FOUR decades after being cast out to sea, a message in a bottle has washed up on the sands of South Lakeland and awoken poignant memories for the family of the young teen who sent it.

A couple holidaying in Cark-in-Cartmel found the battered Coke bottle, complete with a note scribbled on the back of a chocolate wrapper, as they walked their dogs on the estuary.

John Thompson, who spends every weekend with his wife, Carol, at the Old Park Wood caravan site, near Holker, made the amazing discovery as he threw a tennis ball for his canine pals at the end of October.

But after drying out the saltwater-soaked note and studying the barely legible message, a tragic tale has unfolded bringing back words from beyond the grave for the family of Kevin Wainhouse.

"I was walking on the estuary as I do most weekends when I spotted this bottle with a note inside," explained Mr Thomspon, 49, who lives in Chorley. "The bottle was really battered and I thought the note was going to be too wet to read but I uncorked it and left it alone for a week or two to dry out - then I was able to make out most of what it said."

The message he pieced together bore the name of Kevin Wainhouse and a part-legible address of Blackley in Manchester. It also had a date of 30/07/64 and read please reply'.

"I thought it would be nice to try to find out who had sent the message so I contacted a paper local to the address and they put out an appeal," added Mr Thompson. "I was really surprised when just a few days later I heard from a chap called Tony, who revealed it had been thrown out to sea by his late brother, Kevin, who had died in 1984."

It transpired that a then 13-year-old Kevin Wainhouse who died on a family holiday in Majorca at the age of 33 had sent the bottle out to sea while on a day-trip to a beach with his father.

Tony Wainhouse was not born at the time but said as soon as he heard of the message scrawled on the back of a Cadbury's Whole Nut wrapper he knew it was from his big brother. "As soon as I saw Kevin's name I just knew it was him," explained the 38-year-old, who lives in Moston, near Manchester. "I was only 16 when he died but we were very close and this has brought it all back to me. He had just been diagnosed with diabetes and he used to send me to the shop to buy him a bar of Whole Nut. We didn't have much money in those days and we think my dad, who was a lorry driver, was probably trying to cheer Kevin up with a day out to the seaside.

"Forty-one years is a long time. I was really taken aback. I had dreamt about him (Kevin) the night before I heard about the message, which was strange enough. Then for this to happen - it was like a message from the grave."

Mr Thompson added: "I imagined that this boy had drunk his Coke and eaten his bar of chocolate before deciding to write a message and drop it into the sea.

"The glass bottle was really quite battered and, while I'm no expert on currents, I'd like to think it has maybe been around the world a couple of times before turning up in the North West again."

Now Mr Thompson is looking forward to handing the precious message to Kevin's family including Tony and his mother, Mary, who still lives in the Manchester area when they meet on Sunday. "Obviously Kevin's family think about him a lot and maybe this will bring them some comfort," he added.