Stage 18

Stage 18

Map of stage 18 Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6
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Getting There - Thursday 28th June 2012

Roger - Letting the train take the strain

It is the end of June so Brian and Roger are on the move again. With no complicating factors to get in the way we are back to the old routine and off walking. Along with the shift back to mid-summer comes the hope that the weather will be kinder, although records will later show that June 2012 has been one of the wettest since records began.

Once again I set off for Guiseley to meet up with Brian, we are scheduled to catch a train at about 1.30pm, and with changes at Shipley and Carnforth we will get to Ulverston by 4pm. The journey is uneventful although as we pass through North Yorkshire the mother and father of all thunderstorms rocks the Pennines and deposits an awful lot of rain on the hills and our little train. We are unperturbed by all this as we sit snug and dry, well dry after we shut the windows.

All our connections work and we duly arrive on time at Ulverston, there is even an empty cab parked up as if just for us. The female cabbie asks us where we are going before saying she was free. Our trip out Bardsea will enable her to get home in time to make her family's tea. During our ride we chat about this and that including the weather. Apparently the thunder storm that had clobbered us an hour or so ago had passed over Ulverston and had caused the traffic to stop in places.

We are booked into the Bradylls Arms for the night and find it is shut when we arrived. The only response to our knocking is to be stared at from an upper window by a slightly bored looking greyhound. This is a bit disconcerting as we had confirmed our booking only two days earlier. We take comfort in the fact that a board outside is advertising meals served from 5.30pm about an hour away. We walk the hundred yards or so to the other pub in the village but that too is closed. We make our back to the Bradylls and take up residence on the patio at the rear. We are rewarded with some rather pleasant views across the fields to the sea beyond.

Just before five we hear a car pull up so We walk round to the front and knock on the door again. Eventually it is opened and we introduce ourselves. Our host seems more interested in having his tea than sorting us out - all a little strange. We are shown to a pleasant room, get settled in and at about six go down for our evening meal. The pub is very quiet - just us two and a couple of locals.

The meal is very satisfying and the beer good. We are asked what time we would like breakfast and decide on 8am. Then we retire to the bar to watch the European Football semi-final between Germany and England's conquerors in the previous round Italy. Italy prove the form book and pundits wrong by taking a 2-0 lead by half time. It is a good game and Italy are just too good for Germany who get a late goal to make the end a little more interesting.

After the match we retire to our room confirming we would like breakfast at 8am the next morning.

Day 1 - Friday, 29th June 2012

Bardsea to Barrow

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

All too soon the alarm goes off in the morning. We pack our bags and go down for breakfast. That is when things start to go pear shaped. We are the only ones stirring. We try knocking on the door leading to the bar; we try knocking on what appears to be the door to the staff living quarters upstairs; we try ringing the front door bell and even phoning the place - all to no avail. Nothing was stirring except our hunger pangs and a growing realisation we may have to leave without breakfast. At 8.45 we give it up as a bad job; write a cheque for the cost of accommodation and slide it under the bar door and depart.

We are fortunate in one respect however - we did bring Friday's lunch with us. It will have to do for breakfast, and by lunchtime we should have passed a shop in one of the villages between Bardsea and Barrow to restock. Last year we stopped for a cuppa in a roadside cafe/caravan which is no more than a few hundred yards away down by the sea shore. With any luck it will be open and may provide such essentials as bacon butties and cups of tea.

We close the front door [not too gently - we'd hate for the door to remain open so thieves could get in] and set off down the hill to the coast road, cafe and hopefully breakfast. In the event we find the coast road and the cafe but no breakfast as the cafe is shut. We make do with our lunch to see us on our way and the walk can finally commence.

The weather is dry, but windy. The early morning rain has blown over and we make steady progress along the foreshore. Sometimes we are on the shingle and at others we are on the short grass that flanks the shingle. From time to time we have to cross very small "streams" draining the land to our right. In normal times these would probably be only inches wide and not provoke any comment. Today they are one to two feet wide and require more attention.

Despite the strong winds blowing into our faces we make steady progress along the foreshore. After Sea Wood we are forced onto the shingle which is somewhat more uncomfortable. And we are also approaching an area where we may have to take to the road. Between Maskel Point and Moat Scar the sea may cover the foreshore at high tide according to a path leaflet we have picked up. We pass some chalets hard by the shingle beach either side of Maskel Point and the tide is definitely coming in. There is a clear path at the moment along the rock strewn foreshore but we decide not to risk being caught by the tide. We retrace our steps and find a gap in the fence by the more northerly chalets and take to the lane leading up to Baycliff

The lane heads inland and uphill to the main coast road. On the way one of the dips in the otherwise unrelenting climb up is flooded for about 50 yards. Fortunately it is not too deep although some water does get into Brian's boots. We pass a small row of cottages and a lady waves to us from the porch. I wave back and that prompts her to pop outside and we have a brief chat about the weather, rain and walking.

After about a half mile we join the coast road and turn left for Rampside and eventually Barrow. The road is not too busy and we get some respite from the breeze which has been getting a bit stronger as the day has progressed. The road twists and turns and bends and dips its way past Aldingham and several farms. The clouds scuttle hurriedly across the sky on the breeze and we are generally enjoying pretty good walking weather - no rain; a little sun and not too hot nor too cold. The only wish would be that the wind was from our stern quarter rather than from the port bow.

We eventually re-join the coast at Newbiggin and feel the full force of the wind for the first time in an hour or so. It feels much stronger than earlier. By the time we reach Roosebeck we have a bit of a promenade to walk along - nothing too grand, nothing more than a bit of a wall between the footpath and the beach about ten feet below us to our left. The wind is definitely making our lives uncomfortable now. It is very strong - strong enough for us to feel it slowing us down. It is also whipping up the sand from the beach and throwing it into our faces with all the efficiency of a shot blasting machine. We both cross to the other side of the road to get the sand out of our faces but with only limited success. Walney Island and the smaller Roa Island are now much bigger on our horizons along with the large buildings that make up the Vickers plant in Barrow itself. We can still just about make out the block that is Heysham Power Station far away to our left.

Some 500 yards or so past Roosebeck we get some relief from the wind as the road and beach gradually part company - first 10 yards; then 20; 30 and within a quarter mile a dizzying 50yard gap is between us and the beach. More importantly some bushes are now providing shelter from the wind and sand. We espy a bench looking out to sea and head straight for it for a short break. Despite the proximity of the bushes it is still quite breezy but much more pleasant than 20 minutes before. I also take the opportunity to indulge one of our great pleasures when walking - one that has been denied to us for a long time. I find a stretch of short, dry grass to stretch out on! Oh this feels so good. I try to remember the last time we've been able to do this - probably somewhere near Avonmouth Docks. Brian decides to stay on the bench and all too soon we have to move. I struggle to my feet and go through the rituals of checking all is present and correct. I can't find my mobile phone and I am having dark thoughts of having to retrace our steps to find it when I hear it ringing. Brian has saved the day by phoning me and we find it on the grass under the bench.

