delicious damsons.

We met only one vehicle on this stretch - the post van on its way to Sampool and a few minutes later we met it again on its way back to civilisation. The van was also the unwitting cause of us forgetting to turn right to head back to the A590. We ended up at Sampool - a caravan site and dead end. There was a bonus though as there was a small shop / sales office with a table and chair outside. We bought some refreshment and gratefully got the packs of our backs for 15 minutes or so. After this all that remained was to re-trace our steps the few hundred yards to the track we should have taken and head for Sampool Bridge where we will cross the River Gilpin before heading down another track toward Foulshaw Moss and the three farms that carry the innovative names of High; Middle and Low Foulshaw in order of distance from the main road.

At High Foulshaw we find a field roller parked on the side of the road - it is the only convenient place to sit. On other days in previous years we would almost certainly stretched out on the grass - but in this rain soaked week this is not an option.

After High Foulshaw we leave the track and take to the fields and the flood defence bank skirting the Kent. The grass is soaking wet although there has been no rain yet today. From our vantage point on the bank we try to identify the places we passed the previous day. We are also exposed to the strong wind for the first time that day, and it is blowing straight into our faces. It's not long before the first shower of the day arrives to get us nice and wet. I soon find it almost impossible to see as the rain is full in our faces and my specs are not fitted with wind screen wipers. In the next hour we are on the receiving end of a series of these showers and as in previous days when the showers are around the clouds descend and cover thee tops of the nearby hills and visibility drops dramatically.

After Low Foulshaw we catch our first views of the viaduct carrying the railway across the estuary and shortly after that our path swings inland and heads for the hill with Meathop atop it. As we approach we both rather hope that we will be able to go round this beast rather than over it - but of course we have to climb up and over, at least the rain has stopped.

We make our way to the hamlet of Meathop, passing a complex of barn conversions on the way up the hill. We take a short break in Meathop sitting on a low dry stone wall. We see only one person before moving off through the tree lined lanes to the summit before dropping down the far side of the hill. At the foot of the hill the road runs parallel with the railway embankment that carries the trains from Arnside to Grange. The embankment blocks out the view across the estuary but we have some pretty good views across the expanse of flat land to our right and the hills beyond. We can make out some rather large grand houses about half way up the hillside.

We pass the entrance to the golf club and eventually come to the junction with the road into Grange and a bench. We take a break here and admire the houses on the main road. They are very solid looking Victorian / Edwardian villas that look rather expensive. Houses of a similar nature line each side of the road to the town centre when we finally get going. Apart from a posh looking hotel we don't see anywhere to stay so it's on to the Tourist Information Office. They are about to close but do provide us with a list of guest houses etc.

Clutching our list we leave and repair to the pub opposite. It turns out that the Commodore not only serves drinks and food it also does Bed & Breakfast. Sadly they have no vacancies. A local leaves with us and says rather cryptically "You we're lucky they was full" before heading off down the street. We pass a chippy with restaurant en-route to the digs we have booked. These turn out to be very good and with the chippy and two small supermarkets within 150 yards are just about ideal. Grange has made a favourable impression on us as it nestles between the shore and the hills that come close to the shore. [9] [10].

We dine at the chippy and return to our digs where we are soon in conversation with our hosts. We pick up some useful information about the [non]availability of accommodation within reasonable range for the next day. The only likely places being Cark followed by Haverthwaite - and they are not too sure about Haverthwaite. Some of the distances are quite daunting too especially if one follows the Coastal path which meanders its way to Cark before heading inland to Holker en-route to the Haverthwaite area. In normal circumstances we would probably take a punt on accommodation at both Cark and Haverthwaite but decide not to make a decision.

We also chat about crossing Morecambe Bay and are told that the only way to do it is with a guide. Our hosts have walked across the Bay guided by the Queen's Sand Pilot - a certain local gentleman Cedric Robinson who judging by the picture on the cover of his biography sitting on the shelf is a very fit looking 70 year old. [11] [12]

Having exhausted most possible plans for the morrow and put the world to rights in general we head off to bed. Guess what - it's raining.


