By Steve Finn|
I was thy neighbour once, though rugged pile!
For summer weeks I dwelt in sight of thee:
I saw thee every day; and all the while
Thy form was sleeping on a glassy sea:
So pure the sky, so quiet was the air!
So like, so very like, was day to day:
Whene’er I looked, thy image still was there:
It trembled but it never passed away.
William Wordsworth 1770-1850
|The Late Ro-Ro Ship Leaving Fleetwood|
As sailing grounds go, Morecambe Bay is a trap for the unwary. It covers 312 square kilometres, has a tidal range of up to 10.5 metres and an ebbing tide that can retreat up to 12 kilometres.
For us, my brother and I, onboard our graceful Trapper 300 Suntrap, we first need to negotiate the River Wyre where the boat lies on her jetty in a tidal creek. With a reasonable tide, we can clear the creek an hour before high water and be passing Fleetwood into the bay in one and a half hours.
|View up the Creek - Suntrap's Home|
There is not a great deal of heavy traffic in and out of Fleetwood these days, but it’s worth being aware that the Ireland bound Ro-Ro ship will want to share the narrow channel with you three times a day. For novice sailors like myself, having the monster ferry bearing down on our tiny boat and needing to scuttle out of the way is a little disconcerting!
|Wind Farm in Morecambe Bay - Worth Avoiding|
Once clear of the channel, the trip to Piel will take us some four hours. Morecambe Bay is shallow though, so good charts and the ability to use them are essential. The channel into Piel, and beyond up to Barrow, is very well marked and visitors are welcome to pick up one of the many moorings provided free of charge.
Piel itself is fascinating. It is thought that Scandinavians first settled the Island, but it was certainly given to the Savignac monks to build an abbey on by King Stephen in 1127.
The castle is believed to date to the early 1300s, and when the abbey dissolved by 1537, was already ruined. The island passed into the ownership of the local authority in 1919 and English Heritage now care for the remains of the castle.
|Piel Castle and the Ship-In|
Piel covers some twenty acres, but is very sparsely developed. There is a pub, the Ship Inn, and four cottages. The landlord of the pub is traditionally known as ‘The King of Piel’, but royal duties these days are limited to running the pub and taking care of the island on behalf of the local authority.
The most recent King of Piel also had a highly commendable passion for wildlife. In conjunction with the Walney Wildlife Trust, the island has become a haven for passing wildfowl and a home for breeding pairs of many species of duck and goose.
There is a pond to the rear of the pub and resident birds are very approachable. The marsh pond to the interior of the island holds far more flighty creatures, such as curlew and wheatear. And the castle itself is home to a pair of barn owls that have successfully reared young for many years.
If you are lucky, and we were not, you may be accompanied back down the channel and out into the bay by the occasional seal.
|Harbour Village Marina|
If we leave with the tide, we will make the return to Fleetwood in the same amount of time, four hours or so, but will not take Suntrap to her home in the same trip. She will spend the night at the fully serviced Harbour Village Marina and save the sail up the river Wyre for another day.
Steve Finn is sailing at the Irish Sea. He lives in Carleton near Blackpool and his website is: www.s-p-f.net
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