We continue up the gentle rise and come to a roundabout and start an equally gentle descent into Rampside. Rearing out of the salt marsh in front of us is the most slender of lighthouses which is also known as The Needle, It was built in the 19th century.

The Needle At Rampside
The Needle At Rampside

We are still keeping a weather eye open for a cafe or shop to provide us with lunch but have to go right to the far end of Rampside to find either. We elect to go to the Concle Inn rather than the shop where we are soon enjoying some tea and conversation with two couples on a day out from Barrow. I am also enjoying a magnificent portion of fruit crumble and custard!

The bar maid also supplies us with a possible derivation of the word "Concle". She believes it refers to a local name for a pond where women in times past would congregate to do their laundry. Another derivation we found is that Concle is a shortened version of "conc hole" which means a deep hole where ships lay at anchor, and indeed there used to be one nearby. But a short way offshore is little Roa Island, and they linked it to the mainland with a causeway. The conc hole then silted up and all that remains of it is Concle Bank to the west of the causeway and the pub with this name. Whatever the derivation, we have found the pub - a Grade 2 listed building from c1800 - to be a welcome and welcoming place to rest.

During our conversation we have gleaned some useful information about Barrow. The tourist information office is right in the town centre and very easy to find. The footpath into town is clearly signed and was formerly a railway line; and yes there are quite a few guest houses, many along Abbey Road. We do not need to worry about having a long walk out to them as there is a frequent bus service along Abbey Road.

So fortified we finally force ourselves to leave the pub and head for Barrow. We quickly find the path which doubles up as a cycle path and we make steady progress. We are sheltered from the worst of the wind and it is now pushing us along rather than being full in the face. The "scenery" is somewhat dull with the gas terminal in front of us; some low lying land leading to the mudflats to our left.

The path deviates from the line of the railway and heads towards the shore as we approach the gas terminal, where gas from the Morecambe Bay and Irish Sea gas fields comes onshore. We get a good view across the mudflats to Walney Island and the distant Barrow Town Centre dominated by the ship building shed and town hall clock tower.

We meet a few walkers; joggers and cyclists on this stretch and after 40 minutes or so are looking out for a bench or somewhere to rest. With the wind now virtually non-existent in our neck of the woods the temperature has risen appreciably. The gas terminal and the adjacent power station offer a little interest but in truth this stretch is a bit boring with its long straight sections of path.

At the town end of the power station we decide to turn left and walk along the sea wall past Roosecote Sands rather than continue ahead past the sewage works. We then turn sharp right and pass between the waste land to our right and the reservoir to our left. In this more exposed area the wind whips across the water to cool us down a little. To our right we see signs of an industrial past with the derelict remains of a few buildings.

We eventually re-join the cycle path and pass beneath the railway line to enter the streets of Barrow. We make our way to the main road and follow it towards the town centre. This part of town is typical Victorian / Edwardian terraced housing and shops with the occasional larger property. We pass under the railway line [again] as it heads for the town centre. Our path leads us to the Strand and the edge of the Barrow Island dock complex where we swing right and after a detour through the supermarket to purchase tomorrow's lunch we are in the town centre. We quickly find the Tourist Information Centre which turns out to be an un-manned space with several computer terminals and the usual collection of leaflets and brochures. This comes as a bit of a disappointment as we had been anticipating a person to help us find some digs. I quickly lose my temper with the computer terminals as they appear to list only one B & B and that is out of town. Brian finds an accommodation list on a sheet of A4 paper pinned to the wall. I phone the Travelodge on the basis that it is on the far side of town and the prices can be reasonable. After 10 minutes on the phone listening to pre-recorded messages and a load of unnecessary information I am finally in a position to book a room. Sadly the individual I speak to is based at the other end of the country and knows nothing of the facilities around the hotel. Very frustrating to say the least!

Brian then suggests we check out the B&B's and we eventually chose one a mile or so out of town on Abbey Road. Brian has also been gathering more information from the guy at the adjacent theatre booking desk. This guy proves to be keen to help and even runs across the road to the bus stop to check which bus we need! Armed with information from the digs - take a bus to the Strawberry pub - and the bus number [Route 1] from our theatre guy we head for the bus stops. Our long-ish warm but wind-blown walk is just about over.

The Number 1 bus duly arrives and the driver tells us he doesn't go past the Strawberry. We need a 6 or 6A from the stop a few yards away. After another 10 minutes we are sat in the bus as the wheels go round. The driver will give us a shout when we reach the Strawberry. Of course this is us and things do not go to plan. After 15 minutes of chugging along Brian notices a big building across a grassy space to our left. Here his study of the maps pays off as he realises we are at the hospital - some distance past our stop. The realisation also dawns on our driver because at the next stop he gets out of his seat and full of apologies tells us that we have indeed gone past the pub. He quickly works out a plan to get us back. This entails going right to the edge of town so we can pick up a No 6 or 6A back.

Eventually a bus comes along to take us back to the Strawberry and, some 40 minutes later than planned we are ringing the doorbell of our digs. Not for the first time since we started this odyssey we have fallen on our feet in finding good digs. We are shown to very spacious and airy room on the first floor with more space than we can shake a stick at. The late afternoon sun is streaming through the large bay window and everything is very comfortable.

View Across Barrow From our Hotel
View Across Barrow From our Hotel

A little later, as we are leaving to toddle off to the Strawberry [all of 150 yards away], we meet our landlord for the first time. He greets us with "Hello. I've seen you before!" This takes us by surprise and we ask him to explain further. Apparently he was one of the cyclists that passed us as we walked by the gas terminal earlier. On arrival at the Strawberry we find a seat in the busy pub and take advantage of their two meals for one offer, consume a couple of pints of good beer before returning to our home for the night. Despite a poor start and an unwanted excursion to the outer limits of Barrow we have had a good day. Let there be more like this!

Day 2 - Saturday, 30th June 2012

Barrow to Kirkby in Furness

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

Brian has been looking at maps. And he thinks he has found a way out of town that will save us some considerable time. Instead of walking or getting a bus back into town we should go back to the Strawberry; turn left at the crossroads there and head out to the golf course by Sowerby Hall, turn left there and make our way to the coast. On the face of it this seems like a good plan and is endorsed by our hosts at breakfast. As well as providing a rather good breakfast we are also given some phone numbers for B & B's near Kirkby in Furness - our target for the day.