Day 6 - Thursday 8th September

Grange Over Sands to Cark

Day 6 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

We wake to a grey morning with yet more rain falling. Thankfully it clears up before we leave and set off back into the centre of Grange. This means doubling back on ourselves a bit, but it's not far and Brian is keen to get down to Grange's promenade. In the event this is a good decision as the prom is a very attractive legacy from its days as a resort

The prom is flanked by the railway and some gardens on the one side with the town built on a higher level beyond that. We can see across the mudflats and sandbanks of the Bay to Silverdale and can even make out our old acquaintance Heysham power station in the far distance. The weather starts off dry but before we reach the disused Lido towards the edge of town the first shower begins to fall. This becomes the story of the morning - occasional showers with the odd glimpse of the sun. Our view across the Bay varies dramatically as the showers scurry across the water.

On the edge of Grange the prom finally runs out but there is still a good path to take us on to Kents Bank, only by now we have had to cross the railway line and it now runs between us and the Bay. This blocks our views seaward to a degree but we can now see the hills that press close to the coast along here.

As we approach Kents Bank we pass some cottages and an elderly gentleman is coming down the path - he looks remarkably like the Sandman Cedric Robinson. A couple of fields or so later we have to take to the streets of Kents Bank. It too is an attractive little place from the turn of the 19th century. Our path eventually takes us past the railway station where we take a break. The station must be a very bleak place in the winter. It is built right on the edge of the mudflats exposed to the prevailing winds. There is a level crossing at the end of the platform that gives access to the flats but we wonder how many times the gates are opened. One thing that is crystallising in our minds is that we may well cut short our walk. We've had as many minutes of rain as we've had dry this morning and the route on leaving Kents Bank heads on the road to Allithwaite before heading out over the fields to Humphrey Head. The path then cuts across the head near Wyke Farm although there is a path around the head that leads to the bird sanctuary at Humphrey Head Point.

The Coast Path then takes to the roads to skirt Cark Airfield before taking to the fields past Low Marsh; Cowpren Point; Canon Winder and Lenibrick Point as it wends its way to Sand Gate and Cark. We both have reservations about the underfoot conditions after so much rain in the last 24 hours, let alone what went before that.

On reaching Allithwaite we spot the start of the first field section and it is most unwelcoming. We can make out the odd puddle here and there and the ground looks sodden. We have already decided to take the train from Cark to Ulverston and so avoid the walk past Holker and Haverthwaite, now we decide to cut our losses altogether and head pretty much straight to Cark.

Normally we grit out teeth and just get on with things but today we have been feeling a bit flat and the thought of trudging across wet fields with no places to take a rest is too much. We decide to continue on the road. In the first half mile or so we feel as though our decision has been fully vindicated as the road leading to Wraysholme Tower is flooded for a length of 100 yards or so. The drainage ditches each side of the lane just cannot handle the quantity of water. Not only is it a long stretch it is deep in places to the extent that it came over the uppers of our boots. Brian was particularly badly affected by this and had squelching, soaking wet, feet for the rest of the day. Wraysholme Tower [13] is a good example of a Pele Tower and is interesting even on this grey day.

We continue under the railway bridge and head past Cark Airfield and Winder Moor before turning right to head for Flookburgh and Cark. The road walking is pretty boring and we get another shower on the way. WE make our way up the hill into Cark with its small Market Square surrounded by a small collection of shops and pubs and cottages. It is about 12.15 when we reach the station on the far side of town to find we have just missed a train. The next one is just after 2pm.

Rather than walk back into the centre of Cark we head for the garden centre by the station which boasts a cafe. Sadly it is closed! There is nothing for it but to return to one of pubs in the centre. We spend a pleasant hour in the warmth of the pub listening to the landlord regale one of the locals with the investment he has recently made in some lodges out the back and the party thrown earlier in the week for another local. We reluctantly re-trace our steps to the station to await our train to Ulverston. The waiting area is strewn with litter - some of it the remains of the Cartmal C of E Primary school year book or some-such. Seems they have folks capable of loutish behaviour in this neck of the woods.

The train deposits us in Ulverston after its brief journey. The ride is comfortable and the train is quite full. The views up and down the River Leven from the viaduct are not as inspiring or spectacular as we had hoped but were still interesting.

Ulverston [14],[15] is quite a city being by far the largest town we've passed through since leaving Morecambe. We make our way to the Tourist Information Centre with its statue of Laurel and Hardy outside. We soon acquire some digs and make our way through the bustling town centre to get settled for the day.

