It’s the other way round today. Although sunny in Manchester as I go north of Lancaster the weather progressively deteriorates. This is also my longest scheduled journey to date, although I have spent more time in the company of Northern, I set out 03:45 and am not due in St Bees until 10:30. It’s good I can chill on train journeys.
St Bees is wet. I decide it is better not to linger and instead move on. I can’t even get a good picture of the war memorial (St George)
St Bees is the start of Wainwrights Coast to Coast walk, and on the beach there is a sign mapping the route. However, I am forging north, and a climb awaits as I ascend towards St Bees Head. There’s been a fire on the cliffs, which is surprising given the wild seas.
The climb is much easier than Wales a couple of weeks back. The steps also more even and I am soon at the top with a fine view of the coast
The coastal path here is much more clearly marked, the only issue is the formation. In Wales you got Cliff, then Fence, then Path. Here it is Cliff, then Path, then Fence. The mud makes it a bit hairy going on the narrow path. However, it is easy going which considering the constant drizzle is a godsend, as there is little call for navigation, more call to ensure you don’t tumble over the cliff edge.
or into any hidden caves….
However, once up there is only one dip and that is into Fleswick Bay, and much more gentle than those on the Wales coast.
After the bay St Bees Lightouse pops over the horizon, with the Fog Horn station on the cliff edge, whilst the lighthouse peeps over a hill just away from the cliffs. The lighthouse dates from 1718, which was the last coal powered station in the UK, until it burned down taking the keeper’s wife and five children with it. The current building was completed in 1865 and the lamp originally intended for Gibraltar. The foghorn station is no longer in operation.
Approaching Whitehaven, the weather starts improving, it hasnt been cold, but the drizzle is demoralising and a little sunshine is a great morale booster. I have to negotiate a frisky bull and field of cows which adds a little variety to avoiding falling over the cliff edge. I pass Birkhams quarry, St Bees sandstone is in great demand, it built George Washington’s House, Liverpool and Carlisle Cathedrals and the V&A in London amongst other things
Finally Whitehaven is near, well I can see it. It seems a long walk down the cliff path as it descends into the valley, passing a sign that tells me the first stretch of the England coastal path was laid here by the National Coal Board in 1986. Whitehaven was an old mining town as well as a port, and there is plenty of evidence of coal mines – I haven’t seen a winding gear since last time I visited my grandma in Tanfield Lea in the early 1970s. This one is at the Haig Colliery Museum
Whitehaven looks pretty in the improving weather. In the distance I can see Scotland now.
There is evidence of mining all around the port and walking through the town you can see that it once was thriving and rich, the main street is replete with evidence of a once grand Georgian town, which fell victim to 1960s redevelopement and now lies in a genteel state of decay.
King Street here dates back to 1644 and has many Regency houses, at one time the proprietors will have lived over the shop.
Thankfully the town is being slowly regenerated.
I did like the old Burton’s building, a reminder that it was once the window in which to to display your bum
Having left Whitehaven I know I can make it to the next station, Parton, it’s a little further up the line, and I follow the path of the railway along the coast road. An Artists impression does not give it all the justice it should….
The 14:09 train gets me back to Hazel Grove for 18:50. That’s not bad with three changes, each one with less than five minutes to wait. The trains can be good sometimes.
Copyright Allan Russell 2018