Across the Lancastrian sands

Lancashire appears to fall into two parts; the largest body of the county from the Mersey to Silverdale, and Furness and its hinterland in the Furness fells – ‘Lancashire North of the Sands‘.  In reality though, Lancashire is not divided by the waters of Morecambe Bay, but united by the sands.

A look at an Ordnance Survey map shows a public footpath running from Hest Bank on the east shore of Morecambe Bay, north-north-west to Kents Bank on the north shore, both in Lancashire.  It is an ancient path.  In the Middle Ages the monks of Cartmel Priory led pilgrims across the sands: after the Dissolution king Henry VIII appointed the first King’s Guide to the Sands to continue this duty.

The path is a hazardous path:  a misstep can mire a walker in quicksand, and a missed tide can see the waters rushing in faster than a man can run – faster indeed than a horse can gallop.  With each tide the sands shift about the Kent Estuary so that yesterday’s safe route is today’s deadly trap.  In spite of this, it is still a popular walk, but one only to be attempted under the eyes of the Guide.

The map I first drew up for the Lancashire Border Walk assumed a walk across the sands.  With sager heads on their shoulders, the Friends of Real Lancashire amended this, and rightly so.  Philip Walsh’s walk of the boundary, the Real Lancashire Boundary Walk, crosses the estuary by train from Silverdale to Grange-over-Sands outward, to start the circumnavigation of Furness and from Grange to Arnside on the return.

Those who follow should take the same route, unless, unless, the sands are open and the Guide available, in which case it is a proper, public right of way, uniting the county across the sands.

In the future, there is another possibility:  a campaign is afoot to attach a cantilevered footway to the Arnside viaduct (which carries the railway line between to parts of Lancashire).  If one day that comes to fruition, it may be possible to walk the whole way dryshod.  The sands though are still there – shifting in the bed with every tide, concealing their dangers, ready to swallow the unwary, beaconing the adventurous.



Real Lancashire Boundary Walk: lengthing the Mersey

Philip Walsh’s Real Lancashire Boundary Walk continues apace.  On 30 May , Philip set off from Blackpool and was in Liverpool, Lancashire’s Queen of the Seas, on 2 June.  Since then it has been the long haul up the River Mersey.

On 3 June, Philip reached the southernmost village in Lancashire; Hale.  Tonight he was able to sit in a pub in Shaw.  One week and the Mersey conquered.

Soon comes the heavy yomping as the county border runs through the Pennines.  We’re with you all the way, Philip.

Real Lancashire Boundary Walk begins: ‘Let’s Do It’

On Wednesday, 30 May, the Real Lancashire Boundary Walk began.  Philip Walsh set off from Blackpool seafront, beneath Blackpool Tower.  He tweeted his start, with the Lancashire County Flag standing on the Comedy Carpet by Victoria Wood’s  ‘Let’s Do It!’  (It’s just as well the camera did not draw back to the line about the Woman’s Weekly…  Here began a 417-mile walk around the whole Lancashire border.

The first day was the long trudge south along the flat Fylde coast and up the long reach of the Ribble to Preston and down again.  Day 2 took him to the next holiday town – Southport – and through to Crosby.  The next step, on Friday, is to Lancashire’s mighty port city – Liverpool.

Good luck, Philip.  We’re with you all the way.

See the country – while the country lasts

Is there anything more depressing than sitting in a planning meeting, as I am now, thinking about a planned country walk, then seeing the schematics displayed for concreting over it?  Well, yes – doing the walk and watching the diggers doing their work. Yet it is coming, inevitably, and here I sit, helpless.

There are wild places aplenty still – go and see them, and quickly.

In Lancashire, one brave and hardy soul is preparing to walk around the whole county, seeing both the heavily industrialised lands, swallowed forever by the works of man, but also the wild fells where a man may stand and look for mile upon mile on anywhen moorland forgetting which century he is in.

Old Shire Lane, south of Chorleywood
Old Shire Lane, south of Chorleywood

I am preparing a new walk, ambitious in its way, to see the edges of Hertfordshire, familiar and unfamiliar. I will get out there to convince myself that this is still a pretty county, with its woods, its meadows and rivers and its broad fields, peeping through in places behind cruel concrete, alas.  Still, I have walked the suburban wild before, and there must be more that remains green than the urbanised creep, still?

