TOWARDS the end of April I returned to Carnforth with the express intention of leaving both it and Lancashire behind and striking out into Cumbria and the south of the Lake District. The sky was grey when I got there and I fully expected that any views of distant hills would be totally hidden by mist. Also, at some point it would rain.
Of course expecting it to rain up there is like expecting it to rain in Wales. Of course it will rain and for much the same reason — the weather rolls in off the Atlantic and whatever doesn’t fall on Ireland dumps over Britain’s west coast. Indeed, there’s an old joke about the Lake District weather that says that it’s easy to forecast by sight: If you can see the next hill then it’s just about to rain (and if you can’t, it must already be raining).
It had been raining when I had last seen Carnforth but it was having a bit of a lull when I returned. Even so, it wasn’t the brightest and most beautiful of towns and struck me as looking fairly glum. Possibly it looks a lot nicer in the sunshine but as it was I was quite happy to keep my encounter with it brief.
The road out was high-walled and grim as it led past the station but the Lancashire Coastal Path quickly ducked off sideways up a narrow lane with low bridges that ran beside the River Keer.
The Keer, which was little more than a narrow stream, was the first river of the day which I needed to cross. A tributary of the River Kent, its upper reaches form part of the boundary between Lancashire and Cumbria (prior to 1974 it would have been Lancashire and Westmorland) but downstream, where I was, the border was further north.
I crossed the Keer by means of a small footbridge and followed a cycle path between the railway line and the marshes until it brought me to a road and a bridge across the tracks.
I was meant to then follow the road partway into the village of Warton, before taking a footpath across some fields. I found the start of the footpath but its continuation wasn’t that obvious (it had deviated from how it is shown on the map) so I backtracked and kept going through Warton instead.
Warton dates back to Anglo-Saxon times but rose in importance in the thirteenth century, when it became a staging post on the road to Carlisle.
St Oswald’s Church & Rectory
In 1200, King John granted it a market charter and, between 1267 and 1332, a rectory was constructed for St Oswald’s Church and also used to hold manorial courts — the lowest tier of legal court under the feudal system. At some point, the rectory was abandoned and had fallen into ruin by the eighteenth century; the ruins are a grade I listed building.
The Church of St Oswald, where the rector carried out his work, is grade II listed and parts of it date variously from the twelfth, fifteenth, sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Somewhat unusually for an English church, it flies the flag of the city of Washington, DC — which is actually a banner of the arms of the Washington family — every fourth of July. This is because Warton is the ancestral home of the Washingtons, some of whom took part in those many rebuildings of the church.
The actual flag flown by St Oswald’s was donated by the United States Senate on the urging of American troops who had visited the village during WW2; it previously flew over the Capitol building in Washington, DC.
I made my way towards the centre of Warton and took a right-hand turn beside the village pub (the George Washington, which was rather amusingly bedecked with Union Jacks and Flags of St George).
This put me on a steeply climbing road out of the village for Warton is overlooked by Warton Crag, a wooded limestone hill, 163 m high, which used to be actively quarried. It was this industry that caused the initial expansion of Carnforth, which possessed the nearest railway station via which the stone could be transported. The quarry is disused now and peregrine falcons nest upon its face.
Near to the quarry was a lime kiln, which makes sense as if you were going to burn limestone to make quicklime in a time when roads were bad, you’d want to do it as close to the quarry as possible.
Footpath of Failure
I also found the footpath that I had earlier failed to follow. It seemed a lot more obvious from the top end but I was slightly reassured to see someone else, their body language radiating puzzlement, failing to follow it at the bottom. I tried to wave with the intention of directing them but they completely failed to see me.
Ignored by Goats
I was seen by two goats, who were sitting in an intervening field, but they quickly dismissed me as irrelevant when I turned out not to be offering them any food.
The road led westwards along the lower slopes of Warton Crag with the trees allowing me occasional glimpses out across the valley. Eventually, as I marched along, both crag and road lost height and the trees gave way to fields as I reached the tiny hamlet of Crag Foot, which was a mere handful of buildings.
