The Isle of Walney, also known as Walney Island, is an island off the
west coast of England, at the western end of Morecambe Bay. It forms
part of the town of Barrow-in-Furness, and it is separated from
mainland Barrow by Walney Channel, a narrow channel which is spanned
by the Jubilee Bridge. Walney is the largest island of the Furness
Islands group, both in population and size, as well as the largest
English island in the Irish Sea. Its population at the 2011 UK Census
was 10,651, distributed evenly across the island's two Wards of Walney
North and Walney South.
Island formed during the last glacial period, when the River
Duddon was a large glacial lake, depositing till at its mouth, which
became Walney. Some evidence of neolithic inhabitants has been found
in the island's sand dunes, though its name is likely of Norse
origin. The island remained rural until the growth of
Barrow-in-Furness' industries in the nineteenth century. In
particular, the development between 1867 and 1881 of docks at Barrow
Island, in Walney Channel opposite Walney, encouraged the growth of
Walney as a settlement.
The planned worker town of
Vickerstown was built on the island in
1898, resulting in a large population increase, and the construction
of Jubilee Bridge connecting Walney to the mainland in 1908. Walney's
contemporary population now forms about a seventh of the overall
population of Barrow-in-Furness. The island contains two nature
reserves, at either end, and its sandy beaches make it a popular
3.1 Location and transport
4 Government, economy and education
5 Sport and culture
6 See also
8 External links
The name Walney is thought to come from Old Norse. Whilst the suffix
'ey' is a common feature of island names, the source of 'waln' is less
clear. The island is listed in the
Domesday Book as Hougenai.
The manor of 'Hougun' - possibly modern day
Millom - is listed in the
book as owning the settlements of the whole of Furness, so that
'Hougenai' appears to mean "island of Hougun". The
Old Norse word
haugr means mound or hill. However, other Norse etymologies have
also been suggested for the source of the island's name.
Excavations of sand dunes on Walney have revealed evidence of Late
Neolithic/early Bronze Age settlements on the island, including a
small amount of pottery. Low
Furness was most extensively inhabited
by Norse settlers, likely travelling from
Ireland or the Isle of
Man, which is reflected in many local place names, including
Walney. Through the Middle Ages, Walney and
Furness were dominated
by the monks of
Furness Abbey, who constructed Biggar Dyke as flood
defences on the east coast of Walney. During this time, Walney was
largely pastoral, and remained so into the early Industrial
Revolution: in his 1810-book Guide to the Lakes, William Wordsworth
describes seeing "Walney's early fields of corn" from the summit of
However, Walney was soon caught up in the rapid expansion of industry
at Barrow-in-Furness. Barrow docks were built on Barrow Island, in
Walney Channel. The island acted as a natural shelter, which allowed
the development of Barrow's large shipbuilding yards. In the 1870s,
Biggar Bank became a popular seaside recreation site on Walney, and
this was reinforced when a regular ferry, operated by the Furness
Railway Company, was launched. In 1897, in response to the high
levels of immigration to Barrow from across the UK,
to build a new planned town on Walney Island. At the same time, other
developers imagined developing Biggar into a larger seaside
resort. The first tenants moved into
Vickerstown in 1900, and this
saw the beginning of the integration of Walney as part of the town of
Barrow. Walney Bridge, a
Bascule bridge was built in this decade,
opening in 1908 and connecting the island to the mainland.
Vickers operated facilities constructing submarines and other shipping
in Barrow in the early parts of World War I, and these or nearby
installations may have been the targets of the German submarine U-21,
which approached Walney
Island in shallow water in the early afternoon
of Friday 29 January 1915. The artillery battery at Fort Walney,
manned by 7 Company, Lancashire and Cheshire Royal Garrison Artillery,
opened fire on the submarine at a range of around 7,000 yards
(6,400 m) after the submarine fired its deck gun at the airship
station on the island. After a few minutes' exchange of fire, with no
hits on either side, the submarine withdrew.
Walney continued to grow through the twentieth century, with a number
of suburban housing developments on the island. The majority of
growth occurred between the building of the 'Links' estate in 1936,
and the completion of suburban housing at
North Scale in 1976. The
recreational facilities at Biggar Bank were scaled back, but the
island's beaches remain locally popular. Walney's population in the
2001 census was 11,388, representing 15% of the overall population of
the Borough of
Barrow-in-Furness and around 19% of the population of
the town of Barrow-in-Furness.
Location and transport
Walney lies off the southwest coast of
Cumbria in the Irish Sea. It is
eleven miles long from north to south, but never more than a mile wide
from east to west, with spits at either end. The channel
separating it from the
Great Britain mainland is also narrow, and
named Walney Channel. The northern portion of the channel opens into
Duddon Estuary and is both narrower and shallower; at low tide, it
is passable on foot, with stepping stones known locally as 'Widow's
Crossing' assisting pedestrians. The southern half of the channel
is wider and is regularly dredged to allow shipping to access the Port
of Barrow. This half opens into
Morecambe Bay and includes a number of
small islands, of which Barrow Island, Roa and Piel are inhabited.
