Saturday, September 01, 2012

Walk 306 -- Abbeytown to Mawbray

Ages:  Colin was 70 years and 116 days.  Rosemary was 67 years and 259 days.
Weather:  Dull with a strong wind.  Brightening in the afternoon but the wind remained just as strong.
Location:  Abbeytown to Mawbray.
Distance:  14 miles.
Total distance:  3113 miles.
Terrain:  Muddy track and footpath.  Marsh with no path — that was impossible!  Road.  Sea bank. Concrete prom.  Sandy beach which became stony.  Dunes.  All flat.
Tide:  In this morning, going out this afternoon.
Rivers:  None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  No.370 at the very beginning.  No.371 at the very end.
Pubs:  The Albion in Silloth which we visited yesterday.  We both drank Derwent’s “Parson’s Pledge”.
‘English Heritage’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions: No.64. The ‘path’ over the marshes didn’t actually exist, so we had to divert to the road.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan in Silloth.  This morning Colin drove to Mawbray where he parked the car and came back to the caravan by bus.  Then we both walked into town so Colin could buy a pie at the butcher’s.  We then caught a bus from opposite the pie shop to Abbeytown.
At the end we came to the car.  We drove straight back to our caravan in Silloth.  The next day we moved our caravan to St Bees.

It was a very sad sight to see the state of the old abbey church in Abbeytown.  It has stood here for 950 years, originally as the abbey church for the monks who built it, and after the Reformation it was retained as the parish church for the local community.  In 2006, vandals set fire to the building causing extensive damage.  The restoration is costing £1.6million, and this is only a small community.  After six and a half years, the work has still not been completed.
We began today’s Walk on the edge of Abbeytown, at the kissing gate where we finished the last Walk.  The track led under a railway that has been disused for nearly fifty years, yet the bridge is still there.  It was very muddy under the bridge, but we got through.  We then walked along the edge of two fields of barley — it was a very poor crop, probably not worth harvesting.  We wondered if the constant wet weather we have been experiencing this summer was responsible for such sparse growth.
This led us out on to the banks of the River Waver, a pleasant but rather muddy trail.  We climbed over a single strand of barbed wire which was alongside the path because it was less muddy that side, later we had to climb back.  We came, momentarily, out on to a narrow road.  The next entrance was extremely muddy and there were no way-markers, but we went that way because that was what our map told us to do and there was nowhere else that we could have mistaken for the correct path.
We came out on to the marsh.  Colin was ahead of me and marched on still trying to follow the river.  I noticed a stile to our left with no way-marking arrows, but Colin kept ploughing on ahead.  I was sure he was wrong, so I got out the compass and realised we were walking in completely the wrong direction!  At last he stopped, and admitted he was trying to follow the wrong fence.  We returned to the stile and sat on it to eat our pasty/quiche.
Could this stile be the way we were supposed to go?  We were trying to follow the Cumbrian Coastal Way, and if we crossed this stile and walked on it would be in exactly the right direction — according to our brand new and expensive OS walking map.  But there were no arrows on the stile, and there was marsh on the other side, not a field as we thought.  We decided to give it a go.
There was no vestige of a path, just soft ground with deep squidgy muddy patches and water-filled holes hidden under tufts of greenery to catch the unwary.  It was terrible!  We battled along for about a hundred yards and both decided we’d had enough.  Crossing the marshes like this was impossible!  I looked at the map and planned an alternative road route.  I turned round and started struggling back to the stile, but Colin said, looking at the map, that if we went on a bit there seemed to be a track leading to a road which was much nearer.  So I waited while he went on to investigate.  He found a gate in the hedge just round the bend, so I battled my way up to him.
We were both relieved to get off those treacherous marshes!  The gate led on to a grassy track, and very soon we came to a farm.  There we got on to a tarmacked lane which eventually spat us out on to the main road into Abbeytown.  This was not what we had planned — our route today should have been well away from this road! 
At the road junction we met a man with a pickup who was collecting roadsigns warning of grit and advising a ridiculously slow speed.  (We had wondered about these signs which were everywhere about, because the roads didn’t look as if they had recently been gritted.  Apparently they have been up since June — it seems they forgot to collect them until now.)  Anyway, this bloke told us there was a path across the marshes if you knew how to find it.  Obviously we didn’t, and it certainly wasn’t where the map said it was.  We doubted this man was local.
The road was horrid!  It was narrow, with no pavements or verge, and the traffic came much too fast.  We had about a mile and a half of this hell before we were able to turn on to the much quieter lane to Skinburness.  A little way up there we sat on the wall of a farmyard to eat our sarnies.  We were fed up and disappointed.  A farm worker came out and we got chatting.  He told us there was no path across the marshes, and people often got into serious trouble out there.  We could believe that after our experience.
Round the next corner we found there was a seabank alongside the road to stop it flooding.  We saw a girl up there walking her dog, so we climbed up and found it was quite walkable along the top.  That’s better!  We had views across the marshes instead of feeling hemmed in as we had on the road, and we could see the radio masts we had passed on the last Walk.  It lifted our spirits to be up there, even if the wind was a little cold.
Colin made a fuss of the dog, as he always does, and the girl told us she always walks her dog in this area and there is no path across the marshes.  Yet when we came to the outskirts of Skinburness where the Cumbrian Coastal Way is supposed to come off the marshes on to the lane…….there was the footpath sign pointing across the marshes!  So who do we believe?
We came to a derelict hotel, a sad sight.  It didn’t give the impression it had been closed for long, but it was boarded up.  We peeped through the hedge at the back and saw what looked like a pleasant garden, now overgrown, and a lovely summerhouse — or it could have been additional chalet-type rooms in the garden.
I bet it was a really nice hotel in its time, but people don’t want a holiday of that type anymore especially in an out-of-the-way place like Skinburness.
We were at the spot where we had walked three thousand one hundred miles from Bognor along the coast — according to my calculations.  So we set the camera on a stone, switched on the timer and took a “selfie” of us standing by the derelict hotel.
We decided not to walk the length of the sand bar and back, saving ourselves two miles.  It was only twenty yards or so across from the derelict hotel to the seashore, and we decreed that it was a short enough distance to call the sand bar a dead end.
We crossed over, and were able to walk along a greensward between houses and the sea wall, going South at last!  It was good to be by the open sea again.
It was very windy, and cold for the time of year.  We were only just into September, and already we were shivering!  Colin found a way down to concrete steps which went all along the top of the beach.  We were hoping it would be more sheltered from the headwind, but it wasn’t, we were just as cold.
The tide was right in so we had to walk along the steps, but that was okay — except for the wind — because the steps were wide.  They formed part of the seawall between Skinburness and Silloth which had been built in 1982, according to a plaque we passed on the prom nearer Silloth.  The steps turned into the prom further on.
The buildings of Silloth came into view.  There is a wide green space between the town and the prom which reminded us of Littlehampton, the resort on the south coast not far from our former home in Bognor Regis.  Such a green makes for a very pleasant aspect.
On the seafront we came to a near-derelict shelter where we were able to sit partially out of the wind to eat our apples.  The seat had been burned by disposable barbecues — I think such damage should be classed as vandalism.  We formed the impression that both Skinburness and Silloth were, in their time, lovely resorts but had sadly gone to seed.  The weather doesn’t help.

