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Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Walk 194 Barrow in Furness to Ulverston (Cumbria)

Walk 194 Barrow in Furness to Ulverston (Cumbria)

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 96
Distance: 16 miles or 25km approx
Difficulty: Easy, mostly flat
Terrain: coastal path and pavement.
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Trains between Barrow and Ulverston

A fairly long walk with a confusing start. Follow the A5087 out of Barrow and take the road on the right after the railway bridge – this is the Cumbria Coastal Way also marked as the Cistercian Way (a walk that goes inland and follows a monastic theme). When I walked here there were a number of diversions which required a bit of guess work at times. Dilapidated old industrial buildings, sewage works and a power station provide much of the scenery. However, the walking became easier when the route followed a new cycle path.

The coastal way winds its way around to Roa Island which has not really been an island since the 1840s when a causeway and later a road were built. Not a lot to see here. It is home to about 100 people, there is a yacht club, an old watch tower and ferries can be caught to nearby Piel Island.

Continue the walk on the 'mainland' and along to Rampside. At low tide the sands stretch for 2 miles out to sea. The path from here to just outside Ulverston mostly follows the main road. In the 18th century Rampside gained a reputation as a bathing resort and was frequented by the poet William Wordsworth. In 1865 a small earthquake caused serious damage to property. Rampside Lighthouse, also known as The Needle (for obvious reasons), was built in the 19th century. Look out for Rampside Hall on the land side of the road – this listed building is well known for its 12 chimneys known as 'the twelve apostles'.

The next few miles include the small settlements of Roosebeck and Newbiggin. Although the map seems to show a beach route, I found that the only option was to follow the path inland at Aldingham. This is a very old settlement which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Folklore has it that it that it used to be a much bigger place but it was wasted away by the tide. Look out for St Cuthbert's Church which was originally built in the 12th century, with additions over the years. In the eastern wall of the church there is a hole where it is believed that lepers could observe the services. The church gets its name because Cuthbert's body was said to have rested here on its way to be buried at Durham Cathedral.

The path returns to the beach near Baycliff, a farming and fishing communitybefore it became an area for mining iron. Limestone is still quarried in the area. A few miles further up is the very old settlement of Bardsea with its stony beach. The area became associated with the Quaker movement when its founder, George Fox, married local land owner Margaret Fell. For a while Bardsea was an important port for iron ore until the canal at Ulverston took the business away.

Further along, Chapel Island can be seen offshore. In the 14th century Cistercian monks from nearby Conishead Priory built a small chapel on the island. This no longer exists but a mock Victorian ruin can be spotted. You can cross the sands at low tide but local advice must be sought as the sands are very dangerous. I did not attempt this.

Alongside the path a notice on the fence invites walkers to tour the nearby Buddhist Temple – free of charge. Soon after this the path cuts inland opposite some interesting rock formations. Soon an old chimney, the remains of a local brickworks, comes into view.

Follow the path around to the canal foot at Ulverston where gates built in 1940 seal off the canal from the sea. The port here got silted up in the 18th century so in 1796 the shortest (less than 2 miles), widest, deepest and straightest canal in England was built. During the 19th century more than 500 ships sailed into the town every year and ship building flourished until 1878.

The path into Ulverston follows the canal and, although the buildings of Glaxo Smith Kline do little to enhance the beauty of the surroundings, the company do look after the canal and ensure it is home to a variety of wildlife including ducks, swans, dragonflies and diving beetles. Notices warn about the depth of the water.

On entering Ulverston look out for the lighthouse shaped tower on the hill. This was built in 1850 as a memorial to Sir John Barrow, a secretary to the admiralty who was born in the town. It is open to the public at certain times.

Be sure to go to the centre of Ulverston to see the Laurel and Hardy sculpture. Stan Laurel was born in the town in 1890 and there is a museum devoted to the pair nearby. The Stan Laurel Inn is nearby for refreshment!

Ulverston Station is a particularly well kept and attractive place to wait for a train.

Photos: the shore at Bardsea; interesting rock formation just before turning inland towards Ulverston; the gates of the Ulverston Canal where it meets the sea; Laurel and Hardy sculpture in Ulverston.

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