Millom, overlooked by bulky Black Combe, stands on the sandy estuary of the River Duddon. In its heyday huge numbers of migrants came across the sands to work in the largest haematite iron ore mine in the world, much of which was smelted abroad. Ships for this were built at Millom and in the late 19th Century 1,500 sailed from Hodbarrow pier.
This is an unexpected delightful walk, beside acres of sheep marsh, along sandy good beaches, through huge meadows, on flat good tracks and paths with very little habitation – just right for this wet summer.
Park in the public car park just before Tesco’s Direct at Millom, grid ref 174804. Access this by the A5093. Turn left over the railway bridge and then immediately left. Another left, a short way along is the entrance to the small parking area, which soon gets rather full.
1 Turn left out of the car park and walk down Lancashire Road. Go over the huge hump beyond the houses, built to keep back the highest tides. Drop down over the bridge and look out over the marsh to see the way onto the sands-crossing. Walk right along a signed path through rough pasture and low growing bushes. Cross a track and continue ahead on a wide track. Pause to enjoy the huge marsh stretching away to your left, with the water sparkling in the tidal gutters. Many sheep graze peacefully and beyond the view of the Lakeland hills is magnificent. To your right when you spot a vast slagbank you might be tempted to climb up for the view from the top and to marvel about where all the slag came from.
2 Keep ahead following the track, past a new house to the right, with a fine old house beyond, which once housed a works manager. Carry on winding gradually right with the wide track and the estuary immediately to the left. Much restoration work has been done here and more plans are afoot for more. Look to see struts and timbers left from the old pier, with care, because there is a steep drop to the shore. You might spot where small boats could pass under the pier to a small lagoon, now all filled in.
3 At the small point wind round on a path through the marram or take a path cutting across the corner for a few steps and then go onto the beach. Or you may prefer to keep up on a path above the beach. The beach is easy walking and there are fine views from it out into the Duddon Channel. As you near the next ‘point’, head up to join a path going left beside the fence on the left. Keep beside it to stroll a vast sheep pasture again with fine views out to sea, and woodland away to the right. This eventually brings you to a waymarked gate into a small field. Walk on to go up a path, arched overhead with trees, with agrimony growing along the banking. Keep ahead at the top and then wind right with the old windmill left without its sails. Ahead you might spot the old lighthouse, which became redundant when the outer barrier was built.
4 Drop down to a wider track and turn left. Sit on the seat for your lunch, looking down on a pretty small bay almost surrounded by rocks, which you might wish to explore. Then continue along the wide track with the estuary to your left. You are now walking the enormously reinforced outer barrier built to restrain the tides after the inner barrier was breached. At the lighthouse look for the hawsers that lowered the ore onto ships below. Opposite is the RSPB bird hide, a wonderful site in the nesting season, with a good view onto the lagoon and the breached inner wall.
5 Carry on along the wide track, wind right with it and continue to the road at Port Haverigg, a large collection of static caravans and much cared for homes. Turn right and continue to take the first left to wind up a charming lane. Curve left and right, then left with the “Commodore” to your right. Turn right beyond it to descend left on a lane, soon with the lagoon to your right. There is a short footpath on the right of the road, which you might wish to take. At its foot, look through the trees to see the stumps of old trees in the water, submerged when the inner barrier broke.
6 At this point turn left along Mainsgate road, using the pavement. At the main road turn left and walk until you can turn right in front of the railway bridge to return to the parking area.
Distance: 5.5 miles
Time: 2-3 hours
Terrain: Good paths and tracks.
Map: OS Explorer OL6
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.