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A lot of soul searching went into the planning of this walk. On the face of it, the obvious way would be to drop down the lane from Hycemoor onto the Cumbria Coastal Way and follow this long distance path until I reached journey's end at Green Road. Although it can be described as the route closest to the coast, unfortunately it had a number of major drawbacks. Since I was travelling alone, the path is extremely isolated apart from minor incursions in Haverigg and Millom and, presumably out of mobile phone contact for much of its length.
I also had done some pre-reading on this route and the literature is littered with stories of knee deep mud, and hard to walk on shingle. I still recall with pain my first encounter with Morecambe Bay back in 2004. I was on my way to Heysham from Lancaster and happened to place my foot inches from the track. I ended up knee deep in thick clinging mud. Further on, at the first sign of civilisation, a standpipe had been thoughtfully installed, presumably with the express purpose of cleaning the said mud from walking trousers. Now clean, my legs were very wet, but the sun was shining and by the time I reached Morecambe, I was dry.
The third reason for not taking the coastal path was simply one of interest. Had I followed it, I would have seen virtually nothing except for mud, sand and shingle. Walking further inland took me through several towns and villages of the area in addition to a taste of the Lake District. In terms of my rules, such as they are, I deemed that I would be near enough to the coast. After all, I am not trying for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records!
Enough of reflection - my journey north ran very smoothly, leaving Hampton-in-Arden (Free parking) at 0624, arriving at Bootle Station at 1050. Why this station is called Bootle is beyond me when it is situated in the small, largely stone built Village of Hycemoor and can be easily confused with the two Bootle (Liverpool) Stations by the hapless traveller. Despite this, Hycemoor is a very tidy, well cared for village, not pretty, but can any Lake District working village be so described.
The Sun was shining and the breeze signalled a good day's walking, so I moved swiftly along the lane out of Hycemoor and was immediately greeted by lovely views of the nearly fields and the distant mountains. The entry to Bootle (1118 - 1.3miles) was a depressing estate of cheap grubby looking housing - yes, Bootle is within the boundary of the National Park but these houses probably pre-date the foundation of the Park in 1951 by no more than 1 or 2 years. In a way, they could be described as heritage dwellings. The narrow Main Street is disadvantaged in a different way through having to accommodate the A595.
This was the route I took out of Bootle and, although the verges were fairly generous, I was grateful to escape the traffic at the first opportunity and take to the footpath at Holegill Beck. From there, I travelled south parallel to the main road along the lower slopes of Black Combe. There, I enjoyed the pastoral scenes of the lowland beneath me and lazy sheep and cattle. Despite the unprecedented April rains, the going was firm underfoot with only the occasional wet patch. At Whitbeck (1221 - 4.3miles) I passed an attractive but not spectacular waterfall on Millergill Beck.
At Sledbank, I parted company with the hills and took a footpath that crossed the railway line that led directly into Silecroft (1300 - 5.8miles). The middle of this path was not well defined, so I had to retrace my steps for a short distance before I found the correct route into this rather unremarkable village of whitewashed stone cottages. Moving swiftly on down a grassy lane out of Silecroft and then onto a footpath across fields, I came across "Giant's Grave", the remains of which are two standing stones which date from the Bronze Age. The associated burial mound disappeared some time ago.
I then followed a lane into Kirksanton (1330 - 6.8miles) which is probably the prettiest place I walked through. Passing a dovecote, I discovered that many of the houses of the village are arranged round a large village green which is set back from the main road. I then pressed on across fields which were being prepared for sowing, over a rickety bridge and towards Haverigg.
The first encounter with Haverigg was the prison and the high fences topped with razor wire informed me that this was a maximum security establishment. I recall back in 2007 that I accidentally walked into the North Sea Camp Open Prison near Boston. There was clearly no possibility here! Haverigg itself (1415 - 9.3miles) is a dull place, but it does brighten up as the small harbour and the nearby pub are reached. At least one cottage had been spruced up, but the owners clearly had a sense of humour by naming it "Dunelm Cottage". Perhaps that is where they buy their furnishings.
The next part of the walk was along the edge of the flat expanse of Duddon Sands. Much of this part of the walk was spent threading my way through sprawling residential caravan sites. Having worked my way through, I passed a disused quarry on the road into Millom (1500 - 11.5miles).
Millom is a solid if unattractive town. This is probably down to economic factors and is evident in the poor repair of a number of buildings of architectural interest. As I made my way towards the station, I passed a number of unoccupied shops which gave the place a rather forlorn look. By the station, I found the "Bridge Cafe" - not the same place that is featured on "The Apprentice" - and treated myself to a mug of tea and buttered toasted teacake for the princely sum of £1.40!
My original plan was to terminate the walk in Millom but the refreshments worked wonders and I didn't fancy spending the next two hours in Millom waiting for my train. After a brief look at the church and main square, I moved on along Millom Bank with a spring in my step, with only the sheep for company and views of the estuary on my right and the hills on both sides. One interesting oddity was a small brick building, presumably from WW2 with what appeared to be a flying goose plaque on the front. The military are now long gone and the place has been occupied by sheep.
I arrived at Green Road Station (1620 - 14.3miles) in time to catch an earlier 1623 train to Preston via Barrow. Preston Station was rowdy with Charlton supporters celebrating their promotion to the Championship. Thank goodness the football season is nearly over and Saturdays will now be quieter - until September. I made my way to the local Wetherspoon pub where I had a tasty but small portion of fish and chips washed down with a pint. Thus fed. I made my way back for my train, arriving back in Hampton-in-Arden at 2232 via Birmingham New Street.
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Next Walking Trips
Saturday 26 May - Cumbria
Green Road to Barrow or Dalton in Furness - 15 or 18 Miles
Saturday 30 June - Suffolk
Southwold to Aldeburgh - 15 Miles and Ferry