Monday, 21 October 2013

Lake District 2. Cockermouth. Whitehaven. Ukrainian POW Chapel.

As you can see from Graeme here Sunday in Ennerdale dawned damp and dismal with low cloud over the hills and a persistent heavy drizzle. The thing I like about the Lake District (and Wales) is that there is always plenty to do in these areas when the weathers bad. After a tough day on Saturday followed by the usual evening entertainment, telling jokes and various party games in the hut with copious amounts of alcohol being guzzled few folk the next day felt like doing anything on the mountains where the rain, no doubt, would be even heavier. I don't mind walking in the rain but I like to see something while I'm doing it.
 Evening in the hut. Don't even ask! Alex had been such a bad boy on the Friday night that he'd gurgled all his beverage and had to go into Whitehaven straight after Saturday's strenuous hill walk for more drink and cigarettes. I don't smoke and I had plenty of drink left but this suited me fine as I love exploring new towns and a bit of urban exploration of an evening.
We arrived just as it was getting dark with a fantastic yellow sunset. This is the harbour area in Whitehaven. Although tired I was up for a walk round here then a prowl round the main town centre which looked nice and lively with loads of mad locals entering from the outskirts into the main clubbing district to let their hair down on a Saturday night. Being a former industrial town like Greenock or Paisley the place was jumping and I fancied some of that so I did. I like a good prowl me in new urban areas. New sights to see all around.

Unfortunately Alex was only interested in getting to the big supermarket, buying more drink then heading back to the hut which was a pity as Whitehaven looked a decent sized place with an interesting history and geography. And it was Jumping!!! It's also on the Cumbria Coastal Way and it was an eye-opener  driving down into the town as we seemed to drop forever into a big deep bowl with houses climbing all around us high up on the surrounding ridges overlooking the town. Just like ants entering a wash hand basin or Christians entering a Roman Coliseum. My kind of town. AND IT WAS JUMPING!!!! Did I mention it was JUMPING!!!!!! It has large 300 foot cliffs on its southern outskirts running around to St Bees head which appears to be a good circular walk in itself. So much to do so little time left to party. Wah! I'm still just a puppy! A good link here with photos and Whitehaven history. The father of the US navy, John Paul Jones, learned his skills in Whitehaven. Stan Laurel, silent comedian, began his life in Ulverston, a seaside town further down the Cumbria coastal way. Parked with history this place.
Although we got our cheap carry out it was not without incident as we made the mistake of going through the automatic express tills which did not accept Scottish notes. We had to swap them for English notes which caused a delay and a queue behind us. Foreigner Alert!
A place which looks worth a visit though, in daylight or evening.
I had to settle for this instead. A prowl around Cockermouth. When we arrived in the Lakes we made straight for here as it's the nearest town on the way to Ennerdale. In the main street there's a cracking traditional English chip shop and I have to say the chips down here are always amazing. They taste fantastic. Unfortunately, not knowing we were coming here I'd stuffed myself on six mini pork and pickle pies in the car so could only manage a small bag of chips which was a tragedy! Those of you who have never seen a Cockermouth Cumberland sausage in the raw will not understand my pain. It is the Sistine Chapel of Sausages. The Big Ben of Bangers. The Godzilla of Grub. Five of them lay gleaming and calling to me in the chip shop hot food shelf behind glass. The biggest sausages I had seen in my life. They made the conventional  jumbo sausages beside them look like puny breadsticks by comparison.
It's been years since I've tasted one of these oversized subtly spiced monster bangers and I was too full to do it justice. Boo Hoo! My Bad! They were the size and shape of a substation underground power cable, as thick as my clenched fist and I'd be lucky to munch my way through a quarter of its bulk unless I was really hungry. It was with a sad heart therefore that I waved them goodbye and departed with my small bag of chips, nice though they were. Bye bye mighty Cumberland's. Some countries in Europe are smaller than you.
This is Alex studying the history board while eating a tasty fish supper. We were surprised to learn just how much history Cockermouth has and the impressive list of famous people who came from this one small Cumbrian town and surrounding district.
Cockermouth of course is not only famous for being the home of Poet William Wordsworth and Fletcher Christian but made the news a few years ago when the Rivers Derwent and the Cocker burst their banks flooding a large slice of the town to a depth of 8 feet or so, including the main shopping street.
By some miracle I persuaded Alex to do the town trail as he's usually apathetic about urban wanderings. Very interesting it was too. Graeme who was with us declined, choosing a kip in the car instead as you never get much sleep in busy huts. There's always a few snorers in every club, hence the strong drink and cotton wool. The board above shows rescue workers using boats to navigate through the main shopping district. A bad flood indeed with one unlucky policeman swept to his death off a bridge when it suddenly collapsed underneath him.
This is the town trail map showing the extent of the flooding and the affected bridges. It's a pleasant route, much of it beside the rivers that flow through the town, and a part of it runs through the high arch that denotes Jennings Bros Brewery famous for its range of traditional ales. I thought the band Iron Maiden were playing pub gigs down here until I twigged it was a real ale they were promoting on chalk boards outside
Strange rituals and customs they have down here. There used to be a pub called Oily Johnnies on the way to Workington named after an old paraffin seller which seemed to be a colourful bikers pub judging by the number of motorbikes parked outside any time we passed. It had a sign advertising its presence with the immortal line  'Why don't you come into Oily Johnnies!'  Classy eh?.  Not surprisingly it's now an upmarket pub/ restaurant called Oily's after being closed down and lying empty for a couple of years. That's another strange thing about crossing the border. I suppose it's not too far from Blackpool as the mecca of cheeky seaside postcard humour and carry on type suggestive double entendre but it's something that doesn't really exist in Scotland. I suppose it's un PC now, even here.
At the other end of the scale you have this. The Ukrainian POW Chapel just outside Lockerbie. A large POW camp used to stand here and this small hut became a Chapel and shrine to the Ukrainian
prisoners of war. Inside it's a visual feast for the eyes so thanks to Alex for leading us here as he's been down this way before and stumbled across this gem.
A real labour of love. Full fascinating history here. which will save me typing it all out. Wouldn't be as good as this link though. Well worth a read.
Places like this are real hidden gems but how long can they survive I wonder? It is looked after by relatives of the original POWs but when they get too old to keep it going will it be taken on by a structured organisation like the national trust? It cant get much in the way of funding and seems to survive on small donations by visitors but it's a costly business nowadays even heating a place like this with ever increasing energy bills. Most of the creations here have been made out of anything that the prisoners could find lying around the camp, empty tins, old shells, cardboard, glass. Most of it worthless and abandoned but recycled into icons and treasured symbols of hope. They could never go back to their homeland having backed the wrong side in a quest for Independence so they created a small part of it here. It's amazing it's survived in such fine condition to this day. Still used as a place of worship so very much a living Church/Chapel.


