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A paddle through a warm shallow sea: Humphrey Head

Posted: Sunday 23rd September 2012 by Steve_and_Beth_Pipe

Humphrey HeadHumphrey Head

Now, we may not know all that much about flora & fauna yet, but we do know a bit about rocks.

Now, we may not know all that much about flora & fauna yet, but we do know a bit about rocks. I hold a degree in Geology and Steve, though not formally qualified was dragged out to peer at rocks and quarries by his parents from a very young age. Family gatherings are awash with tails of the places they visited, places which, thanks to Health and Safety regulations, you can’t get anywhere near these days. However the foundations were laid for a lifetime’s love of all things geological.

Our destination today is Humphrey Head and though the warm shallow sea is long gone, the evidence remains, along with some rather lovely examples of how modern day geology is forming. We parked at the far end of the track,Humphrey Head Limestone where the road opens up providing room for plenty of cars and began by trying to walk along the length of the head on the sand. It quickly became apparent that this was not something to try unless you had wellies and an excellent sense of balance. However it is by far the best place to see the layered limestone exposures in the rock faces.

As you look at the rocks imagine you’re in a large, warm, shallow sea where corals are growing and small brightly coloured fish are darting around. Not easy if, like us, you visited on an early autumn morning when the wind was ready to blow you into next week. If, as you’re gazing at the rock face, you’re wondering how it all formed, then turn around 180 degrees and look at the river behind you; in several places it has eroded down through the soft sediments exposing freshly laid layers of sand – this is the geology that people in thousands of years will look back and try to interpret. Or maybe millions of years. The rocks in Humphrey Head are from the Carboniferous era meaning they’re somewhere between 363 and 325 million years old. Nothing like a spot of geological time to make you feel insignificant is there?

Time to make our way up onto the reserve, but as you head back towards the carpark, look out for the memorial in the rock face: ”Beware how you these rocks ascend, Here William Pedder met his end. August 22nd 1857 Aged 10 years.” We put all thoughts of a direct ascent out of our heads and hunted out the footpath. The path is easy enough to find, simply follow the road until you get to the gate, a little under ½ a mile, if the entrance is too boggy follow the tarmac track up towards the outdoor centre and you’ll find another, substantially drier route along the top.

As we’ve mentioned before on the other blogs, visiting at this time of year isn’t great from a flora perspective as most interesting stuff has died off. We did see plenty of berries though Rowan treeand Steve got some great shots for us to have a go at identifying, I’m not sure we got many though, so do take a look through the pictures and help us out if you can. We both knew a Rowan Tree when we saw one though and they are looking magnificent at the moment. Talking of trees we also spotted a couple of hawthorns whose shape bore testament to the ferocity of the winds and, as I looked at them bent at 90 degrees, I realised I was doing much the same thing so decided to continue on before I stuck like it.

The top of Humphrey head is broad and open, a little boggy underfoot and certainly exposed in brisk weather, but easy enough to follow all the way to the end of the point. Here you can pass through a gate and make your way on the rocks at the very tip, tides permitting of course. We turned left at this point to follow the marsh a short way back towards Kents Bank to see if there was anything else in the rocks worth seeing, but most of it is overgrown on this side. We did spy a huge lump of tree out in the bay though and Steve braved the bogs to get a closer look; not too sure how it got there – and epic flood perhaps? We’d be really interested if anyone can shed any light.

Time to make our way back, retracing our steps and looking for things we missed first time around. According to the map next to the gate there’s a “balancing rock” at the foot of the cliffs. We crept around the edge of the head and managed to get a peek of an improbably large boulder perched on the lower rocks, but there was no opportunity to get any closer than that. As we headed back over the top of the reserve Steve spotted some fungi coming through. We know from a subsequent guided walk that fungi season is fast approaching so that will give us something else to learn about but for now we just spotted the one. I only know a couple of things about wild fungi: 1. It will take a life time to learn what they all are and 2. Don’t eat them. I’m willing to get to grips with number 1, but will stick to number 2 for now unless there’s a bona fide expert on hand.

The views from Humphrey Head are spectacular. On the day we went you could easily see the fells to the north, Blackpool Tower away to the south and, a little nearer to home, 200 or so cross bay walkers making their way across the sands. We took part in one of those events last year under very similar conditions and know how exhausting it can be; it may be flat but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s easy. By now it was most definitely time for a flask of tea and a sarnie so, as I didn’t want my sarnies to end up in Flookburgh, we headed back to the car to continue that great British tradition; lunch in a parked car by the sea. I’m nothing if not traditional.


You can read more blogs about Life & Hiking in Cumbria by Steve & Beth on their Cumbrian Rambler web page.

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