ULVERSTON CANAL, BARDSEA & BIRKRIGG COMMON
from ULVERSTON

 


Summary

Date - 22nd December 2020 Distance - 10.5 miles
Ascent -
650 ft
Map - OL6 & OL7 Start point - Brewery Street car park (SD 2283 7833)

 

Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Birkrigg Common 446 136 SD 2834 7422

 

Preface

It was Saturday and Southey was looking out at the rain pouring down. "It seems ages since we had a walk."

"I know pal", consoled Allen. "The plan for one while we were at Armathwaite Hall had to be abandoned, due to the awful weather."

"Still it was nice to sit with Dad in the warmth and comfort of the lounge", replied Tetley. "With the wind howling and the frequent showers, for once I was happy to be inside."

"Aye pal. I have to say I agree with you", said Southey.

"What are the weather prospects for next week?", asked Tetley.

Allen was quick to grab the iPad. "Monday is out of course as Dad will be at Elaine's. Tuesday looks good. Dry with some sun if a little cloudier later."

"Great", cheered Southey. "I feel sure that if you ask nicely, as you always do Allen, Dad will agree to walking then."

"Just coming up with a suggestion then", went on Tetley.

Allen glanced out of the door. "Well we will have to whole gang to get our thinking caps on, as here comes Shaun, Grizzly and Little Eric with the tea and cakes."

"Super", cheered Southey. "I'll get the mugs and plates."

Soon the mugs were charged with steaming tea. Grizzly announced, "Little Eric has made mincemeat slice, while I have made some scones to Elaine's recipe. They are sultana, and there is butter raspberry jam and cream."

We all dug in and there were murmurs of contentment. "Love the mincemeat slice", said Allen, taking his third piece.

"Thanks", replied Little Eric. "Living up to your cake stuffer reputation I see."

Tetley and Shaun had tucked into the scones. "They are scrumptious", said Tetley.

"Yes they are", agreed Shaun. "Elaine's recipe is without a doubt the best".

"At the tearoom, her scones are legendary", replied Grizzly.

Allen then said, "the weather is good for Tuesday, and if we come up with an idea, I will go and ask Dad if we can go for a walk."

"Let's get the walks index file open on the laptop so we can browse?", suggested Shaun.

This done we scanned slowly down. "There", Tetley pointed. "Number 106, from Ulverston. The walk date is February 2001 when just Shaun and I were in the group. I recall that was during the Foot and Mouth crisis, and so had to avoid farmland. As a result it was only done in part."

"I am always so in awe of your memory pal", said Southey. "I would have forgotten for sure."

Southey then went with Allen and carefully lifted the binder down from the shelf. "Phew, it's really heavy", commented Allen.

Soon the instructions were in paw. Shaun said, "you can see the red line Dad has drawn on the map, showing the route we took that day. The whole section from Bardsea and over Birkrigg Common and across the fields had to be omitted."

"It would be good to do it all, then", said Little Eric. "Totally new ground for Allen, Grizzly, Southey and I, and quite a bit of new ground for you and Tetley."

"Right", said Allen draining his mug, "I'll go and see what Dad thinks"

As he trotted out of the door, Shaun called out, "We make sure you mug is refilled, after all you have only had two mugs full so far."

"Thanks", called back Allen.

"I just love our tea belly pal", said Little Eric. "Such a character, and so like Dad."

Meanwhile we continued to tuck into the cake. "You had better put a scone on Allen's plate too, before they're all gone", said Grizzly, seeing Southey taking his third.

Allen soon returned. "Dad is happy with our suggestion. He said it is years since he has walked from Ulverston. And, that it will be good to finally do this walk in its entirety."

"Super", cheered Southey, through a mouthful of scone.

"Here's to the best Dad in the world", called out Shaun, raising his mug in salute.

 

The Walk

Dad had told us that he wanted to start walking soon after 09:30. "We will have to be up early", said Tetley. "This will mean setting off from home about 08:30.

Dad was ready as planned and we dashed out to settle in the car, calling our goodbyes to our Hug pals. "Be sure to take care", called out Gladly.

