Going: Mostly good surface on the railway track, which has a
rollered surface of stone chippings. The dirt track cut through to Back Lane is potholed,
and could be muddy in wet weather. Gradual ascent on the railway track, and a few very
short undulating hills on the minor road return.
Total distance: 4 miles
The little market town of Broughton-in-Furness is an interesting place to visit, with its square of Georgian houses, complete with fish slabs, a set of stocks and a fine obelisk, built in 1810 to commemorate 50 years of the reign of George 111. Theres another reason to have a look around now, as a stretch of the former railway line to Coniston, closed in 1958, has fairly recently been cleared of undergrowth, given a new surface, and is now open to walkers and cyclists.
Former railway lines make great cycle tracks, as the gradients are always gentle, and of course they are traffic-free. This stretch would be ideal for first rides by youngsters, and at least two families were using it for just that purpose last week when I visited.
This short but scenic ride starts just down the hill from the square, through the large wooden gate on the left (1). It soon climbs through a cutting, hewn through the solid rock, and the cyclist shares the same view those Victorian engine-men would have had, hauling the empty copper ore wagons back to the mines at Coniston. A small reed-lined tarn is soon passed, overlooked by a wooden seat, while the gentle climb continues with open views across the Woodland valley to Blawith Knott. The embankment becomes higher and tree-lined, a shelf cut into the hillside.
The end of the converted stretch is reached all too soon, after about 1¼ miles. The trackbed continues on towards Torver and Coniston, but a section has been lowered at the nearby farm, and the next bridge is missing. A steep descent on a good track can now be made to a minor road (2). Follow this undulating lane to the right, past an extensive area of open mosses on the left, and after about a mile a crossroads of two dirt tracks is reached (3). Turn right here towards the houses, and bear left onto the surfaced Back Lane (4). This meets the main road (5) running to the right into the village, which must be followed for about half a mile. (Families with small children would be better staying on the former railway track).
A worthwhile additional exploration can be made along the Foxfield Road, not quite opposite the start of the trackbed. About ¼ mile along here, on the left, are the so-called Donkey Rocks, formerly Eccleriggs Quarry (6). Over 400 million years ago the now-vertical strata were laid flat on the sea bed, as the quite distinctive hollows all over the rock face were scoured out by strong currents. Older rocks were quarried out here for local buildings, revealing the younger, harder surface seen today, tinted pink through the presence of haematite. An information sheet on the Donkey Rocks can be bought at the Tourist Office in the square.
There are several pubs and cafes in Broughton-in-Furness, as well as traditional shops.
The rock cutting at the start of the railway path, Broughton-in-Furness.
The 'Donkey Rocks', between Broughton and Foxfield.
The stocks, in Broughton square, at the foot of the steps of the obelisk.
Broughton-in-Furness community pages.
A BBC local page about Broughton-in-Furness.
Some history of the Furness Railway.
Some history of the Coniston coppermines on the Ruskin Museum site.
More on the coppermines history.
Any comments on the cycling pages would be gratefully received!
Copyright J Chambers 2005. Unauthorised reproduction not allowed. May be printed for personal use only.
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