Walking Class Hero: Brief Encounter
Having gone away and checked with google I now know that: ‘When I behold, upon the night’s starred face, Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance’ comes from When I Have Fears by John Keats. But I still associate the lines with David Lean’s 1945 film Brief Encounter. Celia Johnson’s character answers her, oh so boring, husband’s question about his crossword by telling him the answer is ‘romance’ (see what the director did there folks). I’m reminded of the scene as I stand on the platform at Carnforth with the rain tipping down and the clouds more literal than symbolic.
Brief Encounter was filmed here and the station waiting room is a veritable shrine to the film. We’ve just breakfasted in the cafe (very good it was too) and we’re waiting for a train to take us to Grange over Sands. I don’t know this part of the country at all but I’m looking forward, despite the torrential rain, to seeing some examples of limestone pavement on our walk.
Grange over Sands is a quiet seaside town on the north side of Morecambe Bay on the Cartmel peninsula. The first thing that strikes you is the absence of sand. Apparently the ‘over Sands’ was added in Victorian times because a local vicar was fed up with his post being delivered to Grange in Borrowdale. Grange over Mudflats while being more accurate is nowhere near as poetic after all. The River Kent used to flow past the town’s mile-long promenade but its course migrated south, away from Grange. The sands or mudflats with dangerous quicksands became a grass meadow now grazed by small flocks of sheep. As a result of sustained easterly winds in the early part of 2007, the river has begun to switch its course back across the bay, and it remains to see whether the meadows survive. It’s a peculiarly eerie sight.
We paid a visit to the incredibly friendly and helpful local Tourist Information shop. You can’t help fearing these will be the next target for this coalition government. All that smiling, asking how you are, seeming to enjoy their jobs, going above and beyond the call of duty to answer your questions must be terribly inefficient. And they’re free at the point of use – what idiot thought of them; couldn’t everybody make do with a display board directing you to a tea shop? Armed with explicit directions that included reference to old water tanks we were confident of finding the quickest route to Hampsfell Hospice.
The hospice is a small shelter for walkers and travellers perched high above the town with, on that proverbial clear day, great views of the Old Man of Coniston, Helvelyn, the Langdales and Morecambe Bay. Who knows, I could barely see my hand in front of my face. We did find some wonderful examples of limestone pavement though. Here comes the science bit: ‘A limestone pavement is a natural karst landform consisting of a flat, incised surface of exposed limestone that resembles an artificial pavement. The term is mainly used in the UK where many of these landforms have developed distinctive surface patterning resembling blocks of paving. Similar landforms in other parts of the world are known as alvars’. We can thank the glaciers for them and their distinctive clints (slabs) and grikes (deep fissures).
With the rain easing a little we continued along the Cistercian Way to Cartmel. Morecambe & Wise’s Bring me Sunshine had been replaced in my head by Rhinestone Cowboy (with Rhinestone replaced by Limestone obviously). I’m so literal sometimes. Cartmel has a 12th century priory, a racecourse and is foodie heaven. It’s the self proclaimed home of sticky toffee pudding and several very pricey restaurants that describe their fare as ‘contemporary eclectic’. We ate lunch at the Mallard Tea Shop which was more Last of the Summer Wine than Fat Duck and all the better for that.
After loading up on jacket potatoes we re-traced our steps for a little way and then took an alternative route back to Grange over Sands. The views were great and we hardly saw another walker all day. We were only in this part of Cumbria for a couple of days – a brief encounter – but I can heartily recommend it. It doesn’t have the crowds of the nearby Lakes but does have the scenery and we will be returning sometime soon to do more walking and eating.
OS Map used – Explorer 296 Lancaster, Morecambe & Fleetwood
Pay less when you order this map here
- The Ramblers
- John Keats
- Brief Encounter
- Grange over Sands
- Morecambe Bay
- Cartmel Peninsula
- Limestone Pavement
- Cistercian Way
- Mallard Tea Shop
- Last of the Summer Wine
- Fat Duck
- Secret Cities – Brief Encounter
- Morecambe & Wise – Bring Me Sunshine
- Glen Campbell – Rhinestone Cowboy
- Eliza Carthy – Lady Barnsley’s Fancy, Trip To Cartmel, Hardy’s Crow
- The Heartbreaks – Jealous, Don’t You Know
- John Waite – Missing You (Single Version)
Follow me @walkngclasshero