"Will do pal", replied Shaun. "We will keep and eye on Dad and make sure he gets us round safely."

The route was very familiar to us all, being along the A590 Barrow road. As we climbed Lindale Hill and continued along the bypass, Allen said, "there's Newton Fell. North and south, two of the Wainwright Outlying Fells."

Onwards through Newby Bridge and past Greenodd. At the roundabout there, Tetley commented, "I have lost count how many times we have turned right there, for walks in the Duddon valley, Corney fell and beyond. Happy days."

"Aye pal", agreed Grizzly.

Soon now we approached Ulverston. "At the second roundabout we take the fourth exit, that is Brewery Street, the car park being on the left", instructed Shaun.

Parked, Dad went to pay the fee. Meanwhile Southey asked, "why is it called Brewery Street."

"Because that range of buildings on the far side used to be Hartleys Brewery. A fine beer too", said Tetley.

Grizzly said, "I looked it up. Robert and Peter Hartley acquired the business in 1896, and remained independent until it was bought by Robinson's of Stockport in 1982. Brewing continued here in Ulverston, until its closure on 8th November 1991."

"It must have been a very sad day for the town", replied Southey.

By now Dad was ready so we hopped into the rucksack, Shaun saying, "we should cross the A590 and walk back towards Lancaster."

Suddenly Little Eric called out, "look a post box. A nice colourful picture to start." Then, "it could do with a lick of paint."

Shaun said, "take the right turn beyond the Canal Tavern."

Keeping our eyes peeled we looked out for this, but to no avail. "This is obviously where we have to turn down", pointed Tetley. "The pub must have closed down."

Allen said, "the walk was published in 1993, so it is hardly surprising that things have changed. Many many pubs have closed all over the country."

"Wow", called out Shaun. "What a superb view of Hoad Hill."

"What is that on top, a lighthouse?", asked Southey.

"Well, no, although it was designed to look like one. It is in fact similar to the Third Eddystone Lighthouse", replied Grizzly. "It is the Sir John Barrow Monument, and commemorates Sir John Barrow who was born in Ulverston in 1764. Sir John was a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society, and held various government posts in the 19th century becoming the Second Secretary to the Admiralty. It stands 100 feet (30.5 metres) tall at the top of Hoad Hill that itself is 436 ft/133 m. It is built of limestone quarried locally at Birkrigg Common. In normal times it is open to the public its top accessed by a spiral staircase of 112 steps. As you can imagine the panorama of views are fantastic of the Furness Peninsula, Morecambe Bay and the southern Lake District."

A short way on the road, brought us beside the Ulverston Canal basin.

"Perfect reflections", commented Southey.

Grizzly said, "the Ulverston Canal is the shortest in the country being just 1.25 miles long and 66 feet (20m) wide."

This was illustrated on the first of a number of tall information panels.

Grizzly went on, "it was built solely to give better access for goods to and from Ulverston that had been declared a port in 1774. The first sod was cut on 23rd August 1793, and it finally opened in 1796. It was used to transport coal, slate, copper, gunpowder to and from factories. The crossing of Morecambe Bay, as we know, is very hazardous and in 1835 a ferry service operated from Liverpool to Ulverston. In the 1800s there was a shipbuilding industry here too until 1878. The opening of the Furness Railway in 1846 seriously damaged the profitability of the canal, which was eventually bought by the railway company. The rise of Barrow-in-Furness as a deep-water port also saw a decline in trade. The canal was used commercially until the First World War and was officially abandoned at the end of the Second World War. It has since been maintained by Ulverston town council." 

Our history lessons over, Dad now strode out along the road, to soon pass under the viaduct carrying the Furness Railway.

Tetley commented, "as you said Grizzly, the arrival of the railway had a severe affect on the profitability of the canal. Indeed canals all over the country were similarly affected, but in recent times have had a renaissance through pleasure boating."

Further on Allen said, "I wonder what that tall building on the far side was for?"

