Monday, April 15, 2013

Walk 319 -- Glasson to Fleetwood

Ages:  Colin was 70 years and 342 days.  Rosemary was 68 years and 119 days.
Weather:  Sunny and warm, but a strong wind which made us feel cold.
Location:  Glasson to Fleetwood.
Distance:  14 miles.
Total distance:  3273 miles.
Terrain:  Lots of concrete.  Lots of tracks (but none muddy!)  Lovely sea-bank.  One barbed wire fence.  Nearly all flat.
Tide:  Out, coming in.
Rivers: No.395, River Wyre.
Ferries:  No.23 across the Wyre from Knott End-on-Sea to Fleetwood.  Fare £1.50 each.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos. 404, 405 & 406 between Glasson and Cockerham.
Pubs:  None.
‘English Heritage’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan in Blackpool.  This morning we drove to Knott End-on-Sea, parked near the ferry terminal and caught a bus to Glasson.
At the end we finished the Walk at Knott-End-on-Sea at the ferry terminal — we pretended the ferry over to Fleetwood.  Our car was parked nearby.  After partaking of tea and chocolate biscuits, we drove back to our caravan in Blackpool.

We were lucky enough to do this entire Walk in sunshine, though we could have done with less wind which was so strong it was difficult to stand upright in exposed places!  We began in Glasson — still a busy port these days, though small.  We were not allowed into the docks, and we couldn’t see Bazil Point or Ferry Cottage on the other side of the River Lune because there was a ship in the way.  We bought delicious pasties at the village shop, and managed to find a bench in a relatively sheltered place on which to sit and eat them while they were still hot.
We started the Walk on the bridge over the Lancaster Canal.  We climbed a short hill, the only hill on today’s Walk, from the top of which there were far-reaching views.  To the north we could see Bazil Point and Ferry Cottage where we were in the rain at the end of the last Walk.
To the east we could see Lancaster University where our son, Paul, did his first degree — he got a ‘First’ in Chemistry when he was only 20.  (Four years later he gained a PhD at Leeds.)  Help!  It is 22 years since Paul was in his last term at Lancaster — can we really be that old?  At the beginning of that final year, he and his caving/climbing friends abseiled down the tower block in the middle of the university complex to show off to the ‘Freshers’.  (Sssh!  They also went sewer-lunking underneath the University buildings, but don’t tell anyone because they were not supposed to be there!) 
We passed some celandines on a bank as we descended — we always look out for these bright cheery flowers as a harbinger of Spring, which is very late this year.  We crossed several fields to a farm on the coast where there was a ram’s head on the wall above the door.
One footpath signpost had an extra notice warning us there were free range children and animals about, so please drive slowly.  Another footpath signpost was sited next to what looked like a bomb from the Second World War.
The coast path was well signposted and mostly tarmac.  Visibility was very good — we could clearly see Sunderland Point, where Sambo’s grave is sited, and Heysham nuclear power station behind us.  A notice on the edge of the marsh told us of local concern about plans to leave the sea defences to the mercies of the ocean, eventually abandoning the whole area — including houses, caravan sites, agricultural land and the ruins of Cockersands Abbey — to the waves.  The notice was dated 2010 — three years ago!  Yet it didn’t look as if the sea had encroached even the marshland in front of us, let alone the fields behind.  Another notice warned us that “armed trespassers will be prosecuted” and informed us that shooting is prohibited in Lancs on Christmas Day.  It’s useful to know these things.
In the background to all our views stood Plover Scar Lighthouse, a small lighthouse at the mouth of the River Lune placed there in 1847 to guide ships safely into the river channel.  It is automatic now, of course, as they all are.  The path turned into grass but it was solid, even and quite pleasant to walk on.
Round a bend we came across the sparse remains of Cockersands Abbey.  This began as a hermitage in the 12th century by Hugh Garth a ‘hermit of great perfection’.  Within a few years it was taken over by monks of the Premonstratension Order (never heard of them) who built the abbey.  From what we could work out from the plan on the door of the one remaining building, most of the area on which the abbey was built is now in the sea.  It was surrendered to the King’s Commissioners at the Reformation and left to go to ruin.  Only the semi-octagonal chapter house remains because it was used by the Dalton family of Thurnham Hall as a burial place.  We couldn’t get inside it.
It was very windy there, and cold despite the sun.  So we moved on quickly round the next bend.  There we found an old barn where we could sit on the windowsill out of the wind and eat our sarnies.  We carried on past several caravan sites and a lot of marshes.  There were loads of sheep about, and occasionally we found we were unintentionally ‘herding’ them.  It reminded us of when we walked round the seemingly endless Essex marshes near the beginning of this Trek — Golly!  that was ten years ago! 
