Piel Island Walk

Name of walk Piel Island Walk
Date of walk 2016-07-17

On Sunday Brendan and I did a guided walk across the sands from Walney Island to Piel Island as part of the Morecambe Bay Partnership’s ‘Bay Archaeology Festival’. The walk was lead by archaeologist, Rachel Newman with assistance from Jan and Penny from MBP. Rachel would provide us with an in depth history of the castle once on the island. Also on the walk were fellow bell ringers Geoff with his wife, Ros, and Louise and her husband, David, and dog, Dot. We meet up at the King Alfred then head off down to Snab Point. At low tide it is possible to walk across the sands, but it is important to check tide tables and to keep to the correct heading. Many lives have been lost on this crossing over the years.

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Dot is keen to get going.

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We follow the muddy car tracks out to the beach. The walk is about a mile and a half and takes about 45 minutes to cross.

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Dot wants her ball thrown.

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Piel Castle comes into view on the right.

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How not to attempt to get to Piel Island! The route across is surrounded by quick sand and deep channels. The building under construction is where the new Trident Successor Submarines will be built.

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We pass Sheep Island, an uninhabited island that once contained an isolation hospital for sailors with infectious diseases.

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The island in full view.

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Rachel gathers us for a chat.

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A marker post on the right is used as a crossing guide. It has a reflector for cars making the journey at night.

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Close up of the Lifeboat Station at Roa Island with a boat passing it in the deep channel.

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Roa Island on the left.

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Jan, Penny and her dog, Jess, as we approach the bit we have to paddle through.

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Ros, Geoff and Brendan paddling through the channel.

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The remains of a Sherpa van that once attempted the journey

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David ends up throwing balls for both Dot and Jess.

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A row of terraced houses built to provide accommodation for Trinity House pilots. They are now privately owned.

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The island is owned by the people of Barrow-in-Furness. Gifted to the people by the Duke of Buccleuch in the early 20th century, the island is kept in order by the Borough Council, whose duties also include the selection of the "King" of Piel, who is the landlord of the island's public house, the Ship Inn. Normally, the only permanent residents are the landlord of the Ship Inn and his family. The inn is 18th century and the current King is Steve Chattaway.

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There is a ferry (small boat with a motor) that brings people across from Roa Island.

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Rachel gives us a tour of the castle explaining its history as we go round. The castle is under the control of English Heritage.

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At the North East Tower.

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The photo is of one of the information boards. The island's known history dates from the time of King Stephen who, in 1127 gave the island to the Savignac monks as part of a land grant for Furness Abbey. The Savignacs became part of the Cistercian order later in the 12th century.

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In the early 13th century the Cistercians used Piel as a safe harbour and built a warehouse for the storage of grain, wine and wool. Some of these commodities were shipped over from Ireland. In 1212 the monks were granted a licence by King John to land one cargo of "wheat, flour and other provisions" to stave off a famine caused by the failure of the local harvest. Later in the century an unlimited cargo licence was granted and in 1258 ships owned by the abbey were placed under royal protection. The monks fortified the island, firstly with a wooden tower surrounded by a ditch with palisades, and then in 1327 they commenced the building of a motte and bailey fort. This structure was, at the time, the largest of its kind in North West England.

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From the Outer Bailey

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Inside the South West Tower.

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View out to the Gatehouse.

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The inner moat still has some water in it.

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The Inner Bailey.

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The motte and bailey fort was probably built as a fortified warehouse to repel pirates and raiders. There are many stories about smuggling activities too. The entrance to the three story Keep is accessed via steps at the front entrance, here. It is usually locked. Unfortunately it was locked today too, which was rather disappointing!

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The views from the top of the castle are excellent. I took these photos from the top on a previous visit. I shall add the link at the end. This is a view of the top section of the castle which you can walk around.

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The steps up.

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Rachel finishes her tour and we have some time before we need to head back across the sands to do our own thing. I head down to the south beach. There are quite a few boats in the channel. Many of them are servicing the large offshore wind farm.

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From the beach is an excellent view point of the castle, including the fallen masonry on the right. From this perspective you can see that the castle was once bigger on the right hand side but had been undermined by coastal erosion.

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View over to South Walney Lighthouse and old pier.

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Close up of the Lighthouse and cottages.

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Piel wildlife.

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We join the others back at the Ship Inn.

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Ros, Louise, David and Dot, with Geoff and Roger on the left.

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The King of Piel`s throne. If you sit in it you become a Knight of Piel and will be able to get food and shelter if you become shipwrecked on the island. The downside is that you have to buy drinks for everyone present at the time that you sit in the chair!.......So maybe not today!!! The current King of Piel is the landlord Steve Chattaway who was crowned in 2008. The previous King of 20 years was Rod Scarr.

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The 'Seldom Seen' display produced by Art Gene.

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The jetty to the 'ferry'.

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The ferry heading towards the jetty on Roa Island.

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We head back across the sands.

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Roa Island.

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Dot and Jess chase balls.

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Jess would much rather have Dot's ball.

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Ros, Geoff and Jan with Piel to the right.

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Jess leads the final group back in.

An excellent afternoon in good company.

Many thanks to Rachel, Jan and Penny.

Previous visit to Piel Castle with views from the top: http://josweeney.net/walney-island-to-piel-island/

Jo.

 

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