We came to the docks, but they were fenced off this side and we couldn’t get near.  We had to walk into Silloth to get round them.
We came to a wooden bandstand, at least we assumed that the circular decking we were looking at was for that purpose.  It was out in the wind and it had no roof, unlike the pretty Victorian bandstand we have at home in Malvern (concerts every Sunday throughout the summer), and the similar one on Bognor seafront.
We passed a fairground with music blaring out, but not a single customer was in sight!  Now, it is the last Saturday of the school summer holidays — but it is too cold to sit on the beach and besides, people don’t want that kind of entertainment in this 21st century.  Travelling fairs don’t have enough ‘thrill’ rides, and at £1 a time, people just aren’t prepared to pay out for a coconut shy or a ride on a tame roundabout.  We thought the sight of an empty fairground on a holiday summer’s afternoon was very sad.
On our way into town we came across a small sculpture which we rather liked.  It was of a shepherd boy with his dog, carrying a lamb.  A plaque told us it was based on a 1950s shepherd boy (Gosh!  that’s our childhood years!), was cast in resin and slate and made in Maryport.  We didn’t call at Silloth’s ‘real ale’ pub (The Albion) today, we had tested the beer there yesterday and it met with our approval!
On the southern side of the docks we could get right up to the fence, and see the boats in the small harbour.  Looking back towards the town, the scene was quite industrial.
We cut through the dunes to the sands and turned South.  It was lovely to walk on a beach again, it had seemed a long time.  Nice firm sand, and the tide was racing out so we had a lot of room.  The trouble was, the wind — and we were walking into it.  The sky brightened and we had a lot of sun, but the wind was so strong it was really hard work to keep up any sort of pace.
We had four and a half miles to walk on this beach to our car.  When we thought we were about halfway, we sat on a stranded log with our backs to the wind in order to eat our chocolate.  Soon after this, Colin found a flat path through the dunes.  This had a good grassy surface, and it was much easier to walk because it was not nearly so windy as the beach.  In fact it was almost enjoyable — I say ‘almost’ because we were nearly at the end of a 14-mile walk and we were somewhat tired.  I seemed to have found some extra energy from somewhere, and upped my pace.
At Beckfoot, this path lumbered us — it led us out on to the road!  No!  We’ve had enough of roads!  So we returned to the beach.  The tide was now so far out the sea had almost disappeared.  Plenty of beach to walk on, but again it was hard work in the wind.
Further on we found another path through the dunes, and so ended the Walk in comfort at the kissing gate leading into the car park where our car was waiting for us.
There was a notice there about the rare natterjack toads which reside in the dunes.  We were too tired to go and look for them.  The only place we have seen this fascinating amphibian was in western Ireland when we holidayed there in the millennium year.

That ended Walk no.306, we shall pick up Walk no.307 next time in the dune car park in Mawbray.  It was twenty to seven, so the Walk had taken us eight and a half hours.  That walk on the beach into the wind was such hard work, at times I did wonder whether I would make it.  Even Colin admitted he was shattered.  We drove straight back to our caravan in Silloth where we had our tea and biscuits.
The next day we moved our caravan to St Bees.

No comments: