Barrow-in-Furness gets a lot of bad press and a lot of assumptions are made due to Trident and heavy industry. However, we are in fact a small town made up of many villages and surrounded by the sea on three sides, which means we have miles and miles of beaches and Nature Reserves. Plus we have more heritage than you can shake a stick at! The Artful Ways Cumbria artist commission seemed to me an ideal way in which I could share my love of this place. Of course it is incredibly selfish of me but you are very welcome!
As a child I belonged to the Famous Five Club. I read all the mysteries and re-enacted them with my brother and cousins. We had our very own amazing landscape in which to playact. From the dock near where we lived we could see Piel in the distance and imagined that the flashing lights at night were smugglers. Piel Island was our very own Treasure Island with a 14th century castle ruin. I always, of course, played George and our dog was Timmy.
I wanted to incorporate the different ways you could access the Island and share the landscape, heritage and people with a wider audience through film as part of my commission. So my intention is to visit the island a few times via the different methods of access and capture my interactions. As I had never done the Piel Ferry Seal Trip, I felt in the interest of research I should. Armed with my camcorder and with moral support from fellow artist and Artful Ways Cumbria gatekeeper Danielle Chappell Aspinwall, we caught the ferry from Marine Terrace, Roa Island.
The ferry to Piel runs daily from Easter until September, and in good weather several Seal trips a week. You can book the trip and check daily Piel running times on the Piel Ferry Facebook page. The Grey Seal colony on the South End of Walney Island is relatively recent, starting with four Seals back in 2010 which has now grown to what is now an established community of four hundred Seals. The trip takes you around the back of Piel Island where you get fantastic views of the castle as it should be seen from sea. Within moments you are amongst the Seals who are curious, vocal and just amazing. Danielle had a tear in her eye and I could not get enough footage! It was a beautiful sunny day, crystal clear blue water, golden sands and here we were amongst these magnificent creatures within miles of where we live!
New Ferryman Paul Wilcock, has just taken over the business from John Cleasby. Paul like many locals at Roa Island, has been part of the volunteer lifeboat crew for some twenty years and knows the area in detail. He was very pleasant and informative and ensured we all had a chance to get photos and take in the views. Paul takes some great photos and shares on social media daily. On the way back you can get off at Piel and visit the island itself for a drink at The Ship or a stroll through the ruins or go straight back to Roa Island and get an ice-cream at Bosun’s Locker.
You can also walk across the sands from South Walney Island to Piel at low tide although of course not without a guide! There are local people who know the path and one of them is is local Naturalist John Murphy, who often does public walks across to raise money for charity. You can join me and my trusty camera on John Murphy’s next public walk on Sunday 18th July 10am. Ring 07891 006434 to find out more and book your place. Hope to see you there!