There used to be an iron and aragonite mine at Crag Foot, which also helped fuel the growth of Carnforth to the extent that it rapidly overtook Warton in both size and importance.
There were, in fact, two mining companies that operated in the vicinity of Warton Crag, namely the Warton and Silverdale Mining Company (1879-90) and the Warton Mining and Colour Company (1889-92). In both cases, their working lives were rather short, as is the lone chimney that stands as an unofficial memorial to the ghost of industry past — the top section was demolished when it became unsafe.
When I was ready to continue, having consulted my map, I ventured into a low-lying, marshy valley, where I left the road via a footpath. This initially ran alongside a small stream — Quicksand Pool — upon which a pair of greylag geese were attempting to herd their clutch of tiny, fluffy goslings in something approaching a single direction. Goslings, like ducklings, imprint on their parents and should follow them about in a little line. No one appeared to have told these particular goslings, who seemed to have taken their herding guidelines from cats.
The path crossed the stream and soon ventured out onto the actual marsh, where it fortunately remained atop an embankment.
The embankment was built in 1840 on the orders of the local squire, Thomas Gillow, who employed twenty local men for the task at the rate of two shillings and eight pence a day. It rejoices in the slightly baffling name of Quaker’s Stang but, since ‘stang’ apparently means ‘pool’ (possibly from Latin ‘stagnum’), this seems to be a simple garbling of the name of the nearby stream, which has long been known as Quicksand Pool.
Quaker’s Stang carried me across the squelchy, sheep-bedotted marsh and led me towards the next ‘island’ of high ground. This wooded hill abutted the sea and ahead, where it did so, I could just make out another chimney in the mist.
When I reached the edge of the hill, the footpath branched, giving me three options, one of which was to head left along the edge of the marsh towards that chimney. Alternatively, I could go straight up the hill, or I could circle the hill by going right.
Jenny Brown’s Point
This limestone chimney stands at Jenny Brown’s Point, allegedly named after an old lady who lived there at some point in the eighteenth century and who may or may not have kept pigs.
The chimney is clearly not part of a lime kiln — because building the chimney out of the material to be burned could have drawbacks — but is in fact the only remains of an old copper smelting works. It was constructed in the 1790s when copper was in great demand — from 1793, England desperately needed bronze cannons for use in the French Revolutionary Wars.
As marsh gave way to the muddy beaches of Morecambe Bay, I followed it round and found the end of a road where a couple of cottages clustered — presumably one is where Jenny Brown lived — and I gratefully took to this firm walking surface, from which I was happy to survey the beach from a distance.
The causeway must have seemed mysterious indeed in 1977, when it suddenly appeared, having been uncovered by a storm. It’s actually the remnants of a failed Victorian engineering project; the initial stage of a land reclamation scheme begun in 1874 and later abandoned due to financial difficulties.
An Act of Parliament authorised the Warton Land Company to enclose an area from Jenny Brown’s Point to Hest Bank and work commenced in 1875, using limestone quarried at the former. The endeavour turned out to be more difficult than predicted and the project quickly ran over budget. In 1885, the company was declared bankrupt and the stone embankment abandoned to be swallowed by the sands.
Rather more was revealed in 1977 than can actually be seen today; the shifting channels of Morecambe Bay have since reburied much of it.
Since I was now on a proper road I made good use of it, following it north past the Victorian folly of Lindeth Tower — a three story square tower with battlements — which was built in 1842 for Hesketh Fleetwood, a prominent Preston banker. Beyond the tower lay the village of Silverdale, where the Lancashire Coastal Path ended.
Silverdale is largely a creation of the railway, prior to the opening of the Ulverston to Lancaster line in 1857, it comprised a collection of semi-isolated farmsteads, without a discernible village centre. It did, however, have an inn, which was frequented by travellers and tourists heading for the Lake District. The name of the village has nothing to do with silver of any sort, the earliest recorded form being ‘Selredal’ in 1199 and probably derives from a Norse personal name.
