Thursday 29th September 2011                                                                 John and Paul                                                                      32 miles

 

A really beautiful day, and one of mixed fortunes. I hadnt slept well, although the night had been quiet, but there had been far more lorries resting by the road than when we were here before.

We left at 8.45, and made our way to The bridge, which gave evocatively misty views of the Mersey as we crossed it to Widnes.

 

 

We start this section of Road Around Britain where we are overnighting on a very pleasant industrial estate in Runcorn which we had stayed at earlier in the year. This section of RAB is 'in reverse' as we start at Runcorn and travel to Gretna Green.

 

We had returned on Monday from a lovely weekend with our vintage caravan at Malvern Autumn Show. I had just finished my sixth lot of chemo, and was generally feeling much better than previously.

Just over a month ago, we had returned from a three week trip in our camper, through France to visit Simon & family just outside Geneva. Simon will be coming to Hermitage with Manolo & Millie after we get home from this trip, and Tom is visiting us the following week from Barcelona. We had been down to see Paul and family in Dorset ten days ago, for Adrians birthday weekend, and Emma and the children had visited them then too.

 

Northwest England

We drove across the flood plains to the pretty village of Hale, driving on down to Hale Head, where there were views back to the bridge, and to a lighthouse on the River Mersey.

We continued to Speke Hall, now owned by the National Trust, and incongruously surrounded by Liverpool Airport. As we drove past the airport – named John Lennon Airport – his son Julian Lennon was playing on the radio.

Adrian had discovered this morning that the fridge wasn’t working, and now the second mishap was that the catch holding up the upper bed had broken, and the bed lowered itself to its lower position!

We drove through Garston, turning off to drive down to the Mersey just before Otterspool, but the first road we took was narrow, with many parked cars and a ‘weak bridge’ to cross, and then a height barrier when we reached the front. The road along the front was barricaded off, so we had to return to the main road and take the next road down. This time we were luckier. There was still a height barrier on the car park, but there was parking just off the road with no restrictions!

Crossing the Mersey on the Runcorn bridge

Also, the road now runs along near the front, on into Liverpool, which was a pleasant surprise. Everywhere looked lovely in the autumn sunshine and we had misty views across the Mersey to the Wirral.

We found our way down to Albert Docks, where there is a museum called ‘The Beatles Story’, which we intended visiting. Adrian had looked it all up, including the fact that there was disabled parking nearby. As we went to pull in there, a cheery young road sweeper told us that our vehicle was too big, and that the security man would move us on. He was quite right – up came the unpleasant security man, who just didn’t want to listen – he said that our vehicle was too big, and that was that! We now had to drive a large loop through the town to get back to Kings Dock, where we could park. We managed this, but on arriving at Kings Dock, we realized that it was a long way to walk – more than I wanted to contemplate. Lots of roads were barricaded off – a friendly policeman explained that it was the Labour Party Conference, and you couldn’t get through as you normally could! We were feeling pretty fed up by now – Adrian couldn’t understand why the conference was here, making life even more difficult for us, and not in Blackpool.

We decided to drive back to Speke Hall, where tours left from to visit the boyhood homes of John Lennon & Paul McCartney, but these had to be pre-booked.  We stopped on the way, near Dingle, beside the Mersey. People were jogging and cycling along the prom, enjoying this unaccustomed sunshine.

Back at Speke Hall, our luck changed! We found that there was room on the 2.30 tour of the Beatles homes, so we set about enjoying some of the grounds, before having lunch sitting outside our van.

Looking across to the Mersey at Otterspool

You couldn’t visit the actual Hall until after 1 o’clock, except on a guided tour, which we didn’t want, so after lunch we returned to make our own visit. I’m never one for houses, but we ‘did our duty’, of this Tudor mansion and were in good time for our pick up by minibus for the visit to the Beatles homes. Now this was much more interesting, and was sheer joy, from the moment we got into the minibus, and the pleasant driver gave us a few facts about the 2 homes, before playing Beatles music as we drove back into Liverpool.

We visited John’s home Mendips first, where he lived with his Aunt Mimi and her husband George for many years. The guides were husband and wife Colin & Sylvia – he showed us John’s house, and she showed us Paul’s house. The couple actually live in Mendips, and it would appear had gathered many of the artefacts to fit the period, including a guitar to go in Paul’s bedroom. They were both very knowledgeable – Colin had interviewed Paul McCartney for a programme with Bob Harris. We have Yoko Ono to thank for being able to visit, as she had bought the house back, and donated it to the National Trust, even paying for it to be restored. It was wonderful to be amongst the ‘start of it all’ – to see an actual programme of Woolton Fete, where John & Paul first met, to see John’s bedroom, where they used to rehearse, and to see school reports of the rebellious John. In Paul’s house, there were large photos taken by his brother Mike (McGear, of ‘the Scaffold’).

Speke Hall

We could only take photos outside, but at Paul’s house at 20 Forthlin Rd, we acted as ‘models’, as 2 people from the National Trust were there taking photos! There were 7 people on our tour, and only one on the following tour, which surprised us. You can only visit the houses by tour. While we were at Paul’s house, a large group walked by on the so-called ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, but this didn’t go into the houses.

