Date & Time: Tuesday 22nd May 2007. 8 am start. ( NY 115 295 )

Location of Start : Mitchell's Auctions Car Park, Cockermouth, Cumbria, Uk.

Places visited : Barrow in Furness, Millom Castle Farm, the Tornado Wire Factory.

With : Myself plus seventeen other members of the Loweswater Discussion Group.

Weather : Cloudy to start, but clearing beautifully during the morning.

The Herdwick Sheep Statue at the entrance to Mitchell's Auctions.

 

During the winter months there are regular meetings of a group formally called the Loweswater Discussion Group, but known locally as the Farmers Discussion Group. They chat over a beer or two on alternate Monday evenings at the Kirkstile, and invite speakers on a wide range of subjects to talk at meetings. The group is one of the oldest established Cumbrian village groups of it's type as it started over fifty years ago.

At the end of the winter season they organise a day out which usually involves a farm visit, a bus trip, a meal out and time away from the ladies !!

This year we are off to the south of the Lake District, to Barrow and Millom.

First stop, the Barrow Dock Museum in the triangular building on the waterfront at Barrow in Furness.

The Museum is built on the old dry dock site next to the Devonshire Shipbuilding Docks, and has a large number of nautical exhibits, but it is in fact a town museum which highlights the life of the town over the years.

The town itself really started with the discovery of Iron Ore. It grew quickly as a result of the building of the local railway, the docks and the harbour in order to export the iron ore. Later Barrow went on to produce iron and steel for export, supplying iron rails that went to America, Australia and India. The early shipbuilding industry has developed into military and submarine production of today.

Sir James Ramsden

Victorian entrepreneur, businessman and the town's first mayor.

He played a major part in developing the town, the docks, the railways and housing. He was also thought to be the inspiration for Rev Audry's Sir Topham Hat ( the 'Fat Controller') in the

Thomas the tank Engine books.

We were introduced to the museum by the staff who provided a brief talk about many of the many exhibits, and explained the museum layout.

This allowed us to explore the museum more easily during the rest of our time there.

They have a superb collection of large models built by the Vickers Shipyard personnel.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century these models were used in exhibitions to promote the work of the Shipyard and to secure orders for work.

The Dock Museum also has sections on the Iron industry, local people, home life, industry, the war effort, photography . . .

and a rather nice cafe !

The sun was shining so I took time out to go and see the seafront and the view across to Walney Island.

The Walney Channel which dries to the north at low tide.

The bridge over to Vickers Town and the Island.

After an enjoyable visit, we were on the move again, this time to Millom on the west coast.

Millom seen across the Duddon Sands as we travel the coast road.

Black Combe is the hill in the background, and lies at the south western edge of the Lake District Fells.

Our next stop was at Millom Castle Farm, where we were met and shown round by Stephen and Michael Parks, the farm owner and son.

This is their home, the impressive Millom Castle, an amalgam of an old 10th century Castle, a 15th century Tower, and a more modern house and farm. It is one of the very few inhabited castle structures in Cumbria that still maintain their original form. They live in barely half of the accommodation.

It's a mixed farm, with cattle, sheep and cereal production. First they showed us round the farm buildings and the old castle.

   
The old castle dates back to 1173 (note the portcullis grove in the stone)
A sandstone arch over the old main entrance.

A group photo on the steps of the castle - everyone except me !

   
The Church and burial ground to one side of the castle
The old coach houses alongside the original walls on the other.

Stephen Parks was explaining the problems of maintenance of such an old structure (the castle was rather beaten about by Cromwell)

and the extreme difficulty they have experienced in finding any help with the upkeep, let alone development, of this historic site.

The purpose of the day was also to see how they organised their farm, and to be able to contrast it with the upland farming systems of the Loweswater area.

We crossed the Cumbrian west coast line to reach their sheep fields on the banks of the Duddon Estuary.

The sea wall, long ago reclaimed land on the left, the Duddon Salt Marshes on the right.

Ahead were the Lake District Fells - the Scafell Group, Stickle Pike and Caw in the centre, Grey Friar and the high Coniston Fells to the right.

The sheep are let out to graze the marshes in summer, but have to be brought in when the tide exceeds 8 metres or when bad weather causes a storm surge and the tides are likely to be higher than predicted. No such tidal problems for Loweswater, but bad weather is always a consideration.

Back to the farm for much appreciated refreshments, and then up to see the stock on the higher parts of the hill.

The farmers are "outstanding" in their fields !

Topics under discussion ranged from the breed of sheep, the type of crops and when to sow them, and the price of milk.

Stephen and Michael breed Friesian and Holstein cattle. At a farm price of 15.5p a litre for milk (we can pay £1.15 per litre in the shops) one suggestion was to try and find a way to get the Holsteins to produce lager instead. Now that would be innovative !

Looking down on the estuary and the high ground of the Barrow peninsular beyond.

In the trees below are Millom Castle, the farm and the Church.

Some of their Texel and Suffolk sheep.

The houses of Millom and Haverigg, and in the distance is the town of Barrow where we were this morning.

Visible to the naked eye, but not here on camera, was a large line of wind farms several miles out to sea in Morecombe Bay.

After an interesting visit it was time to drive the short distance to Millom industrial estate to see one of Cumbria's flagship small businesses.

Tornado Wire is a major producer of wire fencing and one of only half a dozen fence manufacturers in the country.

Visited by Royalty - and now the Loweswater Lads

Inside a normal looking industrial unit on the estate there was a hive of activity.

After a brief talk on the process and on safety, we were taken onto the shop floor to see the wire strands being transformed before our very eyes.

   
Heavy duty fence with knotted ties . . .
. . . being produced on a oversized industrial loom

Further round there are more machines, this time producing alternative styles of wire fencing.

   
The more traditional spiral knotted fence . . .
. . . and an explanation of how it is formed.

Click here or on the picture above for sound and video.

( The half minute video should open a new window and play via your Windows Media Player)

( It may take a minute or so to download on slower connection speeds - please be patient )

(Make sure your PC speakers are switched on if you have any)

   
Forming the barbs that make up Barbed Wire.
Two more bobbins and the first layer is full.

In addition to standard fencing they produce barbed wire, and the even staples used to secure their fences to the wooden posts. Because of the versatility of the machines, they can produce over 450 different types of fence wire, from low fence for sheep and horses, to tall fence for deer and giraffe, plus heavy duty fence for lions and no doubt crocodiles too.

Underneath the mezzanine floor are the stacks of wire feeding the machines.

In the finished goods warehouse, supplies are stacked ready for despatch. A comprehensive visit and a real insight into how fencing is made.

They continue on with production, as we say our farewells and make our way for one last visit . . .

Dinner awaits at the Bankfield House Hotel

Our thanks go to William Vickers for organising the day,

to Barrow Museum staff for their guided tour,

to Stephan and Michael Parks of Millom Castle Farm

and the staff at Tornado Wire for their hospitality.

Last but not least, to Ken Routledge and their driver who ensured a relaxed day out.

- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with a Canon Ixus Digital camera.

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

This site best viewed with . . . one of those twiddley things for easily joining fence wire.

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© RmH.2007 # Email me here # Guest book (on the front page)

The next Farmer's Summer Trip - 22th May 2008 Loweswater Farmers Day Out 2008