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Surviving Fortifications in Cumbria


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kevsmiththai

So the latest Government lockdown has got really tough since the new variant made its appearance but thankfully we are still allowed out to exercise. Most importantly for me is getting our Brooklyn away from his X box and outside for some exercise. He loves walking the coast and we have ventured around the Duddon estuary to the various beaches every weekend when he has a sleepover at our house.

 

on one such trip to Sandscale Haws, a nature reserve a couple of miles from our house, he was delighted to find a WW2 pillbox. The re-inforced concrete gun emplacement has been there since the second world war and has survived because they are so tough and too expensive to get rid of. This one has a clear field of fire across the northern end of Walney channel

 

large.1071851148_BrooklynattheSandscalePillbox.jpg.3849769005d757bc74ff1c76f0270f13.jpg

 

When I mentioned that I knew where there was another it set off an interest we are still pursuing now of finding all the others. never expecting what we would find!

 

So we went to the other one I knew of, at Cavendish Dock in the port area of Barrow. This is just outside our nuclear shipping terminal

 

Of course he had to stand on top of it!

 

large.527528725_BrooklynontheCavendishdockpillbox.jpg.18b713022ce5639bda4c192a1a3461e8.jpg

 

This one also has a commanding view across the channel to Piel island

 

large.2116609385_PillboxwestendCavendishCauseway.jpg.732e44fff9affe4bebab295a46e4464f.jpg

 

So we started to do some research on the internet and also on Google maps where in the satellite view you can spot the signature shape quite easily and for the last few weekends that has been the aim of our walks.

 

more soon

 

Kev

 

 

 

 

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kevsmiththai

These things crop up anywhere. This one is at the side of the Walney Channel on Barrow island but has the apertures sealed up to keep vandals out

 

large.1650529105_PillboxWalnerchannelVickerstown.jpg.d732c209db931ab6a90d3d15d1295ec3.jpg

 

Like the other so far it is still in good condition.

 

Even during the war they were getting modified. as a good solid base one or two had things built on top. This one is about 50 metres away from the one above and had an observation post built on top

 

large.1195686445_Pillboxwithobservationtowerbuiltontop.jpg.a0204aa1918547d7c58781f300a46590.jpg

 

Now all these seen so far have been sited on good solid bases. However the North Walney channel is the subject of severe coastal erosion and i'd seen a county council report of Pillboxes collapsing due to this. The area north of Barrow in Furness is dominated by the slag bank left by the now closed steelworks. Previously when we have been exploring this area we have stayed on the railway, inland side, as it is a natural amphitheatre to film trains but walking over the top revealed this vista. Not obviously accesible from this point we set out to try and reach them the following day

 

large.2055866111_CoastalerosionSowerbylodge.jpg.01e266e07ba256aefd725b5b4258150f.jpg

 

Discussion with a lady who lived at Sowerby Lodge revealed a hidden path to this remote shoreline

 

result...

 

And shows how tough they are this one has fallen in one piece and sits at a crazy angle

 

large.2018617396_CoastalerosioneffectonWW2pillbox.jpg.8062edc4c9d3a834107033413519ee00.jpg

 

more soon

 

Kev

 

 

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kevsmiththai

Brooklyn checks one out

 

large.420660695_Broklyninspectsthefallenpillbox.jpg.0e967702568d8a97b361efa6a812b0a0.jpg

 

So as we walked north along the shore we had found two collapsed and where the hidden lane emerges onto the beach this example is till in situ. The lane was incredibly muddy and meant we had to drive home in stockinged feet and leave our boots in the back of the car they were so bad!

 

large.1905341855_Sowerbylodgepillbox.jpg.b561c687b85b3c09893b204bc6bae4a6.jpg

 

The satellite view had revealed a very odd shadow and shape of what was obviously a pill box but it made no sense. Never expected this!

