Welcome to Peter Caton books

Closing Statement from Peter Caton, Green Party


I hope that when people cast their votes they will look beyond simply which party will give them the greatest personal financial wealth.

I hope that people will consider our whole society and that those of us who are comfortably off will think of the needs of others when we vote.

We need a government that will care about everyone and an acceptance of the reality that to provide the services we want, in one way or another more taxes will have to be paid.

The Green Party offers a vision for a caring, fair and compassionate society.

I hope that people will look ahead to the world that we bequeath to our children and grandchildren.

Do we want them to be seeing film of the Great Barrier Reef, of Pacific islands, of glaciers, of whales and tigers, and ask why people didn’t do enough to save them?

Do we want them to learn of the great conflicts that came from people migrating from lands that climate change had turned into uninhabitable desert?

To be told that people were unwilling to save our resources for future generations, or to accept changes in lifestyle to help stop our climate changing.

We only have one planet. There is no spare to replace it if we ruin this one.

It is our duty to care for the earth and I hope that as you decide you to vote people will consider the world and ALL who live on it now and in the future.

Every vote for the Green Party is a vote for social justice and for the environment.

Thank you.

Peter Caton

Green Party Candidate for Hornchurch & Upminster

I am standing as the Green Party candidate for the Hornchurch & Upminster constituency. Here is some background about me and some of the policies that I would pursue if elected.

About Me

A lifelong Upminster resident and a former Coopers Coborn student, I am aged 56, married with two children. I belong to many environmental organisations, am a member of Upminster Methodist Church where I was a youth club leader for many years, and a West Ham season ticket holder. I run a company manufacturing water-based adhesives in Purfleet and am a part-time author, having written six books, mainly about walking and travel, two of which describe walks on the Essex coast.

I am standing for the Green Party because I believe that protecting our planet, its people and wildlife is the most important issue that mankind faces, and because I believe that we need a society and economy that are fair to everyone.

These are some of the policies that I feel strongly about and would support if elected.

Here is my profile on the Green Party website – https://my.greenparty.org.uk/candidates/106005

Local Issues

In our constituency we are fortunate to have precious Green Belt and other green spaces. These must be protected against pressures to develop.

Rates and rents for small business and shops need to be more affordable, to increase local employment and reduce the need for people to travel to their places of work and to shop.

Many young and lower paid people struggle to find housing here. Over the last few years we have seen infill housing built, but very little has been affordable social housing. Small homes are needed to house local people, not expensive ones to make money for developers.

I would push for improved bus services, particularly serving Queens Hospital. Parking and public transport need to encourage people to shop locally rather than drive to out of town centres. For the sake of our health, particularly our children and elderly people, air pollution must be reduced.

If elected I would seek an immediate review of the Government’s decision to select Option C for a new Lower Thames Crossing, which will result in loss of Green Belt land and people’s homes but will be of questionable effectiveness in relieving both congestion and air pollution. A review must ensure that all factors are fully considered, including switching of freight to rail and improved road layouts and traffic management either side of the existing crossing. It needs to be based on up to date traffic data and include Option A14, a tunnel from junction 30, and traffic management schemes that may alleviate the need for a new crossing, neither of which were put to the public in the recent consultation.


What can be more important than looking after the planet on which we live? We are stewards of the earth and it is our duty to protect it for our children and future generations. Unless climate change is slowed it will have a huge impact on the future for the people and creatures who share our world. Mankind cannot continue to ravage the world’s finite resources, pollute the earth and change its climate. We are even killing the Great Barrier Reef.

The Green Party will not hide from the challenges we face. Britain must take the lead not lag behind other countries. We must reduce our energy consumption and invest in renewable energy, phasing out fossil fuels.

Locally and nationally we need to make changes that will reduce road traffic and congestion, not by building more roads but by far wider measures to cut road usage. Affordable, reliable public transport must be provided. Public transport needs to be run as a service, not for profit. Wherever possible freight should travel by rail or water, not road or air.