The whole experience had seemed really personal. We arrived back at Speke Hall at 4.50, and sat in the sunshine outside our van until the gates closed at 5.30. We drove just outside the grounds to a spot we had sussed out earlier, and enjoyed the lovely sky as the sun went down behind the tall trees.

After a while, we had become aware of a burning smell, and seeing smoke billowing around. Just then, a fire engine came rushing by. Adrian had seen 3 youngsters arrive on their bikes, and it would appear that they had set light to the stubble. The fire engine was there for a good half hour, until peace was restored, and we got on with supper!

Us outside John's childhood home

And outside Paul's home

The sun goes down over Liverpool

Friday 30th September                                                                             The Beatles Story 33 miles

 

Another incredible day of warm sunshine – apparently the warmest 30th September since records began.

We left at 8.45, and drove back into Liverpool, turning into Kings Docks. We were surprised to see that all the barricades had gone, and the extra cameras dismantled – the Labour conference must have finished!

We were able to walk along the front to the Albert Docks – yesterday the road had been closed, as it passed the conference building.

We had decided to give one more try to visiting The Beatles Story, and are glad that we did, as it was excellent! We both thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves in all sorts of aspects of the story of the ‘Fab Four’. We were given personal headphones, with commentaries by John Lennon’s sister, with additions from Cynthia Lennon. It was all great fun. Having arrived early, it was very quiet initially – just towards the end it got a bit busy, but mostly we were able to read all the masses of information in peace. It was great to sit in the mock-up of ‘The Cavern’, and imagine that we were actually there. We really lived through the time of the Beatles, which had been so significant to us.

It was midday when we emerged into the warm sunshine. I sat by the docks while Adrian collected the van, and then we continued driving northwards through Liverpool, with a short diversion to drive past the end of Mathew Street, and glimpse the rebuilt ‘Cavern’. Of course the sunshine made everything look extra good – we have only visited Liverpool once before – in 1985 – and the weather was lovely then too!

We continued past numerous former dock areas, many with their splendid brick warehouses in various states of repair. This part of Liverpool was Bootle, and then we came to Crosby, turning off to Crosby Coastal Park, which was a really pleasant surprise. In front was a marine lake, called on the map a marina, separated from the Mersey estuary by sand dunes. There was a wide grassy area beside the lake, and we were able to sit on our seats in front of the van and enjoy our lunch. There were a lot of people around, all enjoying the unexpected warm sunshine. There was a large children’s play area, but many people were just walking through the park. Adrian got chatting to a couple who told him that the whole development was fairly new, with the grassy area stretching right along by the water.

We didn’t leave here until 3 o’clock, having joined the locals and relaxing, hardly believing that this was the last day of September in northern England. Even the sudden gusty breezes were warm. We drove on through pleasant, residential Crosby to another bit of the coastal park at the northern end, parking at Hall Rd West. Here we enjoyed an icecream, while more locals made the most of the sunshine.

After that we drove across the flood plains, through the village of Little Crosby to Hightown, having made a diversion when the GPS tried to send us down a muddy track! Hightown is an incongruous development, with no outlet, and no access to the coast. We did, after persevering, come to the narrow River Alt, having driven around the ‘village’, and then found our way out on the only access road, and made our way to Formby. We drove through the pleasant residential area, and then through sandy forest to a car park by the sand dunes. We walked through the dunes and up to a viewpoint, where we could look back to Liverpool, and across to the Wirral, and then further, to northern Wales.

Albert Docks - open today

The Beatles!

The mock up of The Cavern

Rosie being energetic in Crosby Coastal Park

There were a lot of people about, many just walking across the dunes to the beach. Having decided to stay here tonight, we enjoyed the last of the afternoon sunshine, sitting outside the van, before coming in for supper.

Adrian at the viewpoint at Formby

The busy beach!

Saturday 1st October                                                                      Blackpool Lights                                                                                58 miles

 

I’d had a disturbed night, with joy riders early on, then later the gusty wind rattling the roof lights, some unexpected rain, and then early dog walkers!

Nevertheless, we were off by 9 o’clock, on a day which rapidly became warm and mostly sunny. We drove through the pleasant outskirts of Formby to a National Trust carpark to the north. The road went through a lovely forested area. We walked over the sand dunes, made of extremely fine sand, to view the vast sandy beach. A few people were already arriving for a day on the beach.

 

We parked again in the forest, and set off on the ‘red squirrel walk’, and were amazed to see a red squirrel just as we started out, and many more as we walked around. It was a beautiful walk through the pine trees, with birds twittering above.

From here we had to drive back to the main road for a short way, turning off to Ainsdale, where a road runs through the dunes on the route of a former railway.  It looks really strange on the map, as if the road goes across the beach. Even more incongruous on the map was a holiday camp (Pontins), but we turned off here, shunning the neighbouring beach parking (₤4), but finding a spot near the dunes. We walked through the dunes, unwittingly taking a longer route, and could see the vast sandy beach, with a few cars already parked on it.

 

The road now continued through the hilly, grassy dunes, with no stopping places and no views. We were wanting somewhere to have coffee, but had to wait until we reached the southern end of Southport, where we pulled into a very wet parking area (from the tide). We watched as a man managed to extricate his car, having got stuck in the soft sand.

