Windy Walney

Day 72 –Stubb Place to Roa Island– 31st July – 18.4 nm

Not wanting to sound repetitive but it is another early start. It’s less of Team Fatboy nowadays and more of Team Knackered; enthusiasm is a vaguely remembered concept.

The S wind is due to pick up, and to do so early, it’s going to be a day of slog by the look of things. Yesterday’s sunshine is long gone.

The early stretches of coastline are flat shingle and sand - no cliffs, headlands or tide races. It’s going to be hard work but bang-out landings are possible for virtually the whole length. The down side is that there is pretty much no road access. If I have to get off then I'm going to be stuck with a long walk out, the trolley goes in the hatch.

Off the scruffy beach and into the high-teens headwind and against the flow - 3.5 kts stays stubbornly displayed on the GPS. It's not a brilliant start.

There's a 2-4ft chop so I stay out a little, keeping an eye out for the odd sneaky early-breaker. Once again the day’s tidal timing takes second place to dodging the incoming weather. This might make the route at Walney Island a tricky choice, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

As breakfast progresses along its way a toilet stop becomes needed by Silecroft. But as I close on the beach I can see the place is festooned with worm danglers, lines are everywhere. The mucky dumping surf adds to the complications. We’ll give it a miss.

By Haverigg Point things are a little more urgent and a trip into the dunes is required. The shallows make for an extensive and complicated picture of smallish surf and sandbanks, but things go ok and I thread my way in smoothly.

Here I'm 1.5 nm from the nearest road, sheltered from civilisation by the prison beyond the dunes. But just as the Gore-Tex is about to be dropped a gent suddenly appears out of nowhere, magically right on cue. Ahh, the old Mr-Ben’s-shopkeeper trick.

I'm freezing my bits off in winter kit, he’s wandering around in sandals and shorts. Nature is put on hold, and we have a chat. He’s an interesting guy who’s been brought up on the coastline. He doesn't give much away of his background but he knows the water well. He’s intrigued by the paddling trip, and we discuss the pro’s and cons of the imminent routing around or inside Walney Island. Eventually it’s time to take our leave, if I dally much longer I’ll run out of water on the inside route. The day goes on, but the people add colour to it.

I'm not going to get across Morecambe Bay today, so Roa Island is the final destination. The outside of Walney means an easier tidal route, but I worry that the flat shallow sands will make for extensive surf, and perhaps a bit of hassle around the bottom end. The wind is still picking up too. I go easy and opt for the inside route instead, anticipating a bit of eddy hopping to get me to Barrow.

The wind has increased now and it’s a splashy crossing of Duddon Sands. The flow coming out of the Scarth makes things a bit lumpy and I have to sneak around looking for a gap. Once I’m in the channel it dawns that it’s going to be a real effort to Barrow, the wind is blowing down the channel and the tide is running out quickly. Walney Meetings is a disappointing misnomer, it’s still running against as I paddle beyond and head under the Vickerstown Bridge. I slide onto the mud opposite the docks for a lunchtime breather. Off again and I finally get a little help from the tide as I move S of the docks. Yeah, Walney Meetings my arse, they need to redraw that chart for sure.

And from there on I keep myself to myself as I stay outside the marked channel and watch the impressive wind farm service vessels speeding effortlessly up the channel.

It’s still a slog against the wind to Roa. Unfortunately it doesn't bring back fond memories. Last time I was here 2 ‘we represent the RNLI...’ men gave me a bollocking for paddling in the dark, the coastguard joined the party and took offense too. But then I guess they know a lot about paddling. An unpleasant night.

This time I land quietly, and escape the place before someone decides to give me more shit about my canoeing.

We finish early, a welcome early finish. On paper it was only going to be a short day, but somehow it feels quite a bit longer.

I take the opportunity to catch up with the newspapers, a welcome diversion. There seems to be a big fuss brewing on childhood obesity. I think back to yesterday’s sunny but breezy landing at St Bees. There were a couple of fat kids wallowing around in the edge of the surf, clad only in swimming cossies. They seemed to be there almost to prove the point, but I reflect that every cloud has silver lining though. From the parent’ point of view they get more bang for the buck - the kids can play in the chilly water all day, and they float better to boot, so it’s safer.

So it’s not all bad. More chips please.