 

large.2104842872_CollapsedPillboxSowerbylodge.jpg.e716d68e7cedb2eb6c090909207942c5.jpg

 

plenbty more to come

 

Kev

 

 

 

 

 

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kevsmiththai

Now the reason for all these defences are fairly obvious. The large shipyard where major battleships and more importantly most of Britains submarines were constructed, the steelworks and large railway marshalling yards made it an obvious target for the Luftwaffe. There was also a fear that should it go wrong in Ireland and the German got a presence over ther they could use it as a staging post for an invasion of the mainland using the large flat beaches ansd shoreline as a possible landing area.

 

The fallen one is the only one we found where the structure was damaged. half the floor has sheared off

 

large.2128292427_Sowerbylodgefallenpillbox.jpg.5d11c0992b3b4649d8bcac04399944e3.jpg

 

I had to stop Brooklyn climbing in through the hole.

 

Once again scrutiny of the satellite images revealed yet another one. looking very inaccesible behind the Kimberley Clarke toilet tissue paper mill and the shoreline looked very rugged indeed. we decided to access it by trekking through Sowerby Woods. Not one of my best ideas! I don't think another human has been down there for a long time and the gorsebushes, brambles and barbed wire made it an adventure he won't forget for a while but worth it for this

 

large.801878952_PillboxSowerbyWoods.jpg.755840ee18019fa4d39c8527d8e2fdf3.jpg

 

another one sliding into the sea in the setting sun, with Black Combe rising in the background and the tide going out 

 

The landscape is stunning at this time of year

large.878503179_BlackCombeandtheDuddonestuary.jpg.d7bdfefbe5e26f022f91a91ae0306956.jpg

 

Kev

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Nice!

 

next time you’re near Piel Island, see if they’re still selling pies with onion salad. We always used to get those after sailing across from Glasson Dock and they were delicious! Probably because the sail over really whets the appetite. 

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railsquid

Interesting, I lived in sight of Black Combe for a few years as a child, though when I saw the thread title I thought it was going to be about the Roman remains up Hardknott Pass.

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5 hours ago, Sheffie said:

Nice!

 

next time you’re near Piel Island, see if they’re still selling pies with onion salad. We always used to get those after sailing across from Glasson Dock and they were delicious! Probably because the sail over really whets the appetite. 

 

You can walk to piel island at low tide, actually a very nice walk.

 

I lived in ulverston for a few years, I miss Cumbria.

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kevsmiththai

For other readers not familier with Piel Island and its King here it is. it lies about 1km south of Barrow in the middle of the channel and yes, it counts as a fortification.

 

large.1031960292_PielCastle.jpg.41744ecc9383d5c3dce6f04c15943464.jpg

 

managed by the National Trust and normally accessed by a small ferry it has a highly rated pub, the ruined castle and camping facilities. The 'King' is actually the landlord of the pub.

 

You wouldn't want to try and walk to it when the tide is in! The tug was one of the ones used to navigate the Nuclear subs ( Vanguards when this was taken) out into open waters

 

large.684495326_94040027edit.jpg.e0eb8abfeb2909687b114aecd41435f9.jpg

 

sadly the pub did not open at all last year because of the pandemic and isn't looking good so far this year

 

more soon

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kevsmiththai

Going back to Sandscale I pointed out to Brooklyn how the first one he found blends into the background and is almost imperciptible if you didn't know it was there

 

large.1616270196_sandscalehaws.jpg.1a2ee7270e71a1feaeb2da5823e53821.jpg

 

the 'Old man of Coniston' mountain rises in the background

 

So over the channel to Walney Island for more searching. we knew there had been a large fort on the island during the war and set out to find the remnants

 

First result ( West Walney) was a bit disappointing although he had great fun digging re-bar out of the rubble!

 

large.992774018_collapsedfortificationWestWalney.jpg.051e58174da8c6a3bdd3f6c0021e8d95.jpg

 

So next to South Walney nature reserve. This was more like it. The area is known as Hipsford Fort. The structure could either be a gun emplacement or a searchlight and would have had a clear line of fire across to Heysham and yes, Glasson Dock

 

large.1104823228_HipsfordFortwalney.jpg.ea99ef0c02d910f620d91ef85083daac.jpg

 

Don't tell the wardens he climbed through the barbed wire to get in! it was a suprisingly long walk from the entrance to the reserve and this one and was going to be another long walk to one at the south tip of Walney where a hide has been built on top of one for people to observe the Grey Seal colony. We'll come back to that one, no doubt

