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Millom, Cumbria

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Hodbarrow was a quiet stretch of beach with a disused windmill, a couple of lime kilns and a farm in 1855 and the town of Millom did not exist (Millom was the name of a district between the rivers Duddon & Esk, where the lords of Millom at Millom Castle, held jura regalia, the right to execute without trial, and not even the sheriff of Cumberland could enter without their say) and the area had a population of less than 100 inhabitants. The same area by 1891 had a population of over 10,500, due in 1855 to the discovery of haematite iron ore and over the years Hodbarrow took the shape we see today.

The main features left for modern eyes to see are two lighthouses, one of stone, which was built in 1866 and was paraffin fuelled and the other built of steel in 1905 to replace the earlier was electric. The two sea walls are unmistakeable, the Old Sea Wall of concrete was completed in 1890 and stands 50' from top to bottom. The Old Sea Wall only stood for ten years before subsidence took its centre section, but it still remains an impressive Victorian industrial edifice to this day. The Old Sea Wall was replaced with the Outer Barrier, at over a mile long and completed in 1905, it was built to subside with the land, which it has done for over a century, and apart from the fact that the seaward blocks are now out of their symmetrical alignment, you would never notice. The Outer Barrier reclaimed over 200 acres of beach and tidal estuary.

Hodbarrow Windmill stands high above Hodbarrow Point and looks the same today as it did in photographs taken of the first pit heads near by in the late 1850's, it is often mistaken as a third lighthouse. When the pumps were finally turned off in 1968 the area behind the Outer Barrier began to fill with water and now a 200 acre lagoon exists, which is rich in wildlife.

At its peak Hodbarrow Mines employed over 1000 people, had 40 miles of railway and tram lines and many pit heads and their associated buildings, including Cornish pump houses. Sadly, all was demolished or ripped up in 1968-9, but one can still see where some of these things were if you look carefully.

Hodbarrow also has a quality water sports centre, with skiing and wake boarding for sports minded photographers to partake of.

Outer Barrier Lighthouse by Trevor Kirk

Hodbarrow Windmill by Trevor Kirk

Wildlife and Nature Highlights

Birds are the main attraction, but mammals are about too. Hodbarrow during winter is home to between 5,000-10,000 wildfowl, including:- Teal, Widgeon, Red-Breasted Merganser, Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Golden Eye, with the possibility of Long-Tailed Duck, Eider, Scaup, grebes & diver spp, as well as, swans, & geese. Passage migrants visit in spring and autumn, including some rarities. Spring and summer are the times to see Great Crested Grebes displaying. A number of tern spp. nest on the site, including Little Tern some years. Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk are present throughout the year, and Merlin are usually seen in winter. Barn Owl can be seen quartering fields adjacent to Hodbarrow, but is not as common as 20 years ago, sadly. Passerines are abundant in the scrub areas and even along the Outer Barrier. Wading birds are also abundant, and rare birds often appear among the flocks of Dunlin and Redshank, which roost on the site. Waders are best seen between an hour before and an hour after high tide, as they come into roost on Hodbarrow.

One of Hodbarrow's big attractions is the Natterjack Toad, but as this is a highly protected species, I would suggest contacting the RSPB before photographing them: certainly do not disturb them.

Smaller mammal species, including fox are present at Hodbarrow, but are not as visual as the bird life.

Among the plants to look out for are Marsh & Bee Orchid.

Apart from the industrial heritage and wildlife, Hodbarrow is surrounded by the Duddon Estuary and Black Combe fell at 1970' is a stunning backdrop, with the Coniston and Scafell ranges in the distance and the Furness fells just across the Duddon; therefore landscapes and seascapes are a plenty. The West Cumbrian coast also has some of the best sunsets of anywhere in the world.


Remains of the Old Sea Wall at the now flooded former Haematite Mines, looking across Hodbarrow Lagoon

Trevor Kirk

Hodbarrow is a place to visit at any time of the year, but always where stout footwear. In winter, take warm and wind proof clothing as the Outer Barrier can be a bitterly cold place. Summer brings its own perils with the sun (Millom has similar temperatures to southern Cornwall), and Terns, which will attack if they feel threatened: a tripod is very useful for defence if extended and carried over the shoulder and above the head.

View from Trig Point by Trevor Kirk

Other nearby areas of photographic opportunities

Depending on the subject sought, the Millom area offers a vast array of things to photograph.

  • Swinside Stone Circle is 4 miles from Hodbarrow.

  • Giant's Grave standing stones at Kirksanton are 3 miles.

  • Haverigg beach & dunes are 1 mile.

  • Silecroft beach is 4 miles.

  • Black Combe is 4 miles, from the summit can be seen unsurpassed views of the lake district and on a clear day Scotland, Isle of Man, & Wales can be seen, On a clear winter's night Ireland can be seen too.

