Thursday, September 13, 2012

Walk 314 -- Barrow-in-Furness to Walney Island

Ages:  Colin was 70 years and 128 days.  Rosemary was 67 years and 271 days.
Weather:  Grey to very grey with a cold wind.
Location:  Barrow-in-Furness to Walney Island.
Distance:  1½ miles.
Total distance:  3200 miles.
Terrain:  Cycle path.  Undulating, some steps.
Tide:  In.
Rivers: None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  None.
‘English Heritage’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan near Grange-over-Sands.  This morning we drove to Barrow-in-Furness and parked in a small car park where we officially ended the Walk yesterday.
At the end we finished the Walk at the bridge over to Walney Island.  We turned round and walked back as it wasn’t far.  We had intended doing some walking on Walney Island, which is really only a sand-spit.  But it started to rain, and we were both very tired after all the miles we have packed in over the past two-and-a-half weeks.  So we decided to call the bridge a dead end we didn’t have to walk if we didn’t want to, and drove round the island instead!
The next day we towed the caravan back home to Malvern.  We shall start the next Walk at the bridge over to the island.

There was a small car park leading off the main road where we finished the last Walk, which we made use of today.  It was in a bit of ‘old road’.  From there a path-cum-cycleway led down under the railway, then up and round to an old quarry.  We looked to our right, and saw why we couldn’t have walked along the beach to this point yesterday instead of squirming through that scratchy undergrowth to get out to the road — there was no beach this end!
In front of us was supposed to be a Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT), which is marked on the map as going across the channel to Walney Island.  From where we were standing there was no sign of it except for a single post in the middle of the channel.  Of course, the tide was in — it may have looked better if it had been low tide.
We turned left and followed a tarmacked cycleway up over a small hill.  We couldn’t think why the Cumbrian Coastal Path is signposted to continue down the main road instead of along this lovely easy path by the waterfront.  It was cold and windy at the top, it felt like winter — come off it, it’s only September!  The sky was very grey making everything seem gloomy, but the rain held off.  We went down some steps to where footbridges are supposed to take a footpath across the channel to Walney Island, but like the BOAT, there was no sign of it.
We continued along the path which was paved in red bricks.  A notice told us that this pathway, which was only opened in 1998, was called “Red Man’s Walk” after the men who worked in the local iron and steel industry.  The processes of that industry often left them covered in red dust.  The sculpture of a working man had been vandalised so that only the legs and feet remained.  How sad that the modern generation, who will never have to work so hard in such difficult conditions for a pittance, have such little respect for the industry of their forefathers.
We came to the Docklands Museum which was free entry.  We are not ‘museum people’ and only went in to use the toilets!  But we couldn’t tell the warden that when he started to talk to us enthusiastically about the exhibits.  So I asked him about the ways across the Walney Channel.  He told us they are still there at low tide — he’d crossed the footbridges himself only last week.  About the BOAT he said, “You would need wellies!” but the footbridges could be done in trainers.  He admitted they were both in a poor state of repair, and if something wasn’t done soon they’d be lost.
He also explained that the building of the docks in the 19th century washed away most of the walkways, isolating the residents of Walney Island unless they had a boat.  In 1887 the dock owners (the Furness Railway) provided a chain ferry across the channel.  In 1908 the ferry was replaced by a bridge.  This was a toll bridge until 1935 when, in honour of the silver jubilee of King George V, the toll was lifted.
We had a cursory look round the museum, but it was too full of ‘history’ rooms done out like our childhood kitchens — it made us feel old!  A painting of a ship caught Colin’s eye because it was called ‘The Duke of Devonshire’.  (Colin was brought up on the Duke of Devonshire’s estate in Derbyshire.)  Apparently the seventh Duke wanted Barrow to develop into a major port and had this ship built as part of a fleet of six to trade with India.  This plan never came to fruition, but shipbuilding at Barrow prospered.
We thought the museum building was more interesting than the exhibits!  A great example of modern architecture — at least from the inside — it has been built inside a dry dock.
Outside, we walked round a loop of a jetty where some fishing boats were moored, then through some very pleasant gardens to the bridge.  We walked over the bridge and back.

That ended Walk no.314, we shall pick up Walk no.315 at the bridge over the Walney Channel in Barrow-in-Furness.  It was midday, so the Walk had taken us one and a half hours.  We turned round and walked back to the car, it wasn’t far.  We fully intended to do some walking round Walney Island — which is really a sand-spit — in the afternoon, but just as we got back to the car it started raining.  We ate our lunch in the car, and the rain continued.  Also the wind was very cold, it felt like winter!  We were extremely tired after two and a half weeks of hard walking during which we had covered 133 miles of coastline!
All in all, we decided it was too much, so we drove round Walney Island instead.  (We called the bridge, the only way on to the island at high tide, a dead end which we didn’t have to walk unless we wanted to.)  On the island it was mostly housing estates and flooded roads — there was also a small airport. There were some nice beaches on the outer fringe, but it was too cold and wet to enjoy them.
The only thing of interest was the view of Piel Island from the southern end — more about this fascinating islet, which claims independence from Great Britain, on my next Walk write-up.  It is said that you can walk to it from Walney Island at very low tide, but it is dangerous.
The next day we towed the caravan back home to Malvern.

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