The neighbouring villages of Askam and Ireleth cover a small area but are rich in local history. Ireleth has Viking origins, specifically the Manx Vikings, its name deriving from the Viking for "hill-slope of the Irish". In medieval times Ireleth was a farming village clinging onto a hillside overlooking the Duddon Estuary, one of many such villages which came under the control of Furness Abbey. Later on, in the 19th century, Ireleth and Askam succeeded in creating a parish of their own, and thus the parish church of St Peter's was born. Askam's origins are much more recent, stemming from the discovery of iron ore deposits, which turned out to be the second largest in the country. It was the proceeds of the deposits which funded the building of St Peter's, which came to be known as the 'Iron Church'. The size of the mines was such that there was not enough local labour to work them, and immigrants came from all over, from as far afield as Cornwall and Ireland. The proximity of the Duddon Estuary makes the area a magnet for wildlife enthusiasts. The most notable creature to inhabit the area is the Natterjack toad, which accounts for 20% of the national population. The feathered population includes an internationally important breeding population of Sandwich terns. The presence of all this wildlife means that the beach has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Map of the area.
|Photo by Chris Upson, via Wikimedia Commons|