There should be more electrification of our railways but no new airport runways. We need to move to the normal mode for ‘short haul’ travel being by train, not environmentally damaging planes.

Over time our society will need to change so the need to travel is reduced.


Everyone has a right to a roof over their head. It is scandalous that in 21st century Britain thousands sleep on the streets every night. Homelessness is no longer restricted to big cities; we see it in Hornchurch & Upminster.

Single room hostels with shared facilities and support would take people off the streets and save the NHS & policing costs associated with homelessness.

We need rent controls and a Landlord Licensing Scheme to ensure that every landlord adheres to minimum standards. We should build far more low cost Council Housing, which will have the additional benefit of bringing down private rents, and must ensure that a higher proportion of new private housing developments are ‘affordable’. The Green Party would build 500,000 socially rented homes.


I believe that our country’s wealth should be shared more equally and that we should re-introduce higher tax bands for the biggest earners.

I support the Green Party’s proposals for a Citizens’ Income for everyone, which would replace personal tax allowances and prevent the current unemployment and poverty traps

Corporation Tax should be raised, with higher rates for larger companies, but Employers’ National Insurance abolished (it is a tax on employment). We should work with other countries to close the loopholes that allow companies to avoid UK tax on operations here. A Financial Transaction Tax (‘Robin Hood Tax’) would raise £8 billion.

I believe that we need greater support for science & technology, both in education and commerce. Innovation is the key to developing new clean industries.

I would cancel the replacement of Trident, a nuclear weapon that could never be used, and spend the £31 billion plus saving on the NHS and education.

Foreign Aid

We are very fortunate to live in a wealthy country and although there are many needs here, millions of people in other places struggle even to find enough food to live.

Commendably David Cameron’ s government enshrined in law 0.7% of national budget for overseas aid but this is now at risk. Aid needs to be targeted to ensure the short, medium and long term welfare of people, but as one of the world’s richest countries I believe that we have a moral duty to support those who are not so fortunate.

Britain has a proud history of welcoming people forced to flee war and persecution and helping them rebuild their lives. Whilst immigration cannot be uncontrolled, I believe that we should offer sanctuary to a reasonable number of genuine refugees.

Animal Welfare

The animals we farm for food should be treated with respect in their life and slaughter. Factory farming should be phased out, transport to slaughter minimised and routine use of antibiotics stopped.

I strongly oppose blood sports and believe that there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for lifting the fox hunting ban. If rural foxes do need to be controlled it can be done humanely. 21st century Britain should not be legalising the killing of animals for people’s enjoyment

I would increase penalties for those who wilfully harm or neglect animals, to act as a deterrent against animal cruelty.


This election should be about far more than just Brexit, but I support allowing the people to have the final say on EU membership, with a ratification referendum based on the best deal which our government can negotiate. We need to know that it is ‘the will of the people’ to leave the EU under this deal.

In running a manufacturing business I am already seeing some of the downsides of Brexit and that losing access to the Single Market will have a far greater impact.


As a longstanding member of the Football Supporters’ Federation Safe Standing Group and having written a book investigating the subject, I would scrap the requirement for football stadia in the Premier League and Championship to be all seated, permitting safe standing which would improve safety and is backed by 90% of football supporters.


I firmly believe that we need a fairer electoral system so that the make-up of parliament more accurately reflects the share of the votes cast. We need government to be by consensus and to move away from the system that allows a party to be elected by a minority of the electorate but to be able to govern virtually unopposed for five years.

However, I believe that no vote is wasted and that every vote the Green Party receives is important as a demonstration of concern for our environment and for social justice.

I believe that I am the best candidate to truly represent the local needs of the people of the Hornchurch & Upminster constituency, and that the Green Party would allow me to put my constituents first rather than being constrained by having to follow strict party lines.

Thank you for reading this and considering voting for me. If you want to know more about Green Party policies please visit www.greenparty.org.uk.

Peter Caton

Green Party Candidate

I am pleased to report that I have been selected to represent the Green Party as General Election candidate in the Hornchurch & Upminster parliamentary constituency.

