There's a long thin island called Walney, which is connected to the west side of Barrow in Furness by a bridge. I didn't spend long in Barrow; I am sure it has its charms, but all I saw was American-style malls ('Brewer's Fayre' and fast food joints) and the massive BAE Systems building where submarines are made, and which dominates the town's coastline.
I headed for Walney to have a good walk on the nature reserve, and stopped on the way to have a sandwich in a pub. The pub was nothing special (I had to fix the loo cistern) though nice enough. I read the newspaper and ate the most delicious ham sandwich made with dark rye bread, while on the next table an Italian drank red wine while reading a book called 'Learn Norwegian'..
The tide was out when I reached the Walney reserve, which wasn't ideal for bird-watching, but I met a few Twitchers and saw different gulls, some terns, a skua and one seal. Looking across Morecambe Bay to the east a modern, square building shone like gold in the afternoon light, and away to the south of it I could just make out Blackpool Tower in the mist. When I got back to the nature reserve hut I asked someone what the big square building was, but he didn't know.
|You have to imagine how gold it looked|
Morecambe Bay is the most fantastic expanse of water – or sand, depending when you go. Once it could only be crossed by foot or by ferry because of the mountains of the Lake District on the north shore, but in 1857 the Furness Railway was built along that north side with viaducts crossing the estuaries. The uninitiated should not set off across the bay (there is a Guided Walk for those who want to do it) as it is 120 square miles of unpredictable and dangerous quicksands and fast-moving tides. Ten years ago 23 Chinese cockle-pickers tragically died there, cut off by the tide. The area is teeming with wildlife and out to the west of the bay is one of Britain's largest natural gas fields.
I drove back to Barrow, round the BAE Systems building and up the coast road towards Ulverston and stopped at Bardsea to look again across the bay. I asked a man selling ice creams in a lay-by what the lovely golden building was across the bay – he said it's Heysham Nuclear Power Station!
Cartmel is a small village, tucked away off the road which leads from the M6 to Barrow, but its buzzing when you get there, particularly in summer. It's famous for three things: its Priory, National Hunt racing, and Sticky Toffee Pudding. The 12thC Priory church of St Mary and St Michael founded by Augustine monks attracts 60,000 visitors and pilgrims each year. Do they each buy a sticky toffee pudding? I recommend them, but you can find them all over the country now.
Grange over Sands is a lovely little town looking out over Morecambe Bay from the north side. Its quaint shops and pretty stone houses, many boarding houses and wholesale quantities of begonias planted along walls, in hanging baskets and windowboxes, might make it sound a bit smug, but it isn't.