 

As we were driving back and the sun was setting quite quickly by this stage we spotted this on the east side of Walney island. The light was failing fast and it was knee deep in mud which mainly seemed to consist of Cow dung judging by the smell so we didn't venture in

 

it is an anti aircraft gun emplacement 

 

large.1294528384_MawflatlaneWalney.jpg.e260cf231031f1d121e4f902fa291a16.jpg

 

more soon

 

Kev

 

 

 

 

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kevsmiththai
On 1/10/2021 at 11:43 PM, Sheffie said:

Nice!

 

next time you’re near Piel Island, see if they’re still selling pies with onion salad. We always used to get those after sailing across from Glasson Dock and they were delicious! Probably because the sail over really whets the appetite. 

 

Hey Sheffie

How did you end up in Glasson Docks? 

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20 minutes ago, kevsmiththai said:

 

Hey Sheffie

How did you end up in Glasson Docks? 

 

My father owned a 24ft boat for a while at Glasson Dock. I think it was pure chance that led to him buying a boat there.  Amazing place to sail, through. The tides are really high and Morecambe Bay is something like 25 miles across and 25 feet deep. Quite challenging. A great opportunity to break out the charts. 

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kevsmiththai

North Walney, where Walney Fort was established, has got a lot of surviving artefacts and we have barely scratched the surface so far up there

 

One happy lad ready to defend the nation!

 

large.862456236_GunEmplacementWestwalney.jpg.c764041639a7599af60c208a54cda638.jpg

 

Most of this area is a golf course now so you have to keep your wits about you when the balls are flying about

 

this one has been bricked up

 

large.1443691270_WestWalneyonthegolfcourse.jpg.0ba34c380f0bec08da9038446e246652.jpg

 

We had spotted a couple of these curious objects as we walked around but had to do some research to find out what they were

 

large.423680148_FirewatchersshelterWalneyisland.jpg.4fcbc7c2609cbd71990fa2edcee82784.jpg

 

they are 'fire watcher shelters' made in the Vickers shipyard for air raid wardens to sit in while the area was burning around them! Don't think i'd have fancied that myself

 

Kev

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kevsmiththai

Another trip to channelside saw us refind another one I had photograhed a while back, further down the channel towards Ramsden Dock

 

large.1157762753_PillboxnaresttoBarrowRamsdenDock.jpg.24af37616aa3e69e0b459e34126eaaa2.jpg

 

But as we looked we could se a way to get to the one with the observation post built on it

 

large.1845037252_PillboxObservationpost.jpg.3b625f0867fef16806b8ecd211748189.jpg

 

it really looks like an afterthought

 

large.774180180_Brickbuiltobservationpost.jpg.475edc33b49b8aba1174e374aa61ef32.jpg

 

So as Brooklyn was climbing all over it I suddenly spotted yet another one hidden behind some garages

 

large.219333029_UnexpectedPillboxWalneyChannel.jpg.3c6f6831679641a5ca3f786fd5531d38.jpg

 

It does give an idea of how much they needed to defend this part of the coast

 

Kev

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kevsmiththai

Now the weather has been rotten for weeks now and on a couple of occasions I've had to tell Brooklyn it is just not fit to go out. everywhere seems to be a quagmire

 

I'd sen a video on youtube done by a local that was primarily about a whale carcass that had washed up on West Shore. On the way to find the whale he filmed what looked like the remnants of a complete gun battery so that was our next target

 

Approcahing the area known as Hipsford Scar the conditions underfoot on the shore were really slippy and I kept warning him to watch his step. Guess what? I ended up slipping over and landing on my hands and knees in something similar to sloppy wet concrete! My phone and the camcorder fell out of my pocket into it but I had the reactions to keep the Canon EOS up and away from the gloop. I was not in a good mood.

