Today was one of those days when I just escaped. I put a couple of butties and a bottle of water in a bag and just set off. The weather, which has been pretty cold and grim for the last week or so, finally broke, and it was glorious sunshine.
It was one of those days when I set off, not entirely sure where I intended to go. But I knew I did have to call in at a shop in town to drop something off. So that was the first part of the journey, the hour walk into town. Once there I decided I’d hit the path that runs up the side of the channel, and then perhaps swing in a wide circle east around the north of the town, and perhaps down through the Abbey. Instead as I walked along the channelside path, I noticed that the tide was right out. So then and there I decided I was going to cross the ford to the island of Walney. For those who don’t know it, Walney is eleven miles long, a mile wide and has a population of about 10,700. They’re connected to the mainland by one bridge, and there are a couple of places you can cross at low tide.
I’d always intended to try the ford and today was the day. Once on the island, the north end has an airport and a nature reserve. The airport is an old wartime aerodrome, bits of which have been modernised and kept in use. So I walked north around the island, avoiding the airport. Even on the beach the scent of the gorse was almost overwhelming. It’s not a long walk to cross the island and looking north you can see Black Combe, Millom, and the Lake District.
One thing the airfield does is launch gliders. I was there when the ‘tug’ took off, pulling a glider behind it. The tug is a single-engined plane which literally pulls the glider up into the sky, then at the appropriate height releases it. The plane goes back down and the glider frolics a bit, until gravity eventually loses patience and the glider has to come down as well.
Nearly forty years ago my father and I were laying concrete and my mother came out to pass on a message. She was struggling to stop laughing. Apparently there she had just taken a phone call.
“Hello, is Jim there.”
“Could I speak to him please.”
“I’m sorry, he’s laying concrete, could he phone you back later?” (This is the sort of thing we did in civilised times before mobile phones)
“Well we were wondering when he’ll get here, we need him to fly the tug.”
At this point the conversation apparently got surreal, as to my Mother a tug (as a noun rather than an action) is a boat, and I’m not nautical. Not only that but the person at the other end was insistent that I was the pilot and I was going to fly a single-engined aircraft and pull a glider. My mother begged leave to doubt this. Eventually she realised it wasn’t somebody who knew me and who was trying to wind her up, but a genuine wrong number and matters were resolved. But I never did get to fly the tug.
But anyway the beach was quiet, a handful of people walking dogs and small children, and the kite surfers had the water to themselves.
Finally, because the tide was in, I left the island over the bridge. Looking north towards the Lakeland hills you can see the channel where I walked dry shod, now full.
And from the bridge, looking south, the reason for Barrow’s existence. The channel heading south past the various buildings of the shipyard
If you like travel, exploring strange places and meeting strange people, but want to do it with your feet up as you relax, you might enjoy this 🙂
As a reviewer said, “When a story starts with the words ‘There are safe ways to kill an Urlan. No, let me rephrase that, there are ways to kill an Urlan that do not lead to their kindred hunting you down like a rabid dog’, you KNOW it’s going to be a classic Jim Webster tale.
True to form, this is indeed a great yarn, worthy of being sung about at feasts in Medieval, or, Valhalla-like, halls.”