Investigating and Recording Walney’s Military Heritage

Name of walk Investigating and Recording Walney's Military Heritage
Date of walk 2016-06-29
Duration of walk 0 hours 0 minutes

On Wednesday I was working with Morecambe Bay Partnership in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University on a project to investigate and record the military heritage of South Walney Island. The team consisted of Dr. Ben Edwards, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Heritage; Dr. Sam Edwards, Senior Lecturer in History; Louise Martin MBP Cultural Heritage Officer; surveyors Matt Sanderson and Kieron Thexton, and myself (an alumna of Manchester Met).

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Ben and Sam go through our objectives. Photo Louise Martin.

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It is pouring down outside, and windy too. I am quite content to be drinking coffee and eating biscuits inside the South End Nature Reserve Education Room.

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Sam talks about one of his favourite topics, pillboxes. We are looking at a type 24 on the screen. There is a research group dedicated to the understanding, recording and preservation of pillboxes across the UK. Their database is www.pillbox-study-group.org.uk/ I have yet to take a look, as I have enough weird addictions of my own without running the risk of adding to them!

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After lunch the weather has improved enough for us to venture out. We head in the direction of the South End Rabbit Warren and go past the hide and along the beach. Hilpsford Fort was constructed during 1914 as a WWI emergency battery, and was dismantled in the 1920's. The artillery was reinstated in 1940, with new construction work undertaken. There are still the remains of six gun mounts and the store rooms.

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We decided against stopping and investigating this field and headed instead for the beach. "Guys, they're only small horns!"

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Me and the others on one of the gun mount remains. I keep my hood up against the wind. Photo by Louise Martin.

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Sam puts things into context.

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The store rooms are now cordoned off as unsafe.

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This was the store rooms in 2008.

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We record and measure the first of the gun mount remains.

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Louise's photo of Matt and me taking detailed measurements.

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Another gun mount further down the beach.

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We record and measure this too.

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View north. There has been more coastal erosion.

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North in close up showing more concrete remains.

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The underside of the gun mount is made of very rough concrete, made with pebbles from the beach. The inside looks to have been packed with sand bags before the concrete was poured. The imprint of individual bags can still be seen.

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I use the university's SLR camera to record the site. Photo by Louise Martin.

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View north.

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Concrete blocks that probably formed the back wall of the gun mount.

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After recording the gun mounts we head towards the lighthouse.

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A photo showing the lighthouse, a searchlight emplacement, and on the far right Groyne Hide, which is currently on top of an old searchlight emplacement.

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Sam and Ben consult a map. Photo by Louise Martin.

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The boys investigate a concrete base under the grass.

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After this morning's torrential rain it has turned out rather nice!

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We scare some Canada Geese as we head past the lagoons.

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Walney Lighthouse and cottages.

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Coastal Artillery Searchlight Emplacement.

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The doors have rusted away.

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Louise has had the searchlight emplacement cordoned off too.

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Blue skies and sunshine, but still very windy. One of my bell ringing colleagues lives in one of the cottages.

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At the south end bushes are usually a sign of hidden structures.

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There are quite a few structures behind the lighthouse.

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We now have good views out to Piel Castle on the left, a 14th century defensive structure.

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Behind another gun mount are two underground store rooms. Access is via a Y shape entrance. Ben and I measure, record and photograph the site.

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The store rooms are two Nissen huts reinforced with concrete. I go inside and take the internal measurements.

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Looking into the 2nd Nissen hut.

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The inside.

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View out of Nissen hut 1.

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View out of the hole in the wall.

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Kieron at the gun mount. The entrance to Nissen hut 1 is visible just above his head,

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Piel Castle

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Louise photographs a feature on the gun mount.

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We head for Groyne Hide. Under it is another searchlight emplacement. Louise has closed Groyne hide too! ;-)

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Inside the searchlight emplacement under Groyne Hide. Louise thinks that some of the graffiti may date from the last war.

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Groyne Hide sat on top of the searchlight emplacement.

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Piel Castle looking stunning surrounded by cows, birds and mountains.

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Looking out into Morecambe Bay. It is now 5pm, so we head back to the Coastguard Cottage Education Room.

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Clarissa's shed (an old Nissen hut), at the back of the lighthouse cottages The rusted lintel has been removed and replaced by a new wooden structure.

A very interesting day indeed. It was most informative to learn the specific strategies and techniques for recording sites like these, and to play a small part in their preservation, at least in documentary form. On July 10th there is an ‘Exploring Walney’s Military Heritage:Interpretation Event’, at Furness Golf Club. Details and free tickets can be found in the website given below.

The Morecambe Bay Archaeology Festival runs from Saturday 16th July until Sunday 31st July which includes Lectures at The Forum, Guided Tours of Piel Island, Walney’s Military Sites, Birkrigg Stone Circle, Jenny Brown’s Point and lots more. Everything is free. For details go to www.morecambebay.org.uk/events

Jo.

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