Once the railway had arrived (for a certain value of ‘arrived’ — the railway station lies about a mile from the village centre thanks to a protracted wrangle between two prominent local landowners) the village grew to exploit its new opportunities, transporting limestone from its quarries and cockles and shrimps from its fishermen.
Tourism was also a significant local industry from the start and today is about the only one it has left. Since many of its residents are retirees, they probably prefer the gentler pace of life.
I decided to go with the trend and sat beside the Millennial Clock (a controversial addition to the village, which somewhat polarised local opinion) and ate a sandwich purchased from a village shop.
Once adequately refuelled and rested, I took advantage of a footpath to take a shortcut through the village (following the road would have taken me via two sides of a triangle) before climbing another hill on a road heading north. The Lancashire Coastal Path was now behind me and the Cumbria Coastal Way was about to begin.
Cumbria as a county has only existed since 1974, when the historic counties of Westmorland and Cumberland were united with Lancashire over the Sands. The latter comprises a couple of peninsulas protruding into Morecambe Bay that look on a map as if they belong in Cumbria but prior to the railways could only really be accessed by crossing the sands of Morecambe Bay from Lancashire and were therefore administered from there.
If the modern county of Cumbria is relatively new, its name certainly isn’t. In the post-Roman period the region was a strong British cultural region and its language, Cumbric (essentially a dialect of Old Welsh), survived into the twelfth century in the now-Scottish region of Strathclyde.
The Kingdom of Rheged, which occupied much of Cumbria, was conquered by Northumbria in the seventh century, leading to widespread Anglian settlement. Viking raids and Norse settlement also followed and the northwest was largely left to itself such that by the time the Kingdom of England was founded in 927, Cumbria was mostly part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde (itself just the most northern part of the Cumbric cultural region).
An English invasion led, bizarrely, to the region being ceded to the Scots, who held onto it despite subsequent Anglo-Scottish border wars. Consequently the Domesday Book of 1086 largely omits this foreign land from its records.
A new series of English invasions, from 1092 under William II and then under Henry I were much more successful, incorporating what is now modern Cumbria into England. Even so, it retains a character all of its own and its place names often betray their Cumbric origins as part of what the Welsh called Yr Hen Ogledd: the Old North.
Pretty much immediately I entered Cumbria, I found myself walking a narrow country lane, flanked by dry stone walling and with sheep on the distant hills. It couldn’t have looked more Cumbrian if it had tried. This was in no way diminished by the first settlement after Silverdale being the tiny hamlet of Far Arnside.
Beyond Far Arnside was Arnside Park, a wooded hillside on the south-western slope of Arnside Knott.
The path through the trees was winding and pleasant and at one point featured half a dozen dogs — mostly Collies — bounding towards me with the sort of mad excitement that only a Border Collie can really excel at. A woman chasing along behind them had technically obeyed the signs requiring dogs to be kept on leads, as none of the signs had actually specified that she had to hold the other end.
‘Lovely day,’ she observed as she jogged past but then she paused to correct herself. ‘Actually, no, it’s not lovely,’ she said, ‘but at least it’s not actually raining’.
The Bob-in Café
The path through the woods ended at a caravan park, where a café lured me inside with promises of tea and cake, upon which it more than adequately delivered. I earned extra points from the woman behind the counter by telling her I drink my tea black before she poured out a little jug of milk (which would otherwise have had to be thrown away after I hadn’t used it).
I sat myself in the corner, scoffing my cake with alacrity and perusing my map over tea. After a while, I became aware of four sets of eyes of pensionable age studying me from the next table. I stared back and raised a quizzical eyebrow.
‘Sorry, we’re just reading your t-shirt,’ explained one elderly gent.
