Panorama of Silecroft Beach...click for full screen image. (That shadow is me taking the pic! Still need to Photoshop it out).
Since I started my trip, I've been exposed to some of the above. But never all of them at once. Driving into Cumbria I knew that I could be onto something. The Lake District is world-renowned, and justifiably so. As soon as I drove into the town of Windermere (on the lake of the same name) the steep hills enveloped silvery lakes, and quite country roads wound their way along dry stone walls. But Windermere is inland, as well as touristy, and I was looking for the coast, which in Cumbria is not as well-known as the interior.
Silecroft is on the southern end of Cumbria's coast. And I liked it - a lot. This is just my opinion, so you must please visit the area for yourself to make up your own mind, but I think Silecroft is a spot that Britain should be proud of - even though, at first, it seems slightly unremarkable.
There are only a few houses alongside a main road that leads down to a beach that extends for miles in either direction. There are two pubs, and only a couple of B&Bs. Behind Silecroft is a series of mountainous hills (if you know what I mean), full of sheep and cows, and Cumberland heavy horses.
There isn't much else. The wind blows (there is a windmill power farm just offshore). The tide comes in and out. The sheep and cows eat and sleep. Fishermen amble onto the beach and catch sea bass. Locals walk their dogs on the beach. Seagulls glide on the breeze. And there are no boutique stores, no supermarkets, no fancy restaurants (only one pub), and no "return-on-investment" Londoners looking for their next property deal.
This photo is called "Cumbrian Cow in Corner Composition"
Cumbrian sheep have it pretty good...
Cumbrian grass field...
Silecroft is exactly how I imagined the British coast to be. Of course I knew that it wouldn't be all like this, but if I had to pick a place that I had preconceived the coastline to be, it would be Silecroft.
Of course, place is only half of it. The people are the other half. You could travel to Papua New Guinea and be entranced by the rainforest, only to be eaten by cannibals. In Silecroft I was lucky enough to stay with a very welcoming family - the Rhinds. (And, of course, now I believe that ALL people in Silecroft are like the Rhinds). My mom would have liked them a lot, and that's a measurement in which I can place a lot of trust.
Newstead House is a B&B about 100 metres from the beach, on the tiny main road leading from the village to the coast. It stands alone in a field of long grass, which itself is surrounded by cows and sheep. You can look out your room onto the fields, see the ocean in the distance, smell it on the breeze all night, and wake up feeling like you've been injected with pure oxygen.
Paul and Alyson Rhind and their two sons (Adam and Fraser) and daughter (Eilidh) kindly invited me to eat with them for dinner, and Paul cooked me fresh sea bass, and Alyson servied me toffee pudding for desert (forget about any toffee pudding you've ever had - Alyson's is incomparable). I could have been at home, especially when Alyson said, "I hope you don't mind our crazy family". For breakfast Paul cooked me some fried eggs with cumberland sausage (98% pork meat, 2% seasoning - ie. NO FAT).
Newstead House, Silecroft...
Someone once said that landscapes determine the people, and Silecroft, with its slow-time feel, and people who smile and greet you along the way, is proof of that. It's a wholesome scene with people who are the same.
Paul and Alyson got me started on Cumberland sausages, and suggested I go to Bewley's Butcher Shop in nearby Bootle, where Willy Bewley makes and sells his locally famous kind of Cumberland sausage. It's a small shop, easily missed, so look out for the blue and white building on the main road of the village. Further north in Wabberthwaite, there is Richard Woodall's, who is the Royal Family's official Cumberland Sausage and Ham supplier. I bet the Queen sneaks into her kitchen late at night to fry up a few sausages...they are that good.
Further proof of the genuinely friendly locals, I went for a horseride with Murthwaite Green Trekking Centre, just down the road from Newstead House. Cath Wrigley runs her horse riding centre along with local girls who you can see wouldn't swap their jobs for anything in the world. Not hard to see why. They get to guide visitors onto the beautiful beach every day, riding horses that are as friendly as the locals. I dunno, maybe I was in an especially good mood (thanks to Paul's cumberland sausages), but everyone I met in Silecroft was someone I'd like to get to know better.
Go horseriding on endless Silecroft Beach with Murthwaite Trekking Centre in Silecroft. You can be a beginner horse rider, and not worry, because the guides are friendly and fun, yet always looking after your safety, and the long beach makes the horses happy.
...and ride some more...
Some other things to do in the area:
- Check out Swinside Stones, a mini Stonehenge type circle of 55 stones.
- Visit the RAF Museum in Millom.
- If you want to ride (or even just look at) the huge and heavy Clydesdale and Shire horses - the ones that are famous for doing the really heavy labour - go to Cumbrian Heavy Horses, just up the road from Silecroft. They are spectacular animals.