We set off and make steady progress along the streets of Barrow. The only fly in the ointment is that our route to the golf course is one long gentle climb. To be fair it is not steep but it is unrelenting for over a mile which makes life tedious. At the golf course there is a fairly steep descent to the main road which we cross and make our way to the foreshore. The foreshore is rocky and pebbly but not difficult. There is a low cliff to our right and we soon leave Barrow and its factories behind. Barrow has been a bit of a revelation and demolished all our preconceptions of it being an industrial blot on the landscape.

The weather has been kind so far as well. We have had a gentle breeze and sunny spells, the tops of the nearby hills are topped with cloud though. We make good progress with pleasant rather than spectacular scenery to enjoy. At one point we pass a virtually intact Second World War pill box on its side on the beach - yet another victim of coastal erosion.

After about three quarters of a mile we leave the foreshore and take to the field edges skirting the large expanse of sand known as Scarth Bight. The map suggests we could cross the Bight to reach the dunes at Sandscale Haws. We don't fancy that at all, especially being ignorant of the tide times! The fine weather of the last day and a half cannot disguise the fact there has been a lot of rain in the last few weeks as the fields have many large puddles. The path itself isn't muddy though which is a blessing.

Our immediate target is the car park at the end of Hawthwaite Lane at the northern end of Sandscale Haws Dunes. The maps suggest there are several possible routes available to us:

We really don't fancy walking through the dunes and the beach on the far side is also un-appealing. So we take to the fields. The paths are not clear at all. Judging by some of the plants the ground would, even in normal times, be marshy / wet. Today it is squelchy in the bits that would normally be considered dry and flooded for the rest. We spend about 15 minutes trying to plot a course through this field and are forced to give it up. We retire to the path at the field edge and are just about resigned to having to go through the dunes or use the beach when we spot a jogger making good progress along the base of the dunes. He disappears a couple of times as his route goes through the "foothills", but there must be a good path over there.

Buoyed up by this vision we head in his general direction and within 5 minutes we pass each other. Our problems are not over however as we lack the local knowledge to actually follow the path he took. There are no distinct trails to follow. Although the ground is pretty dry we take a meandering path towards our goal. About two thirds of the way across we meet a bloke out walking his dog who suggests we follow the line of the trees "over there rather than the path 'cos it gets very wet a few yards further on". Yet more wandering around and we are left with the impression that the proposed cure must be worse than the original condition.

Eventually we get to the far side. It has taken us 50 minutes to cover this mile and a quarter and we are thoroughly fed up with it. We have survived though and the only casualty is my injured pride after slipping on a muddy adverse camber. As we take a few minutes break at the stile to plot our next steps we are passed by our jogger on his way home.

The car park is about half full and there are a few people around making ready to go to the adjacent beach or the dunes or the small lake behind some trees. There are several information boards describing the local area and what flora and fauna to look out for. Access to the beach is along a boarded path past some ponds and alongside a stream swollen by the recent rains. There is no bridge over this stream and we ask a couple also on their way to the beach where to cross it. They say that it is a simple matter to cross the stream once on the beach.

Feeling slightly more confident we go down to the beach and search out a crossing point. This is a little more difficult than we had hoped but after five minutes or so we find a wider shallower section we are able to paddle through without flooding our boots. With the stream behind us we can head off to Askam in Furness.

The sand is wet and firm and makes for easy walking. The only problem is crossing some quite large "streams" crossing the beach on their way to the sea. Although not as wide or deep as the one at the start of the beach they have been swollen by the recent rains. We avoid having to paddle through them but do have to jump one or two of them. One of the distant mountains is The Old Man of Coniston, but to be fair we haven't a clue which one. The walk is very pleasant and we see plenty of worm casts and assorted animal footsteps as well as the odd crab. The walk is quite popular as well and we see a dozen or so others enjoying the fresh air and views.

Askam sits on top of a low earth promontory and as we approach we can see a series of paths climbing to the edge of the town. In front of us is a pier or breakwater which spans part of the beach allowing a possible path to the other side. We decide to go through the town of Askam rather than stay on the beach. We would like somewhere to sit and eat our lunch; and a cafe or pub would be most welcome for a cuppa or glass of squash.

We climb up the 50 - 100 feet to the cliff top road and really don't know which way to go! We are on the edge of a post war housing estate and no obvious route. We ask a couple of locals the best way to the town centre and follow their instructions. Askam is a small place and the town centre is a relatively short length of shops a few hundred yards from the train station. We do find a bench though where we tuck into our lunch. As we sit and munch a few drops of rain fall but it doesn't amount to anything.

We then head toward the railway station seeking out the so far elusive pub or cafe. Opposite the station we find a spot of gold in the form of a small cafe called Granny's Kitchen. They do a wonderful apple pie and fly pie. The tea ain't bad either. We eventually take our leave and head back towards the coast along terraced streets and a couple of pubs that are resolutely shut. No lunch time trade here then. We pass a sports club and return to the beach. Our diversion through Askam - apart from Granny's Kitchen has been disappointing. We both wonder if staying on the beach wouldn't have been the better option.

We return to the beach and head towards Dunnerholme, a small promontory about a mile away. The terrain is a mixture of shingle and firm damp sand so not too bad for walking. To our right the low earth bank protects the fields and golf course with the mountains as a backdrop. To our left we have good views of the Duddon Estuary and the cloud capped hills on the far shore.

At Dunnerholme we leave the beach; traverse a narrow strip of marshy ground that is not too boggy and head across the golf course. We take advantage of a conveniently positioned bench on the golf course to take stock and a brief rest. We also start to phone the B&B's in the Kirkby-in-Furness area that have made their way onto our little list. This proves to be a fruitless exercise - each and every one of them reports as being full. This is a bit of a blow as our options are pretty limited. Walking beyond Kirkby is an option but the villages look even smaller and we have no information as to accommodation. We saw nothing as we walked through Askam.

In the end we decide to phone our hosts of last night in Barrow to see if they can oblige. Thankfully they can and we now have a plan. We will walk onto Kirkby and get the train back to Barrow. Sunday morning we will get the train back and resume our walk. With accommodation settled we set off with a somewhat lighter step.

Sadly the golf course runs out on the far edge of Dunnerholme. The neatly manicured fairways and paths are replaced by boggy, unkempt fields with scrubby thorn bushes bent by the wind. The next hour or so is pretty grim as we try to find a sensible path through the mess. The map suggests there is a path but its line is lost in the long-ish grass and puddles. The path stays on the seaward side of the railway all the way into Kirkby but we soon abandon that route. There is an alternative that crosses the railway and picks up on some farm access roads that lead to a proper road into Kirkby. It may be a little further but we will have a firm surface most of the way. We find the pedestrian crossing over the railway and are into a field with somewhat shorter grass [good] but with cows [bad].

