Quintin Lake encounters unexpected obstacles among the grand vista of the UK’s north-west coast
Our explorer follows a disused railway line and wades through marshland
WALKING along the prom at Grange-over-Sands, a retired couple share a gentle laugh. “That shortbread was too sweet really – I couldn’t have eaten a second one.”
Approaching Ulverston I try my luck following a disused railway line, as it represents a major shortcut – but unfortunately it ends up in a slate depot next to a large farm that is securely razorwired. Feeling like a trespasser, I’m about to accept defeat and backtrack 6km when I notice a rung of the gate has rusted through, meaning I can just slip through if I take my pack and camera off and post them through the gap before me.
At Devonshire Docks, where the nuclear submarines are built in Barrowin-Furness docks, I’m expecting to encounter security guards while taking photos, but I don’t expect such a legally balanced if nonsensical response. “We can’t stop you taking photographs, but this is a sensitive area, and you’ve been reported taking photographs.”
Strangeness ensues leaving Barrow: a WWII pill box upended, the ground it once stood on having eroded away. Further along at Lowsy Point, a collection of esoteric wooden huts includes one built around an old ship, prow and stern sticking out proudly on either side.
From here on, tremendous walking and landscapes unfold. The full undulating panorama of the Lakeland fells spreads out before me, and I can make out the twin peaks of Scafell and Scafell Pike in the distance. There is no path as such on this stretch – just a case of following the best route in the intertidal zone which, combined with the dramatic landscape and absence of people, gives this section a deliciously adventurous feel.
As darkness falls, adventure becomes frustration, and I’m caught in a labyrinth of marshy wet channels and tall reeds. A finger post points tauntingly to an inky black channel of water glimmering in my torch beam. I’m soaked to the waist, exhausted and swearing profusely. I eventually accept the path I’m trying to follow must have been set out decades ago, when the marsh was in a completely different state. I backtrack wearily and find an easier route further inland.
Waiting at the train station is always a reflective moment as I transition back to the interior world, with sore feet and a mind full of landscapes. Boarding the train, existential thoughts evaporate, as I realise the farm smell I’d noticed over the last few hours is in fact me.
Bagging a baguette on the route between Ulverston and Barrow.