I began this post with the above names that I thought of as I drove past them, this morning, on my way to the Duddon, plus a couple thrown in, as the litter was thrown into the hedgerows. To Ulpha Bridge, for a swim. Just me and Roy dog, a small rucksack with sandals (for a grip on slippery river stones), towel, bottle of water, sandwich and a banana. Reminding me of the time I got the bus to Torver, walked up past Goat’s Water to the gap, turned a blind eye to Dow Crag, heading north north west to drop down the path that leads to Seathwaite Tarn. A drink of water and banana at the top of Goat’s Hause was nectar!
Walna Scar takes you down to Seathwaite Tarn. An old Miner’s track, Drover’s track, Smuggler’s Track from one Vale to the next.
That particular day, a hot one in May, I walked from Torver to Broughton in Furness, via Goat’s Water, Seathwaite Tarn, Seathwaite, down the Duddon Valley, past the church of the Wonderful Walker (smiled wryly), called in to use the loo at the New Field Inn, and over the narrow back lanes, past the Blacksmith’s Arms to drop down into Broughton – and wait for a bus. And wait and wait… sitting at the Market Cross, by the ancient stocks, my two dogs and I. At that time, the dogs were Moxee and Buttons. A kindly woman offered the dogs a polo mint – but not one for me! I should have panted and lolled my tongue!
ULPHA BRIDGE, YELLOW WAGTAILS AND A SWIM IN THE DUDDON
“I thought of Thee, my partner and my guide,
As being past away.—Vain sympathies!
For, backward, Duddon! as I cast my eyes,
I see what was, and is, and will abide;
Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide;
The Form remains, the Function never dies;”
- Wordsworth, fr. ‘Duddon Sonnets’
But today at the Duddon it was Roy, our Border Collie. His enthusiasm for a task knows no bounds. So when we settled down on the grassy bank by Ulpha Bridge and I began to undress for a swim, Roy got stuck into the river stones. Putting his head fully under water, scrabbling at one stone after another, failing to get any and pause now and then, to look at me.
Good lad! I said, as I slid into the Duddon’s clear, cool, silky depth, good lad! As two startled yellow wagtails flipped their tails, then darted upstream.
I’d gone early this Sunday morning as I knew later on the narrow road up the valley would get busy, as would the river bank. Busy with swimmers, picnickers, paddlers in dinghies and canoes, families enjoying this sudden summer of heat, catching us by surprise.
After bathing for a while, watching the Duddon and Furness Mountain Rescue team drive over the bridge, then a Three Peaks Mini-bus drive past, I thought, hum, must be the weekend of the Three Peak Challenge. This comprises Scafell, Ben Nevis and Snowdon. I decided to have a walk along the road, not up to the tiny church of St John’s but back the way I’d driven, pausing to take photos. I passed two dead Herdwick lambs, this year’s by the look of them. Small, black, sturdy, not long dead, within a few hundred yards of each other. Fast cars, eager to head up or down the valley, their drivers don’t often stop for a lamb crossing the road to reach the baa-aaing of its mother.
We walked for half an hour or so, then stopped and sat on a rock raised high off the roadside, with a view that spread down the valley up onto the Corney Fells and Ulpha Fells, basking in the burning off of thin cloud haze. At my feet sheep muck and pink stone crop, delicate flowers nestled alongside small, round shiny balls of sheep faeces.
Walking back to the car, parked at the bridge, I stopped and looked at one of the lambs, its eyes glazed, and heard a gentle baaa. Saw its mother stepping towards it. The pause, look at us. Then she nudged the dead lamb. I couldn’t look any more but walked back to the car. Driving back down the valley to join the main Whitehaven to Greenodd road I saw the sheep lying by the side of her lamb. I drove on.
Decided not to drive straight back to Ulverston, Ulpha’s Town, the settlement of Ulpha we were told at school and I’m not stopping typing to check if this is so, until I finish. Not stopping to check the path I took over 30 years ago from Torver to Seathwaite. No. This is from memory and love and I’m continuing my memory-trail.
