This post will timeline my weekend in Barrow-in-Furness, taking in of course the glamourous appeal of a football match between top-of-the-table Barrow AFC and sixth-bottom Aldershot Town. I will update it (including the match report on Saturday) so that it will be a scroll down job top to bottom for readers.
To add, Barrow fans reading this that are miffed about the slagging on ShotsWeb, it’s banter, nothing more. We would be the first to admit Aldershot is one miserable slagheap of a town. Barrow are our bogey team for sure and it would be great if we did a job on them like they did on us at home. The away fans we met that day really were top blokes, though most of ’em over 60 (except arvo of course!).
This a 700-mile round trip for a south-coaster so a weekend break is essential to take in all the sights and, likely, any one of Barrow’s five goals.
So with the travel and accomodation booked, what is Cumbria and where exactly is it?
A land of mighty lakes, dales and fells, Cumbria has the only true mountain range in England. Nearly all of this is contained by the Lake District National Park, synonymous with stirring natural splendour and outdoor escapades on land or water. The largest lakes and the highest mountain in the country are yours to traverse or just soak up from the comfort of one of the famous steam boats.
Folded into these landscapes are welcoming stone-built villages that were once home to cultural icons like William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin. Hadrian’s Wall, the northern boundary of the Roman Empire, cuts across the county and can spark the imagination like few man-made structures in the World.
Most famous place of interest is likely the Lake District. England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike is in the west of the Lake District and there are scores of hills, known as ‘fells’ for hardy walkers to test their mettle.
The lakes themselves are magnificent finger-like sheets of reflective waters. The largest of them, Windermere and Ullswater, are crossed by pleasure boats and ferries, and most are watersports heaven.
In the evenings you can crash in adorable villages and towns like Keswick, Ambleside and Grasmere, which have catered to the whims of tourists for hundreds of years. There aren’t many regions in the world as intrinsically linked with a person as the Lake District is with the poet William Wordsworth.
He lived here all his life and has fixed the lakes and fells in the imagination of his readers for 200 years now.
At the northern shore of the mighty Windermere, Ambleside is a Lake District town to fall in love with at first sight.
Many of the Victorian stone-built houses are hotels and bed & breakfasts for outbound hikers, or people out to recharge their batteries floating on Windermere by steamer or under their own power.
If you’re a hiker you’ve come to the right place, because you can conquer the stunning Loughrigg Fell on a circular trail right from the edge Ambleside.
A raft of historic figures have lived or worked in this town, and the Armitt Museum has exhibits about Ambleside’s ties to William Wordsworth and children’s author Beatrix Potter.
As you can see from the map above with The Dock Museum, Barrow on the right, where we’re going lies at the southernmost tip of Cumbria. There have been other football league clus from the area that regularly had to apply for re-election besides Barrow, namely Workington. The Beautiful History website writes of them:
Due to their poor financial status Workington Football Club disbanded in 1911 and went into voluntary liquidation. Despite the emergence of Workington Central FC plus the United and Athletics teams from Workington, the slumber of Workington FC was not awakened until 1921. Lonsdale Park, once attracting a record attendance of 16,000, became their new home before a final move to Borough Park in 1937. In 1929 Lonsdale Park was the scene of one of the most bizarre matches ever to have been played.
As a result of a 7th place finish in 2004, the club moved up to the NPL’s Premier Division during the non-league restructuring. They then continued their upward movement by winning the first-ever NPL promotion play-offs (after finishing in 2nd place) to win promotion to the Conference North.
Now let’s look at some more of the beautiful places there are to visit, concentrating on the areas surrounding Barrow-In-Furness, areas that our travelling fans are sure to explore.
In Barrow itself, TripAdvisor recommends things like The Park or The Library – things you can do in any town really. There’s Furness Abbey of course, oh Walney Wind Farm and even the Furness Building Society Stadium is mentioned so we’ll give that a go.
Fantastic. Barrow wasn’t always as grandiose as it is today though. Like KLF (no, not Kodi, more the eighties pop ensemble) opined, it’s grim up north. Judge for yourselves from these archive videos.
But what is it like today? You want to know what to expect so I trolled Youtube hoping perhaps for an 4k drone tour. The results were disappointing but there was this. It’s rather slow-going and fifteen minutes of your life you’ll never get back but it’s a walk-through and does show the viewer the main thoroughfare.
So we must have a butchers at the town of Ulverston. It is the birthplace of Stan Laurel, and home to the world’s only Laurel and Hardy Museum. It has the world’s shortest, widest and deepest canal, and is just a mile and a half from the sea at Morecambe Bay.