Almost immediately his question was answered, as we read an information panel about the Rolling Bridge. This structure is listed and historically important as the last remaining one of this design in the Country. It enabled shipping to use the canal, without the need to construct massive earthworks with a gradient that trains could cross. The central framework rolled back on wheels into a dock on the southern bank leaving the deep channel open for boats. The accumulator tower, that Allen had wondered about, housed the machinery to power the hydraulic rams that powered the bridge. It was part of the Furness Railway Company's plan to build a railway from Ulverston to Barrow via the coast, but only two miles of the route were completed in 1883, as far as Priory Station Bardsea. Freight was carried into North Lonsdale Ironworks, and then Glaxo Smith Klein until 1994.

Again duly educated, we continued to canal foot for this fine view along the length of the canal, looking through the derelict lock gates.

As Dad was about to set off, Tetley called out, "look, there's the Leven Viaduct. It is similar to the one at Arnside over the River Kent."

Grizzly said, "the Leven Viaduct, carries the Furness railway over the River Leven estuary. The 49 span, 480 metre (0.3 miles) viaduct was originally constructed in 1848 to 1857 as a single track, then widened to double track in 1863. In two phases, 1885-7 and 1915, the viaduct was completely rebuilt with riveted plate girders, and the cast iron pier columns were encased in concrete and masonry."

"Thank you pal", said Southey. "Your research and knowledge adds so much to our adventures."

Having crossed the canal we passed the Bay View Restaurant and Hotel. Little Eric called out, "there's a post box set into the wall." As we went for a closer look, he then said, "it dates from the reign of King Edward VII. Somewhat rare. Another picture for my collection."

"The route is along the road passing the extensive Glaxo factory, to a roundabout, where we take the second left along a narrow road that leads to the few houses of Salt Coates", advised Shaun.

Here too Little Eric called out, "another post box. Will you take a picture Dad, for the story."

"That's three so far", said Allen. "Still, better than sheep."

"Southey instructed, "we should continue along the road, cross Carter Beck, and then take the footpath left across a field.

This was rather boggy, the path drifting right to a gateway. Then we continued by the hedge on the right, skirting Sandhall, and then past some buildings to reach the road.

"Look at the chimney", called out Tetley. "All on its own in the field."

Looking at the instructions Shaun said, "this is all that remains of a former brickworks."

Keeping ahead the road soon bent left bringing us to the shore.

Grizzly pointed, "there is a good view now of that bank that was away to the left as we walked across the fields. It is a huge slag bank from the blast furnaces of the ironworks. They closed in 1938."

Here we headed south along the shore, using mostly a soil footpath just above the beach but with some sections along the shingle and sand.

"What is that island out there?", asked Little Eric.

"Chapel Island", replied Tetley.

Mary Welsh in her instructions tell us, "in the trees are the remains of a folly built by Colonel Braddyll who lived at Conishead Priory. Once a family lived on the island and many travellers crossing the Bay by foot felt more secure on their treacherous journey knowing there was a 'half-way' refuge", read out Grizzly.

Coming to a section of wall that effectively formed a seat, Allen said, "looks a good place to have our picture taken."

"Yes", agreed Southey as we scrambled out of the rucksack.

Setting off again and to make easy progress, Dad drifted a little out from the shore, giving us a good view looking back.

Seeing a car park, Shaun told us, "we leave the shore now, and walk a little way along the access road, then go left on a track."

This was muddy through woods, with open fields to the right, where sheep were grazing. "That one is begging to have his picture taken", hinted Southey, to wind his pal Allen up.

"Hmph", grunted Allen. "Where's a post box when you need it."

Out of the woods the track came by the estuary again, soon leading to the main A5087.

"That's Bardsea church up on the hill", called out Tetley.

"Let me see" said Grizzly, sorting through his notes. "Ah, here we are. We are looking at Holy Trinity Church. It was designed by George Webster of Kendal. The foundation stone for the church was laid on 20th October 1843, and opened under licence on 13th August 1848, being officially consecrated by the Bishop of Chester in 1849."

At the road Shaun said, "it's left, then the first right uphill into Bardsea.

"The instructions now say to turn left beyond the Braddylls Arms. We are ultimately heading towards Well House", said Southey.

Shortly, seeing the sign for Well House and Bardsea Green, Allen called out, "it must be here."