A lifelong Upminster resident, I am aged 56, married with two children. I belong to many environmental organisations, am a member of Upminster Methodist Church and a West Ham season ticket holder. I run a company manufacturing water-based adhesives in Purfleet and am a part-time author, having written six books, mainly about walking and travel, two of which describe walks on the Essex coast.

I am standing for the Green Party because I believe that protecting our planet, its people and wildlife is the most important issue that mankind faces, and because I believe that we need a society and economy that are fair to everyone.

I am a firm believer in all forms of equality, improving public transport, supporting local shops and small businesses, support for science & technology, dealing effectively with the increasing problems of homelessness and preventing cruelty to animals.

This election should be about far more than just Brexit, but I support allowing the people to have the final say on EU membership, with a ratification referendum based on the best deal which our government can negotiate.

Locally I would push for improved bus services, a more effective and less damaging alternative to Thames Crossing Option C, reduced business rates to help local shops, protection of our precious Green Belt and for more social housing.

I believe that no vote is wasted and that every vote the Green Party receives is important as a demonstration of concern for our environment and for social justice.

The Costs of Self-Publishing

I’m often asked how much it costs to publish a book, so thought a brief summary on my blog might be helpful.

All my books have been self-published through Matador, who in general terms offer the same services as a traditional publisher but with two crucial differences.

Firstly, it is the author’s book, so whilst Matador will make recommendations it is the author who largely has the final say in edit and design. Secondly, it is the author who takes the financial risk, paying upfront for all production, printing and marketing costs, plus 15% on each sale through the normal book distribution system.

Matador produce an excellent book and are lovely people to work with. Beware some other companies who may be cheaper but often don’t deliver the profitable sales they promise. Matador offer a range of marketing services and it is necessary to take the most basic of these in order to gain entry into the trade market. My experience is that whilst they can open certain doors, it is the author’s efforts in gaining publicity and persuading shops to stock the book which has a greater impact on sales. The hard work is not done once a book has been written!

There is no simple answer to “How much does it cost to publish a book?” It depends on the type of book, how much (if any) is in colour, what extra services are required and the number of copies printed.

Essex Coast Walk has only black & white photos, so was cheapest of my six books to print. The next four books have colour photo sections which add to the cost and 50 Walks on the Essex Coast is in full colour. After realising with Essex Coast Walk that no matter how many times the author, friends and family read a book, errors will slip through (but were corrected in the reprints), I now always pay for a proof read. I don’t pay for an edit and take only the basic marketing package. Judging the print run is difficult but costs come down considerably with quantity, however one doesn’t want to be left with mountain of unsold copies.

A summary of production costs for 50 Walks on the Essex Coast, my most recent book, is as follows:

Pre-Press Costs (typesetting etc.)                  700

Trade Marketing & Mailing                            460

Proof Read                                                      288

Maps (not Matador)                                      1500

Print 1500 copies                                            3219

Delivery                                                          90

Total                                                      £6257

Based on the print run of 1500 (it’s looking as if I should have gone for more) this works out at £4.17 / copy.

With a selling price of £9.99 at first glance this looks to give a handsome profit but the next lesson for the self-published author is that they have to share the profit. Shops expect a discount of 40 – 55%, Amazon take 60% and Matador 15% to service the sales. It comes as a bit of a shock to find that a book that sells for £9.99 on Amazon nets only £2.50 to the author, which may be less than the production cost. I try to encourage people to buy from book shops (I have an arrangement Swan Books with my local independent to offer free p&p for which I further discount their price) but many will use Amazon. Even if these sales make little profit they are contributing to the total sales and without them the print run would be lower and unit cost higher. An alternative would be to try to push sales through Matador’s website, for which the author gets 85% of the selling price.

Profit is greater on books sold by the author but they need somewhere to keep them. I’m fortunate that my company has a warehouse where pallets of books can be stored. Some authors choose to take the whole print run from Matador and sell the books themselves, rather than the publisher supplying the retail trade and Amazon. Sales are then likely to be lower but the margin higher. The best profit comes from books sold directly to the customer; to friends, family and at talks or book fairs.