My blood didn’t actually run cold but it may have chilled a little. I have many t-shirts of questionable taste and, while I usually exercise moderation in where I wear them, I had no idea what I’d thrown on at stupid o’clock that morning. They might be reading almost anything. With some trepidation, I looked down.
‘My only purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others,’ proclaimed my chest. Big sigh of relief.
‘Hence the cake?’ suggested a little old lady. I nodded and laughed, unsure if she’d just called me fat. But I am a bit overweight at present, so fair call. Unfortunately, walking doesn’t do that much to burn off the calories as millions of years of evolution mean that walking is something that humans are really efficient at. Not that it necessarily feels that way at the end of twenty-plus miles.
With tea and cake consumed, I set off on a path along the shoreline that led me around to the main village of Arnside. Arnside is not beside something called the Arn but instead takes its name from the Old Norse given name Arni and sætr meaning ‘mountain pasture’ (although describing Arnside Knott (159 m) as a mountain is rather generous). I can’t help but think that ‘Arni’ sounds like the perfect name for an unstoppable Viking warrior, though.
The River Kent is one of the many rivers that empty out into Morecambe Bay and a significant barrier to anyone crossing the sands. It can be waded in places at low tide but timing is everything, as is getting the place exactly right. Better still, when walks across the sands are organised the participants have to walk abreast as walking single file turns the sand into quicksand for those at the back. Much safer then to cross the river by rail, using the viaduct constructed in 1857 and rebuilt in 1915; it is 505 m long.
My route took me into Arnside along the banks of the Kent and I paused for a rest on a short stone pier that juts out into the river. Built by the railway in 1860, the pier was rebuilt in 1984 at a cost of £25,000 after a storm destroyed it. It is a remnant of Arnside’s heyday as a boatbuilding village and small port, which lasted for just a brief period in the mid to late nineteenth century.
From 1857, well-to-do Victorians arrived by means of the newly-built railway to enjoy the scenery and the seaside but not necessarily the sea itself. The shores of the Kent Estuary might be composed of dull-looking muddy sand but they are not without excitement.
Hincaster Branch Line
Having navigated Arnside and passed beneath the railway, I now planned to head north in parallel with the Kent until I could find a suitable bridge of my own. The path ran along the top of an embankment — a long-vanished railway branch line — which had salt marsh on one side and the road, screened by trees, on the other.
A number of sheep were roaming the embankment with little lambs in tow. Mostly these took notice of my approach and casually moved out of the way. One lamb had other ideas though and clearly found me fascinating. It got closer and closer, looking up with curious eyes as its mother got increasingly anxious nearby. The lamb was almost within touching distance when its mother let out a particularly insistent bleat that caused it to turn tail and scurry back. The tone of that bleat was quite unmistakeable; we’ve all heard it as children. It goes something like:
‘Don’t you DARE! You come back here this instant!’
Unleashed Dog Lady
A little further along the embankment, I encountered a woman with an unleashed dog that bounded up excitedly to say hello. As the woman apologised for her dog’s enthusiastic friendliness, I warned her about the lambs and that she’d need to put the dog back on her lead.
At this point the conversation could have gone downhill rapidly as many people are sadly deluded about their pets and insist that ‘Rover wouldn’t do that’. Of course, even if true that’s largely irrelevant because the sheep know no such thing and all they see is a wolf. This woman, fortunately, did not take it as a slight upon her canine companion.
‘Thank you,’ she said, leashing the clearly disappointed dog. ‘I don’t think she’d hurt them but she’d chase them all over the marsh.’
The embankment, once part of the Hincaster Branch Line, which from 1876 to 1966 connected Arnside to the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway at Hincaster, came to an end at the village of Storth.
There, I joined the road and wandered along by the riverside. As I did so I heard the siren’s wail from Arnside far behind me. The tide is fierce in the Kent estuary — after rushing over the flat sands of Morecambe Bay it gets funnelled into the river where it forms a dangerous tidal bore.
