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      19.08.2001 01:40
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      Wigton is a small market town in Cumbria which is usually considered part of Solwayside. This area includes the Port of Silloth, and Caldbeck which is John Peel territory. It's a small triangular area which backs on to the Solway Coast. Wigton is a thriving little market town with a variety of business operating in the surrounding area. Wigton is best known as the birth place of Melvin Bragg. It is mentioned in the King James army accomodation survey of 1686 as having just 14 beds and 22 stabling places available for troops. There were only 4 hostelries in the town. Today there is lots of choice whether you want a full a la carte meal, or just a pint of your favourite brew. (Stabling for horses could still be a problem though so drivers of horse drawn carriages are advised to make arrangements in advance!) In the 1840's and 50's Wigton was a textile town and had numerous small looms and workshops but today it is best know for the huge Rayophane factory which produces what is know locally as the 'Wigton Pong!' At first glance Wigton looks quiet and sleepy but a large section of the population lives and works inside the town's hidden alleyways and yards. A walk around the town centre reveals just about every type of retail outlet you could think of but there is little else of interest and certainly nothing to detain the traveller. Wigton does make a good base though, if you want to explore Solwayside and the surrounding area. This is all quite compact and you don't need to travel anymore than about 40 miles in any direction to find all these places. The tiny port of Silloth started life as a small ,safe harbour for coastal shipping and it now accommodates vessels of up to 85 metres in length and 5.5 metres draught. Regular cargoes of imported bulk fertiliser, animal feeds and wheat are handled here as well as bulk cement (Blue Circle). Don't exp
      ect this port to be quaint and attractive like some of those down in the south west. It isn't busy and bustling either. Most of the time its peaceful and there's little happening. Silloth is also a Victorian seaside resort too. There is none of the glitz of Blackpool though. On the village green is a small amusement arcade to provide entertainment when it rains (usually), but that's all. There are several restaurants, cafes and small shops including 'Longcakes' which is famous for its icecream. There are several caravan sites and a lido nearby which provide for caravans and tents. A mile to the south are ths famous 'Solway Dunes' which run all the way down the coast to Allonby. This is part of the 'Solway Commons' which comprise 1806 acres of common land which includes Burgh Marsh. The commons are famous for their wealth of bird and plant life. This area has been designated an area of outstanding natural beauty and as such is protected. It is an internationall important area for bird life and the rich mud flats along the shore attract waders, gulls, terns and geese. Oyster Catchers, knots, redshanks and turnstones are regular visitors and from April shell ducks and mallards are plentiful. Probably the best known visitors are the barnacle and pink-footed geese. A pair of binoculars is essential here as the views along the Solway towards Scotland are spectacular. Some of this land is still commercially worked for peat . The peat mosses around Kirkbride (a mile or so from Wigton), at Wedholme Flow provide peat for horticultural purposes. Block peat is still used here as a fuel and the fine ground peat dust is used as a dressing for the famous Solway turf. There is a lot of pressure to stop this peat harvesting and protect the wet lands in the area. Several rare plant species and the scarce natterjack toad are found here. At Crosscanonb
      y which is on the Solway moss there is a n old salt works. It thrived between the 10th and the mid 18th century. The salt trade reallt thrived in this area and was a major source of income. At nearby Beckfoot there is a Roman Fort. This isn't easily seen from the road and you need to know how to find it or you would miss it. A mound, situated behind a wal, in a field marks the walls and gates of the fort. In the 2nd century this fort was built to house about 500 men from an auxiliary cohort. Excavation here was completed in 1880. Just south of the fort is a Roman Cemetry and over the years the erosion caused by the action of the sea has revealed the structure of the sand dunes. From time to time this has unearthed Roman burials. To the south of this spot is Beckfoot.About 300 hundred yards out on the sands at this point is a submerged forest. It is very hard to find and the tide has to be right or you won't see it. This is an incredible sight if you're lucky enough to be there at the right time. Low growing trees come up out of the sand and the wood itself looks almost as though it has come from a forest on dry land. There's lots to see here and lots to do if you enjoy nature and quiet walk along the shore. It's a haven for bird watchers. However, if you are looking for wild nights out, lots of action and entertainment you won't find it here. If you want sun, sea and sand you are only ever assured of the sea ans sand here. More often than not its windy and kind of cool here but if you are lucky enough to see the sunset on the Solway it is something you will never forget.


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