Laurel And Hardy statue in Ulverston
Laurel And Hardy statue in Ulverston
Laurel And Hardy plaque
Plaque on the statue

Our digs are quite comfortable in a large town house in the middle of Ulverston that is called the Town House! There is an Italian as welll as an Indian restaurant almost opposite and two pubs within 50 yards of the front door. The main shopping area is little more than a hundred yards away - all very convenient. Our host is a gentleman of indeterminate age, but we reckon he is slightly older than us. He offers to dry any wet clothing we may have which is very kind.

We get settled in our room and review the day and week so far. We have had rain everyday except one and the ground has been sodden all the way. Today has been disappointing but the wet windy weather of the last week has worn us down. On the other hand the week has been very rewarding as well with some varied and interesting scenery.. We both agree it has been more enjoyable than 2010's effort.

Market Street in Ulverston
Market Street in Ulverston
The Town House B&B in Ulverston
The Town House B&B in Ulverston

We discuss what to do for the morrow. Our original putative target was Barrow in Furness which is about 15 miles away. Alternatively we could stop short at say Rampside at about 12 miles and get the bus into Barrow. Looming over our discussions like some of the clouds of the previous days is the weather. The forecast is not good. The high winds we've been experiencing from time to time are the advance guard of the remains of Hurricane Irene that battered the Eastern US seaboard all last week [16]. Although most of her energy was expended on bashing North America and crossing the Atlantic she still has plenty of venom for the UK. There is certainly enough for the Met Office to issue a severe weather warning re high winds and rain as the remnants of the hurricane hit North West England; Northern Ireland and Scotland on Friday and Saturday.

This is enough for us. Our low spirits and the prospect of worse weather decide it. We will walk Friday morning and into the early afternoon to Baycliff or thereabouts and get the bus back. He exact finish point will be determined by our progress and the bus timetable. We will then have time to freshen up and go out to enjoy the Last Night Rituals.


Day 7 - Friday 9th September

Ulverston to Bardsea

Day 7 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

The day dawns grey and dull just like every other day of this week. It is warm and not actually raining so that is a bonus. We buy our packed lunches and head for the Tourist Information Centre, Brian is keen to get some more information on a certain Arthur Stanley Jefferson [17]; [18] who was born in the town in 1890. Of course Mr Jefferson is also known as Stan Laurel. We soon find out that the house he was born in still stands a few streets away, and there is a Laurel and Hardy museum in the old Roxy cinema.

We set off for the head of the Ulverston Canal by way of Laurel's birthplace. The clouds start to lower and we get a little drizzle. This spoils a rather good photo opportunity as this end of town is dominated by Hoad Hill and the monument to Sir John Barrow [19]. Sir John had a varied career in Government service in the late 18th and early 19th centuries particularly in the Admiralty. It is perhaps fitting that his monument takes the form of a replica of the famous Eddystone lighthouse that stands off the Devon / Cornwall coast.

We eventually reach the canal basin and set out along the tow path. The canal was built to enable sea going vessels to reach the town docks. The views are not great what with the misty conditions and the chemical plant on the opposite bank. We see occasional remains of wharves as we head towards Canal Foot where the canal reaches the sea. We cross over the lock gates and head for the adjacent pub. In the town it had been quite warm, but as we reached the coast we were exposed to the blast of the wind and there was a noticeable chill in the air. After an expensive cup of tea we set off along the coast - or rather we don't as we have to go inland for half a mile or so past the factory flanking the canal before turning left on a road past some cottages and eventually we have to take to the fields.

Stan Laurel's House
Stan Laurel's House in Ulverston
Plaque on Stan Laurel's House
Plaque on Stan Laurel's House

The path through the fields flanks a large dis-used railway embankment about 200 yards to our left and the field is waterlogged. Just to add to the fun the wind is now blasting full on into our faces. In places the water oozes up past the soles of our boots. After about 10 minutes of plodging through the clarts we approached the gate out of the field and it became much worse. Brian was in front of me at this stage and he suddenly started hugging the gate post. I've heard of tree hugging, but really - gate posts! Brian's version goes as follows

"at the gate I sank in mud that went over the top of my boot - nearly losing my boot altogether. Luckily it was near a gate, and I had to haul myself out of the mud using my arms pulling on the gate post - otherwise I don't know how I would have got out! I cleaned my boots off in the many puddles that we walked through after that."

I admit I did use Brian's misfortune to my advantage by finding a marginally less cloying path out of the field so avoiding a similar fate.