I’ve estimated a sales breakdown for 50 Walks on the Essex Coast which shows how the income varies widely according to the sales route. Estimating this breakdown is crucial when considering the finances of a book – including the selling price.

                                                                         Income              Estimated % of sales

Author sales to Customer                               9.99                           10

Author sales to Retailer (average)                  5.00                           50

Matador Website                                             8.50                             0

Matador sales to Amazon etc.                         2.50                           30

Matador sales to Waterstones etc.                  3.00                           10

Matador sales to Independent Bookshop        4.00                           10


This breakdown gives an average income of £4.95 / copy. Based on these estimates 1264 copies will need to be sold to break even and selling all 1500 will give a profit of £1168 (which would most probably go towards a reprint). Note that for a local book it is much easier for the author to supply retailers than one which sells nationally.

At 190 pages 50 Walks on the Essex Coast is shorter than my other books, but being in full colour and with a map for each walk, production costs are higher. A similar book but without maps would need to sell 961 copies to break even. A summary of costs and income on some of my other books gives further insight into the variability of self-publishing finance.


                                     Essex Coast Walk       No Boat Required       The Next Station Stop

Production Cost                      2.21                             2.83                             2.52

(Per Copy)

Copies Printed                         4000                            2000                            2000

Selling Price                             9.99                             12.99                           9.99


Average Income

Author Sold                            6.31                             7.94                             6.09

Matador Sold                          2.62                             3.66                             2.74


Sales breakdown

Author %                                34                                23                                21

Matador %                              66                                77                                79

Average Income                      3.87                             4.64                             3.44


Copies to Break Even             1574                            1220                            1465


Note that for Essex Coast Walk 1000 were printed, followed by another 2000 then another 1000 and that had these all been printed together the unit price would have been lower. It would have been more profitable to have printed 4000 in one go but of course only if they sold. I printed too few Essex Coast Walk, probably too many Stand Up Sit Down but think I’ve judged the others about right.

It should be born in mind that there will also be additional unforeseen costs such as storage and delivery. Matador charge £30 per month for storage of more than 300 books (of each title) so this can quickly eat into profits.

Finally, I should mention selling price. Other than No Boat Required, which is the longest of my books, I have priced all at £9.99. They seem to be considered good value at this price and whilst I could have charged more, my view has been that it is a threshold price above which buyers are less likely to make spur of the moment purchases. I would prefer more sales at lower margin, particularly as I now have six books published and readers of one very often go on to buy others.

So in summary the key factors are:

Production Costs – be aware of all the costs and for example that you may need to sell another 100 books to cover an extra £300 cost.

Print Run – It’s hard to judge but crucial to whether the book makes a profit or loss.

Selling Price – Find the balance between what will sell and what will make a profit.

Sales Route – Be aware of the percentage of cover price the author will get and where possible try to direct sales to the most profitable routes.

And my final advice, writing and self-publishing a book is very rewarding, but don’t expect to make any money!

Peter Caton

April 2017

My Next Book – Remote Stations

TB - Dent 013As anyone who has read my books will know, I enjoy finding remote places, travelling by train and walking. My next book combines the first two and includes some varied walks, as I travel around the UK seeking out our most remote railway stations.

Currently I’m about halfway through journeys which will cover 40 stations, a few closed but most where trains still call, if not always very often! I’ve travelled to the wilds of Scotland, including staying at a settlement that consists of just a railway station, two houses and a hotel where deer looked in the window as we ate breakfast, to lonely stations in the north of England amongst hills and beside the sea and have walked to long closed halts on Dartmoor and in East Anglia. Next on the list is the Heart of Wales Line, with its many remote stations to choose from.

I am including some of the remarkable stories and interesting history associated with the stations and the routes serving them, giving the book a strong railway theme but also appealing to those with a general travel interest.

Remote Stations will be published some time in 2018.