The field has been churned up very badly in parts by the beasts' hooves and after the recent wet weather the field is for the most part a collection of large areas of muddy squelchy smelly goo. Fortunately we are able to weave a path across the fields to avoid the worst of it. It is with some relief we hit the firmer surfaces of the farm tracks. We pass by Cart House and Carl Cross on our way to Soutergate. This last bit has been steadily uphill which after the drag through the mud seems twice as bad as it actually is. We briefly join the main road before taking a by-way that will lead us down to Kirkby station. We arrive in plenty of time for our train and it is whilst waiting for our train from Millom I make bit of a discovery - my semi-bored perusal of the timetable posted at the station clearly states there are no trains between Barrow and Millom on a Sunday. I pull the pocket timetable from my pack and yes it is true. To this day I do not know how I misread the thing on the golf course. [Answers on a postcard please ...]

All our carefully crafted plans now have a big hole in them. Brian takes the news far better than I thought he would - no tantrums or recriminations. The train duly arrives and on arrival we make our way out of the station to spot a statue of the late great Emlyn Hughes - one time England and Liverpool captain and son of Barrow. link

Statue of Emlyn Hughes
Statue of Emlyn Hughes (Liverpol FC and England)

The station is closer to town than our digs so we catch a bus and get off at the right stop. Once at the digs we find ourselves in the same room we had the previous night. Our hosts sympathise with our problem over accommodation and in their view they think quite a few places do a good trade in the week and take the weekend off. Apparently there are a lot of contractors in the area working in Barrow; Sellafield and other places. They also hint that they might give us a lift part way on the morrow. We get cleaned up and are soon on the phones to loved ones asking for help to find accommodation in the Millom and Broughton areas as well as checking out for buses to Kirkby on Sunday morning. We repair to the Strawberry for another excellent meal. By bedtime we have some good news and some bad news. Our loved ones have been able to furnish us with a number of B & B's, but have drawn a blank on bus services. It seems there are no buses or trains between Barrow and Kirkby / Millom on a Sunday.

Day 3 - Sunday, 1st July 2012:

Kirkby in Furness to Broughton

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

Over breakfast we get to chatting with our hosts about the difficulties of Sunday travel and accommodation. We have decided one thing though - Broughton is our target rather than Millom. We feel that Millom is a step too far given that we are likely to have a late start because of the travel difficulties. In the general chit chat Mr Host suddenly becomes very excited saying "there is bus - I've seen a timetable somewhere"

He scurries around the house looking amongst various piles of information leaflets and is soon back brandishing the timetable. Route 7B on a Sunday provides about 5 buses between Barrow to Millom via Kirkby! Problem solved - the first leaves in just over the hour and we will be able to catch it at a crossroads about half way to the golf course we passed yesterday. Our hosts go further and book us into the Black Cock Inn at Broughton! There is also a multi-award winning pub - the Mason's Arms that sells the best kept beer in Cumbria - we'll have time to visit that as well. The first part is done - all we have to do now is get to the bus stop.....

We get to the crossroads with about 10 minutes to spare and are immediately handed a problem - which stop will the bus call at. There are two on separate approach roads to the crossroads. We decide to man one each and watch for the bus to come. The arrival time passes and no bus. Then a couple of minutes later we both spot a bus; it's not coming down either of the roads we're watching but that road over there. It swings round the corner and sails past on the opposite side of the road I am watching before we have time to react! I catch a brief glimpse of the number displayed on the back panel - 7B.... We've missed the bus!

We re-join each other and have a brief inquest. Where is the bus stop? The two we have been guarding are very clearly marked with signs on posts etc. Opposite my stop there are no such things. We cross the road and examine the lay-by there to find in much faded white lettering the words "Bus Stop".

There is little we can do except consult the timetable and ascertain the next one will be along in 2 hours time. The prospect of standing on this corner for two hours is a somewhat dis-heartening but then Brian has one of his moments of brilliance and says we should go to the hospital about half a mile away. I know we are both sick as parrots but they can't treat that! Brian tells me stop being silly and think. Big hospitals usually have a cafe and that is just what we are wanting - somewhere warm and dry to sit down. Also just getting there will occupy some of the time we have to wait. We check the timetable to ensure the bus stops at the hospital and off we go. Before entering the hospital we seek the exact location of the bus stop, even getting a local to confirm it is the one. Belt and braces with a touch of overkill certainly but to miss two buses would be just plain stupid!

In due course we are sitting in the hospital's cafe sipping tea secure in the knowledge that we know where the bus stop is. Shortly after we arrive the cafe starts to prepare the lunch options which are very tempting. We hold strong however and will eat our sandwiches later.

At the appointed hour we leave the hospital and, two hours late, we catch the bus. We ask the driver to tip us the nod when we arrive in Kirkby which starts an interesting dialogue between driver and passengers. Our lady driver informs us that it is only the second time she's done the route despite asking for more training. She also asks for help from the regulars as she got lost the first time she drove the route. One or two of the passengers behind us replied "We know, we were with you then!"

At this I see Brian reaching for the map and closely follow the route we are taking. Despite the driver's concerns she needs no help as far as Kirkby and we are deposited in the centre of the village on the main road.

It is but a few minutes' walk down the hill to the railway station and our day's walk can start in earnest. It is overcast with a cool breeze and once again the hill tops are capped by clouds. The OS map shows several rights of way across Duddon Sands to Angerton and Foxfield - it also shows in letters writ large that the sands can be dangerous and local advice should be sought. We decide to do without the local advice and head out of Kirkby down the quiet road towards Foxfield. There will be a little field walking but in the main we will be on lanes till then. The walking is uneventful - virtually no traffic to disturb us; the cross country section is very soft and wet underfoot - hardly surprising after all the rain in the last week or two. The immediate countryside is flat and we can see Millom on the far shore. It is less than four miles away across the sands but nearly 13 via the lowest truly safe crossing point at Duddon Bridge. The whole panorama is surrounded by the Cumbrian Mountains with their cloud caps.

