Friday, September 07, 2012

Walk 310 -- Seascale to Ravenglass

Ages:  Colin was 70 years and 125 days.  Rosemary was 67 years and 268 days.
Weather:  Dull and threatening, but the rain held off.
Location:  Seascale to Ravenglass.
Distance:  5 miles.
Total distance:  3160 miles.
Terrain:  A lot of road.  Muddy paths.  An extremely muddy lane.  A packhorse bridge!
Tide:  Going out.
Rivers:  No.381, River Irt (packhorse bridge).  No.382, River Mite (railway bridge).
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  Ratty Arms in Ravenglass where we drank Ennerdale “Copper” and “Darkest”.
‘English Heritage’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan in St Bees.  This morning we drove to Seascale and parked by the station.
At the end we caught a train from Ravenglass back to Seascale.  Then we went for a pub lunch and did another Walk this afternoon!

We have a ‘hole’ in our continuity because the train didn’t turn up the other day when we planned to do this five-mile stretch.  (We are now well past Plan B, on about Plan G I think!)  So we decided to ‘patch’ the hole this morning, then take ourselves off for a pub lunch somewhere because it is supposed to be a ‘rest’ day.  (Planning can get confusing sometimes, especially when the public transport you are relying on doesn’t turn up and no explanation is given.)
Parking is easier in Seascale then it is in Ravenglass, so we decided to do the Walk first, then catch the train back.  We experienced a torrential shower as we drove into the car park in Seascale, so our hearts were in our boots.  How we wished we had completed this Walk the other day!  We sat in the car watching the rain sheeting down — and then it stopped.  What’s more, it didn’t start again though the sky looked very threatening throughout the Walk.  We sat in an open shelter to put on our full wet-weather gear, and then we got going.
On the seafront is an old cannon which has been turned into a memorial to the victims of the Cumbrian shootings in 2010, just a couple of years ago.  A local man shot his twin brother, then his solicitor, then various people he used to work with (he was a taxi driver).  He then carried on driving round shooting people, many of them unknown to him.  He would call them over to his car, then shoot them.  He shot at drivers in other cars.  He shot passers-by, complete strangers who were out that day on their own business.  Eventually he abandoned his car, walked off into a wood with his gun and shot himself.  Altogether twelve people were murdered that day, and eleven more seriously injured.  Several had a lucky escape because he missed, but some unfortunates he shot a number of times to make sure they were really dead.  Many motives have been speculated, but nobody knows the real reason why he went crazy that day.
With these sobering thoughts in mind — it could have been any of us unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — we wandered over to look at the slipway.  This must have been a millennium project, for the date on the gate was 2000.
Very soon the road veered away from the seafront.  In view of the weather which had just passed, we chose the inland route rather than the beach as far as Drigg.  We crossed the railway on a high bridge from where we had a last view of that eyesore, Sellafield.
With relief we turned our backs on it and walked along the road for a couple of miles.  The traffic was light, but when it came it was fast on a narrow road with no pavements.  We found it a bit boring really, but we didn’t want to get caught out on the dunes if we had another storm.  We would have had to come inland at Drigg anyway, because the first crossing point of the River Irt is a packhorse bridge beyond the village.  There is a ford marked on the map much nearer the shore, but considering the wet and stormy weather we have recently been experiencing, we didn’t even go to look at it.
The sign for Drigg is well out of the village, so we were fooled into thinking we were through after the first batch of houses.  We were looking for our turning, but then realised it was opposite the church which we had yet to pass.  So we reorientated ourselves, and marched on.  Drigg Church has an external double bell tower.

We turned off down a track, passing a grumpy farmer loading bales — perhaps he’d had a bad harvest, the weather has been dreadful.  We crossed several soggy fields.  The waymarkings were sparse so it was difficult to see which way to go — but we coped.  We found the packhorse bridge at last, it was very humpy and the stones we had to walk over were slippery.
We crossed without incident and climbed the steps the other side.  It wasn’t far from there to a tarmacked lane, but we had to cross several small fields which were all extremely muddy, especially near stiles.  In fact, we wallowed in mud until we reached the lane.
We marched along thinking, “This is great!” until we had to turn into another track.  (We could have continued on the lane but it is three times as far, and the waymarked coast path, such as it is, goes along the track.)  This was OK at first, then it got muddy, then very muddy, then almost impossible to walk it was so muddy!  We got through, but we were both plastered in goo.  I had it up to my thighs, as if I had been wading in it!
We were relieved to reach another tarmacked lane.  The mud had delayed us somewhat and time was getting a little tight — the train only runs every two hours or so.  We came to the level crossing gates which were closed to traffic even though a train was not due.  A signal man in the box told us it was OK to walk through, he keeps the gates down most of the time because there is hardly any traffic along the lane — it doesn’t lead anywhere.  He obviously wanted to chat, which would have been nice, but if we had we would have missed our train back.  So we gave him a cheery wave and marched on.

We came down to the estuary where there was a good firm path round to the railway bridge across the River Mite.  Attached to the side of this bridge is a footbridge, so we were able to cross the river with dry feet!
Why can’t more railway bridges on this north-west coast have similar footbridges attached to them?  We found it very aggravating each time we came to a river or estuary to find that the only way to cross on foot was to walk miles inland whereas the trains can go straight across.  With the bridges already in place, surely it isn’t too much to have a footway attached to the sides of them as at Ravenglass?
 That ended Walk no.310, we shall pick up Walk no.311 next time on the southern side of the railway bridge in Ravenglass.  It was twenty to twelve, so the Walk had taken us two and a half hours. We had about ten minutes to spare before our train which was on time, so we were well pleased.  It meant we had the rest of the day to ourselves, and that started with a pub lunch! 

The Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway 
Alongside Ravenglass Railway Station is another railway station — the terminus of the Ravenglass & Eskdale Steam Railway.  This privately owned line runs from Dalegarth Station, seven miles inland, along the Esk valley to Ravenglass.  While we were in the area, we visited Ravenglass several times, not least because the pub there is in the Good Beer Guide!  We didn’t travel on the steam railway, but we spent a lot of time watching them shunt the engines around on the little turntable at the end of the line.
However, when we got up close to them, the steam smelled of sulphur!  Yuk!  Not the right odour at all!  We asked one of the engine drivers — too young to have experienced steam trains as the norm when a child — what sort of coal they were using to give off this dreadful pong of bad eggs.  He answered proudly, “We import it from Vietnam!  It’s great because it burns so cleanly.  It hardly forms any soot, it saves a lot of work!”  Well, that finished it for me!  I completely lost interest, and didn’t want to stay around any longer.  Part of the experience of steam trains is that nostalgic smell of sooty steam without sulphur!  This young man couldn’t understand that, but I bet everyone who is old enough to remember our railways in the pre-Beeching days does understand my feelings. 
Coal from VIETNAM!!     Whatever next?

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