North of Earnsie Point are secluded beaches, backed by dunes, which
tend to be used by naturists.
Jubilee Bridge, a bascule bridge, has connected Walney to the mainland
since 1908. The bridge forms part of the A590, which runs between
Walney's western coast and the M6 Motorway. A second bridge over
Walney Channel is sometimes mooted, in order to improve access and
relieve traffic, though there has never been any significant
attempt to provide one. The nearest railway station to Walney is
Barrow-in-Furness. No long distance bus services are provided, and all
services from the island are provided by Stagecoach and terminate in
Island has a small airport (Barrow/Walney
privately owned by BAE Systems. It opened in 1935 and was initially
used for military purposes during World War II, before Barrow council
purchased the airfield. It was purchased by
Vickers in 1968 and has
remained with the company's successors ever since. A few attempts at
scheduled passenger services have occurred - Air Ecosse, Air Furness
and Telair have all operated flights from the island - but none has
lasted longer than two years.
The main settlement on Walney, Vickerstown, is effectively a
continuation of Barrow-in-Furness, lying on the Barrow-facing east
coast at the island's centre, clustered around the Jubilee Bridge. The
first parts of
Vickerstown were constructed in the 1890s as a workers'
Vickers Shipyard, but this area has since been
expanded by suburban development. The only residential areas on the
west coast are at Earnse Bay and Biggar Bank, both of which are
extensions to the central
Vickerstown settlement. Beyond Vickerstown,
the island retains two older villages. North Scale, lies near to
and to the north of
Vickerstown on Walney's east coast, and consists
mainly of suburban homes.
Biggar is the more isolated of the two villages, located around 2
miles to the south of Vickerstown. Biggar is situated on the east
coast of the island and is a more agricultural community, with farms
extending south of the village as far as the
South Walney Nature
Reserve. It is possibly the oldest settlement on Walney, with Furness
Abbey records from 1292 mentioning a grange at Biggar, and today
is still a farming village.
Walney is low-lying, narrow and windswept - it is said by the
North-West Evening Mail
North-West Evening Mail to be the windiest lowland site in
England. The island's northern and southern ends are both nature
reserves, consisting of salt-marsh, shingle, sand dunes and brackish
ponds. South Walney, in particular, is home to a wide number of
birds, many of which use the island as a stop whilst migrating. South
Walney is also the home of the Walney Bird Observatory.
To the north, the island provides a habitat for Natterjack Toads, as
well as the 'Walney Geranium', found only on the island. The
island's west coast is characterised by wide sandy beaches, whilst its
east coast is more built up, facing the narrow and muddy Walney
Barrow Offshore wind farm
Since 2005, the coast off Walney has become a centre for the
construction of offshore wind farms. In total, four wind farms have
been built with a fifth currently being planned.
Number of Turbines
Barrow Offshore Wind Farm
Barrow Offshore Wind Farm 
Ormonde Wind Farm
Ormonde Wind Farm 
Walney Wind Farm
Walney Wind Farm 1 
Walney Wind Farm
Walney Wind Farm 2 
West of Duddon Sands Wind Farm
West of Duddon Sands Wind Farm 
Walney Extension Wind Farm 
Government, economy and education
Walney has two tiers of local government. At the most local level, the
island is governed as part of the Borough of Barrow-in-Furness, being
divided between two wards,
Walney North and Walney South.
Barrow-in-Furness also forms part of the larger county of Cumbria, for
which Walney is again divided into two wards. In the May 2013 Cumbria
County Council elections
Walney North and
Walney South wards both
elected Labour Party councillors. At the 2011 elections at the
Borough level, six Labour Party councillors were elected from the
island, three from each ward. At a national level, Walney forms part
of the Barrow and
Furness parliamentary constituency. The Member of
Parliament is currently John Woodcock of the Labour Party. Mr Woodcock
was first elected in the 2010 general election but Labour have held
the seat since 1992.
At the 2001 UK census,
Walney North had an unemployment rate of
7.7%, whilst it was 6.3% in
Walney South  Walney was
historically agricultural, and a number of farms remain on the
island, particularly on its southern half. Following the construction
of Vickerstown, the defence manufacturer
Vickers became the major
employer on the island, reflecting wider trends in
Barrow-in-Furness. Vickers' successor, BAE Systems, remains a
major employer in Barrow and on Walney today: the island has
particularly high levels of workers in skilled trades.
Walney has one secondary school, Walney School. It opened in 1952 
and currently teaches 681 pupils. It has several primary schools
but, students entering sixth form college or further education must go
to schools on the mainland in Barrow.
Sport and culture
Football and rugby league are the most popular amateur sports in the
Furness area. Walney Central amateur rugby league club currently play
Cumbria Men’s Amateur Rugby League. The club was formed in
1936, and have played on the island ever since. They reached the
second round of the
Challenge Cup in 1960, losing to Oldham  and
they competed in the
National Conference League between 1991 and 2007.