We leave Foxfield by taking a path over the hill towards Boothwaite Nook in preference to staying at a relatively low level by taking the main A595 road and then a minor road to Broughton. As we climb towards the summit we are rewarded with some lovely views up the valley. We take a break on a big pile of logs and in conversation with some others out for a walk we get another glowing endorsement for the beer in the Mason's Arms in Broughton. Despite being the largest hill so far the climb is fairly gentle with only a few steep bits. The only thing missing is a drop of sunshine to cast a warm glow across the countryside. We pass through a farm and the rough track is replaced by a lane. We turn left at the end and make our way toward Broughton. The lane twists and dips and climbs its way forward. At one point we skirt a marvellously manicured meadow in front of a large-ish house. There are several bee hives at one end of the meadow.

Our arrival in Broughton is climaxed by immediately finding the Masons Arms. This is a wonderful pub with a large selection of real beer available. The walls are festooned with a shed load of Pub of the Year awards going back to 1993. We sample a couple of the local beers with the Yate's Bitter just shading the Cumberland Corby Blonde in my taste stakes. We get chatting to the other imbibers and we are informed that the local in Foxfield is almost as good as this one. It is probably a good thing that our path out of Foxfield meant we missed it.

With a tinge of regret we leave the Masons and head to our digs, another old pub just around the corner. The pub would be described as old with many charming period features. I would describe it as a death trap with its low beams and lintels cunningly positioned to scalp or decapitate any one over 5foot ten. Someone is out to get me. Our room is quite small but adequate [we really were spoilt in Barrow], we repair to the bar for our evening meal and a couple of pints with the intention of maybe returning to the Masons. In the event we stayed put and retired fairly early to watch Spain hammer Italy 4 - 0 in the European Championship final.

The Black Cock Inn at Broughton
The Black Cock Inn at Broughton

Day 4 - Monday, 2nd July 2012

Broughton to Millom

Day 4 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

We wake up to slate grey clouds and the sound of rain falling. Breakfast is pretty good and I manage to negotiate the beams and lintels without bashing my head. After breakfast we pack up and get ready to depart. Unfortunately there is nobody to take the room keys. We leave them on the bar and head for the shops to get lunch. The small grocer's doesn't stock sandwiches and there is a pretty poor selection of what could be called picnic items. The staff are helpful though and are able to cut the fruited bread buns we've bought; this coupled with some fruit and cheese slices will suffice. The rain has stopped but there is a fairly heavy drizzle to contend with. Today will see a fair amount of road walking - thankfully most of it off the main A595

Broughton is a pretty little place but not at its best on this grey drizzly morning. We drop down to cross the stream that runs through the village then climb out towards the main road where we promptly drop down towards the Duddon. Fortunately we have but a short section actually on the road before taking to the fields for a few hundred yards en-route to Duddon Bridge.

As expected the fields are sodden and marshy but it is good to be off the road. All too soon we are back on the main road and have to negotiate the right angle bends that take the road over the bridge and on towards Millom. We are now faced with a decision - use the roads all the way to Millom or take to paths through the tree covered hillside to our right for about 700 yards before re-joining the main road and then picking up one of the paths across the fields to join the lanes to Hallthwaite.

Given the conditions it is a bit of a no brainer and we stay on the main road for the 500 or so yards to the lane for Hallthwaite. The weather has become worse with drizzle now turned into real rain. The main road is not the easiest to walk as it is cut into the hillside. There are no verges to speak of so we just follow the twists and turns and ups and downs with a steady flow of traffic with few really large lorries to contend with.

We are relieved when we can finally leave it behind us at Holme and head down the lane to Low Bog House and Lady Hall. The views, on a fine day would have been quite good away to our left across the marshes and river towards Kirkby and the hills beyond but today the visibility is poor and the hill tops across the estuary are covered in mist and cloud. We spot two trains as they rumble over the viaduct leading to Foxfield station. They look almost romantic as they make their way through the fine mist and rain. The weather is wet - frequently changing from no rain to drizzle and full rain and back with monotonous regularity. We are very wet but amazingly not too miserable!

The lane carries us on its meandering way towards The Green with the occasional steep hill to negotiate. At one point Brian espies a waterwheel along one of the side lanes we pass. Each of the rivers and streams we cross are very full as they rush noisily on their way to the sea.

We take our lunch in the waiting room at Green Road Station. We have to sit on the cold damp floor as the only seats are outside. Fortunately our wet morning turns into a dry afternoon for the walk into Millom. We are now on wide gravel track that runs parallel to the railway line into Millom. We are right down by Millom Marshes hereabouts and we get the feeling that this could be a pretty bleak place in winter. We pass one guy walking his dog and exchange greetings. We try to decide if he is the only person we've seen since leaving Broughton [except drivers and their passengers].

Eventually our track, which glories in the name of Aggies Lonnen, deposits us on the main road on the outskirts of Millom. We head towards the town centre and Tourist Information Centre playing our favourite game at the end of a day's walk - I Spy the Places to Eat and Stay - as we go along. In the event we fail to spy anywhere to eat or stay. We pass two pubs [closed]; the station and supermarket before reaching the town square with an Italian and Indian restaurants, banks and shops.

The Tourist Information Centre is just past the square. It is early - not even 2pm - so we should not have too much difficulty getting in to a B & B provided there are some. One problem is that this TIC does not provide a booking service, however lovely ladies on duty can provide us with a list of B & B's in Millom. They also confirm our fears by saying there are no B & B's within the next 4 or 5 miles, the nearest being at Silecroft some seven miles away.

Armed with our little list we leave and walk back to the Bridge Cafe a hundred yards away to have a nice cup of tea and a think. We kick our options around for a while and also get chatting to one of the patrons, a gentleman waiting for his wife to arrive. The gent is a mine of information. He and his wife are regular visitors to Millom over many years and he is able to confirm what we were told about the scarcity of local accommodation once out of Millom [which is hardly bursting at the seams with guest houses and the like]. He also informs us that Millom holds a place of high esteem in Rugby League circles. This surprises both of us but Millom Rugby League club is the oldest amateur club in the world. link

During all this chat his wife arrives and joins in before they have to leave. We then get back to the subject in hand - what to do next. We decide to stay in Millom and after a number of phone calls get booked into the Pavilion Guest House - a few hundred yards away over the railway line.

We finish our tea and head off for our digs. We are met by a young lad who shows us to our room which is quite large and looks comfortable enough. He tells us to ask if we need anything and he hopes he can help us as he doesn't usually do this. He is standing in for his granny who has gone away for a few days.

From our room window we get a good view of the cricket club's ground across the road. This will serve as our rainwater gauge for the next few days. We passed the ground on our way to the digs and the square was covered in water. Later when we left our digs to explore the town the level had fallen and most of the square was visible - a big improvement.