  • There are some good waterfalls on the Whitbeck side of Black Combe 5 miles.

  • The Duddon Valley is well worth a visit to see the valley Wordsworth loved 8 miles to Duddon Bridge.

  • For more wildlife try the Duddon Estuary from Millom Iron Works Nature Reserve

  • Millom Pier 1.5 miles.




Image: View to Black Combe across Hodbarrow Lagoon

Trevor Kirk

Blackcombe by Trevor Kirk

Further information Grid



Hodbarrow, Millom, Cumbria

Ceremonial County: Cumberland

Grid Reference:

SD183781 and SD174790

Map Link:


Aerial photo: Multimap Aerial     Googel Aerial



Best Times to Visit:

Any time of year or day, depending on subjects sought





Other useful websites:

Hoseasons Caravan Park

Nearby Locations:

Swinside Stone Circle.    Millom Pier
Giant's Grave standing stones at Kirksanton
Millom Iron Works Nature Reserve.

Other Relevant pages:  


Planning Grid


Hodbarrow, Millom, Cumbria

Grid Reference:

SD183781 and SD174790

Getting there:

Follow A5093 to Millom. Cross railway bridge to town centre and take second on the right, look for Hodbarrow RSPB brown sign and turn into Mainsgate Road (postcode LA18 4JZ). Go past the CPG factory and continue to the very end of Mainsgate Road, here turn left. Drive past the entrance to the amenity refuse site and park near the RSPB sign. Alternatively, turn right at the bottom of Mainsgate road, drive through the caravan park, and as you leave the caravan park, you can park on the left overlooking the foreshore, near to the Outer Barrier. The site can be driven round in its entirety, but some of the tracks are very badly pot holed in places.

Millom railway station is about 1.5 mile from Hodbarrow
NB:- no Sunday service.


RSPB Nature Reserve. Open access at all times.

Port Haverigg caravan park. Public right of way runs through the site, but please do not wander through the areas marked private, as many of the mobile homes are permanently occupied.


Car parking is available at the above mentioned places, but you can park in any suitable place, as long as it does not cause a nuisance to other people or the wildlife.


There is a public hide near the Outer Barrier Lighthouse. Nearest public conveniences are at Millom Pleasure Ground, or Haverigg Sea front, and also at the council car park adjacent to Somerfield supermarket. Food is available in summer at the beach cafe at Haverigg and at local pubs in Haverigg & Millom.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

two lighthouses, Hodbarrow Windmill, Old Sea Wall, 200 acre lagoon, rich in wildlife, water sports centre, with skiing and wake boarding

What to take:

Always where stout footwear. Winter - take warm and wind proof clothing especially at the Outer Barrier.

For wildlife take a tripod, and a long lens (300mm plus) and a small lightweight stool for use when not near the hide.

For water sports a long lens is useful, but not essential.

For landscapes a tripod, filters, and a bubble level are helpful.

Macro work can be very rewarding, so pack a macro lens or extension tubes if macro is your thing.

Nature highlights:

During winter between 5,000 - 10,000 wildfowl, including:- Teal, Widgeon, Red-Breasted Merganser, Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Golden Eye, with the possibility of Long-Tailed Duck, Eider, Scaup, grebes & diver spp, as well as, swans, & geese. Spring and summer Great Crested Grebes displaying. Wading birds. best seen between an hour before and an hour after high tide, are also abundant, and rare birds often appear among the flocks of Dunlin and Redshank.

Natterjack Toad, but as this is a highly protected species.

Among the plants to look out for are Marsh & Bee Orchid.


Port Haverigg Holiday Park





LA18 4EL


01697 351330 RSPB Warden Campfield Marsh.

Opening times:

Open at all times



Photo Restrictions:

RSPB site.  None except at or near the nest site.

Caravan Park.  None, but be aware many of the caravans are private homes.

Other Restrictions: Please do not enter any area where it will disturb the wildlife, especially the area of slag where the terns, etc., nest: Use the hide for observing this area. Do not take vehicles, etc., off the tracks, as there are rare plants located over the site.
Special Needs Access: None. Though most of the site is accessible by vehicle. The network of pathways around the grassland and scrub is not suitable for wheelchair access and some pathways are blocked to prevent unauthorised access by quad-bikes and motorbikes. People with some ambulant difficulties would be able to use these, as they are generally firm and dry.  This is a natural site with unimproved paths and trails - the access around this site may not be suitable for all visitors.
Special Needs Facilities: None
Children Facilities: None specific
Dogs Allowed: RSPB land - allowed, in the caravan park need to be kept on lead

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Classification from the Grids above. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Trevor Kirk Section: Key:
Page Ref: hodbarrow Topic: Bays Last Updated: 03/2009


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