I was a bit too early to see the bore but the Kent already looked anything but boring. In one part of the channel, I could clearly see the River Kent flowing downstream, while across the rest of it the water was visibly flowing upstream. Where the two flows met, turbulent eddies churned and the water level rose surprisingly quickly.
I watched it for a while but couldn’t really spare too much time and thus, reluctantly, I tore myself away.
Storth is an Old Norse word for a woody place and the village at one time also went by the rather more English equivalent name of Woodland. In common with almost everywhere on my last few walks, it was held by Earl Tostig Godwinson shortly before the Conquest (the southernmost fringe of Cumbria belonged to England not Scotland), by which time he’d caused a rebellion, turned traitor and got himself killed while aiding a Norwegian invasion.
After the Conquest, it was included amongst the lands ruled by Roger de Poitou from Lancaster Castle. Through the following centuries, the village remained a small agricultural settlement with some dabbling in copper mining.
The neighbouring hamlet of Sandside, through which I next passed and which it abuts, was very similar but additionally functioned as Westmorland’s only seaport (most of the southern Cumbrian coast belonged to Lancashire) from Elizabethan times until the building of the railway viaduct at Arnside.
At one time, there was a tidal road over the sands to Foulshaw on the Kent’s opposite bank, which naturally required some fording. This was, of course, highly risky if the tide turned.
Alternatively, at higher tides, there was a ferry. This had run for centuries and for some of the tinier hamlets on the far side, was the only link to the nearest church (at Beetham).
Sandside Ferry Disaster
Little more than a rowing boat, the ferry survived to at least 1905, when a disaster saw an overladen ferry capsize in the high-tide turbulence, drowning six of its ten passengers. The victims were holiday makers from Oldham who had been staying at Low Foulshaw and were crossing the river to get to the railway, in order to make their journey home.
I don’t know if the ferry stopped with that disaster or not but even if it continued, I doubt it made it through WWI; the Great War ended many rural ferries, when the ferrymen went off to fight and die for King and country.
I could have continued alongside the river in Sandside but the road (the B6385) was busy with traffic and I took advantage of a footpath that ran behind the hamlet’s main buildings on a back road passing Sandside Quarry.
The quarry has operated since 1901 and is still going, extracting aggregate for use in asphalt road surfaces; it is owned by Lafarge Tarmac Limited, the modern successor to 1903’s TarMacadam Syndicate Limited and thus the originator of Britain’s modern asphalt-concreted roads.
Thanks to this route, I pretty much scuttled around the back of Sandside, emerging only to cross over the B6385 and head off down a footpath that sat atop a wooded embankment. The embankment was yet another remainder of the old Hincaster Branch Line but it didn’t extend all that far and the footpath soon dropped off the side and skirted the edge of the River Bela, a tributary of the Kent. The weather may not have been bright and beautiful but the gurgle of the water was delightful nonetheless.
Up ahead, I could see a stone arched bridge by which I (and the B6385) would be crossing the Bela. After the serenity of the all-too short stretch along the Bela, Milnthorpe Bridge was a traffic-heavy nightmare and not nearly short enough. Still, I made it across in one piece and found myself confronted by a sign proclaiming that ‘Milnthorpe welcomes careful drivers’.
Milnthorpe is an ancient market town and port — Sandside was legally part of the Port of Milnthorpe. It is also, bizarrely, the birthplace of the ‘Um Bongo’ brand of children’s juice drinks, formerly owned by Nestlé and now owned by Portuguese food and drinks firm Sumol + Compal SA. So, while that brand’s 1980s advertising jingle may have run ‘Um Bongo Um Bongo / They drink it in the Congo’, it was actually first manufactured in Cumbria. It was never sold in the Congo either, so the jingle was just one big lie (I thought we had laws about that?)
Anyway, Milnthorpe appeared to only be welcoming careful drivers and I don’t even have a licence, so I decided that Milnthorpe could get stuffed and instead took a narrow side road heading north parallel to the Kent. This was the start of a couple of miles’ worth of country lanes, winding and with almost no traffic, which made a much better alternative than the A6 would have done.