At Southport we drove along the promenade to the pier, then turned inland to make a short tour of the town. We found it to be really smart and attractive, with Victorian glass sunroofs outside the shops on the main street. We know that we came here in 1972, when visiting Val & Dave at Skelmersdale, but only really remember that we bought our first ‘zip together’ sleeping bags here!

Some of the vast, sandy beach was grassy, but it was not a beach to swim from. We continued through the marshes to the south of the Ribble estuary, taking a small road through Banks where there was a huge carboot sale. We carried on past Hesketh Bank, passing just a few of the hundreds of glasshouses marked on our elderly OS map. We wondered what they used to grow.

We now had to take a main road to the outskirts of Preston, looking vainly for somewhere to stop for lunch. Having crossed the muddy River Ribble, we took the road going westwards. At one point the road was closed, and we were sent on a diversion (with no help of where to go). We diverted ourselves right around a park area, but there was nowhere to stop. We drove on through Freckleton and Warton, getting quite desperate by now, but there was absolutely nothing! We were reaching Lytham St Annes. Being a Saturday, and a fine day, there was an enormous amount of traffic, and the going was very, very slow! We now came to a lot of roadside parking, but not a single space. In desperation, we turned into a smart and leafy side road (most had had no parking lines) and at 1.15 we were able to stop.

We continued through St Annes, as the western part is called, but it was just packed, with no chance of stopping. We soon reached Blackpool, and after having a ‘Las Vegas feeling’ of ‘let’s get out of here’, we enjoyed the slow journey along the seafront past all the happy grot, with its myriads of holidaymakers. We saw all three piers, and the tower, and large ‘eye’.

Eventually we emerged to the calm of Bispham, north of the town. Adrian had seen of a place at Little Bispham where we might stop for the night, in order to visit the illuminations later. We had looked at various campsites last night, and (with difficulty, as we had no phone contact where we were), phoned a nearby Certificated Site, but it was full. This motorhoming spot was rather obvious, as we came to about 50 or so motorhomes parked along the road beside the sea. These were interspersed by a few cars. We drove right along, with not a gap to be seen. However, on driving back, we spied a spot, and went for it! We were beside a large promenade, with bench seating above the beach. The tide was in, but soon began on its long ebb!

 

We enjoyed watching all the people wandering along the promenade, before having a fairly early supper, ready to leave just as it was getting dark, to see the lights. It was a short walk along the prom to the tram stop. When we arrived there, there was already quite a large group of people waiting. We soon discovered that the tram which was waiting there had a problem, and wasn’t leaving. A chap told us that they’d been waiting for half an hour. We were in luck, as a double decker tram soon came along, so we trudged upstairs to join the excited mob of sightseers. It was fun to be amongst happy holidaymakers, and to witness the illuminations, which is something one has always known about. It was wonderful too that we hadn’t contemplated driving in, as the road traffic was mostly at a standstill.

The tram went right along the front to what is known as ‘The Pleasure Beach’ – actually the funfair – and we would liked to have stayed on, but it was ‘all change’.

We had to join the end of the long queue to get on the tram to go back. We had been fortunate to have got on when we did, as it was the terminus, and we had passed frustrated queues of people waiting at the other stops. Our waiting time now was lightened by two Irish sisters, of similar age to us, who were standing behind us, and were good company.

Our turn came at last, and we again went upstairs sitting separately at first, but together right near the front for most of the way. We were a little disconcerted to find that the tram stopped at Bispham, several stops before ours at Little Bispham, but a short wait got us onto another tram, and soon we were walking back along the prom to our van it was now 10 oclock.

 

Sunday 2nd October                                                                          What’s this rain?                                                                           55 miles

 

When Adrian said last night that he had a feeling that we would wake up to rain, he didn’t expect it to last all day, but sadly it did! There had been sprinklings of rain in the night, and the morning was grey – not the sun shining on the sea that we might have imagined. The annoying thing was, that according to the radio, it was still beautiful weather down south!

We looked up Dad’s autobiography and read of their time in Blackpool just before I was born (so Rosie is a 'northerner' really as she was almost certainly conceived here!). He had said how unreliable the trams were, and that he sometimes had to get from Cleveleys to Bispham before catching one to Blackpool. We also looked at Mum’s letter to Dad, written in December 1942, when she had just moved back to Hillingdon as she didn’t want to stay in Blackpool when Dad got his posting. It seemed fitting to be reading this today, on what would have been Mum’s 101st birthday.

We left at 9.40 and drove on through Cleveleys, where the family had lived 1940-42, and tried to imagine what is was like for them living here then.

We drove on to Fleetwood, which didn’t inspire us on this dismal day, especially as a sea wall masked any view of the coast as we drove up beside it. The carparks all had height barriers, so there was no chance of us stopping, but we could glimpse the wide expanse of sand at the mouth of the River Wyre. All told, it was forlorn Fleetwood!

We travelled south again, this time through Thornton, stopping beside the mud flats of the River Wyre at Stanah in a so-called country park, where today there was a ‘family sculpture day’. What bad luck after the previous lovely weather!

We crossed the river to drive up the eastern side, passing lots of small boats nestling in the muddy creeks at Staynall. We drove on to Knott End-on-Sea, on the opposite bank of the Wyre estuary to Fleetwood. We were able to park in a car park beside the water, looking across to Fleetwood, which looked better from this side, especially when the rain stopped briefly.

