Stage 81, 25th May: Bank Houses nr Cockerham to Silverdale
An overcast but dry day is always my favourite for walking, but my spirit needed a little more to lift me as I plainly admit to having a rather large lump in my throat as I left my girls behind with Terry for their lift back to Lancaster station and onwards for home. I value every day that any of my family get to see me on this trip but when they head off back to normality it’s not easy for either of us and I find self motivation hard to get back on track. It would be very easy to get on the train with them and put this whole thing down to fleeting madness.
A soft farm track took me in a bit of a daze around to Glasson where a cycleway picks me up all the way to Lancaster. I skirt the edge of the city via the railway bridge and disappear west on an unremarkable Lancashire Coastal Way which cuts off the peninsula at Heysham and the nuclear power station completely. Instead I settle for Morecambe and the Eric Morecambe statue is a must that I very nearly walk straight past.
Once out of Morecambe I could feel and almost smell Cumbria approaching. Stone cottages and dry-stone walls grow in number with every turn and I would have been cheered immensely if it wasn’t for the huge dark grey cloud looming over my shoulder waiting to dump a very wet load on me if I dared to hesitate. I didn’t. But I only beat it with minutes to spare, meeting Terry and Alfie soaking up the peace and quiet of Silverdale.
Stage 82, 26th May: Silverdale to Kents Bank
For the first time I felt as if summer was beginning to show its face. The cow parsley was now in full flower and with it the horse chesnut trees hang heavy with blossom as I make my way up the first of three big Cumbrian estuaries to cross the infamous Kent channel. From Arnside the views across to Grange-over-Sands and The Kent Rail Viaduct were spectacular if difficult to really capture through a lens, but I paused to enjoy them and try my best with my little camera.
I was hoping to cross the sands from Arnside with Cedric Robinson, the Queen’s Guide. Unfortunately the tides were completely wrong and instead I had to pound plenty of tarmac and walk alongside a not so lovely dual carriageway for the twenty plus miles around the estuary top as penance.
Once I had turned the corner and escaped the road my day was brightened by a badger sitting quietly in the grass not ten feet in front of me. I was a little concerned whether it should be out in the height of day but my knowledge on badgers is pretty thin and when he finally sussed that I was pointing my camera in his face he seemed to scuttle off into the hedgerow with a healthy waddle and a passing snuffle or two.
At Grange-over-Sands my day improved again as my map providing friend, Martin, seemed to have set me up with some new fans as his sister, Pip, and mum met up with me on the promenade. Pip was holding a Magnum Special Edition aloft and carrying a Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding as offerings. As far as I was concerned they were now my bestest pals, but then again, I am easily bought.
Pip walked with me as far as Cedric’s house at Guide’s Farm as he had asked me to pop in on my way around, rather than across, the sands. He gave us both a tour of his front room which sported so many framed awards that I lost count. All were undeniably well-earned and he was particularly proud of his recent Freedom of the City of Lancaster award, which I think he was off out to celebrate later and was part of the reason he couldn’t escort me that day. I did think it a little odd that he should have a roaring fire going in the hearth on such a warm day but it turned out it was his only method of getting hot water and thus a cosy room was now close to becoming a bread oven. As a parting gift Cedric gave us both signed copies of his latest book and we posed for a quick picture. Yes, it would have been an experience to walk the sands, but to meet Cedric in his own home and to have a few proper words was a real treat. He had introduced me to his family as if I was the celebrity, whereas in truth I was more in awe of his achievements and recognition than anything I could ever hope to achieve.
Stage 83, 27th May: Kents Bank to Rampside nr Barrow-in-Furness
Generally today was a great day but with horrible little bits thrown in. The weather was overcast but calm and warm and very deceptive for us pale skinned types who forget to put sun cream on when they should.
A bit of pasture field walking took me to Flookburgh and a walk past the famous Cartmel sticky toffee pudding factory, but then my day dipped a little as I took my first intrepid steps along the B5278 and up my second estuary. The road is quite narrow and has no pathway or easy sideways escape, so you have to keep your wits about you when walking along it. Fortunately I found a track which took me up into the forestry of Ellerside Breast Plantation (it is woodland – honest!) but unfortunately it didn’t last for long and I was back down on the road hoping to make Haverthwaite and the turn around the estuary top alive.
Alive I was and as I sat eating my lunch in woodland near Greenodd, Pip once again joined me with Wilma the labrador for a few miles of very welcome company. A mile further down the path Pip’s friend Sonia and Roger the westie also joined up with us. As me mustered in a car park idly chatting about directions a fisherman emptied his change into my pocket as way of a very generous donation. Together, we successfully avoided more road walking but also almost certainly trespassed our way down to Ulverston where a quick drink in the Bay Horse, apparently located at the seaward end of the shortest, deepest and straightest canal in Britain, reaped a few more pounds into the charity coffers through kind donations at the bar.
I left Pip and Sonia at the pub and ended my day walking down miles of shingle topped beach, eventually turning back onto the main road for the last mile or so down to a rather bleak and stark estuary mouth and a rendezvous at Rampside. I couldn’t help but admire the vast expanse of sand across to Morecambe and Heysham (phot0) and vaguely wondered how on earth a person like Cedric ever learnt how to cross safely.