Talk 9th February – Walking the Essex Coast

20170125_124211I will be giving an illustrated talk describing some of my favourite walks on the Essex coast on Thursday 9th February in Frinton (McGrigor Hall. 6.30 for 7pm). Tickets are £5 from www.caxton-books.co.uk and include a glass of wine. All my books, including the recently published 50 Walks on the Essex Coast, will be on sale at 10% discount.

50 Walks on the Essex Coast

My latest book, a walking guide describing 50 walks along the Essex coast, the longest coastline of any English county, has now been published.


Peter Caton discovered the wonderful Essex coastline as he narrated his journey along its whole length, writing Essex Coast Walk (Matador, 2009). He now describes walks covering the entire publicly accessible coast, helping others to follow in his footsteps. Detailed route instructions are provided, along with high-quality maps, while background information and colour photos add context and interest.

Following rivers, creeks and open sea, on paths, tracks and promenades, often with circuits completed across countryside, the walking and views are varied. There is much history and wildlife to be seen as the walker discovers picturesque villages, smugglers’ haunts, nature reserves and little-known gems along the coast.

Walks range from 2 to 15 miles, with most having different length options, plus the possibility of linking adjoining routes. Produced in full colour, 50 Walks on the Essex Coast is an invitation for serious ramblers, or those looking for just an afternoon stroll, to discover the hidden magic of the Essex coast.

Copies are available now (post free) from Swan Books and will available from usual sources shortly.


The Boleyn Remembered


Upton Park, The Boleyn
Through good times and bad
So many memories
A stadium we owned
But sadly it’s gone
Now we’re renting in Stratford
A much bigger ground
But made for athletics, will that ever be home?

Alight here for West Ham1

Exit onto Green Street
Sights, sounds and smells cried – Football
The fans and the locals
I’ll buy any spares
The horse shit, fried onions
But never again2

The side entrance redundant
Now crowds are no more3

The Queens, with its dark bar
From whence on occasions
A special welcome awaited
For Spurs or Millwall4

Time for a burger
Thanks for the custom
Not wanted at Stratford
No room for the little man on the corporate Park
There big firms pay high rents
Burger prices to match5

Ken’s café where fans met
Talked over fry ups
Moaned of failed managers, hopeless players, bad owners and refs6

A pint in the Boleyn
Perhaps two, three or more
Strains of Bubbles float through the door
A home of West Ham7

Part of East End history
But will she survive?8

Wear your colours they once said
Now it’s scarves, half and half
Souvenier of the Boleyn
Or just laugh at Spurs
All consigned to the past
Just the club’s shop at Stratford
You won’t see me in there9

Jugs of beer on the tables
Sky TV in the corner
Still dominos played
All ages met here, but much to their shame, West Ham didn’t care
West Ham moved to Stratford
Supporters Club left behind10

A statute to heroes
T’was a place where we gathered
Focal point for the fans
What is there at Stratford?
M&S ain’t the same11

And so to the ground
Home of West Ham United12

The MDF towers
Naff, yes we agreed
But at least they were ours
And based on tradition, not corporate greed
The gates, they were famous
But now hidden away
No room in the Park for the West Ham way13
Ticket Office where we queued, with mounting frustration
But left clutching a ticket, relief or elation?

Priory Road, where as boys
We queued for the North Bank
Big games, would we get in?
The new stand, not the same, but still with a view
Built for football not just for Seb Coe15

Cheap tickets for Stratford
But Brady didn’t tell
That they were far from the pitch
Or that for a view
We’d pay just as much
As we had at the Boleyn
Before ‘history began’16

It wasn’t the South Bank
But no fights any more
Not the same as a terrace
But we still loved the Bobby17

No queue at the turnstiles
Fans still in the pubs
Roll out for the kick off
Just walk a few yards
Not a march to the stadium
No Stop Go boards here18

Fans met on the concourse
The beer wasn’t cheap
Songs sung at half time
The atmosphere warm
No cold winds like at Stratford
The bogs overflowed, but they were ours, so who cared?19

Not the same since the seats came
But good all the same
A ground built for football
Fans close to the pitch
The East Side a gap
Supposed to be temporary
A new stand to go there
But Gold, Sullivan & Brady
Saw more money elsewhere20