Red Squirrels, Formby

The sand dunes at Ainsdale

Busy Blackpool

A nice place to stay on the front (It's sadly gone now!)

We enjoyed the Blackpool illuminations

We could watch the passenger ferry plying across the water as we enjoyed listening to Desert Island Discs with guest Anne Woods, who invented children’s television characters Teletubbies, Rosie & Jim and The Midnight Garden.

The road to Pilling Lane (the next place along the coast) was closed – the sign said 11th July for 8 weeks, but it was still closed, so we continued to the road to Fluke Hall, where there was parking beside the miles of wet sand of the bay. We could just see over the grassy ‘groyne’ as we stopped for lunch of spaghetti on toast.

We continued along, south of the Lune estuary, through Cockerham, turning down to Cockersand, past some Abbey ruins and a couple of uninspiring caravan parks. It was a really remote area, with not much going for it today!

We carried on to Glasson, which we had really liked when we had visited with Tom in the eighties, and where we had overnighted in 2002 on our way to the Lake District. It wasn’t so enticing today. The road across to the village was closed while boats went through the lock.

Fleetwood from Knott End

It seemed like a long wait, so after a while we left and continued to Lancaster. This was very busy – everyone seemed to be going shopping.

Glasson 2011

Glasson with Tom 1991

We crossed the wide and muddy River Lune, and headed south on a small road towards Overton. The road went beside the river for a short way, and gave us some anxious moments when we realized that it was almost high tide, and debris on the road showed how flooded it could get! We were really relieved when we got to higher ground. At Overton, we didn’t take the intended road south, which went a short way to a little place called Sunderland, as the road to it was said to be flooded at high tide. Apparently the first bale of cotton in England was unloaded here in the early 1700s (We recently watched a TV programme on Sunderland Point which showed it was a very historic place and that it was very much cut off at high tide and vehicles were still getting flooded on the road!).

Instead we made our way through Middleton, taking a narrow road down to the shore, past caravan parks again, reaching it at remote Potts Corner at a rough parking area safely above sea level! We watched as a man set off in a buggy, pulled by a horse he had unloaded from its trailer, straight into the sea.

Lancaster across the River Lune

Although still early we had decided to stay here for tonight, before we reached the busy resort of Morecambe.

And the best things, as always, are the unexpected! The rain stopped early evening and the sun shone down beautifully onto the water/sands. We walked across to the shore, seeing hundreds of birds in the distance, and hearing a curlew call. We revelled in this welcome beauty before coming in for supper, including an apple crumble which I had made.

Exercising his horse at Potts Corner

Unexpected sunset

Monday 3rd October                                                       Morecambe and birds                                                                         36 miles

 

It was a disappointingly grey morning – annoying to hear that it was still nice in the south. We walked outside and enjoyed the birdsong, particularly something like a curlew calling. A large white and black bird flew over. Adrian chatted to a man of our sort of age who had also stayed here last night in a small converted van. He and his wife had been on the road for some time, travelling all over, and were on their way to Scotland.

We left at 9.45. On the long, narrow road back, we first encountered a dustcart, and then a herd of cows which were crossing the road. We made our way to Heysham, where we’d left from for the Isle of Man in 1988. The road system seemed much altered, and we were prevented from going the way we wanted to. In negotiating the pretty village, a beer delivery lorry was blocking the road, and the driver eventually said that he’d be another 15 minutes. Nothing for it except to reverse!

On getting to Morecambe, we passed a small Tesco store, so went in for some much needed food. There were mostly pay & display carparks in Morecambe, but in the end we were able to stop by the bay looking at all the little boats sitting in the muddy sand of the bay.

Continuing up the coast, we drove around Carnforth, which we had visited with the children in 1985 on our way to Scotland. We then took a rural road by the shore to Leighton Moss RSPB reserve, arriving at midday. We walked past watery reed beds to two different nearby hides, seeing loads of coots and mallards, but nothing more exciting. Back at the bird feeding station we saw all sorts of finches and tits.

We drove back to have lunch near a second entrance, and afterwards walked to another hide. The walk here wasn’t as attractive, so seemed longer than the 350 metres. We’d had to pass under a very low railway bridge – too low for our van, so we’d had to park on the other side

Boats in the mud at Morecombe

. At this hide, as well as a few egrets and a grey heron, we saw myriads of waders, but being against the light, it was difficult to say what they were. As always at these places, we had felt rather naked with our tiny binoculars when we passed people with massive cameras and scopes!

On to Silverdale, looking very different from when we’d seen it when visiting in the 80’s with Tom. Then all we had seen from ‘The Shore’ was miles of marshy grass (the tide goes out for 6 miles). This time, it was nearly high tide, and angry waves were lapping the shore in the gusty winds!

We took the small road on to Arnside, a pleasant resort at the mouth of the River Kent, which the railway crosses on a low ‘viaduct’, which had caused much trouble when being built. 

We followed up beside the River Kent, past the town of Sandside, and having crossed the river, we turned down a long track to High Foulshaw to a Camping Club Certificated Site. We desperately needed water, and to empty the loo, and Adrian was overjoyed when both were accomplished!  Having settled in we walked up the grassy dyke and viewed the Kent River, right behind us and at a higher level than we were!