We were feeling tired by then, the wind didn’t help with our walking.  We wore our kags just to keep warm, they made good windshields.  Eventually the path took us along the bottom of a bank to the road.  There we sat on some wood to rest, drink some water and don our high-viz waistcoats.  We had three miles of road-walking to do, and it was deadly!  We stopped on a bridge about halfway for another rest.  Colin went off at a tangent to change his pad, but it was difficult to find somewhere out of sight because the whole area was open.  In the end he crouched behind a wall — keeping his dignity is very difficult for him at the moment.
At last we were able to turn off on to a minor road, and after a few yards we came to a car park.  A path led us through trees to a lovely picnic area sheltered from the wind and decorated with daffodils all round.  Some colourful chickens wandered past, pecking at the ground, while we sat there and ate our chocolate.  It was lovely to relax a bit in such a pleasant spot, well away from the traffic after that dreadful three-mile road stomp.
Our map told us that the Coastal Way took us for the next couple of miles along the minor road through the village of Pilling.  But we noticed that there was a stile up on the sea bank by the picnic site.  A notice attached to the stile told us that there was no public access between 26th December and Good Friday.  It didn’t explain why, so I looked it up on the internet — apparently it is to protect over-wintering birds and livestock during the nesting and lambing season.  I also found out that the embankment was built in 1981 to protect the village of Pilling which had been prone to flooding up until then.
Well, Easter was early this year, and Good Friday had long since past.  It was lovely walking up there — a wide, firm, grassy path, and it was a short cut, off the road missing out Pilling altogether.  On the second stile we passed were Coastal Way stickers — now they tell us, for there had been none on the first.  We passed several gates along the length of the sea bank, all of which we could walk round — we didn’t even have to open them.
We had an excellent view of Lancaster University from there, better than the view we had further back.  As we by-passed the village we could see Pilling church, and an old fashioned windmill which was minus its sails.
I was ahead of Colin, and didn’t notice that at one of the gates the Coastal Way path was signposted to go down the landward side of the bank and across some fields to the road.  I carried on along the top of the bank, lost in my own dream world.
Colin caught me up just as I reached a barbed wire fence barring my way, and explained where I had gone wrong.  We were both reluctant to go back, we couldn’t see why we were not permitted to go the last quarter of a mile on the bank.  What possible harm could we do walking along there?  It looked as though people before us had gone down the seaward side on to the marsh — they had worn a bit of a path.  But the barbed wire fence continued across the marsh all the way to a deep ditch.  Looking more closely, we realised that our predecessors had stepped through the fence at a point where the wires were loose.  So we did the same, holding the strands apart for each other.  I was a little apprehensive about not being able to get through at the further end of the sea bank, but when we saw people out playing with their children and walking their dogs on the marsh next to us we realised that the barbed wire fence had been put there to stop people walking towards Glasson, not away from it like we were.  Why?  Why not open it all up and make life simpler?  So there was no ‘other end’ to cause a problem.
The marsh gradually became sandier.  We sat on a rock to eat our apples.  Nearby was the remains of a fire on which someone had tried unsuccessfully to burn a painting easel and a Christmas tree.  We came to a car park, and since the beach was getting rockier by the minute we went up there to walk on the official coastal path which was tarmacked from that point all the way to the end of the Walk.  The trouble was — we were walking due west into the setting sun which was very bright.  We could barely see where we were going, and it was terrible light for photography.
To our right was a rocky marshy beach, not good for walking, further out it looked as if it could be muddy.
People’s back gardens were down on our left, protected from stormy seas by the sea bank on which we were walking.  We passed a garden where chickens were kept, and among them was an ostrich-type bird, we think it was a cassowary.  It looked quite superior, as if it was ruling the chickens.
Another garden was festooned with forsythia bushes in brilliant flower — Spring is here at last!
Out on the sands we saw horses running, perhaps it wasn’t that muddy after all.  We also passed some children playing on the marsh — not much of a beach for them, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves as children do.
We walked through Knott End-on –Sea, where our car was parked, and eventually came to the ferry slipway.  The last ferry of the day across the River Wyre had already left, we could see it approaching Fleet wood on the other side.  But we had no intention of catching it because the logistics of using the ferry were too great.  As usual, we pretended instead.  We walked out to the end of the slipway, and the ferry seemed to turn round as if it was coming back for us.  So we turned round and exited the slipway as fast as we could so that they didn’t have a wasted journey.

That ended Walk no.319, we shall pick up Walk no.320 in Fleetwood over the River Wyre.   It was six o’clock, so the Walk had taken us seven hours, five minutes.    Our car was parked nearby.  After partaking of tea and chocolate biscuits, we drove back to our caravan in Blackpool.

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