The Chicken Run
Ok not the real one
But the one most of us knew
Not the same with the seats in
Too far from the pitch
But much closer than Stratford
And with a spirit here too
Banter and laughter
We don’t hear any more21

The West Stand
The club named it by sponsors but nobody cared
To us it was The Rio, paid for by his sale
The transfer that signalled we’d never win leagues22

The Bobby Moore Lower
Here most of the fans
Were in 40s & 50s
Had stood on the North Bank, the South or the West
Or moved from the Chicken Run
We knew all the songs
The traditions, the history
We shouted at players, at refs and at ‘keepers
They heard us, reacted
Too far away now
If Brady had asked us, most here would have said stay
But these fans weren’t important
We don’t get a say23

Floodlights on the roof
Not iconic but worked
Except just that once versus Palace
When Frank Lampard had scored
Bets made in the Far East, were ready to win
Someone pulled the plug out
The match was abandoned
The crowd were sent home
Fat Frank’s goal erased
But we won next time round24

Fans stood at the Boleyn25

Or sat, if they preferred26

Choice for all
Sit or stand as you wish
We knew what was what
But those were the days
Before Brady decided
That fans who stand up
Don’t buy enough popcorn
So wanted us out27

A stand named after the master
There was only one
Trevor Brooking
Walks on water, or so we once sang.28

And in 2016, our club captain looked thoughtful
Mark Noble
He’s West Ham through and through
But did he really want to go?29

The flag’s dropped to half mast
It knows that we’re sad30

If only, if only31

And the saddest sight of all
Bulldozers are coming
Is it progress or not?
Teething problems at Stratford
Will it ever be right?
Perhaps for the new fans, with face paint and popcorn
Sad to leave our Boleyn
But the hurt would be lessened, for a real football ground32

If only they listened
We wanted a poll
Brady said that she’d hold one
But not if she might lose
And not ‘til the deal signed
Even then she rigged it
So we’ll never no
Did most want to stay, or did more want to go?


Peter Caton
November 2016

A Walk to Chapel Island – One of Morecambe Bay’s Gems

A short article can give just a flavour of the forty three very varied and often remote islands that I visited when writing No Boat Required, but Chapel Island in Cumbria epitomises the beauty, history and mystery of our tidal islands and the challenges faced to reach them.

Everyone to whom I mentioned my plan to walk across the sands to an island in Morecambe Bay expressed concern that I may not return to tell the tale. Such is the reputation of the sands since twenty three Chinese cockle pickers tragically drowned here in February 2004. Indeed it can be highly dangerous to venture into the bay and lives are lost almost every year. Today however I was to be in the safe hands of Ray Porter, a local fisherman and Duchy of Lancaster appointed official guide to the sands. I was joining a guided walk from Ulverston to Chapel Island.

The walk was run by Morecambe Bay Partnership, a charity who aim to improve the environment and quality of life around Morecambe Bay. Susannah Bleakley, a lovely lady who had organised the walk and enthused about the island and bay, was most interested that I was writing a book on tidal islands. She put me in touch with Jack Manning, a local fisherman, who in turn gave me the name of Jack Layfield, an authority on Chapel Island, who I arranged to meet before we set off.

After seeking directions from a handy policeman, I set out along the canal towpath that leads to the sea. With the sun shining brightly and a variety of birdlife on the water, it was a most pleasant walk down to Canal Foot and the shore of Morecambe Bay. I was soon distinctly warm and pleased to find the Bay Horse Hotel, once a staging post for coaches crossing the sands, which provided a most welcome drink.

1Stepping out of the pub, an elderly gentleman approached and said I must be Peter. This was Jack Layfield, but how he knew that I was the person to whom he’d spoken on the phone I had no idea. Whilst my teenage son had recently been stopped by the police in my parents’ home town of Ledbury for ‘walking with a swagger and not looking like a local’, I don’t think there was anything about my appearance to suggest my Essex roots (I’d left the Burberry baseball cap, hooded top and white stilettos at home).

