The day started well with a breakfast at the wonderfully named Fairydust Emporium at Silloth. This turned out to be the highlight of the day.
I set off towards the Solway Marshes. I was following the Cumbria Coastal path , this was a bit of a leap of faith as the Cumbria Council say that the path has now been discontinued due to removal of landowner permissions. So Natural England have tried to put in the new all singing all dancing England Coastal path and they’ve upset the Cumbrian farmers who in turn have cancelled permissive paths. I encountered this today as the path vanished in a mass of gorse and sheep wire. After a mere half mile diversion I got back on the path. I then had a long cross marsh section to do on the former Cumbrian Coastal path. The signs had gone and the gate was wired up. I can take a hint.
So back on the road for several miles . My track then took me across some fields on an ordinary footpath. So for those of you who haven’t walked a farm path in Cumbria strap yourselves in.
There was a sign from the road pointing me over an iron gate into a farm yard. The gate had about a nine inch drop on it and from the squealing of the hinges wasn’t used much. There were of course no footpath signs in the farmyard or on the farm buildings. I worked my way through helped my my satnav accompanied by the mercifully distant sounds of annoyed farm dogs.
Once through the buildings I was in a field with about 150 dairy cows and 400m of mercifully unused slurry pipe. The next gate had no footpath sign but the farmer had solved the squeaking hinge problem. The gate had no hinges. It was secured to the gateposts by barbed wire wrapped round it. This meant you couldn’t open but had to climb over. It was then I discovered the barbed wire wasn’t as tight as it could be so as I climbed the gate it swayed in most worrying manner. Having crossed this my next field was clear of livestock but was clearly where the slurry pipes had last been used.
The next stile had no cross pieces to stand on and was even less stable than the barbed wire supported gate. This got me into a field of heifers. They were very intrigued by their new visitor. I guess not many walkers got that far.
They followed me in a mainly well behaved procession to a bridge.
This looked actually quite secure and had a half a footpath sign on it.
Crossing the bridge led me to a stile , I use the word stile loosely, it appeared to be a mating of a timber palette and a cattle feeder decorated with barbed wire.
Climbing this which to be fair did not sway at all allowed me into a patch of waist high weeds with no obvious path on the ground. This was the headland round a field of wheat. And my path according to sat nav and maps led along it then over a ditch. FB on the map indicated footbridge.
The footbridge when I found it was a nine inch wide piece of steel over a wide ditch. Of course there were no hand rails.
I had to cross this by doing side steps as it was too narrow to cross normally with the bonus that my walking poles couldn’t grip on the steel to support me.
Having crossed this I was confronted by another herd of heifers and no stile, no gate but a five foot sheep wire and barbed wire topped fence.
So decision time. The path was clearly blocked. Do I go back the way I came? Or do I hope that the rest of the path is still functioning?
Binoculars out , I looked across the field and , where the ‘path’ went on the map there seemed to be a gap in the vast blackthorn hedge.
I climbed the fence, and with another herd of heifers in tow, made my way to the gap.
The gap it turned out was where the heifers in order perhaps to cheer themselves up , had made a muddy wallow which the farmer had made secure with a barbed wire entanglement that would have been at home on a trench filled battlefield.
Ok time to give up. Looking at my map I spotted that if I got back to the corn field it was next to a farm which has a track I could use to get vaguely back on track.
I took my herd of heifers back to the metal bridge, climbed the fence, crossed the bridge and set off round the field. When I finally got to the other side I was greeted with a metal gate almost invisible in five nettles. This gate was clearly disused as the barbed wire holding it up was rusty.
However I could see the farm buildings about 100 yards way. Climbing the gate I set off.
I then discovered why the gate was disused. I was attempting to cross a slurry lagoon. The slurry was old with a thick crust but not enough to support me and a back pack.
I managed using my walking poles to work my way round the edge much in the manner of someone crossing a minefield.
When I got to the far side it was just a climb up a pile of concrete, metal and farm equipment that had been left to die, and I was on the lane.
This whole thing had taken about an hour, I was hot annoyed and slightly foul smelling. I had travelled half a mile on my route.
This is why I try to stick to main paths .
I found a campsite by a pond and washed my boots on it.
At least I could get rid of one aspect of the day.