Leighton Moss RSPB reserve with its low railway bridge

Adrian by the River Kent

Tuesday 4th October                                                         The home of Beatrix Potter                                                        68 miles

 

We awoke to hear sheep bleating from the grassy dyke behind us. The night had been quiet. We didn’t leave until almost 10 o’clock, having done the ‘emptying & filling’ again, ready for more days on the road.

We were making a diversion slightly inland to visit Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s cottage at near Sawrey, near Lake Windermere. We had a short stretch of busy main road first, then drove up on the western side of Lake Windermere. The road we wanted just at the end was closed, so we diverted up to the outskirts of Hawkshead, returning on the far side of Eskthwaite Water on a narrow and busy road.

We reached the limited parking area for Hill Top at 10.40, and were offered a ticket for the house for 11.10. Viewing has to be by timed ticket to prevent crowding in the small house.

The winding roads had left me feeling rather giddy. Adrian changed our tickets for 11.20, so that we had time before walking the short trail up the road to get to the cottage.

Entrance was at the far end of the garden, so we strolled through this, and sat outside the house in the sunshine for the short while until it was time to enter.

The atmosphere was very informal. There were Beatrix Potter books in each room, open at a relevant page depicting an illustration based on the surroundings. I loved seeing the doll’s house just like the one in the Tale of Two Bad Mice, with tiny plates of plaster ham and oranges, just like in the book. There were actual dolls reminiscent of Jane & Lucinda in the story.

The fireplace in one of the rooms looked just like in the books, as did the pots of geraniums. I enjoyed seeing a replica of a letter with the actual story of Peter Rabbit, along with illustrations. Outside, you could imagine part of the garden to have been Mr. Mcgregor’s!

 

Sawtrey - where Beatrix Potter lived

Waiting to enter her house

Impersonating Beatrix Potter

We returned to the van at midday, and made our way to the ferry across Lake Windermere, and drove almost straight on. The fare was ₤4.30 for us (the same as a car) but meant that we drove back towards Grange-over-Sands by a different route, across the hills. We’d hoped to find somewhere to stop for lunch along this road, but there was nowhere. We reached the A390 right opposite last night’s stop.

We soon turned off the main road, and soon afterwards found a nice spot to stop for lunch, with two very dark shire horses in the neighbouring field.

Grange- over-Sands seemed a very pleasant place, but as the railway ran beside the sea all the way, we couldn’t get to it. We turned off to drive down to Kent Bank, where the old walking trail across Morecambe Bay ends, right by the railway station.

We took a long, narrow road down to Humphrey Head, where there are the only sea cliffs in the area. We hoped that we wouldn’t meet another car as we returned along this narrow road, and on to West Plain Farm, where the road ended at a caravan park. We could see the old cockling track which led down to the bay from Flockburgh, a mile inland.

Now we drove to our second visit of the day – Holker Hall. This is set in a vast park, where herds of deer roam. We visited the gardens surrounding the Hall. They were rather formal, but had some nice pastel coloured plantings – a lot of blue & white. We were glad that we’d only had to pay for one (I have RHS membership) as there wasn’t that much to see for us, especially as there was a refurbishing project going on, so you couldn’t get to all of the gardens, and also there was no water flowing in the long cascade.

Mr McGregors garden

Having left the gardens, it was time to look for somewhere for the night. We started with a fruitless drive to Old Park, just north of Holker Hall, then continued north to the A590, and then south, around the estuary of the River Leven, which flows from Lake Windermere. We drove through Ulverston, which was drear, with drab houses. Just south of here, we came to the coast again. We were looking for free overnighters which Adrian had note of, but came to our own lovely spot, right beside the shore at Bardsea. We looked across to hundreds of birds on the edge of the outgoing tide gulls and shelducks.

Holker Hall

Wednesday 5th October                                                 Windy islands and miles of sand                                              58 miles

 

It had been a windy night, and the day remained extremely windy. I wrote the few postcards we had bought yesterday and we left at 8.45.

We continued driving along beside the shore, with miles of sand and sea, beside us, turning down to the attractive village of Aldingham, with a church right by the shore, and recently whitewashed public conveniences we have seen virtually none until now.

At shoreside Rampside, we had views to Roa Island, joined by a causeway, and Piel Island with its castle. We had seen a television programme about this tiny island, with its castle and King.

We drove across the causeway to the unpretentious habitation of Roa Island, at the southern end of the Barrow peninsula. We stopped by the lifeboat station, where in summer a ferry leaves from for nearby Piel Island.

 

We soon came to Barrow, and stopped at Morrisons to get the few things that we weren’t able to buy the other day in the small Tesco’s. We sat in the car park on the dock, looking out to a large ship which is now a restaurant. Adrian then got some fuel, and in the kiosk was able to buy an OS map of this area – we’d had to rely on the atlas so far this morning. This map was an outdoor leisure one, and really too big for our needs, but at least we had plenty of detail. He had to make one more stop – at B&Q – to get some wire to try to temporarily fix the broken upper bed.

