Day 131: Walney Island to Kirkby-in-Furness
Distance: 25.40 miles
Ascent: 1236 feet
Accommodation: The Shires Holiday Cottage
Well after a surprise email yesterday I would be meeting up with some of my brothers in-laws todays and at 7:30 Will rang and we arranged a rough plan to meet at Askam-in-Furness at 2:00pm. As soon as I got off the phone I knew this was ambitions with 22 miles to walk to in less than 6.5 hours as I had not quite finished packing up the tent. But I thought I would give it a go, knowing I would not be able to have much of a break in the middle.
The day started by following the narrow road down the east of Walney Island, and with the sun out it made for enjoyable walking and the views over to Piel Island were stunning. I soon reached the gate which marks the entrance to South Walney Nature Reserve, and as advised walked around it and down through the lovely little reserve. For two reasons I cut across the lakes slightly before the end of the island, one because I knew there were bathing seals at the end and also because I was incredibly intrigued by a very futuristic looking building and bubbling liquid bags down near the lakes. This was presumably to clean up the water and reduce certain types of algae but looked like something out of a sci-fi movie, with large plastic containers/bags of all variants of green/brown and air bubbles rising through them. As well as this there was a large variety of bird life and one pair caught my eye as I did not recognise them. On googling them it turns out they are a non-native species, Emperor Geese, that presumably originally escaped from a private collection and have now gone feral. The only breeding Emperor Geese that have been recorded in the UK are from Cumbria.
After the reserve the path started heading North up the West side of the island and though there were no paths shown on the OS map for most of the way, there was no issue walking it. Just shy of Walney Island Airport I had a decision to make, I could continue walking up the low cliffs/sand dunes further but I was not sure if I could then head around the airport and down the other side. So I decided to cut across in front of the airport which was a permitted path though the BAE sign made it seem as if they allowed it begrudgingly ‘The public have no right to use this way which is not dedicated as a public right of way but BAE systems is willing to permit the public to use this way.’
Once back on the eastern side I dropped down to the foreshore where at low tide I may have been able to ford across, but as it was high tide I had to walk down to the Jubilee Bridge road crossing. Once over this I had a short break as I was pretty tired from walking flat out for several hours.
From here the route followed a cycle route passing the BAE factories and other industrial buildings before climbing up a small hill and suddenly becoming far more rural. At the location of a disused pit, on my OS map the path stopped and the only route would be the path alongside a nearby busy road. But I was able to drop down onto the gravelly foreshore and head alongside the sea. This stretch was very imposing and very different to anything I have seen on the walk so far.
Suddenly the gravelly part stopped and the area became flatlands again and my pace increased. I walked around Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve which is essentially made up of dunes and half way around there was a little set of ramshackle cottages I think mainly to do with fishing though I was not entirely sure.
It was clear I was not going to make Askam by 2pm but had kept a good pace up so was aiming for 2:30pm. I headed straight across the sand and in parts mud flats to Askam where up on a hill I spotted Richard and Will who must have had a great view of me across the flats (picture below).
It turned out the pub that was planned for lunch didn’t serve food till 3pm, I know how bizarre is that, so we had to head somewhere else nearby and it was great to catch up with Richard, Susie, Will and to meet Shalini.
After the most ginormous lunch and I mean ginormous portions that even I couldn’t finish we set of as a group for the final 3.5 miles from Askam. The first 2 miles were on pretty much dead flat sand and made for lovely walking in the afternoon sun with the Lake District Hills making an incredible backdrop. At Dunnerholme Richard headed back to collect the car and the rest of us headed onto Kirby. This next part wasn’t quite as flat with some muddy sections, some short boulder scrambles where the train fence had collapsed over the path and even a semi collapsed small bridge. Everyone coped with it fine, but think they were tired and ready to be collected by the time we reached Kirby-in-Furness which had a quaint little station. In fact, I was probably more tired than I was letting on as the morning had been a real push not to be too late.
Even though it was inland a bit, as I would be unlikely to see them for the next 9 months or so I gratefully accepted the offer to stay with the Shires for the night in their holiday cottage. We had a lovely evening and even had a couple of very intense and close chess games.
So a great day in the sun, with lovely scenery, and great to have The Shires join. But my body is definitely showing signs of fatigue this week.
NB: I once again couldn't reduce the photo count to 12 so chose 16.