The Cumbrian coast is now included in the All England Coast Path, the coastal strip that will eventually cover all of England. Not having been for a while, and interested in seeing where Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins went after their misadventure on Carrock Fell – when Wilkie Collins sprained his ankle on their descent, possibly down the gully above Rake Trod.
So we set off for Maryport and Allonby.
Maryport first, where it was pleasing to see they are pushing their new connection to the All England Coast Path. The coast here is most interesting, the area above the beach being rich in wild flowers and butterflies. Like most northern seaside towns, Maryport suffered badly thanks to the misguided policy of austerity. Hopefully, the All England Coast Path will bring new visitors and money to the town.
There is a moving tribute by the harbour to Ned Smith, who won the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Victoria Cross towards the end of World War One, only to be killed in action twenty-two years later at the beginning of World War Two.
The harbour itself is a working harbour, full of fishing boats while we were there – more fishing boats than you’d see in many an English harbour these days.
There is some wonderful architecture in the town. It deserves a better fate than to be neglected by politicians.
On then to Allonby, where Dickens and Collins stayed after their fell-walk. They stayed rather longer than the single night suggested by the blue plaque, I’d suggest. Wilkie Collins with his injured foot up, surrounded by pills and potions, a frustrated Dickens walking a dozen miles around the village and anxious to be off – patience was probably never his strong point.
Allonby is an interesting place with a grand beach and views across the Solway to Scotland, Crieffel in the distance. And obviously much cared for and loved by the local community.
A stretch of the All England Coast Path worth exploring.
(c) John Bainbridge, Text and pictures 2021