We looked about for the pub, Tetley commenting, "another that appears to have closed."

The narrow lane dropped down and led to a t-junction where a sign post clear indicated it was left to Well House. At the buildings we kept ahead to walk a reinforced track that climbed steadily uphill and bending left to a gate onto Birkrigg Common.

"To see the stone circle go ahead then take the first path off left", said Shaun.

In yards we were there. "Look", called out Little Eric, "that man is flying his drone over it."

"A strange mix of prehistory and modern technology", muttered Allen.

Once again Grizzly consulted his notes. "the Birkrigg stone circle (or Druids’ Circle) is Bronze Age and dates to between 1700 and 1400 BC.

"As we can see the circle consists of two rings of stones, the outer measuring 26m (85ft) and consisting of 15 stones and the inner being 9m (30ft) wide and consisting of 10 stones. None of the stones is more than 0.6m (2ft) tall. Limited excavation within the inner circle in 1911 found an upper and lower pavement of cobbles. Below the lower layer of cobbles five cremations were uncovered, three in pits, one on a layer of cobbles and one covered by an inverted urn. A second excavation in 1921 produced a few small stone implements which the excavator thought might be a pestle, a palate and a piece of red ochre, and which might therefore have had a ceremonial use."

Tetley remarked, "What a location to choose, with the Leven Estuary, silvered around Chapel Island as a backdrop. And, in modern times with Bardsea and its church."

After looking in quiet contemplation for a little longer, Shaun then gave us our next instruction. "We go ahead to the road and then right to Sunbrick. It is a tiny community of two farms and a few houses."

As we approached Little Eric called out, "and a post box. Dating from another different monarch. This time King George VI."

"There are no collection times indicated", said Southey. "I wonder if it is still in use?"

The road went right uphill.

Grizzly pointed, "that arched opening in the wall gives access to a Quaker Burial Ground.

"You would not know, except for that information panel, as there are no headstones", said Allen.

This read -

SOCIETY OF FRIENDS SUNBRICK BURIAL GROUND

Between the years 1654 and 1767 there were buried here 227 friends among who was Margaret Fox wife first to Judge Thomas Fell and secondly to George Fox founder of the Society of Friends. She died at Swarthmoor Hall on April 23rd, 1702 aged 87 years.

Grizzly said, "the fact that there are no headstones is in accordance with early Quaker custom."

Walking on almost immediately Shaun said, "we take that signed footpath left."

Dad paused and we looked back over Morecambe Bay. "That is quite ethereal with the towers of Heysham Nuclear Power Station looming out", said Tetley. "Yet another contrast of ancient and modern."

Shortly then we reached the summit of Birkrigg Common, marked by a trig point.

Normally we would have settled on top but as can be seen the highest point is the grassy mound just beyond and this a where we sat for our obligatory picture.

"Yippee", cheered Little Eric. "Another summit to add to our list, even if it is of modest height."

Settled back in the rucksack, Shaun said, "we just follow that grassy swathe down to the road."

Looking right, Tetley said, "it looks like there was a quarry there in the past. I wonder if that was where the stone came from for the Sir John Barrow Monument?"

At the road, Shaun once again directed us. "Go right to the crossroads and then right on the road signed to Bardsea."

It climbed gently, and after a few minutes, Shaun said, "now we should cross that wide verge and go to the wall corner. Then through the gate onto a wide hedged track and follow it all the way to Red Lane."

About halfway the track became narrow and was very muddy. "Hey ho", said Dad, "this is par for the course a present after all the rain."

At lane Shaun said, "we cross and go right a few yards to take the access to Middle Mountbarrow Farm."

Opposite this is Far Mountbarrow Farm. "I like the farm name sign and clock", commented Allen. Then checking the time he said, "it's right too."

"It is a Paddington clock", said Southey. Makes me think of the Bear."

Later Grizzly looked the company up and told us, "this one is a Charles Bentley Double Sided Wall Clock."

We walked through the building of Middle Mountbarrow Farm and along the road. Seeing a house ahead, Shaun said, "that is The Grange, our route is the narrow footpath down the side of the building."