Our early arrival in Millom also gives us plenty of time to explore after we've rested and showered and changed. We head off to town to find somewhere to eat. The Bridge Cafe does not open in the evening; the Italian restaurant will not open tonight, but the Indian will. The pub on the square looks very shut and unlikely to open. We take to some of the streets behind the square and find a chippy [closed]; Chinese takeaway [closed] and a few shops. The terraced houses on these streets look as though they have seen better days, we get a feeling that Millom is not the hive of activity it used to be.

We dine at the Indian restaurant and then make our way back to our digs via the supermarket. We get chatting to one of the assistants and she tells us she doesn't know much about any of the pubs in town because she and her friends always go out of town for a drink!

Once back at the digs we discuss plans for the next day. We have one possible place to stay in Silecroft which is less than 7 miles away. From what we know there is unlikely to be any other accommodation beyond there until Ravenglass. Also the distances are somewhat daunting. Ravenglass via the coast is 21.5 miles away courtesy of the River Esk which forces a massive detour inland. No doubt the inland journey would be shorter, but it would involve walking on the roads just about all the way.

In the event we decide to use the coast railway and book another night in Millom; if they will have us. At this point we are not sure whether we'll go to Silecroft or Bootle station about 12 - 13 miles from Millom. Tomorrow can decide that. [Bootle station is in fact at Hycemoor - more than a mile from Bootle!]

Day 5 - Tuesday, 3rd July 2012

Millom to Bootle [Station]

Day 5 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

Our rain gauge indicates that there has been a lot of rain overnight as the square is totally covered with water again. Breakfast is good and we arrange to stay an extra night. Apparently we should have been here last week as our rain gauge went off the scale with not only the square covered in water but the covers parked on the Square Leg boundary afloat!

Our call at the supermarket for provisions means that it is nearly 10 o'clock before we leave. I am still having difficulty getting my head around the geography of Millom. I want us to go past the square and keep walking in a straight line, but Brian and others say no, we must turn right a few hundred yards past the square. Feeling somewhat confused I do as I'm told and we turn right. Which is, of course, the right and proper thing to do.

After about 40 minutes walking we arrive at the Millom Lagoon or more correctly Hodbarrow Lagoon. This is a large man made enclosed area of water created when the pumps in the nearby iron ore mines were turned off. It is now an RSPB protected

Our path takes us through the bushes at the water's edge before taking to a section of road that leads to the coast at the Western edge of the lagoon. The breeze off the sea makes a refreshing change after the humidity walking out of town and around the lagoon.

It is but a short walk to Haverigg - the name derives from the old Norse language and can be translated as 'the hill where oats are grown'. From the coast we may see the hill but not any oats being grown [or sown!]. We have a short inland detour past some modern flats and houses to cross the small harbour which is playing host to a few small pleasure craft. Once on the other side of the harbour we go back to the coast and take our ease on one of the benches overlooking the sand banks and mud flats of the Duddon Estuary.

There are a large number of birds on the water and the sandbanks. Our ears are gently assailed by their songs, and just to our left, about 200 yards away, is a flock of large white birds swimming on the calm water. They are too far away to identify but are big enough to be geese or swans. Across the estuary we can make out Barrow.

Haverigg's Statue 'EscapeToLight'
Haverigg's Statue 'EscapeToLight'

Near where we are resting is an interesting piece of sculpture dedicated to all Inshore Rescue Teams in the UK. It is the 7 tonne sculpture 'Escape to Light' by the world famous sculptress Josefina de Vasconcellos. It was installed near to the Haverigg Inshore Rescue station in 2003 being originally sited at Rydal Hall Gardens.

After our rest we take to the beach leaving Haverigg behind us. The beach starts out firm and sandy but eventually turns to shingle which is much tougher going. The day is so much better than yesterday. It is really warm and the sun makes occasional appearances to lift our spirits further. Only the very tops of the distant hills are wearing their cloud caps.

A short way into the shingle finds Roger shedding his over-shirt as the sun begins to beat down almost as hot as our memories from previous years. We are due another break and find ourselves relaxing on the shingle, in the warm sunshine being serenaded by the gentle song of the sea as the waves reach the shore. We have not been able to relax like this in a "rural" environment for several years - probably not since we left Somerset several years ago.

By about 1 o'clock we are at the first decision point of the day. We are atop the clay cliffs at the end of the lane that leads to Silecroft having just climbed up the path. We both agree it is far too early to get the train back to Millom, but where does our path lie. Before climbing up to the cliff top I couldn't see where the beach walk was leading us. Some way in the distance - maybe 3 or 4 miles - it looks as though there is no beach to walk on to get around the cliffs. . From our vantage point at the top of the cliffs things are a little clearer though and the beach seems to be pretty continuous way beyond the contentious cliffs. At some point we do need to get on top of the cliffs though and it would be nice to start right here. Sadly the local golf course is in the way and the map shows no path. Brian does find a possible way up about two miles further along the beach at Gutterby Spa.

Having sorted out the lie of the land we decide to make Bootle Station out target for the day, so it's back to the shingle. The receding tide though makes life somewhat easier as there are longish patches of damp firm sand to walk on. On the downside however the sun has gone and it is becoming more humid. We eventually reach Gutterby Spa and find our access to the cliff top in the form of a rock and pebble strewn gulley. It is quite a steep climb on a very uneven surface. Not a pleasant experience at all. Eventually after much puffing and blowing we reach the gate at the top and the views up and down the coast just about make the effort worthwhile.

We set off along the cliff tops and apart from the very wet ground is a really pleasant experience - some proper cliff top walking. So much of our walking in the last few years has been at low level. Our route is a bit zig-zaggy though as we have to walk around some large puddles and small areas of decidedly squelchy grass. We meet a group of walkers going the other way and get chatting. One bit of good news is that the rail bridge over the River Esk to the South of the Ravenglass has recently had a footpath section bolted to one side. This is really good news as it will give us a direct route into Ravenglass avoiding that long detour inland. Things are looking up and we may well fulfil the dream we had in Barrow of maybe finishing with the Cumbrian coast this year. After getting our new found friends to confirm the presence of the footpath on the southern railway bridge we go our separate ways.

As we approach Annaside we have a bit of a decision to make. There is a footpath all along the coast to Selker where we can pick up a lane to take us inland to Bootle Station. So far so good, but we do have to cross the River Annas. The map suggests that there is a crossing place, but does not show a bridge..... With the amount of water lying in and on the fields this river is certain to be higher than usual. The alternative is to take route that crosses the river on real bridges via the lanes and roads to Annaside and then onto Bootle Station.