Ulverston became a market town in 1280, when a Royal Charter was granted by Edward I – an event celebrated every September with the Charter Festival. In the mid 1660’s it became a centre of religious activity when George Fox, founder of the Quakers Movement, lived for a time at Swarthmoor Hall.
A thriving maritime community developed when the Canal was constructed in 1796. Ships from Ulverston exported copper, slate and linens around the World. Sir John Barrow, a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society, and an intrepid explorer, is honoured by Ulverston’s famous landmark, the Hoad Monument (below) on Hoad Hill. The monument, which is a copy of the Eddystone Lighthouse, is often open to the public during the summer (if the flag is flying). From the top are breathtaking panoramic views of Morecambe Bay and the Lake District fells, and also the nearby Druid’s Circle on Birkrigg Common.
Ulverston’s attractions include the new Lakes Glass Centre, which is home to Heron Glass, where you can watch the transformation of molten glass into spectacular works of art, and Cumbria Crystal, where you can watch the intricate hand crafted process of crystal making and engraving. It is also home to the Gateway to Furness Exhibition.
The Coronation Hall is a magnificent 636 seat theatre, offering excellent extertainment from music to theatre and opera. It also houses the Tourist Information Centre.
The Railway station, on what is now the Furness line, was once the junction for the branch to Lakeside, and is a fine example of early Victorian railway architecture by the Lancashire architects Paley and Austin.
The oldest building in Ulverston is St Mary’s Church, of which parts date from AD 1111.It was restored and rebuilt in the 1860’s, and is particularly noted for its Norman door and magnificent stained glass.
And what of the waterholes? We take a look at four hostelries; The Farmers, The Sun Inn, The Stan Laurel and The Mill.
The Farmers is an award winning pub, wine bar and restaurant located in the heart of the bustling market and festival town of Ulverston, situated opposite the market cross with views of the old cobbled streets. The perfect place to watch the world go by. You can enjoy an evening meal in the restaurant from 5pm to 8.30pm, choose from a selection of freshly made meat and seafood specials or choose from a large evening menu. They say that their mussels simply have to be tried.
I read reviews on TripAdvisor and this is a typical one:
What a tip top place. Great decor , fab upholstery love the decoration and sparkle in the ladies’ toilets. A really warm welcome- friendly staff and a lovely fire. Breakfast was fabulous – delicious coffee and eggs florentine . Poached eggs were perfectly cooked with golden, soft yolks. Highly recommend.
The Sun Inn
6-14 Market Street
You can bet the Woolworths has gone. But WhatPub says it’s a tastefully refurbished grade II listed coaching inn situated in the heart of Ulverston Town Centre. The bar carries a selection of six guest beers, ranging from small local breweries to the larger more well-known brands.
Along with a warm welcome, you can expect a number of screens for watching sports, a large heated beer garden, en suite hotel rooms and delicious food served daily. There will always be at least one beer from Stringers Brewery. And it has six changing beers.
The Stan Laurel
31 The Ellers, Ulverston LA12 0AB
If you’ve really got into the festive mood due to the incessant Chrstmas music dished out everywhere you go, you might want to indulge in a Yuletide meal at the Stan Laurel.
Just off the centre of Stan Laurel’s home town, the Stan offers a warm welcome to locals and visitors alike. Six handpulls serve a variety of mainly locally brewed beers, always featuring Ulverston Brewing Co. Excellent-value quality food is available throughout the week (except Monday).
Adjacent to the bar is a large room with pool and darts and a smaller room primarily used by diners. In winter a log-burning stove adds to the pub’s comfortable ambience. Well-behaved dogs are welcome in the bar. No worries there – the wife ain’t on this trip.
Town centre location near the top end of King Street, the Mill has an interesting characterful layout over the various floors, cantered around a restored original Waterwheel. The main bar has ten handpulls, serving six guest beers alongside the Lancaster Brewery range. There is a first floor outdoor patio area with seating and picnic tables outside to the front. Deservedly popular for quality food, there is also an upstairs restaurant. (Booking recommended). Live music and occasional beer festivals add to the attraction. This pub serves 4 regular beers.
Other alehouses in Ulverston include The Ship, The Globe, The Kings Head and the Rose And Crown giving us a really great choice in the things to see and do category!
Wrexham’s win at Eastleigh last night further adds evidence that anyone can beat anyone in this crazy league, even down at the bottom. Look at Chorley now with ten points from twelve. On one hand, Aldershot look in decidedly dodgy shtuck while another hand might point to them not being out of the promotion picture just yet.