I have just looked up to see a familiar path on my route dotted along the southern boundary of a development site. I sigh inwardly, powerless.

I must hurry, and see the county, while the county lasts.

Lancashire Border Walk launched today

A grand Lancashire Day to thee! The Lancashire Border Walk, a walking route around the whole county palatine launches today.

Embracing the red rose county, the project is to define a path beginning at the Pier Head in Liverpool, running up the coast, north and south of the sands, round High Furness, and then all along the long Pennine border with Yorkshire to Mossley, where three shires meet, and then down the Tame and the Mersey to finish in Liverpool.

From the cities of the Industrial Revolution to the wide sands of the Holiday Coast, to the Lake District and the wild fells and moors of the Backbone of England, the route will prove an eye-opening experience to those hardy enough to take part in walking sections of it.

Much of the route has been worked out. The development of the remaining section, in particular the long Pennine section, are open for development, and the fellwalkers of Lancashire have set to, to trace a way through the hills.  The sections, proposals and suggestions will be displayed on this site on our page “Lancashire Border Walk”.

See also

Reet Gradely Red Rose Ring

It’s a big place is Lancashire to walk all round, yet that is the plan local folk are devising – a walking route around the whole county – the Lancashire Border Walk.

While I have been walking the width of suburban Middlesex, and planning a route round the whole boundary of one of the smallest of Britain’s counties, the Friends of Real Lancashire have in prospect something many times more ambitious:  a border walk around the whole of one of the biggest counties in the land, of which the whole eastern stretch is through the fell country of the Pennines.  The project is being formally launched on Lancashire Day: Monday 27 November 2017, and development pages are hosted on WildþingUK.


From the banks of the River Mersey to the far Furness Fells, Lancashire is big and full of variety.  It has the mighty cities of the south and ugly industrial towns that drove the Industrial Revolution to make the whole kingdom wealthy; it has broad, fertile farmland, and many miles of coast devoted to holidaymaking, and the mountains that ring the north and the east of the county.  The Lancashire Border Walk will see all of these.

The route we know

Liverpool Pier Head

The current draft plan starts at the Pier Head in Liverpool and runs clockwise (although as a circular route it could be begun at any point and be walked in either direction).

From Liverpool it runs by the riverside a short way before looping round the Bootle docks, and joins the coast of the Irish Sea as soon as it can, following the existing coastal footpaths all the way north to Morecambe Bay.  There is also a coastal path around the part of the county north of the sands.   The sands can be crossed on a perilous path that needs an experienced guide, but is that the right way?

The trackless route

The next section, around High Furness, is easy to follow on a map but challenging, both for the walker and the planner.  At the end it will involve a stretch of a few miles through Westmorland (or a rail journey if purists will permit it).

Then the walk must head south through the Pennines to the three county point at Mossley, and this is tough walking country, and with few footpaths in the right place by the look of it.  In this part though, Howard May wrote a walk book called “A Lancashire Border Walk” back in 1988.  It will be studied in detail, though not followed slavishly.

From Mossley to Liverpool it is down the Tame then the Mersey, much of which can be followed on footpaths but these are largely urban rivers now.  The draft proposal already on WildþingUK follows the Mersey down from Warrington, but there is far more detail to work out.

Drop a note in the Comments sections, and let’s get to work!

Looping Lancashire

Lancashire has given us many things: hotpot, Eccles cake, Stan Laurel – oh, and the Industrial Revolution and the birth of the Modern Age.  It is a county of wonder and practicality, with some of the kingdom’s greatest cities and greatest wild places, so every celebration of the county is deeply meant.

A Lancashire Border Walk is being devised, to provide a walking route all around the bounds of the county.  The idea was the first inspiration for the county boundary walks being hosted on WildþingUK, and likewise the Lancashire project page is being hosted here.  It is more challenging than any other yet devised, as Lancashire is one of the biggest counties in Britain, stretching from the River Mersey and the vast conurbations of South Lancashire, to the Furness Fells of the Lake District.  The route will have to take a long coastline, and the Pennine fell country, where the county borders its rival, Yorkshire.

The Friends of Real Lancashire are looking for help to complete the drawing of the route by 27 November – Lancashire Day.  Then the next challenge is for a hardy soul to walk the new route for the first time.

When anyone is going to walk the route – please drop us a line.  Blog on it here if you can.  It won’t be me though!