Jack was clearly delighted to be able to tell me about Chapel Island, ‘his paradise’. He pointed out the channel of the River Leven, the river that drains from Lake Windermere and told me how porpoises used to chase salmon here. He told me about the railway viaduct to our left and how it had been strengthened in World War One to carry Welsh coal round the coastal line en-route to our fleet in Scapa Flow. Looking across the sands to Chapel Island, Jack said that 1871 census had showed it was inhabited, but that the only building now is a ruin. He wasn’t sure if I’d be able to climb up to this as it was surrounded by tall nettles.

As we talked the weather rapidly changed, the sunshine being replaced by heavy rain. Jack got on his bike to cycle home before he got too wet, while the forty or so walkers milled around waiting for the off. A couple of rumbles of thunder brought doubts as to whether we’d be allowed to go out onto the exposed sands, but then Susannah, having signed us all in, introduced our guide Ray. I’d expected a long safety talk but he gave just one warning:

‘If you start to feel you’re sinking don’t stop. Just keep going!’

Down the slope once used by stagecoaches and out onto the sands we went. A selection of cagoules and umbrellas, of hats and walking sticks, of young and not so young, plus the obligatory dog, heading off in pouring rain to wade through rivers and dodge quicksand, to find a tiny island and return before the rising tide would drown us all. Oh how very British.

Ray had already surveyed the safest route and taken his tractor to place flags at intervals on the sand. Hence we headed east from Canal Foot, soon crossing the first channel which was only about 15 yards across and knee deep. The water was surprisingly warm. The next channel, the main River Leven was wider, faster flowing and thigh deep. I lifted the bottoms of my shorts to keep them dry, but for the two young girls on the walk it was well over waist high. Even at low tide I could see how people could be swept away. I thought of Edwin Waugh’s account of his very nearly fatal trip to the island, which I’d read on the train from London (and which is described in dramatic detail in my book).

2As we got closer to Chapel Island I made my way to the front of the group to take a few photos. An oystercatcher greeted us, with its characteristic piping ‘kleep kleep’ call. Large numbers of these attractive wading birds, with their long bright orange-red beaks, live in Morecambe Bay, feeding on the abundant cockles and mussels. I already felt guilty that we were invading the birds’ island.

Jack Manning, who visits the island regularly to tend his nets, told me that until the 1990s there were about 100 gulls’ nests every summer, then in 1990 half a dozen eiders nested here. Their numbers increased year on year, but the gulls decreased, until in 2006 there were none at all. That week he had however seen one tiny gull chick with its mother squawking overhead. For the last three summers there had been 200 eider nests on the island and Jack Layfield had told me that this year some had laid a second batch of eggs. He was concerned that the visitors would disturb them, as he said that when startled the birds fly upwards, crushing the eggs beneath them. I saw one nest on the island, with four speckled eggs. I hope our short visit didn’t bring the birds harm.

3Chapel Island has rocky peninsulas at each end, with higher cliffs in the middle. We set foot on the eastern end and gingerly made our way across the slippery rocks. Footwear chosen for walking on sand and wading through water wasn’t ideal for clambering over rocks, and much care was needed. At the foot of the cliff was the skeleton of a sheep. The unfortunate creature must have drowned elsewhere and been washed up here, as there are no large mammals on the island.

There’s no path around the island, but we were able to climb onto the cliff and with much care walk half way around the perimeter. Centuries ago the island was larger, as much limestone was taken away for building on the mainland. The bore holes for explosives are said to be still visible. There’s a tradition in the villages along the Morecambe Bay shore that the stone was taken to Liverpool for use in construction of Mersey Docks.

With trees and impenetrable brambles to the cliff edge on the eastern side, we climbed down onto surrounding rock. From here it would have been possible to walk uninterrupted across Cartmell Sands to Flookburgh. This however hasn’t always been the case, as the Leven channel sometimes moves its position in the bay. In fact locals say that it used to change from one side of the island to the other every decade, but hasn’t switched since 1976, staying between Chapel Island and Ulverston.