Vickerstown Football Club play in the West Lancashire
Football League (WFL) Premier Division (level 11 of the English
football league system), while Walney
Island Football Club, formed
as Nautical FC in 1970, compete in the WFL Division Two.
Walney has become an important location for kitesurfing and
wind-surfing. It annually hosts one of the rounds of the British
Kitesurfing Championship. In particular the flat, wide beach
at Earnse Bay is popular for this sport. Windsurfing takes place
around the island, particularly to its west coast and around the mouth
of Walney Channel.
In literature, Walney most notably appears, or rather disappears, in
The Railway Series
The Railway Series books by Wilbert Awdry, which was converted into
the television series Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. The books
and television series are all set on the fictional
Island of Sodor,
which is located in the position of Walney, though significantly
larger. Its east coast resembles Walney, and the main town to the east
of the island is 'Vicarstown', located at the same place as
Islands of Furness
^ "Cumbria's Electoral Wards - Population Estimates - 2011 Census"
Cumbria County Council. Retrieved 23 May
^ a b c d e Walney
Island History Walney Island.com 29-08-11
^ Cumberland Doomesday Book
^ Standard English words which have a Scandinavian Etymology (The
Vikings in England)
^ THE PREHISTORIC PERIOD John Hodgson and Mark Brennand North West
Region Archaeological Research Framework Prehistoric Resource
Assessment Draf. November 2004. Accessed 17-09-11
^ Vikings in Low
Furness Steve Dickinson. August 2003. Accessed
^ : http://www.walney-island.com/carr_lane_01.htm>The English
coast: a history and a prospect. Peter Murphy. 2009. Continuum
^ a b Guide to the Lakes. William Wordsworth
^ BIGGAR BANK - Walney
Island Walney Island.com. Accessed 17-09-11
^ a b c d The Evolution of a Naval
Shipbuilding Firm in a Small
Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness. Kieth Grime. 1987. in The
Geography of Defence. Michael Bateman and Raymond Charles Riley (eds).
^ Corkill, Adrian. Hostile Sea. p. 11.
^ Timeline Walney Island.com. Accessed 14-10-11
^ Introduction Walney Island.com Accessed 14-10-11
^ Bridge is walk highlight The Cumberland Times. 18-07-08. Accessed
^ The Jubilee Bridge - the road to Walney BBC. 01-05-08. Accessed
^ New hope for second bridge to Walney
Island Evening Mail. 03-11-09.
^ A history of Walney Airfield
^ Walney Voices BBC Cumbria. March 2005. Accessed 02-11-11
North Scale Residents Association Accessed 02-11-11
^ Barnes, F.; 1968; Barrow and District; Second Edition;
^ "On The Crest of a Wave Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback
Machine.," Northwest Evening Mail (26/01/2007).
^ Natural Walney. Walney-Island.com Accessed 02-11-11
^ North and
South Walney Nature Reserves Archived 2009-12-18 at the
Wayback Machine. BAE Systems. Accessed 02-11-11
^ It's windy .... and it's officially open Barrow Offshore Wind.
25-09-06. Accessed 02-11-11
^ Work on
Ormonde Wind Farm
Ormonde Wind Farm off Barrow completed BBC News. 03-08-11.
^ a b About the Project Walney Wind Farms. Accessed 02-11-11
^ First Power from Walney 2 Offshore Wind Farm DONG Energy. 01-11-11.
^ "West of Duddon Sands generates first electricity". Renewable Energy
Magazine. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
^ "UK firm set to play important part in Walney Extension". North West
Evening Mail. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
^ "Walney Extension" (PDF). DONG. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
Cumbria County Council. Accessed 23/05/2013
^ a b Ward Labour Market Profile 16UCGB :
Walney North NOMIS.
^ a b Ward Labour Market Profile 16UCGC :
Walney South NOMIS.
Island Comprehensive School. Walney-Island.com. Accessed
Walney School Department for Education. Accessed 04-11-11
^ a b 1st Team - Homepage Walney Central ARLFC. Accessed 04-11-11
Vickerstown CCFC http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/vickerstownccfc/.
Retrieved 30 September 2013. Missing or empty title= (help)
^ History Walney
Island Football Club. Accessed 04-11-11
^ BKSA championship round 2 for Walney Island
^ Barrow- Very Windy Walney BSKS.
^ Isle of Walney Sports & Outdoors VirtualTourist. Accessed
^ Sporting venues, clubs and activities in Barrow and
2007-08-28 at the Wayback Machine. Barrow Borough Council. Accessed
^ Where is Sodor, home of Thomas the Tank Engine? BBC News. 04-07-11.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Walney Island.
Walney Isle in words and pictures
Information about the island's coastal artillery
Walney bird observatory
Districts and Wards of the Borough of Barrow-in-Furness
Borough of Barrow-in-Furness
North West Engl