Discretion wins the day and we head toward Annaside. When we get there we lose our way at a bit as we go straight on instead of turning left at a bit of a cross roads amongst the farms that comprise Annaside. This little detour costs us no more than 10 minutes though. We then come to the next obstacle - the bridge over the Annan. The bridge is not the obstacle but some friendly person has put up a sign at the road side stating that the bridge is private property and only authorised people are allowed to use it. This is, to put it politely , a bit of a bummer. There is finger post indicating a footpath in the general direction of the coast we left behind some 30 minutes ago.

We get about 10 yards into this field when I am attacked by a soap box moment and have a rant about the absurdity of the situation. No unauthorised access across a bridge that links two bits of public road in the middle of nowhere! This rant obviously affects me as I develop amnesia and that rare medical condition known as "What sign? I can't see a sign". Brian is not too convinced by this sudden deterioration in my eyesight but I manage to persuade him that we will cross the bridge and argue the toss if challenged. I think I have a clinching argument if we are challenged after crossing the bridge - we will not go back because we do not want our combined weight of 40 stones [including packs and packaging] to further damage their very solid looking bridge. In the event we are not challenged and make a steady and serene progress past the next farm and on towards Hyton and Syke Beck Farm where our progress is stopped by 30 or 40 cows coming in for milking. After Syke Beck I seem to find a spurt of energy and start setting the pace in quite a frightening and unusual manner. Brian has been saying for some time he will not be rushing just to catch a damn train - a sentiment I publicly agreed with. I felt a little bit guilty about this later but we did arrive at the station [which I assured Brian was "just around the corner" on at least three occasions] with about 7 minutes to spare. Ironically the train was about 10 minutes late.

This evening we dine at the Italian restaurant and enjoy it very much. Our chief topic of conversation is what to do for the next few days. The weather has been a concern for some time. Although we have had only one wet day for walking there has been rain everyday - usually in the evening or overnight. 2012 has been the wettest year for many a year and this continual topping up of rain has left the land very wet. The weather forecasts for the last few days have been discouraging to say the least. A yellow severe wet weather warning for Cumbria has been in force for several days now with the prediction this could be raised to Amber by Friday. As ever in these situations we adopt a wait and see attitude but we are both wondering if the weather will force our hand again and cause us to curtail the walk. This is all so different to the relative optimism of walking on to Silloth and beyond we had entertained a few days earlier.

Day 6 - Wednesday, 4th July 2012

Bootle [Station] to River Esk [Ravenglass]

Day 6 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

After another pretty good breakfast we head for the supermarket to get our lunch and head for the station. There has been more overnight rain and the cricket ground rain gauge reflects the additional water. Our train arrives pretty much on time and just before 10am we are ready to set off from Bootle Station and the coast.

There will be a lot of road walking today but it is all on country lanes so we do not expect much traffic. The walk out to Stubb Place is pleasant enough but quite humid. There is 10/10 cloud cover but it is not raining. We start to speculate as to how far we may get - Drigg is about 9 miles and Seascale is about 12. Both are possible contenders.

At Stubb Place the road reaches the sea and turns sharp right. There is a bit of a shingle beach and quite a wide foreshore. There are even a couple of benches to sit on. We take a short break and allow the cool breeze to wash over us, The sea is calmer than yesterday and the breeze has lowered the humidity considerable.

We head north - still on the road - towards Eskmeals range. The military are playing with their guns as we hear the sporadic crump of the weapons in the distance. The next hour or so is quite boring. To our left the view is obscured by trees and hedges inside the range's tall fence. In parts we can see a perimeter road but nothing is moving there. Our lane has been as quiet as church mice with no more than a handful of vehicles to disturb the peace. To our right the land is pretty flat to the hills some 3 - 4 miles away who still sport their off-white wooly caps.

As we go further north the hills recede a little and we can make out the Esk valley running up between them. From our viewpoint it looks as though a shower of rain is moving up the valley. Eventually we pass some cottages to our right and the railway line runs close to lane. The ranges have fallen silent. We start to keep a watch out for the access to the railway so we can use the recently constructed footbridge extension to the railway bridge. We are to be disappointed. All we see is a locked gate giving access to the railway and a sharp right hand bend as the lane avoids the river estuary in front of us. There are also a couple of teenagers looking at something with an interested air.

We head for the bend and the cause of the interest is readily apparent. The river has burst its banks and the lane and adjacent land for some 50 yards that we can see is flooded. Our route is totally blocked. By now another local has joined us and we ask about the footbridge over the river. Our earlier information is false. A footpath extension was strapped onto the side of the railway bridge at Ravenglass, but not this one - it's attached to the Northern bridge over the River Mite, and not this Southern bridge over the Esk. Our plans have been dashed. The only way over the Esk is the inland detour beyond Hall Walberthwaite. This will mean a trek of over three miles there and three miles back. Of course, as the Irish would say, "If you're going there I wouldn't start from here" Indeed this was very true if we had known about the non-existent footbridge we would not have come past the ranges at all.

Impassable road, as river Esk has broken its banks south of Ravenglass
Impassable road, as river Esk has broken its banks
south of Ravenglass

We examine the situation in some detail before deciding what to do. The flood is at its worst under the bridge with not a bit of dry land between the bridge abutment and the river. It is too deep to ford with the depth marker post at the side of the road suggesting it is 2 metres deep. [It's obviously a regular place for flooding] The locals have heard tales of folk occasionally trespassing on the railway to cross the river, but [of course] they don't recommend it and have never done so. While all this is going on several cars pull up and turn around and a man in a small rowing boat arrives on the scene. The teenagers take off shoes and socks and clamber in once a suitable pick up point has been identified. The boat promptly heads for the far shore.

That leaves Brian and I to ponder our futures. I am thoroughly dejected and can see little further than going back to Bootle Station and getting the train to Ravenglass. Even that is not ideal as it took us about 2 hours to reach here. Brian is reluctant to do this but he too is disappointed [to put it mildly] by the turn of events. So we start to retrace our steps for the few hundred yards before the lane that heads off inland - the junction of decision! Just to cheer us up there are a few drops of rain to see us on our way to the lane where we will have to make up our minds.

The few spots of rain clear up by the time we reach the lane and we start to peruse the map. The cloud is somewhat lower and greyer than earlier, it is also a little cooler. Away inland there is some serious rain falling on and around the valley we saw earlier. We kick our options around for 5 or 10 minutes and they are not appealing. The shortest detour route involves a mixture of lanes and field walking, but having had one route flooded and tramped the sodden fields in the previous days that is unappealing. We could use the lanes and roads all the way but that will entail a diversion of 8 to 9 miles - also not very appealing. To go with all this we will be walking into an area where the rain is falling quite hard. Whilst we debate the rain starts to fall quite steadily and we pack up the maps and decide to give it up for the day. We will return to Bootle Station and get the train to Ravenglass. We are both pretty despondent at this turn of events.