This led soon into a field that we crossed to reach the houses of Croftlands. Here in a few yards we came to a road, where it was left to Mountbarrow Road by a petrol station. "Go right", said Shaun.

Dad strode out, until Little Eric stopped us again. There's a pillar box. I know there are going to be lots of post box pictures in this story, but will you indulge me again, please Dad?"

"As you ask so nicely, how can I refuse lad."

"We walk onto Croftlands School", said Shaun.

There Allen said, "Just look at the gates. What a fantastic design."

Shaun said, "we cross the road now, and then go left on Meeting House Lane past the Quaker Meeting House. Then, at the end we cross Urswick Road and continue ahead along Swarthmoor Hall Lane."

Unsurprisingly this brought us to the Elizabethan Swarthmoor Hall.

Finding his notes Grizzly said, "Swarthmoor Hall was built by a lawyer named George Fell about 1568. The Hall was inherited by his son Thomas, also a lawyer, who in 1634 married Margaret Askew and she moved into the Hall. George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers) visited in 1652. Thomas Fell was travelling as a judge, but Fox had an audience with Margaret Fell, who became interested in his new doctrines. She arranged for him to preach in Ulverston and at the Hall. During his time there, many people were convinced of the truth of his teachings. When Thomas Fell returned home, he was persuaded by his wife and some others to listen to Fox. Fell was never totally convinced by Fox's religious teachings, but he did allow his home to be used as a meeting house for the early Friends. Thomas Fell died in 1658. Eleven years later George Fox married the widowed Margaret Fell and, when not travelling, occasionally lived at Swarthmoor. Fox died in London in 1691 and Margaret died at the Hall in 1702, and as we saw was buried at Sunbrick. The London Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends purchased the Hall in 1951 for £9,000. It still belongs to the Religious Society of Friends and is used as a Quaker retreat house."

"Thank you pal", said Tetley. "You have added so much to our adventure today through your research."

Shaun now issued the next instruction. "Our route is along the track just past the grounds of the Hall."

At the limit of vision in picture, the track bent right and became narrow between fences. It dropped down and led into a field that was crossed to a kissing gate. Here we climbed and followed it as it bent right beside the grounds of another school and onto Springfield Road.

"Turn left", called out Shaun. As Dad strode out he said, "then we go right down Conishead Road its end, and then left under the railway bridge."

As Dad went to head under the bridge, Little Eric called out imploringly, "look to the right there is a other post box at the corner on Victoria Road."

"Ok lad", said Dad, "we started with a post box as the first picture, so we might as well end with one too."

"Thank you Dad", replied Little Eric. "You are so good to me."

Now Shaun issued the final instructions. "Immediately under the bridge it is right into Brogden Street, which we follow to the A590, where turn right a short way to the start."

"That was a quite super and most interesting walk", said Southey. "Thank you Dad as always."

"So", said Tetley, "what now. Refreshments."

"Yes lad. I am going to Sam and Jane's Fourpence Cafe on King Street. "It is many years since I have seen them."

"I remember you and Uncle Brian used to go regularly to their Hat Trick Cafe at Low Newton", said Allen. "We went in a few times when you called after walks."

We decided to stay in the car and have our picnic, so waved Dad off.

He got to the cafe just as Sam and Jane were coming out of the door. They were pleased to see Dad, but unfortunately were closing early as Sam and a dental appointment. Still Dad did get to chat a little.

Telling us this, Grizzly said, "what now then."

"A quick drive to Milnthorpe to see Martyn and Sarah at the River Bela Cafe."

Here he received a cheery welcome as always. A big pot of tea and a nice festive (turkey, stuffing and cranberry) pannini with fries, followed by warmed mince pies with cream.

By the time he had finished, it was near their closing time, so Dad did not linger. Sarah and daughter Jess were off to Tesco at Carnforth for shopping, due to their plans to visit parents in the south being off due to restrictions. Dad booked to go tomorrow to have a breakfast. It is their last day before closing for Christmas and New Year. We do not think Dad will be going again for a while then, as we are sure there will be another lockdown.

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