Ulverston and Enlightenment

Ulverston and Enlightenment

During the train journey from Barrow in Furness to ARNSIDE INDEPENDENT HOSTEL I craned my neck to get a better view of a tower which stands like a majestic beacon above Ulverston,  a market town in South Lakeland.  Tomorrow I tell myself “That tower is my next walk”.  There are lots of hostels in the South  Lakes which can be seen on this map of Cumbria and the Lake district.

Hoad Monument near Ulverston

The “tower” in question is in fact Hoad Monument, it’s correct name being Sir John Barrow Monument. It stands on top of Hoad Hill, 100 feet high monopolising the landscape. Although it isn’t a lighthouse, it’s design is taken from the third Eddystone lighthouse design, Smeaton’s Tower.  I grab a quick bite to eat before taking a short meander around Stan Laurel’s birthplace, Ulverston. From the town there are plenty of signs for the monument with well trodden and easily accessible paths. A pleasant stroll of 20 minutes, I’m alongside the monument. What an impressive beast.

Sir John Barrow Monument in Ulverston and Owens reflection from Arnside village pier.
Sir John Barrow Monument in Ulverston and Owens reflection from Arnside village pier.

The views are uninterrupted by clouds allowing sights of Morecambe Bay, hills over to the Cumbrian lake’s south side and satellite view of Ulverston. I take the longest route I can find back into town. I stop to take on water and set up the route for my next path of exploration a couple of miles outside the town. My destination is said to be tranquil, peaceful, reflective, offering the path to a better way of life. Come on hands up those who said I was going to Wetherspoons?

View of Morecombe Bay on a walk from Ulverston
View of Morecombe Bay on a walk from Ulverston

Ulverston Buddhist Temple

My next stop is in fact Ulverston Buddhist Temple, officially known as Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre. Entering from the main road the clean lines, gold edged decor and gleaming architecture makes the temple a striking sight. Alongside the temple stands Conishead Priory an outstanding example of early Victorian Gothic architecture. During it’s peak of notoriety Conishead Priory was served by it’s own railway station. During the early 1970’s various restoration projects failed which resulted in the priory becoming untenanted for five years. It’s hard to believe this wonderful building could have been completely destroyed if plans for a caravan park would have been passed. What a travesty that would have been. Instead the Manjushri Kadampa Buddhist community took ownership, along with heritage funding and donations they restored The Priory to the wonderful building it is today. Both temple and priory are free entry.

Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre in Ulverston
Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre in Ulverston

I wasn’t ordained and I didn’t take robes, I didn’t become a Buddhist but I did spend a calming hour looking, reading and chatting with people in and around the temple and priory. Once you’ve sampled the cafes tea and carrot cake, a six minute walk (the signs says so) takes you down to the beach. Very few people are on the beach which allows time for contemplation. (See, I was absorbing those Buddah doctrines).  I follow the advice of a local walker who tells me I can return to town via a mixture of beach, path and road. Culminating in a very pleasant walk back to the station.

One of the temple volunteers told me “I never had the intensity to give up my life to Buddhism completely. But for 30 years it’s teachings have allowed me to follow what I hope is a better way of life where and when I can each day”. A positive note I take with me on my way back to the warmth and comfort of Arnside and it’s hostel.