We now crossed the bridge to Walney Island, a long, thin island which looks like the lower jaw at the end of the Barrow peninsula ‘mouth’. The middle section is urban, and an extension of Barrow, but we drove the 6 miles southwards over the sand flats to some coastguard cottages at the edge of a nature reserve. We had views back to Piel Island and Roa Island. On the whole drive there and back, we didn’t see a single bit of wildlife!

Roa Island from Rampside

Coastguard Lookout, Roa Island

Roa Island

At Biggar we took the road to the western shore, hoping to stop at the marked car park, but there was a height barrier. Luckily we were able to stop a bit further on, and look out over the grassy lawn to the rushing waves. Afterwards we braved the strong wind and had a quick blow!

We drove north on the island as far as possible, just south of the airfield, before driving back through Barrow and then north. We passed a lot of industrial estates and more supermarkets.

After driving through a wooded area, we turned off on a rural road to a car park by the shore beside Sandscale nature reserve. We walked out briefly in the strong wind it would have been a lovely spot on a clear, warm day!

We next came to Askam, taking the road to the coast, where the car park once again had a height barrier. We could just glimpse the miles and miles of sand.

The road now followed up beside the coast, but slightly inland, and along a ridge, giving us views of the Duddon estuary.

We tried turning down to Sand Side, but came to an extra narrow part between two stone buildings, and couldnt get through. We even had trouble in going back! We tried the next (B) road down to the village, but a lorry was blocking the way, so we gave up! We continued to Grizebeck on an A road, which was narrow, and difficult with large vehicles to pass.

We needed somewhere to stay for tonight, with the extra difficulties of the high winds, so we needed to be in a sheltered position. We turned up beside the pretty Duddon River through beautiful woodland. We were surprised at how busy this little road was, and there was nowhere to pull off. We emerged at open moorland, which isnt what we wanted, so we returned. There was one layby near the start of the road, but we voted it too narrow to be comfortable.

It was now raining torrentially too we contemplated staying in a CS again, and began following the road up the other side of the river to a CS campsite a few miles north. We passed a layby, but being right under trees, Adrian thought that it would drip all night, so we reluctantly carried on. We were in luck, as before too long we came to a pull off on the edge of the moors north of Duddon Bridge, near Ravens Crag, with no overhanging trees. It was now nearly 5 oclock. We pulled in, as the rain lashed down. The first job Adrian had to do was to try to fix the bed with the wire he had bought.

We had supper of nice little Scotch pies we had bought in Morrisons

Piel Island from Walney Island

Thursday 6th October                                                               Wild, windy beaches                                  48 miles

 

Another day of high winds, with squally showers and occasional blue sky. We left our lovely hill situation at 9 o’clock and followed the road down, continuing to the very ordinary town of Millom, which we’d never heard of before, at the mouth of the Duddon River. We drove right through to the sandy estuary, and then to Hodbarrow RSPB reserve, just to the south. We parked beside the large coastal lagoon, which had a path going right around it (5km). There was a bird hide about half way round. A brief, sharp hail storm greeted us! We sufficed with a short walk by the water, where we saw coots, mallards and herring gulls! A man & woman chatted to Adrian about our van.

 

 

We now drove back through Millom to Haverigg, on the coast just to the west. We had a quick ‘blow’ in the strong wind, looking over the sandy estuary, and past Millom ‘pond’ to the hills on the other side of the estuary.

Hodbarrow RSPB Reserve

Then, with an internet connection, we received our emails, with one from Nicky with photos of Louisa & Joanna. By the time we’d finished, it was midday.

We drove down to the coast again after driving through Silecroft. We looked down to the vast sandy beach, with rough waves beyond, while we ate our lunch. Two windsurfers in a nearby van had been sizing up the wind, and eventually raced right down across the beach to enjoy the waves. Not for me! The wind was really strong.

Haverigg

The road north now went along the foot of the Lake District hills, slightly inland. We left it at Bootle and drove down to the coast again at Stubb Place, driving away from the wide sandy beach around Eskmeals firing range. The road went under a low railway bridge – 10ft 3 ins. We had the Ixi height in metres only – 2.75. We attempted conversions, but eventually continued. An added problem when we reached the bridge, right by the Esk estuary, was that the road often flooded! Luckily it wasn’t high tide! Even the road back to the A road had its difficulties – although a B road - it was often narrow, and we met several vehicles, some parked , some hogging the road! We reached the A road at the village of Waberthwaite, which looked brighter than most, as some of the houses had painted window frames.

We crossed the River Esk, and drove past Muncaster Castle, coming down to the coast again at the delightful one street village of Ravenglass. We looked across the sand flats before calling in at the railway station, where a narrow gauge railway runs from. The last steam train of the day had already left, so we continued on our way. (we eventually went on the railway in 2015)

Windsurfers brave it across the beach at Silecroft

We drove past Drigg Station, then around a large ‘Nuclear Store’ to sand dunes, but you couldn’t actually get to the beach. As the van rocked in the high winds, we looked at possible more sheltered places to stop for the night.

We drove on through the unremarkable and drab town of Seascale to view the waves beyond the wide, sandy beach, while the rain lashed and the wind blew!

We now headed back to the A road, turning off at Calder Bridge to follow a small road up into the hills. A sign at the start said that the road was closed further on, but luckily not until after we had found a pull off beside the road at a remote spot in the hills, on a Forestry access road Lowther Park, Ennerdale Forest, where we hoped that it was not as windy as the coast. Even so, the van often rocked with the violent showers!

