Richard's Retirement Blog


March 2011

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Sun, Sea and Sand

... and first a cold wind ...
... then some glorious days ...

Monday, 28th February

I got here from Broseley, yesterday. It was a good drive, on the whole. I kept off the motorways as much as possible, joining the M56 south of Warrington and leaving the M6 north of Preston. The A6 to Garstang was tedious, but worth it for the drive from there to Lancaster via Cockerham and Condor Green. Lancaster is always an attrective town - and one with memories too - and although it's slow up the A6 from there to Leven's Bridge it's very pretty. Then one turns west through the bottom edge of the Lake District, and the scenery just gets better and better. Although I'd forgotten how steep some of the hills are around Gawthwaite and Grizebeck. That's when one realises that one's Volvo, though torquey and strong, does not have the absolute sheer power of one's former Jaguar!

Today, I got a reminder of reality. There's always something, isn't there? Severn Trent, bless their cotton socks, although they previously told me I had paid a final bill, sent me an email to tell me I had another. And the internet connection here is expensive - 5/hour - and with that, no good. So I had to sort it out by phone, without being able to see the figures. (This gets complicated, so concentrate - or skip it.) Last week they sent me an "Overdue Amount" bill which, when I challenged it, was said to be not overdue but a final bill for the flat. I paid it "in final settlement". Now, I'm told, it was not a final bill: it was the difference between what I'd paid and what I owed - wait for it - in the year to last December. I've still got to pay a final bill. Well, they'll have to wait, because I can't even see the bill, let alone pay it, until I get to Glasgow at the end of next week.

I wish I was sure the the electricity/gas supplier and the local authority weren't going to get it wrong too. Neither has acknowledged my communication to them ... why is everything so complicated?

It was a lovely, sunny morning, despite the cold wind, and I set off on the bike intending to go south down the coastal bridleway. However, although open to cyclists, it actually runs across the foreshore, stony and intersected by streams as you see it. Another photo and yet a third. So I went north instead.

(This photo illustrates a feature of my camera: if you shoot into the sun, you do get quite a decent picture, but with a sort of before-the-storm look to it.)

The bridleway north starts by crossing an estuary via a very narrow path alongside this railway bridge (alternatively, there's a ford - several feet deep, muddy and cold-looking), then runs behind the foreshore for a few hundred yards to a lane. I took the view of Ravenglass, above, from here. Then I followed the lanes, with superb views of the hills, for several miles.

Views of the Lakeland hills:

I came eventually to the most famous thing (or most notorious if your politics lie that way) along this coast: Sellafield - the nuclear reprocessing facility. It's not very pretty. I'm not even going to start on whether it's (a) safe, (b) ethical, (c) the technology of the future or (d) the biggest disaster since Eve and the apple[*]. I have no idea, and no way of finding out, since logical and unbiased information is not to be had. If it blows up, the answers are no, no, no, yes. If it doesn't then they are wait and see, depends who you talk to, maybe and maybe.

*  A logical and unbiased viewpoint: Always blame the woman (you can claim infallible Biblical authority for that, which covers your back nicely); so whatever happens, it must be Mrs. Thatcher's fault.

I had lunch at a cafe in Gosport, then came back by a more inland route, crossing the Rivers Irt and Esk - and their valleys - and the railway. Outward I passed under it, but going back there was a level crossing, and I had a bit of a chat with the crossing keeper. Boring job, I should think - opening and closing gates all day, with a couple of trains an hour each way to wave to. But a beautiful view from the office window!

Tuesday, 1st March

Having failed to cycle south down the coast yesterday, today I tried on foot. The Cumbrian Coastal Path passes the gate of the caravan site, so...

The Romans came to Ravenglass, and they say Emperor Hadrian built a wall from there clear across the country. I don't believe a word of it. The wall exists, and maybe Hadrian ordered, even planned it; but I bet the hard work was done by the poor milites - or by British slaves! They (the Romans) seem to have been a clean bunch, and to have built very strong bathrooms: and here's the remains of one. Another photo of the remains; Information board; Another information board.

The path comes out onto the estuary of the Esk. To continue down the coast, one must cross the river. The map shows two fords: the first, at half tide, looked to be about three hundred yards across and thirty feet deep; the other, three quarters of a mile further upstream, a little down from this photo, was "only" about thirty yards across and eight or ten feet deep. I didn't attempt either. Maybe on a nice summer's day, in shorts, on a flood tide; but not in February, in boots and warm clothes, and with a stiff ebb to take one out to sea. No. So I still haven't gone south down the coast.

But the estuary, if muddy and heavy going, was very beautiful, so I'm not complaining.

