Cumbria - St Bees & Whitehaven
17/09/17It's been a long time since I was up here.. 2004 in fact, whilst working for a haulage Company, doing a job in Egremont Post Office (to be precise ), however, I had forgotten that it takes nearly 3 hours driving, two those after you leave the M6 at Lancaster. And so it was.. another audacious adventure.. with a lot of research as usual beforehand - tide times, locations, accessibility.. ( er... maybe two of those - forget "location" ). My first port of call before I reached St Bees ( my destination for the night ) was Swinside stone circle, another strange place I have longed to visit but God knows I ended up taking the wrong road and decided to leave it until the next day, and so on I went, up the ridiculously-winding A590 and A595 north towards Whitehaven.
After checking into my resting place for the evening I thought I would drive the mile or so to St Bees beach, I am glad I did, as I discovered some fantastic red sandstone rocks which were covered with decades of carved grafitti which I could have read for hours. I had a job to do however, to photograph this lonely place. I found a large broken tree branch which had washed onto the rocks at high tide, to be left waiting to be returned out to sea for it's next free ride.. I couldn't resist.. there's something about the textures of sea-washed wood, and this was silver birch.. perfect.
After an hour or so I clambered back down the cliff and onto the vast expanse of sand.. it's beautiful here.. but it's Saturday.. where is everyone? - surely they're not ALL at Egremont crab fair?...
Next call was Whitehaven.. and I found it to be a very drab and run-down town... perfect for my kind of photography some might think.. nope.
Although... I took a long walk up the south end of the harbour, it's massive... a Goliath of a structure with sheer drops on either side onto the beach and into the sea.. with only a couple of fishermen there I captured the huge walls and the candlestick chimney from the old Wellington pit in the distance, reflected in the water from recent rainfall. This is a lonely place... and the shopping centre didn't help matters, it was pretty grim.. and mostly closed by 3pm.
I warmed myself in the Bransty Arch pub and enjoyed some local beer while I checked my photographs on the camera, not bad... but time to get back to my hotel.
Sunday morning, good breakfast, bizarrely shared with 4 strangers at the table and I had already packed.. no time to lose.. it was a short hop to St Bees priory - Viking remnants, early Victorian graves, Angels pointing to heaven and smiling vicars.. what's not to like... so I explored the churchyard and the Viking/Saxon crosses and left a happy man. Now... my research paid off and I easily found Saltom Pit, down at the bottom of the cliff behind Haig Mining Museum.. yes.. go there... take the pictures... I don't care.. , a 15- minute clamber down the cliff took me to the derelict pit building above the shoreline... empty save some skeletal pigeons and a few lager cans... on with the 10-stop - some LE shots with a grad filter and I left a very happy man.
I waved adios to Cumbria in the afternoon, with a small pocketful of regrets, being I didn't explore the forgotten cemetery in Whitehaven, nor did I ever find that bloody stone circle as once again I turned left at the wrong lane once past Muncaster castle and ended up doing another 10 miles up the Eskdale Pass to Ulpha and Broughton In Furness.. I have to say though... I witnessed the most stunning views I have ever seen in England.. the mountains, the landscape... WOW.
As Arnie said so eloquently: "I'll be back" .