The A6 is a long-standing and historic north-south route and accordingly is the north road out of Milnthorpe. Although only single carriageway rather than dualled it is still extremely busy and mostly lacking in pedestrian pavement outside of towns. Of course the road I was taking also lacked a pedestrian pavement.
Eventually, my country lane adventure came to an end and the lanes met the A6 just north of the village of Heversham. There, I found that there was a footway at the roadside after all and I used it to trek about half a mile north to Levens Hall.
The hall is a mostly Elizabethan manor house constructed around an older Peel Tower (a defensive keep to protect against Border Reivers) and further extended in the seventeenth century. It is usually opened to the public by its owners, the Bagot family — its topiary gardens, laid out by French gardener Guillaume Beaumont between 1689 and 1712, are rightly famous.
Sadly, or perhaps fortunately given that I couldn’t really spare the time, I was passing on day when the house and gardens were closed.
If I was disappointed not to see the Levens Hall gardens, I heroically hid it, or rather I had no witnesses, which is almost the same thing. At any rate, my spirit wasn’t so crushed as to stop me from crossing the Kent by means of Levens Bridge.
Having finally crossed the river, I passed under the A590 dual carriageway and then climbed a low hill (about 44 m) into the village of Levens.
Listed in Domesday as ‘Lefuenes’, Levens was actually the name of the manor associated with Levens Hall and for centuries what is now the village of Levens was a bunch of tiny hamlets with their own names and identities. The name ‘Levens’ is generally accepted to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon given name Leoffwine, so the village is essentially named Leoffwine’s [village]. It has always been a small agricultural settlement.
Small, Levens might be, but not so small as to not have a shop. Said shop furnished me with a sandwich and a fruit drink (not Um Bongo, which I haven’t actually seen in ages) and a handy bench outside on which I could sit and rest.
A couple of villagers wandered into the shop as I sat there and gave me a quick glance to make sure I wasn’t Up To No Good. I can only presume I must have passed this careful scrutiny, because one elderly-looking woman decided that it would be fine to tie her dog up next to me while she popped inside to buy stuff. I ignored the dog. It ignored me. We were both happy.
Having rested, refuelled and resisted an opportunity for dognapping (I’m more of a cat person) I made my way back down the hill and back out onto another narrow country lane. This one was heading for Sampool Bridge, a bridge over the River Gilpin.
The tiny hamlet at Sampool Bridge seemed mostly to comprise a pub and a car showroom. As well as many modern vehicles, the latter had an Austin 7 Swallow in its window, a highly popular vehicle between 1928 and 1932. There was only one though, which was appropriate for springtime since it alone did not a summer make.
The pub was called the Gilpin Bridge, which is an alternative name for both the bridge and the hamlet. Given that the Gilpin, another tributary of the Kent, runs directly beneath the bridge, while the separate hamlet of Sampool is about a mile away, it’s possibly more sensible too.
At one time the A590 must have passed right through Sampool Bridge but now crosses on a nearby modern bridge, presumably diverted when it was dualled. Unfortunately, this meant that while I had crossed the Gilpin on an old bridge with no traffic whatsoever, I next had to take my life in my hands and cross the A-road’s busy carriageways in order to continue. It took a while; at one point I feared I might be stranded on the central reservation forever.
Towards the Foulshaws
Having dodged the deadly traffic I found myself on a long, straight, traffic-free road that led down to the Foulshaws (High, Middle and Low). It was incredibly dull but after the A590, dullness was a Godsend.
The road may have led directly down to Low Foulshaw, from where those hapless tourists were leaving in 1905, but the Cumbria Coastal Way had other ideas.
