It was back to Cumbria today for a forecasted sunny day – and so it turned out to be! I also knew I had four rivers to contend with. With the onset of Winter, the amount of daylight hours available for walking is diminishing rapidly, thus because today was going to be a long walk, I needed to start at the first available light. I was resuming my normal direction of travel today, as tide and train times did not dictate where I started.
I had found a free car park in Whitehaven, just a few minutes walk away from the train station and it was there that I arrived just before 6 in the morning. I was treated to a fantastic view of the night sky, as it had been a cold clear night and there was little light pollution. I caught the 6:31 train to Ravenglass. It was packed full of workers starting their early shift at the Sellafield plant. When the train reached Sellafield, virtually the whole train got off, leaving just a few passengers to continue their journey.
I arrived in Ravenglass with good light, so need for the head torch this morning. I made my way to the railway bridge, where I had to cross the first of four rivers today. The River Mite, together with the River Irt confluence with the River Esk into a small tidal estuary. Having already forded the River Esk at my last visit, this mornings crossing of the River Mite would be much easier, even though I arrive at low tide, due to a pedestrian bridge that runs along the railway bridge. I cross over the Mite and proceed through the small hamlet of Saltcoats. I must now cross the River Irt. There is a small ford to do so, but I have read from other travellers that it is not a good proposition, so I must divert inland a short distance.
I eventually cross the Irt via Holme Bridge, a packhorse bridge from the early 18th century. A few fields later and I am passing through the small village of Drigg. I cross over the railway at Drigg station and continue to head toward the shoreline. I am now walking beside a large fence, with razor wire, this is a licensed nuclear site dealing with low-level waste, probably from the nearby facility at Sellafield. The road follows the perimeter fencing around the site before finally a taking a direct line to the shore.
I am now on the beach, with the tide out I can make way along firm sand which makes for excellent walking. Ahead I can see the Sellafield plant, St Bees Head and two Scottish hills that I saw on my last trip. I can also see The Isle of Man. I come back onto land as I pass by the small village of Seascale. I walk over to the a small, mock-turreted platform. A plaque on the side of the wall is to the Victims of the West Cumbrian shootings of 2010, in which a taxi driver Derek Bird murdered 12 innocent people and injured many others. The plaque is mounted below a cannon.
I am now walking along NCN 72, which runs alongside the railway line towards Sellafield. Eventually, as I approach the power station I am confronted with my third river, The Calder. Fortunately, this river also has a viaduct for both trains and pedestrians. Confluencing at the same point is the River Ehen, which is a wider river and which I must also cross at some point. I am now walking along the huge perimeter fences of Sellafield nuclear power station. I take a few photos, not wanting to advertise myself in this ‘sensitive’ area. I make my to Sellafield train station, which I see has a bridge crossing the Ehen. On closer inspection, I see large fences , a railway to be crossed and apparently the footbridge across the Ehen is closed to the public. I must therefore make a short inland detour to cross the Ehen.
I follow the perimeter fencing for a while, until it crosses the main road into the plant and heads towards an old rail route to Egregmont. I pass many others, all dog walkers. At Middlebank, I turn off the main cycle route and head towards a small footbridge that crosses the River Ehen. The bridge is a simple affair with a series single wooden planks strung out in a straight line suspended by wire ropes. I head across green pastures with a large herd of cows, they show little interest in me as I head along banks of the Ehen until the railway is met. I find small underpass which takes me back onto the beach.
I continue along the beach for the next 2 to 3 miles, passing close to Braystones on the way. With the incoming tide I am finding it more difficult to find good walking sand. By the time I reach Nethertown, I am walking on large cobbles. I decide now to transfer back to the small road which runs some 200m from the shore. I ascend the small cliff at Nethertown station and join the quiet road. I stay on the road nearly all the way to St Bees, before cutting down a small green lane to the railway and beach.
I cross the beach at St Bees and come ashore to find the start indicator for Alfred Wainwrights Coast to Coast walk. I head off along the path which will now rise to much higher ground, that makes up St Bees Head. The walking is easy and although I have already done a fair few miles I get to the top of South Head without any problems. I am rewarded with some amazing views particularly to the southern shores of Dumfries and Galloway and even the tip of The Mull of Galloway many miles away. I can also confirm that the hills I had first espied back at near Bootle, were indeed Carinsmore of Fleet, Cairnharrow and Bengairn. I continue along the cliff top walking towards the lighthouse near North Head. The red sandstone cliff top walk is delightful and easy-going. As I round North Head I am rewarded with even better and more panoramic views up and down the Solway Firth. I can now see a great deal of the Scottish coast line, including the hill of Criffle, above the city of Dumfries. Whitehaven is also now in view, further along the dramatic cliff coastline. In the far distance I can see the foundry at Workington beclhing smoke. It is a truly magnificent vista.
I head towards the outskirts of a Whitehaven, passing through a series of quite new and stylish kissing-gates, an obvious pre-cursor to the coming England Coastal path, the signs for which I did see on the newly opened section towards Allonby. I passed by the sold coal mining sites of the town, now preserved as a museum and above the old Saltom mine, Britain’s first under-sea mine. Unfortunately, the paths about are strewn with dog mess, every which way you turn. Whitehaven, does have a lovely little harbour, although the marina seems to dominate its use.
I’m glad when I eventually reach my car. I have been walking for almost 8 hours continuously, and the legs are beginning to fade a bit. Still, worth all of that for the walk over St Bees, which must be saved for a clear day.
Distance today = 24 miles
Total distance = 2424.5 miles