The atmospheric seat at Ravenglass

Friday 7th October  Why did my 3xgreat grandparents come to Cockermouth?                50 miles

 

The wind dropped, and there were just a few gusts during the night. The morning was fine, and the day quite pleasant, with mostly sunshine.

We left at 10 o’clock and drove on a very narrow road down from the hills, through Beckermet to the coast at Braystones, just north of the tall chimneys of Sellafield. The railway ran between the road and the coast, so we continued to St Bees. Like the previous road, this was extremely narrow, with either high banks or treacherously soft shoulders, and almost no passing places.

At St Bees we stopped in the car park by the sea (4 hrs free with disabled badge), looking to the ‘Head’ while watching a toddler playing in the play area in front of us. She was wearing a stripy top reminiscent of one Simon had, and looked and ran (waddled) just like Emma did at that age. We’d been listening to the Beatles White Album, which we’ve never really known.

Afterwards we walked across the grassy area to the sandy beach, and walked along it towards the head. We were glad to be wearing our wellies, so that we could ‘dip our boots in the Irish Sea’, as Wainwright suggested walkers of the ‘Coast to Coast’ walk do. This was the official start of the walk, which we had always wanted to do

There were quite a lot of people taking their dogs on to the beach, including a couple who’d pulled in beside us in a small Volkswagen camper with 2 large black Labradors. The dogs’ bed filled the whole of the floor space in the camper.

There was no wind, and the pleasant sun made the sea look blue. It was just a shame about the uninspiring houses behind us, and the even less inspiring static caravans. We were amused/annoyed at a large sign stating that people walking on the promenade did so at their own risk!

We drove on to Whitehaven, on another narrow road, but not being able to find the way to the RSPB viewpoints on St Bees Head. We have been to Whitehaven before, a very long time ago, but we can’t remember exactly when, or why! Adrian remembers it as a mining town then – very black. Now it seemed a pleasant, if rather run down, town

We needed to buy one or two things, and decided to shop in Aldi, which we’d never done before. We found it very like a poor Lidl, and mostly cheap, but with no variety. The town and the parking seemed strange, and we ended up parking for lunch just beyond the harbour, overlooking the sandy beach, and looking across to the Dumfries peninsula.

St Bees

We located the record office and were able to park not too far away. My gr gr grandfather George Thompson Lawson had been born in nearby Cockermouth in 1795, although his parents had got married in Brotton, N. Yorks the year before, and returned there soon afterwards. We were trying to find out why they had come to Cockermouth. The assistants tried to help, and suggested various books to look at. These we found interesting, but they didn’t help us. Cockermouth seemed to have mines, mills and agriculture, but nothing suggested why the Lawsons had come. We had been amused that a large crane working outside the record office was owned by G. Lawson!

We’d asked the assistants if there was a launderette nearby. We located the one they mentioned, but there was nowhere to park, so we left and drove on to Workington. This had been an industrial town, and the houses were drab and unattractive. We found our way down to the shore, and stopped enjoying views back to St Bees Head, and walking outside briefly. Tomorrow the high winds are due to return!

Now we made our way to Cockermouth, G.T. Lawson’s birthplace, and also the birthplace of William Wordsworth. We hope to visit his home tomorrow, as it is closed on Fridays. We were almost at Cockermouth when we discovered that the step was still out! We drove around the smart town, hoping to see a launderette, but no luck. We took a very pretty road towards Bassenthwaite, heading for overnighter spots we had note of. Sadly when we reached the first spot, above the lake, it had a ‘no overnighting’ sign. The second pull-off, close by didn’t seem to have a sign, but had a car parked in it.  We waited about 15 minutes for the car to leave, so that we could position ourselves, but on doing so, spied a ‘no overnighting’ sign hidden in the trees!

We decided to return to a previous spot we had passed on the road here on the old upper road from Cockermouth to Bassenthwaite near Higham Hall and pulled in. After getting settled in, we walked along a narrow footpath as far as some woodland.

Whitehaven

Statue to the end of coalmining in Whitehaven

Saturday 8th October                                                             Wot no launderette!                                                                    40 miles

 

The morning was damp, after some light rain in the night, but we had a short walk through the woodland on the other side of the road before leaving at 9.30.

We made our way back to Cockermouth, and drove around, hoping to find a launderette, but no luck. We couldnt get to the Visitors Centre either. The town was already busy, so when we came to a disabled parking spot at 9.45 near to Wordsworths house, we decided to take it, although the house didnt open until 11 oclock. Wed hoped to have done the washing first, but had to give up on that idea. Unfortunately we didnt have an internet connection here, as wed wanted to phone the kids.

Time went quite quickly, helped by a lady on Excess Baggage on the radio talking about Antarctic explorer Cherry Garrard. We were parked outside a church building where the Embleton Youth Club were holding a coffee morning. While we drank our own tea/coffee, we watched the many young kids standing outside in the drizzle, hoping to entice people in. They didnt seem to have many takers.