We set off back past the Range, the only good thing being that the rain turns to drizzle. We are still wet though. Shortly after the main gates a white transit van pulls up and a Scottish voice asks if we would like a lift. This is a no brainer and we stuff our packs in the back and clamber aboard. In the past we have refused such offers as being against the spirit of The Walk, even when feeling more tired than we do now. Both of us rationalise it in the same way though:-

  1. we are going backwards not forwards ie re-tracing our steps
  2. it is raining
  3. we are totally fed up with this day's walking - a day that started with high hopes and has thus far ended in a pretty miserable way
  4. it is raining ....

Our Scottish knight is quite chatty and we enjoy his company. All too soon we arrive at the station and await the train to Ravenglass. From the train we see plenty evidence of a waterlogged countryside. Many fields have standing water. As we cross the River Esk we discover that the flooding under the bridge extends for some 100 yards upstream. By the time we reach Ravenglass we feel somewhat more confident we have made the correct decision. We have a wander around Ravenglass mainly taking in the lie of the land. I've not recorded the time of our arrival but it must be about 2.15pm. We find a hotel and a couple of B & B's. The B & B's are both sporting "No Vacancies" signs. We retire to a cafe for a cuppa and [in my case] a sticky bun to review the situation. I phone the hotel and they too are full - so no room at the inn in Ravenglass. We consider moving on to Drigg or Seascale but we are not certain to get accommodation at either place. In the event we decide to cut our losses. We phone our digs of the last two nights to see if they have any vacancies. They do and we re-book for another night. We do some more exploring in Ravenglass and Brian takes some more photos including the remains of an ancient petrol pump surrounded by flowers in someone's front garden. We mosey around the main station and terminus of Lil Ole Ratty - the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.  link1 link2

Our train back to Millom duly arrives and we make a rather subdued progress back to our digs. Today, after a promising start, has been very disappointing to say the least. It is about to become more so. One of the rituals of each day's walk is to watch the weather forecast each morning and each evening. Generally speaking they are very accurate - the timing may be an hour or so out but if they say it's gonna rain it will rain.

Returning To our B∓B In Millom

One feature of the weather forecasts of the last two - three days has been a Met Office Severe Weather Warning of rain for the Cumbria region towards the end of the week. It has been at Yellow so far, which signifies Be Aware, things could be nasty but there is no need to take action. We can live with this as the warning factors in both the severity and likelihood of rain. We would take the chance on a Yellow. Tonight's forecast for the morrow; Friday and Saturday has upgraded this warning to amber - Be Prepared.

This is bad news as the likelihood of heavy rain is much higher. We have seen the state of the ground already and the prospect of yet more heavy rain is not appealing. It would not take a huge amount of rain to turn the already soaked land into a boggy marshy landscape. Walking in rain is never ideal, but persistent heavy rain is distinctly unpleasant and runs the risk of soaking everything in ones pack as happened coming off Great Hangman in North Devon or as we approached Abbotsbury in Dorset all those years ago.

We kick our options around for some time

In the event discretion reigns and we decide to go home. The only consolation we have is that the Italian restaurant is a more than fitting venue for the last night "festivities". The restaurant did not let us down. We had a very good meal and the atmosphere was very convivial and pleasant. At the end of the evening we made a mellow and reasonably steady progress back to our beds.

Day 7 - Thursday, 5th July 2012

Homeward bound

Breakfast is served by a stranger this morning as Granny has returned to take up the reins again. It is as good as the previous ones and will set us up nicely for the train ride home. We chat to her about the trials and tribulations we've had with accommodation this week and she is not that surprised. We also compliment her on our comfortable home from home of the last three nights. She also gave us a discount as she said we had been overcharged by her grandson as she gave a discount for stays of more than two nights. We do our final packing and head for the station where we purchase our tickets for Guiseley via Whitehaven; Carlisle and the scenic Settle and Carlisle line. This route will enable Brian to fulfil his ambition of taking a train ride across the roof of England.  link

After a short wait we are bidding farewell to Millom and heading North towards Carlisle. We pass through Bootle and Ravenglass in dry weather. As we cross the Esk we note that the flood waters have receded, but the river still looks full and dirty brown. We pass Drigg and Seascale before an extended stop at Sellafield waiting for a southbound train to clear the single line section in front of us. The nuclear plant is adjacent to the station and we can sense how large the site is and can only imagine how important it is to the local economy. So far there has been no sign of rain and we are beginning to wonder if we have made the correct decision.

In this section we play a version of I-Spy - something beginning with B&B. Who knows the information could be vital next year. In truth we don't get to see much of any of the towns and villages we pass through. After Workington the sky starts to become darker and darker and rain begins to fall before we arrive in Carlisle.

The delay at Sellafield has made us a little nervous of getting our connection at Carlisle, and a delay outside Carlisle station does nothing to help. In the event a rapid walk across the footbridge sees us searching out some seats in the rather full train for Leeds.

By the time the train leaves the rain has become much harder and as we quit the suburbs the view to the west is one of slate grey skies and the murk we associate with heavy rain. Really heavy rain catches us up as we start the climb up the Pennines and is with us for a half hour or so.

We enjoy the spectacular Pennine scenery as we head for Yorkshire and all too soon we are starting the long descent towards Settle and industrial Yorkshire. At Shipley we change trains and head for the platform for Guiseley.


The Walk this year has ended in disappointment for the second year in a row. What hinted at being a good year after two indifferent ones ended early in sadness and thoughts of what might have been. At the end of Day 1 we were speculating at the very real possibility of extending by a few days and completing the Cumbrian coast. Five days later we are abandoning the walk early for the second year in a row with the match report reading "Rain Stopped Play - match abandoned".

Brian was and is particularly downbeat about it all, but recognises there was no real alternative with the Amber wet weather warnings issued. It is somewhat ironic that in some ways the weather had been quite kind to us . We only had rain on two days whilst walking, but the other days were overcast and grey except Day One where we had some prolonged sunshine - and a gale in our faces for half the day! The real down side was the same as last year - the ground was sodden from previous rainfall that got a top up from the plentiful of overnight rain for good measure.

We both hope that next year will bring better things. 2010 was flawed by the break getting from the Severn Estuary to the Wirral and ended with a walk in the rain from Blackpool to Fleetwood. 2011 started in the rain; finished in the rain and had its fair share of wet walking days in between. This year is best summed up as not quite fulfilling the potential. 2013 can only be better - surely..........

As this is written in December 2012 the Met Office are stating that 2012 was the wettest year since records began in 1910 - we can believe this!