Meathop and Ulpha
Just after the farmstead of High Foulshaw, it took a left across a field of slightly indignant sheep and then adopted a parallel course along a hedged-in, rutted, unmade track. This was tough going, even where the gate wasn’t blocked by sheep, and so I was anything but upset when it came to an end and instead I found myself atop an embankment separating the riverside marshes from fields reclaimed from those marshes.
River, embankment and footpath curved slowly around and I saw Storth and Arnside on the far bank. The tide that had earlier flowed so fiercely had now receded, exposing great stretches of sand.
Eventually the embankment came to an end and the footpath joined a track that carried me to and past a farmhouse. There, I nearly went badly astray as what seemed like the obvious way onwards was nothing of the sort (two routes both led to an embankment, which would then have led to the Kent Viaduct and a dead end). I was dissuaded from this possible disaster partly by some strident warnings against trespass and partly by the feeling that it just wasn’t right.
Puzzled, I studied my map and retraced my steps. I could see the tiny stream I was meant to be walking next to and it was pretty clear I must have somehow missed an exit from the farm.
The path turned out to be largely nominal as it made its way across several fields full of anxious-looking sheep, which were clearly not at all used to anyone finding the footpath. Eventually I found myself back on a tiny country lane, just in time for the heavens to open and the inevitable Cumbrian rain to thoroughly soak me.
The Road to Meathop
As I strolled along the lane, refusing to be daunted by the weather, I spotted a sheep behaving slightly strangely insofar as she seemed to be shaking her head at my approach.
As I got closer, it became obvious that this was because the stupid animal had got her head stuck in the fence. The fence in question was widely spaced square mesh, with the spaces just wide enough that a determined sheep might, if she found the right angle, force her head through it to get at the grass on the verge, which was clearly better than all the identical grass in the large field behind her.
Having spotted me coming and tried to flee, she had now discovered that finding the right angle to get her head out was tricky, especially given that sheep ears bend back a lot easier than they bend forwards.
I’ll Save Ewe!
I stopped. She threshed in panic, which made me fear she might garrotte herself. She bleated piteously and I tried to tell myself that the shepherd would find her soon enough. Her bleat seemed weirdly two-tone though and as she moved her body she revealed her tiny, terrified lamb freaking out behind her. I sighed. I already knew I couldn’t really just walk past and leave her.
So, slowly and calmly and talking as soothingly as possible I approached her. For just a moment her panic intensified — sheep are amazingly good at recognising faces and mine was not one she knew — but then, when I didn’t try to eat her, she calmed down. I grabbed the wire of the fence and tried to distort it while she — still trying to get away — tried to pull her head through.
Eventually, we hit the right shape and she was off like a rocket, her lamb barely keeping pace. I made a vague effort to straighten the fence out and then went on my way, protected from meteorological misery by the insufferable glow of a do-gooder.
The road led, without further incident, to Meathop, a hamlet made almost entirely out of converted farm buildings. That’s not a criticism by the way. I like that old barns and farm buildings are turned into houses instead of falling down and being replaced by something out of keeping with its surroundings. This way at least they have character.
Westmorland Tuberculosis Sanatorium
Although tiny and insignificant by most standards, in 1891 Meathop became host to the Westmorland Tuberculosis Sanatorium, one of the first such institutions.
In an age before antibiotics, a long-term hospital-cum-hospice was the best that could be offered and it was believed that the local spring water and the sea air would have therapeutic effects.
Grand Cumbria Hotel
From Meathop it was just a question of following the road for two further rain-sodden miles until it met up with the B2577 on the very outskirts of Grange-over-Sands. There, I pretty much just crossed over and headed up the driveway of the Grand Cumbria Hotel.
The light was failing when I got there but the hotel certainly seemed large enough to live up to its name. While the name is only its most recent one, the hotel itself dates from 1880, when it was constructed by the railway company.
Having for once checked in at the last possible moment that I could order food as opposed to ten minutes too late, I was able to dine, enjoy a drink and then slope off to bed. Tomorrow would be another day of walking…
This time: 25½ miles
Total since Gravesend: 2,054½ miles