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A delightful ramble around Birkrigg Common
Much of this walk is a delight. There is more road walking than usual because several tracks that pass through the low-level pleasing countryside, keeping you away from traffic, are deep in mud and should be avoided until next summer. The higher grassy slopes of Birkrigg Common, being limestone, drain well and are dry to walk, though be careful where you park - find some hard-standing if you only wish to visit the stone circle. Caboniferous limestone is the underlying rock of Birkrigg Common. It rises above the great expanse of Morecambe Bay and the lush valley of Urswick. The views from its summit are good for such a lowly fell, encompassing Black Combe, the Coniston Fells, into Bowland and the Yorkshire Dales – if the weather allows.
Use the parking area beside St Cuthbert’s Church at Aldingham, grid ref 284711- noting the various restrictions. Access this by a side-turn off the Coast Road between Baycliff and Newbiggin.
1 Take the narrow path out of the back of the parking area down to the shore and bear left. Walk the sandy, shingly shore to pass the high crenellated wall of the fine church and then the white house next door. Continue on past old breakwaters beyond which the shore becomes littered with low rocks. Weave between them and pause often to look out over the estuary. To your left, set-back behind a hedge are several single storey dwellings. After the last one, look for the easy-to-miss lane turning inland. Follow this delightful way and when you reach a small flood walk down the middle – the easiest way to avoid the water coming over your boots. At a Y-junction, turn left and climb steadily to the Coast Road at Baycliff.
2 Cross with care, and walk ahead up a short ‘piece’ of road between houses. Turn right and remain on the road to reach the Y-junction, where you take the left turn, Sunbrick Lane. Climb steadily to end of the houses and then continue on the reinforced way, which ends at a farm. Ascend steadily the continuing way with dramatic views over Morecambe Bay. After a little descent the now narrow hedged path continues to Sunbrick. On reaching the road, turn right and follow the quiet way as it winds right with the Common stretching away to the left. There are several wide inviting grassy swathes going off left onto Common but wait until you can see a wall corner, on the left, just before Sea Wood on the right. Then walk, left, along the grassy way to arrive at the rather elusive Bronze Age small stone circle of limestone boulders. Enjoy the view from here down to Bardsea and its lovely church.
3 Facing Bardsea, take left, a wide swathe of grass through the bracken, heading towards the high ground of the Common. The track gradually veers left, joining other grassy tracks. Follow the swathe as it continues through a ‘valley’ between a low hill on the right and a steep slope of limestone pavement and bracken, with the cairn-marked summit high above you to your left. Another grassy swathe, left, ascends easily to the top (446ft/136m). If you do not locate this take any grassy swathe the climbs uphill. The white-painted cairn stands proud in the centre of a small grassy plateau. If the wind isn’t too strong, sit on the bench seat to enjoy the extensive view.
4 Go on across the top, veer a little left and descend any swathe that leads down to a road. Cross and follow the signpost directions along a grassy way and then go right towards another road. Here walk left beside the road on your right, until you have to join the road at a cattle grid. Walk on with care to where the road bends left and there is a signposted right turn onto a walled track. A few yards along is an easy-to-miss good hedged track going off left. But here be warned. The first third of the track is easy to walk but the next two longish sections, with no access to the road that brings you down to Scales village, is impassable – deep sticky mud; even with wellington boots it would still be very hard work to walk. Until these two sections dry out or freeze solid, continue on the road to reach the children’s playground, on the right, at the village of Scales. Ignore the signposted footpath to the Coast Road.
5 Wind round keeping the swings and roundabouts to your right, cut left beside a small triangle of grass and take the road, signposted Aldingham. This involves just under a mile of quiet walking but the footpaths you could use are best left for a spring or summer walk. Cross the Coast Road and walk down to the parking area perhaps with time to visit the glorious St Cuthbert’s church.
Time: 3 hours
Terrain: Choose a day when the tide is out so that you have the whole beach to yourself and have no worries about an extraordinary high tide. Tide tables from the nearest PO. Excellent facilities by the car park.
Easy walking on Common. Avoid all the lovely hedged tracks while this wet weather continues.
Map: OS Explorer OL 6
NB: Restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.