The Glebe Blog said...

Cockermouth is another place I haven't been to in over forty years and that was only to drink while we were bivvied up on the shore of Bassenthwaite.
I've seen the Ukrainian POW Chapel on someone else's blog. You're right it is a little gem. You've seriously got me thinking of a trip over there sometime. Being an ex steelworker I've always fancied visiting Distington near Workington. It has an amazing industrial history. On a clear day we're just over the water.

As regards Stan, I've finally made the pilgrimage. The man lives!

Carol said...

Glad to see some Scots like our English Lake District - there seems to be so many negative comments about areas 'furth of Scotland' on the Scottish forum I'm on.

I like Cockermouth but I like Ulverston even better. Didn't realise Whitehaven got 'jumping' on a weekend night! ;-) I suppose Workington must get much the same...

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim,
I know you are a big fan of 'the man.'(and his on screen partner MR O.H.)That's the only reason I included Ulverston in the post:)
Might even have been on this blog(POW chapel) as Alex wrote about it a couple of years ago.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Yes,I like the Lakes. The mountains are compact,complex and surprisingly rugged;the dales are filled with deciduous woodlands and well maintained networks of sheltered paths;it's filled with history and quaint customs so plenty to see and photograph. In some ways it's probably similar to the way the Scottish highlands used to look when the mountain glens still had their natural forests of pine and other native trees in abundance and a resident human population still lived there tending the land.
As you know people generally live around the coast now as the interior is a desolate bare windswept bog where nothing grows but wool and venison but it wasn't always that way. Once upon a time it was fairly lush and sheltered with trees or else why live there.
I'm never on mountain forums which is why my blogs list has a few diverse additions now. I'm currently looking for a good urban explorers blog, one that shows abandoned tunnels and hidden underground chambers. And a photo blog on Japans mountains:)I like variety!

Robert Craig said...

Good pint that Iron Maiden 'Trooper' ale. My wife is into exploring decaying buildings, will look out the link to her favourite website when I get home.

Robert Craig said..., that's the one. There is another she likes even more but can't recall that now.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Craig,
As regards real ales I like the names rather than the products. I still remember tasting my one and only pint of Belhaven Best In Edinburgh and being amazed by it, but not in a good way. I've stuck to cooking lager, cider and cheap vodka ever since.
Had a quick look at that link. Looks interesting. There's a cracker for Glasgow Called 'Urban Glasgow' which is Jam packed with great stuff about past times and old buildings, underground tunnels and forgotten streets and housing schemes. Don't know if there's an Edinburgh equivalent though? There should be one given the long past history of Edinburgh.