I turned right at Grizebeck, past the Greyhound pub – I know the names of pubs! Past Chapels, knew that up that little side road was a row of houses called Paradise. The view across the Duddon estuary, out to the Irish Sea and onto Black Combe’s mighty bulk separating Lancashire North of the Sands from Cumberland, is paradise.
“It pleased the Lord so to open my understanding Imediately in the time of G Fs [George Fox's] declaration. That I saw perfectly Just then that wee were all wrong, & that we were but Theives, that had stollen the scriptures. which caused me to shed many tears. And I satt down in my pew & wept all the while … “(Glines 2003, 430).
Through Kirkby-in-Furness my mind took me to imagining where Margaret Fell lived as a child and young woman before she married Judge Thomas Fell and later, George Fox. I knew Marsh Grange Farm was close to the estuary, my sister said it was between Askam and Kirkby, ‘you walk across the golf course.’ I could see a couple of old farms, or large old houses, nestled against what looked an old slag bank. But I was driving and didn’t stop, so will go again on foot and check.
Her view. Of the Duddon estuary, the estuary that Wordsworth wrote about in his Duddon Sonnets, tracing as he did his journey, the river’s journey from source to sea. Norman Nicholson's view of the estuary from Millom and back to Black Combe where a wall is a: “grey millipede on slow/ stone hooves” (‘Wall’ by Nicholson). Views I grew up with, am familiar with. The journeys across to Millom, over the viaduct, naming the railway stations like a pilgrim.
A SING-SONG OF RAILWAY STATIONS
Ulverston, Dalton, (trains once stopped at the Abbey), Roose, Barrow, Askam, Kirkby-in-Furness, Green Road, Millom, Bootle, Silecroft, Ravenglass, Drigg, Seascale, (new station at Sellafield), Braystones, Nethertown, St. Bees, Corkickle (corpse circle), Bransty (Whitehaven). But we got off at Nethertown, walked down the railway track with our cases and baggage, ducked under the wire fence and up the narrow sea-pink lined path to the bungalow, Borneo. Opened the door, and the Borneo smell greeted us, salty-driftwood, coal smoke, calor gas and warmth. Home from home for a holiday. World's away from 'the Lakes' - West Cumbria and the Furness Peninsula, land of wide skies, breathing space and dazzling seascapes...
I drove back today over Kirkby Moors and dropped down to the A590, then, on another whim, drove over Birkrigg to Scales along the Coast Road to Newbiggin to give Roy a run on the sands and in the receding tide. Thought about Fox crossing the Sands from Lancaster, to land at the Bay Horse, ride into Ulverston, preach his vision, get thrown out of St Mary’s Church near Hoad, to land up, eventually, under the wing of Judge Thomas Fell, and his wife, Margaret.
Today tho, it was me, back home for some sun in the garden, reading “Home Ground – Language for an American Landscape” ed. By Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney, thinking of place names, how important they are to ground us, ground us in a place, creating an intimacy through words and repetition that can for some be comfort, for others claustrophobic. For me, it’s comfort – but my feet get itchy and I have to taste and feel and understand what ‘home’ means to others.
“This is the shore, the line dividing
The dry land from the waters Europe
From the Atlantic; this is the mark
That God laid down on the third day.
Twice a year the high tide sliding,
Unwrapping like a roll of oil cloth, reaches
The curb of the mud, leaving a dark
Swipe of grease, a scaled out hay
Of wrack and grass and gutterweed. Then
For full three hundred tides the bare
Turf is unwatered except for rain;
Blown wool is dry as baccy; tins
Glint in the sedge with not a sight of man
For two miles round to drop them there.
But once in spring and once again
In autumn, here’s where the sea begins.”
Fr. ‘On Duddon Marsh’ Norman Nicholson
Geraldine Green, 7.7.2013
copyright for essay and photos Geraldine Green
River Duddon, Ulpha Bridge, Pink Stonecrop, Swarthmoor Hall, Roanhead Beach
River Duddon, Ulpha Bridge, Pink Stonecrop, Swarthmoor Hall, Roanhead Beach