Thankfully the gate gives us entry to a farmyard and onto a footpath that leads to the shore. With terra firma beneath us we make a more comfortable progress to the coast. Our route now takes us along the shore line. The path is sometimes on the shingle foreshore and sometimes threads its way through the adjoining scrubby bushes and could have been a very pleasant walk. Sadly the weather has been getting worse and what could have been lovely is marred by the strong winds and increasing frequency and severity of the rain showers.

We make steady progress along the shore past Conishead Priory - part of which is now home to Manjushri Kadampa Buddist community, who have done much to preserve its structure, and the Kadampa Buddist Temple has been built in the grounds. Near Wadhead Scar we have to leave the coast and climb up and over a hill which adds a little variety to our fare and at least on the way up it gives us a short respite from the wind.

Once over the hill the path runs alongside the road and in the lay-by is a caravan selling teas etc. Sadly the only chairs are outside and exposed to the elements so we stand dripping and steaming as we take out tea. The proprietor doesn't seem well pleased by our presence but says nothing so we stay and finish our tea. During our brief sojourn the latest shower has passed through but the clouds bringing the rain are banked up as far as the eye can see.

The village of Bardsey is about a kilometre away half way up the hill to our right and a bus is due in the next 30 minutes or so, the next one is 2 hours later. Do we plod on into the gale and showers or do we cut our losses and head for home [well the digs really]. With a certain sadness but also a degree of relief we decide to abandon the walk. The prospect of more rain and wind is just too much. When it's raining I can't see much because me specs don't have windscreen wipers, when the rain stops we still can't see much because of the low cloud and mist.

Items From Stan Laurel's House
Items From Stan Laurel's House - In the Laurel & Hardy Museum

We walk up to the village and at about 1pm the walk is over and we await the bus. Thankfully the rain holds off, but we drive through yet another heavy shower on the way back. We get to our digs and strip off our sodden gear. One good thing about our earlier than intended finish is that we have plenty of time to visit the Laurel and Hardy museum. The entrance however proves to be an elusive prey. We eventually find it tucked away at the rear of the building. We spend a good hour or more within the museum watching a couple of their short movies and generally immersing ourselves in their comic genius. The museum is run by a true Son of the Desert who is very knowledgeable about the pair. This museum is worth a visit.

After the museum it is back to the digs for a brief rest before the evening's entertainment. We have a good meal in the restaurant opposite before going to the pub for a libation or two, conversation with the locals and watching the rugby league on the telly. A good end to the week.


Epilogue.

The train ride back to Guiseley passed pleasantly. We caught a through train from Ulverston that deposited us in Manchester around lunch time; change for Leeds and then change for Guiseley to arrive before tea. No standing, no delays and no incidents on the line like last year.

This year's walk should probably be known as the Year of the Curate's Egg. There was much to enjoy and much to detract from that enjoyment or limit its scope. For the most part the walking was easy on well defined paths with only the very occasional short uphill sections.

The countryside we walked through was good with few boring bits [unlike last year]. We had a greater sense of being in the country and to cap it all the views to the horizon were beautiful at times with the South Lakeland Hills providing a fitting backdrop. This year was so very different to last year with its fragmented nature and great lengths of urban walking.

So what stopped us from fully enjoying this year's effort; why the feelings of dissatisfaction? The chief culprit was undoubtedly the weather.

There had been a lot of rain in the week before we left for the Lancashire coast. This got everything nice and wet before we arrived. Then it rained every day we were away, and even on the Sunday where we had a shower free walk with the sun on our back all day there was heavy rain in the early hours and further showers and more persistent rain in the evening and night.

On the other days it was all so variable - glimpses of the sun; winds that got stronger as the week progressed driving the low grey clouds at a great pace across the skies; mist and showers blocking the views.

As we have mentioned in previous years we like to occasionally stretch out on the grass with the sun keeping us nice and warm and just listen to the countryside. Not this year though - plenty of open countryside to lie in - all of it either soaking wet; or waterlogged or flooded!

The adverse weather warning for what would have been the last couple of days just put the tin hat on it all and we gave it up for a bad job. This all sounds very black but at times reality has to kick in. Whilst the conditions were unlikely to be dangerous, they would have been unpleasant and worse than we had experienced during the week. Despite all this the walk was good - it just could have been so much better.

As to going in September again - probably not. Our forays in July and August have usually served up good weather and certainly have been warmer in the evenings. The temptation to change the dates would be to go in June rather than September.