Graphixman on the Barrow AFC forum has produced this poster for Saturday, well done him.
To note, their home now seems to have changed from Furness Building Society to Progression Solicitors in name.
Looks like a mixed bag but at least mild. depending on which of these forecasting websites you visit of course. This is from the Met Office:
One of the best Friday songs to come up on an iPod shuffle?
A great night’s sleep. Going into Barrow this morning to have a look around the shops then a short train journey to Ulverston.
A bit of a sleepy town even for a Saturday morning. Bit bigger than Chorley though. You can walk the main shopping precinct in a circle, in the midst of which is Market Hall, indoor market. I remember Bolton having a decent indoor market too and I love these.
Did find one cafe in Scott Street but at 0858 there were no sign of life when it was meant to open for 9AM. But at the bottom of a long street, found the Furness Railway so breakfast is served!
WARM ‘N’ FRIENDLY FOLK
I wouldn’t have expected anything less really as pretty much all my visits up north for football, away from the fans anyway, have met with nothing but helpfulness and friendliness.
And it’s a town where seemingly everybody knows each other. I’m sat aboard a Northern Railways service with a three-stops journey up to Ulverston and the two couples sat on the next table in the Wetherspoons have just boarded! Some more photos now from the town…
Barrow AFC 1 Aldershot Town 0
A narrow defeat that could easily have been heavier. Just what was Lewis Walker thinking though? Did his eyes light up? Was he caught between three minds?
An equaliser at that time… we will never know what momentum that might have given us now and what the eventual result might have been.
I would hope that the more sanguine and honest among Barrow fans would agree that on our second half of effort, had we earned a point yesterday then it was a point that we would have deserved.
You can weight to that too from a home fan’s perspective that their own profligacy in front of goal might well have come back to haunt them.
I still really enjoyed my weekend. Hotel, tops. Barrow folk, likewise, amiable, courteous, including the home fans especially those in the Crossbar.
A lot of generalisations on forums beforehand suggesting Barrow was a dirty, nasty place were put to rest for me on my first visit. Also, I don’t much take notice of forum comments and behaviours because on message boards and social media it’s dead easy to be brave and get carried away – and I’m no exception.
When we put our hats and scarves down and the beer levels have waned, then as a true football fan I like to think that unity in our love for the grass roots game tempers rivalries however fierce.
The Progression Solicitors Stadium, its latest moniker, does look grim from the outside, perhaps the bleakness enhanced by the conditions though in this early morning capture.
On the inside I liked the small Spion kop and the minimal segregation, also the banter with the local yoofs first half, missing after the break when they all went up t’other end.
Good to see that so many youngsters are following Barrow’s good fortunes and progress, boys and girls being introduced to the game or returning ones; for any of our small clubs they are tomorrow’s world.
So in breezy and difficult conditions our Achilles Heel early on was another set-piece situation conceded, from which Barrow took the lead. Another deflection similar to the Notts County goal a few weeks back, very fortunate goal in which Mitch was left helpless.
Later on, he would go on to be my hero and man-of-the match as a string of saves kept the score to a slender and modest one for Barrow. At the end, I got to shake hands with most of our lads and told Mitch he’d been magnificent and he replied with “Thanks for coming”.
All the signs were there with Barrow, you can see why they’re top dogs right now and I thought with a mix of endeavour (particularly second half) and Lady Luck, we Shots gave a good account of ourselves and I for one was mighty proud of them.
If only Lewis Walker had stuck that big chance away or we’d been given that penalty shout…. oh wait, would Harry P have taken it? He’s a big hit with Barrow fans ranging from “terrible player, carthorse” and worse besides!
Here’s ‘that moment’ as described by the official Shots report:
Lewis Walker did brilliantly to beat the offside trap despite Barrow’s best efforts to catch him out, the young forward burst through on goal and as he looked to take it past Dixon, the Bluebirds shot-stopper read what he was going to do and claimed a vital touch onto the ball and saw the danger cleared.
It will live long in the memory, that one. Or for about a week. I’m not doing Torquay in the FA Trophy – already been to Devon for the league game so attention turns now to Stockport (or Pocksport as penned by Aberdeen Shots) at home next up – thanks to Abs also for his match ticket gaining me entrance to the main stand.
Best of luck to Bluebirds for the rest of the season. You’re a club on the up and savour these times while they last!
Nobody expected us to come away with anything so it does make defeat easier to take.
There’s still some media to add to this which I cant do until I have access to video editing but I’ve written this early hours in the hotel and will press this now before heading back to some kind of civilisation on the next train outta here.