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" Whitehaven and The Harbour Festival "

Date & start time:      2nd July 2022.  Midday start.

Location of Start :     Haig Pit car park, Whitehaven.  (Map Ref. NX 965 174).

Places visited :          The Candlestick, West Pier, Wellington Memorial, Whitehaven Harbour Fest.

Walk details :              2.5 miles, 200 ft of 'down and up', 3 hours including the time at the festival.

Highest point :           Discovering Harbour Fest in progress.

Walked with :              Loes and Myself plus the dogs, Dylan and Dougal.

Weather :                     Blustery and overcast but clearing nicely.


© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. Licence number PU 100034184.


Loes and I wanted a walk in a slightly different location today, so we headed to the coast near Whitehaven.

The weather was overcast and very windy so we decided to walk towards town rather than towards St Bees lighthouse.

This is the start of the "Colourful Coast" path from Whitehaven to St Bees.

[black for coal, red for sandstone, green for grass, blue for the sea]

Looking towards St Bees Head, but the weather wasn't particularly colourful today.

However, when the sun came out the colours began to show . . .

blue seas, greens grass, red sandstone and black (from the hidden coal).

  Okay that's cheating a bit but that building down on the seashore did relate to the old coal mine.

- - - o o o - - -

The walk proper started from the Haig Pit . . . the restored pit head gear formed part of a Heritage Museum.

[ Sadly it is now closed I believe as it ran out of money.]

Looking down to the harbour light at Whitehaven

as the sailing boats leave the shelter of the port for an afternoon's sail.

There were half a dozen or so but they all set off in different directions, so I don't think it was an organised event.

Sea marks, like this post defining an underwater obstruction,

always make a nice point of reference to sail towards . . . just don't get too close.

The footpath leaves the main track and heads down towards an old house and the Candlestick Chimney.

The top track turns into an old incline which joined the harbour to the old pits on top of the headland

and from here you can look down on the outer harbour spread out before you.

- - - o o o - - -


The old chimney was part

of the old Wellington Pit.


It was on the top of a ventilation shaft

and carried away the mine's coal gas (methane)

high into the air and out of harms way.


It doesn't really slope like that,

it is a vagary of the phone camera's wide-angle lens.



- - - o o o - - -

Loes stops on the way down the path to watch the boats . . . then she turned around for the camera !

The impressive mosaic tells the story of the town.

Underground, the coal mine was a major employer, above ground the harbour and the sea meant the town could grow and export its wares.

The headland overlooking the harbour is quite steep . . .
. . . but the fence is made of strong stuff.

Down below is a pyramidal monument to the mine workers and a building site, the location of a new harbour re-development project.

The coal mine closest to town was the Wellington Pit, which produced significant amounts of coal from 1840 to 1932.

The mine was developed by the Lowther Family and the main shaft was 600 ft deep, the workings extended nearly 4 miles out to sea.

The main buildings and main shaft were sited on the flat area between the cliff and the harbour side.

Unfortunately the mine was prone to "fire damp", what we now know as methane, seeping out of the coal seams.

An explosion and fire in 1910 killed 136 men and boys, despite frantic rescue attempts, each time beaten back by smoke and heat.

The main air vent was closed late the following day in order to to put out the fire.

The pit was only re-opened four months later when the bodies of only some of the men were brought to the surface.

A memorial to those that died stands above the old pit area.
Down on the harbour side now, where there's an old capstan post.

The large jetty is empty now, cleared of all the decaying redundant buildings and sadly any traces of the old trades.

However the main light on the outer harbour has recently been restored.
A Regeneration Fund, helped by Sellafield, has made it possible.
The pier is a good place to fish and we chatted with this guy for a while.
Out at sea, the first of the day-sailors were returning to port.

The old light on what would have been the original outer harbour wall

before the 'new jetty' was built on this this side of the harbour.

The fisherman mentioned that he had seen dolphins earlier . . . so we spent a little while searching for them ourselves.

In a choppy sea, a wave or shadow could be one but the phone camera had difficulty focusing.

However there was no doubt here as I captured this shot of one of the school of dolphins breaking the surface.

The shorter breakwater is known as 'The old New Quay'
All the buildings but two, have been demolished to make the area safer.

This was the scene back in 2017.

The earliest photograph on the poster showed a large open skiff on the pier

so the idea has been carried forward in the form of an upturned boat shape in approximately the same place.

This gave space to explain the story of the harbour, the old Rocket Brigade Buildings and lifesaving in general

and provided a sheltered seating area to stop for a while if you chose.

From out on the pier we could look back at the Candlestick and all the way down the coast to St Bees Head.

While we were down on the harbour side we could hear some music drifting across the moorings.

We passed the Beacon Museum and cafe and though we didn't go in, the smell of the food must have made us hungry.

Our attention was drawn to the Whitehaven Harbour Festival which was in full swing today.

Under the shelter live music was filling the place with atmosphere.

It must be just after 2pm because this was the "Committed to Rock Choir" singing their hearts out.

Click here for a short video.           (back-click on the TouTube screen to return here)

You could join in and create your own sand sculpture, buy lunch, watch the acts and listen to the music.

You could also support one of the many stalls along the seafront.

[ Photo courtesy of the Times and Star ]

The Lifeboat was also out and about on the water.

It came in to moor on the pontoon . . .
. . . while people stood under The Wave sculpture and watched.

As the afternoon progressed the clouds cleared away

and the festival was blessed by several hours of sunny weather.

The local Newspaper, the Times and star, ran an article afterwards that you can read here

On the way back we checked out some of the new chairs.

The writing says "In 1299 the Whitehaven ship Mariote under captain Scot carries corn for Edward's Army. (King Edward Ist)

Another seat commemorates a failed invasion of Whitehaven by John Paul Jones and some of the crew

of the new American Navy, as part of the American War of Independence !

John Paul was born in Scotland and often sailed out of Whitehaven, so knew the town well.

However he chose a dark, wet night and his crew weren't a disciplined as they might have been, so the attempt came to naught.

An artwork in the town shows John Paul's crew spiking the town's guns in order to render them unable to fire back at the invaders.

The only invaders now are the cyclists

who cam start their Coast to Coast ride from here.

We'll head back to the car

but first we have to climb back up that 200 ft cliff.

Still, once you are a descent way up, the views over the town are nice.

- - - o o o - - -



More historical pit buildings.

This one held a large, steam driven air blower (fan)

designed to ventilate the mines

and try and reduce that firedamp problem.


- - - o o o - - -

Back under the old incline to regain our earlier path.

The building ahead is known as Jonathan Swift's House (of Gulliver’s Travels fame). 

I'm told (by viewer David H) that Swift definitely lived in the house and could have even been born there.

Up the last of the incline . . .

- - - o o o - - -


The beehive shaped cairn on the top of the cliff

marks the top of another deep shaft

that would have extended all the way down

into the mine, some 800 feet below.


In it's day is was the deepest mine shaft ever built

so at the time held a world record by virtue of its depth.


All the land up here, where the pit infrastructure used to be,

has been reclaimed and is now available for the public to enjoy.


- - - o o o - - -

Ahead was the old Haig Pit and the car park where we started our walk.

- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with my Panasonic Lumix Gx8 Camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . lunch with musical accompaniment, albeit fish and chips out of newspaper.

Go to Home Page . . . © RmH . . . Email me here

Previous event - 14th June 2022 - Holland with Loes

A previous time up here - 12th January 2017 - Whitehaven and a Darling of a Walk  

(Worth looking at for the change in the Inner Pier buildings over the last 3 years)

Next walk - 9th July 2022 - Carlisle Orient and Dacre