We got to Wordsworths house for 11 oclock we were the first visitors of the day, but there were soon several more. Wordsworth had lived here as a child with his brothers and sisters. Both his parents died while he was still young. The front of the house was set up as his parents home would have looked, with the usual please dont touch feel (in the drawing room, one of the guides was playing the harpsichord), but the rear rooms had replica items, and you were encouraged to feel them, which was nice. We had a brief look at the garden, but then went into the cellars, where there was an exhibition about the Cockermouth floods of 2009. Cockermouth stands on the confluence of the Derwent and Cocker Rivers. This house, and others in the town had been well repaired since then, but markers on the wall showed where the flood level had been.

After leaving here, we went in search of the launderette once more – Adrian had asked where it was – but no luck. We came to a fish & chip shop in this residential street, so enjoyed some fish & chips for lunch. The lady told Adrian that the launderette was just along the road, so we went off on another search, but found that it must have closed down – the locals couldn’t have known!

The computer had been playing up, and we hadn’t been able to get an internet connection, but when we finally did, we were able to use the phone on it and speak to Emma, Paul & Tom, but couldn’t get through to Simon.

Before leaving Cockermouth, we made our way to All Saints Church, where George Thompson Lawson had been christened  (as had William Wordsworth), but not in this actual church, as the former one had been destroyed by fire in 1850. This present church (1854) was a grand affair, carpeted in red throughout, and with a lot of stained glass windows.

We got chatting to the lady caretaker, who told us that they have no children at all amongst the congregation, and no Sunday School. It had seemed a very much loved church, but this was sad.

Now we finally left Cockermouth, and made our way back to the coast at Maryport  an attractive town, where, as in a few other places, the window surrounds had been painted, brightening up the houses considerably. Adrian had looked up other towns with a launderette, so we made our way first to the one here but it was closed down, with a For Sale sign outside!

We drove down to the harbour, at the mouth of the River Ellen before driving on northwards through grassy dune country with sandy beaches, through Allonby to Silloth. We found the laundry here but it was closed, and a commercial place anyway!

We parked beside a large green near the sea. There was a tree commemorating 100 years of Rotary International, planted in 2005, and a 2009 plaque to 150 years of the town. It was a pleasant town with wide, cobbled streets. We drove down to the front, where on a clear day you would have had good views of the Scottish hills across Solway Firth.

We drove on beside the sea to Skinburness, with humble houses lining one side of the road all the way. There were none on the road back, but this was across marshy land, and we were very lucky not to meet any other vehicles.

Back on the B road, we continued through Abbeytown, and were just deciding not to take a side road off, when right at the junction of B5307 and Salt Cotes Rd near Raby, there was a large rough pull off, which would do us well for the night, which promises to be another wet one.

William Wordsworth's childhood home, Cockermouth

All Saints Church - built on site where William Wordsworth & George Thompson Lawson were christened

Sunday 9th October (9/10/11)                                          Into Scotland, with clean washing!!

 

There was heavy rain in the night, and also some wind. The morning was grey, which didn’t show anywhere in its best light, but the visibility did improve in the late afternoon.

We left at 9.20, and soon drove through Newton Arlosh, with its stubby church tower, which had been used for defence during the long English/Scottish battles

. On our way to Anthorn, the road was blocked by a large herd of cows, which two cowmen were frantically trying to entice into a nearby muddy field.

We crossed the River Wampool, with its wide, sandy estuary, joined by the estuary of the River Waver, to the south. We drove around the tall radio masts of Anthorn. It was very rural. We were looking across Solway Firth to Annan in Scotland, where Nicky’s ancestors are from.

Just before Bowness-on-Solway we passed the protrusion which had been the end of the viaduct of the railway which once went across the Firth. It had been built in 1869, and damaged by severely cold weather in 1875, and finally demolished in 1934. Bowness was quite a large village, with a school. The roads were very narrow for any traffic this might incur. This was the western end of Hadrian’s Wall, but the only evidence we saw was a footpath sign, which probably followed the route of it.

This area is totally untouristy, with very few pull-offs. We stopped at the water’s edge before Port Carlisle – a very small community which hadn’t ever really happened. There was a CS (certificated site) here, which we had thought of staying at, if times had worked out right. As it was, we desperately wanted water. We’d decided to ask if we could just get water. Our luck was in – there was another motorhome there, which had become stuck and needed towing out. The son of the campsite owners had arrived, so Adrian negotiated with him to get water, saying that we didn’t want to get stuck as well! Adrian spent some time chatting to the other couple, who seemed very pleasant, and we ended up being able to fill the water tank. Yippee!

At Burgh by Sands, there was a village monument to Edward 1st, who had died here in 1307 while leading a campaign against Robert the Bruce.

Newton Arlosh's 'stubby church tower'

Now it was on to Carlisle, and here we finally found a launderette which was open! It was a poky little place, expensive and insalubrious, but we were at last able to do our washing. The attendant was a blonde lady with a strong European accent. We had lunch sitting in the van while the washing was doing. While I went in to collect the dry washing, Adrian had got hold of Simon on the phone, so we were able to have a chat.

It was after 2 oclock when we left. We had a little drive around Carlisle, glimpsing the castle, and seeing the pleasant old city centre before heading north on a rural road around Rockcliffe, and then on the old road beside the motorway to Gretna.

We had now completed this north-west section of our RAB

Statue of Edward 1st at Burgh by Sands

The next section will be North & Mid Wales