 

But as I recovered my composure there they were

 

large.355368952_Hipsfordscarcoastalerosion.jpg.9ab542d3ad7467697ab22ee96ad6d885.jpg

 

Coastal erosion is bad round here. The dark dot, top left,  is mud on the lens filter

 

large.1829382716_Hipsfordscar.jpg.6896d7ac3d70ed5202f8f283a1ac8dbc.jpg

 

During the war these would have been on a bank about 3 metres high

 

large.126519934_HeavytideatHipsford.jpg.a9017bef7d7ee34d0a20bec5e5c1f64e.jpg

 

climbing the bakn we found this in quite good nick

 

large.1911438331_GunEmplacementHipsfordscar.jpg.ee18209cd21b5b0b8fd4b1bacbde2213.jpg

 

The studs for the gunmount are still in the concrete base

 

large.1319110998_Hipsfordscargunemplacment.jpg.46e9d630c35b0e365d3e73381649f172.jpg

 

more soon

 

Kev

 

 

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kevsmiththai

its funny how you start to notice things once you have them on your mind. As we were heading down towards the south tip of Walney Brooklyn said "whats that?"

 

Another AA gun emplacement

 

large.409014526_MawflatLanegunemplacement.jpg.91e8266ce20bb48655a9fa100716aff7.jpg

 

large.907929161_MawflatLane.jpg.bf895b2a266f4237ceaf611c5fe2914d.jpg

 

However what I had never noticed, despite passing it nearly every week was this one. Sat just of the A590 road between the M6 motorwayand the South Lakes. Even more galling is that it is just 100 yards from the entrance to the Lakeside and Haverthwaite steam railway! How I've missed it i don't know

 

large.1975629883_HaverthwaitePillbox.jpg.b17bc9bd64aca0ead886efdd3cd0bcff.jpg

 

large.1886108143_Haverthwaitepillbox2.jpg.8d9015a9784100497b2e0e770a2d614d.jpg

 

Kev

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gavino200

Nice. Reminds me of the fortifications I saw as a kid in Normandy, Cherbourg, and the south west coast of France. I was about your son's age and totally fascinated. 

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kevsmiththai

Don't tell him. he will want to go there as well!

 

he has already got the Bovington and Samur tank museums on his bucket list and has watched programs on the submarine pens in France and the Atlantic defences

 

Once lockdown finishes we'll both be back on Railways anyway, Fingers crossed

 

As I've started him on model building, once he has done a couple more plastic kits I think I'll let him have a go at scratchbuilding one of these in plasticard. he is getting quite handy with the scalpel (under supervision).

 

This is him with his recently finishedAirfix Aston Martin DB5 although I had to spray the body for him

large.234826254_BrooklynandhisDB5.jpg.dbef44045fb967f18bee565a881f4036.jpg

 

 

Kev

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gavino200

Awesome, I had a room full of Airfix and Matchbox models when I was his age. I remember each and every one of them!!!

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Good on ya kev, he will be a master builder by 12! 
 

I was fortunate my dad let me use tools at a really young age and I learned the safety and proper use from the get go and it just made each new tool easier to pick up and use properly and most importantly safely. My dad, who was excellent with tools, use to always comment I was safer with the tools than he was and I attribute to this of me learning the tool use right and what not to do. It’s one of the most important things I think I learned when I was young. I don’t want to think how many models I built (and the time weed pulling, brick laying, hull scraping, sanding, varnishing, etc that paid for most all of them).

 

jeff

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kevsmiththai

So after we had got the Haverthwaite pillbox we headed up into the hills

 

This one I did know about from way back.

 

large.1719815550_Newtonheightspillboxedit.jpg.25d02fc82797ccd6cd4899f408f60a68.jpg

 

Before they built the High Newton by-pass I used to pass this one quite regularly on the old A590

 

it is somebody's back garden in the village at High Newton. You could build a cracking N or Z circular layout in it

 

large.2132701981_HighNewton.jpg.7034ba02be068fb5fa43e1f3c0e49a94.jpg

 

So then we headed up Heights Road ( the clue is in the name) onto the fell

 

large.1515211915_NewtonHeightspillbox.jpg.e42c9e0d395407092c7b79f6e5a373d4.jpg

 

God, it was cold. Windchill was about minus 15 and the light was horrid. This was is in the middle of nowhere and seemingly defends nothing. The road is little better than a dirt track that heads off into the Cumbrian wilderness

 

large.1546011893_NewtonFell.jpg.a4d6bd10ec9e0bc4ba8aec53706bfdc8.jpg

 

In good condition and for some reason no Graffiti, I wonder why? Long way to go with a bag of aerosols perhaps?