Although Jack Layfield had doubted that we’d be able to get to the island’s only building, the ruined chapel, one of the group managed to get up the steep path through the trees. Wearing shorts I was more susceptible to the nettle stings and thistle pricks, but succeeded in following him and peeping inside without too much damage to my bare legs. The building is not quite as it seems and has an interesting history.

Original known as Harlesdye Isle, the island lay on the ancient route across the bay and would have been a safe haven for travellers caught out by the tide on the Leven Sands, considered to be the most dangerous in Morecambe Bay. In the 14th century Cistercian monks built a small chapel here to serve the needs of travellers and fishermen. It is after this that the island was renamed. The chapel eventually fell into ruin, but was recorded by William Wordsworth in The Prelude, Book Tenth after he visited the island on one of his several journeys across the sands.

4Nothing remains of the original chapel although the building which I climbed up to is often mistaken for this. In fact this was built in the 19th century by Colonel Thomas Bradyll, the then owner of Conishead Priory, which after the Dissolution had become a private estate. It was constructed to resemble a ruin to enhance the view from the priory, so rather than being the remains of a holy place of worship, the building is actually a folly, although none the less atmospheric and intriguing.

Chapel Island nearly became a railway station! In 1837 George Stephenson was considering alternatives to the hilly route over Shap Fell, which the main West Coast line to Glasgow now takes. His idea was to take the railway from Lancaster to Morecambe, before proceeding across the sands to Humphrey Head on the Cartmell Peninsular and then cross the Leven Estuary to Furness. The line would have passed through Chapel Island, which he proposed as a station. Embankments would have been built on the sands, with the area inside of these reclaimed. The scheme was eventually dropped and a line built from Carnforth to Ulverston. How different would the bay have been and what a sad loss of an island if the plans had gone ahead.

Close to the island were Jack Manning’s fishing nets. These are ‘baulk nets’, which are stretched out across the sand to catch fish on the ebb tide. Today they were ‘hung up’ (not fishing), with the bottom cord of the net secured along with the top cord, so fish cannot get in. When set for fishing the bottom of the net lifts on the incoming tide, allowing fish to pass, but falls on the ebb forming a barrier, ‘baulking’ the fish by preventing them going out to sea. Jack officially retired in 1997, but in 2006 realised that this particular type of net may never be used again, as it’s a labour intensive job to set it up. So that the method could be recorded for posterity he set up a net to film it. This actually renewed his interest and now he goes out to catch fish when he feels like it.

I’d been first to arrive at Chapel Island and was last to leave. I had found it to be of much interest and by its location, atmosphere, bird life and history, to be a very special place.

As we walked Susannah showed me a patch of quicksand. Not the most deadly type, but enough to feel our feet sinking. I have since read of a man who spent hours stuck5 fast in Morecambe Bay quicksands, unable to move, even to turn and see the incoming tide. With great fortune he was rescued by the emergency services just as the waters reached him. Not so fortunate were a man and his young son, stranded on a sand bank. As the waters rose the father put his son on his shoulders so he could continue to talk on his mobile phone, but even though rescuers could hear their shouts, the pair couldn’t be found in thick fog. The voices got weaker until all that could be heard on the phone was water, their two bodies being found later.

The Leven was still flowing out to sea as we waded back, but was now a good six inches deeper. Rain in the last couple of days was causing it to swell and even below waist depth I could feel the strength of the current and wouldn’t have wanted to be here alone. It would be a foolish person who attempted the crossing without a guide.

Back at Canal Foot, farewells were said and the other walkers got into their cars, while I strolled back along the canal. My visit to Chapel Island had been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Susannah had promised to let me know when there was a walk to Piel Island and I looked forward to once more venturing out onto these mysterious and strangely haunting sands.

In No Boat Required Peter Caton takes us to explore islands, some familiar but most which few of us know exist and even fewer have visited. He finds that our tidal islands are special places, many with fascinating and amusing stories and each one of them different. It adds up to a unique journey around Britain.

No Boat Required can be purchased from www.swanbooks.co.uk