Eventually I climbed off the forshore onto a track; and eventually the track bore away left from the river and uphill, and brought me to Muncaster Castle (web site here. My first view made it seem a formidable fortification standing over the estuary. In fact, see here, it has been there since at least 1208, the present owners may have been there since 1025 and there may have been fortifications on the site since the Romans in 79.

There was no sign to indicate where the path went, so I made my way up to the castle, and eventually found a "Public Footpath to Ravenglass" sign, which took me up over a ridge to a stile into a field. Various signs told me that if I left the public footpath I should buy a "Walker's Ticket". Fair enough ... except that they were on the way out. There were no signs on the path by which I came in.

The field over the stile offered a superb sea view - the photo doesn't nearly do it justice - and a Public Footpath sign - but no indication whatever of where the footpath went. Well - on the coast, the sea is at the bottom of the hill. So I headed downhill in the direction of the sign. After a field, a bog, another stile, a slippery scramble down a steep bank and a walk along a track following a stream downhill, I came out by the Roman Bath again. Why is walking so much harder on the knees than cycling?

Panorama of the hills from Muncaster Castle

Wednesday, 2nd March

I was late setting out this morning - got involved in planning days out for Galloway, next week. So I set off in rather a rush. And forgot my phone, the spare bike battery - and, inevitable, my camera. It was a lovely day, too - although there was just enough mist in the air to make mountain landscape photograhs disappointing. Thus I comfort myself.

I drove to Gosforth, did some basic shopping, then left the car there and cycled to Wasdale Head, going via Greendale, which was very hilly, and returning via Nether Wasdale, which was pretty hilly too. It was sunny but cold, and there was a surprising number of people about.

At the pub at Wasdale Head, to fortify me for the return ride, I had a pint of very excellent Yewbarrow strong dark mild, locally brewed in Egremont. I used to like mild, but you so rarely get a good one these days, at least in the Midlands. (Down south you can't get it at all - never could.) This was excellent.

I'm beginning to think I need another way of doing this blog - at the moment I'm hand-coding the web page HTML, and whilst I like the result, it's rather time-consuming. Something to think about.

Thursday, 3rd March

Today, I got going promptly, and drove to the other side of the estuary to catch the tide. There's an MoD firing range on the sand dunes, and you have to drive a couple of miles past that, to get to a place where you are on the open sea rather than the estuary.

I took a wrong turn on the way, and arrived on the bank of the estuary opposite to where I walked on Tuesday. There I found a lovely view of:

The estuary itself,

Pretty little Waberthwaite Church, with a carpet of spring flowers,

And a cluster of seagulls sitting placidly on water at freezing-point. Brrr!

Back to the main road, and down the next right, brought me to where I meant to be. I got there a few minutes before high tide, and had a lovely walk along the shingle round the bay, to a point where I could look back across the water to my starting point.

I came back for lunch, then made a second outing. I drove up Eskdale, turning right at the top towards Broughton-in-Furness over the fells, then left up the valley of the River Duddon. It was all spectacularly beautiful in the sunshine, and I could have taken dozens of photos. These were taken at Birk's Bridge.

Birk's Bridge

Can you make out that there's the remains of snow on the fell?

Turning right at Dale Head took me over Wrynose Pass to Elterwater, where we had holidays when I was a child, the then to Ambleside, where I stopped for a coffee.

The plan was to return via the Coniston to Broughton-in-Furness road: it was closed. No advance warning, no clear diversion in the direction I was going. I guessed wrong. (Why not use the map? Well, I enjoy guessing.) When I tried a series of right turns to correct things, I found myself with Coniston Water on my right instead of my left. Well, there is a back road that side of the lake, and both roads go to the foot of the lake: it's just rather slow. Yet again, though, I found myself in a lovely place.

And so to bed; or at least, and so home.

Friday, 4th March

It's a trifle warmer today, but the sun has gone and it's grey, so it doesn't feel warm. I spent the morning spring-cleaning and reorganising storage, so the caravan is commendably spick-and-span, at least inside. It won't last, of course; and it still needs the paintwork thoroughly washing.

Lunch at home; then a ride north, the first half duplicating Monday's ride, but then along a coastal path - at last, I found a way to do what I came here to do, ride by the sea - which took me past the back of Sellafield (even uglier close to) and dumped me out onto its service road, which led me back to the main road - which felt far enough. Back by the same route.

I leave here in the morning. If  I can get the site wireless internet to connect, I'll upload this before I go; otherwise, you'll have to wait a week for it, because I'm not expecting a connection at Castle Douglas. Tiresome, really - club wifi is usually good, but this site has a different provider - and I had rather counted on it. C'est la vie!

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