 

Coming soon Brooklyn's first encounter with a Bronze Age site visited on the same day

 

Kev

 

 

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kevsmiththai

Not all things abandoned in the county are so old. British Rail used to sell off the bodies of withdrawn standard 12 ton vans in the 1960 and 70's to the local farmers. They used them for all sorts of things and I try and record these as well. This one is about 100 yards away from the Newton Heights pillbox

 

large.727072409_12Tvangroundedbody.jpg.cad5c53b61340a6d88eb50c24969afad.jpg

 

So we headed south and east, first to let him see the stations at Grange over Sands and Cark and then onto Birkrigg Common to see the Bronze Age stone circle. This dates from between 1700 to 1400 B.C with commanding views over the bay

 

large.1613147013_Birkriggstonecircle.jpg.495e74eaa372c76c3e923e1d329027e2.jpg

 

The inner circle is about 9 metres diameter and the out about 25 metres so nowhere near the size of Stonehenge. Some archeological digs discovered some cremation remains a few years back

 

We will go back later this year when the weather is better as i want to better capture the scenery it sits in

 

large.824721434_Birkriggbronzeagestonecircle.jpg.a73ed5ec5d264b2d01398121e02e56db.jpg

 

Kev

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kevsmiththai

Now the whole of the Furness area was a maze of railway lines serving the shipyards, steelworks and engineering industries. nearly all of this has now gone but the formation can still be seen to this day. One branchline was put in specifically to serve a railway station built puely for the workers in the yards and was even known as Barrow Shipyard station.

 

The cutting can stillbe seen but i was not aware that guarding the junction was this pillbox

 

large.1357884837_BarrowshipyardbranchPillbox.jpg.c7318dcd125c5101d55013d50c4f8fe8.jpg

 

Not in bad condition apart from the graffiti

 

large.322134893_BarrowShipyadjunctionpillbox.jpg.ccf94368c6cfe660d67445f3c913c8b2.jpg

 

behind it still sits this gunmount

 

large.1514510202_GunMountBarrowShipyardjunction.jpg.f6aa2dce289f2fe95fdfc8b56cc3adfd.jpg

 

Kev

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Welshbloke

The Musee des Blindees in Saumur has a YouTube channel. I've been twice and love their attitude of getting everything they can to run (rather than just stuffing and mounting it as an "interpretive" display).

 

He might like M Shed in Bristol too, working electric and steam cranes, a steam railway and a collection of assorted boats. Again they're active online with a regular blog about restoration projects.

 

I know of a few bits of defensive concrete and in some cases brick near me. There are three of an original four pill boxes up at Coed y Foel in the Elan Valley, intended to protect the main intake tower for the reservoirs. Apparently there were steel cables strung across the reservoirs against seaplane landings, but I've yet to see any evidence on the ground. Unusually the pill boxes are brick rather than concrete, and you can get inside two of them fairly easily.

 

There's another by the main road into Lampeter (near the old Aberystwyth-Carmarthen line trackbed and Co-Op) which is concrete, all you can really do is look at it though.

 

Finally there are some concrete blocks either side of the A470 near Storey Arms which I've read are cold war era anti-tank defences. Quite what the Red Army would have been doing trying to get into the Brecon Beacons is beyond me, but there used to be a fair bit of Army activity in the area (still is), so it may have been planned as a good defensive line on that basis.

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tossedman

So cool to see what remains. Thanks for sharing! We've got a few leftovers from both world wars in Vancouver on the west coast of Canada. I'm sure there are more on the east coast but that's rather far away. If you're in London, UK you're closer to the east coast of Canada than I am here in Calgary. What's interesting in Vancouver is how they repurposed the Point Grey Battery Gun Emplacement #2 in the UBC Anthropology Museum to a display.

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