Arnside, Storth and the Fairy Steps

DSC00413

At the moment, looking out of the window, Storm Barra is arriving and it’s wet and windy outside. Not a good day for a walk. But it was quite different a couple of weeks ago when I took the train to Arnside for the second walk of my long late autumn weekend.

Although I’ve been walking around Arnside and Silverdale quite a few times over the years, I’d plotted out a route where I hadn’t ventured before, to the east of the village following the old coffin road to Beetham. It was a beautiful sunny day, cold, but with no wind so I soon warmed up as I set off walking.

Leaving the station I turned left instead of turning right towards the prom. After a short stretch of road I turned left down a track and then over the level crossing.

There was reasonable path throught he fields, although a bit muddy underfoot.

The next stretch, however, was more than a bit muddy. The clue was in the name really – Arnside Moss. Although agricultural land this would once have been part of the flood plain of the River Kent and I found myself wading through boggy land, sinking at times so that the mud covered the top of my boots. Luckily I got across this stretch unharmed except for boots completely coated with muck. (Perhaps I should have got some advice from Mark of Beating the Bounds – this is his patch!)

I crossed a couple more fields, much drier underfoot, heading towards Hazelslack Tower, an old, ruined Peel Tower, one of several in the area (I’ve passed another, Arnside Tower, many times during my wanders around here)

DSC00375

I walked past the tower, which is next to a farm, took the path across a field and then passed through a gate into the woods, following the signs for Beetham and the Fairy Steps.

I was in limestone country now so much drier underfoot.

After walking through pleasant woodland, I reached what looked like a dead end

but there was a way through – I’d reached the Fairy Steps – a flight of naturally occuring stone steps in a narrow passage between two sheer rock faces. Allegedly if you you climb or descend the steps without touching the sides of the narrow gully the local fairies will appear and grant you a wish.

Well, you’d have to be a lot slimmer than me to achieve that. It was a real squeeze – I had to take off my rucksack or I wouldn’t have got through! There is a diversion to avoid the steps for those of wider girth, or who otherwise don’t fancy the challenge. Amazingly the steps are part of the “coffin route” between Arnside and Beetham.

DSC00383

Before Arnside had a church and graveyard, the dead had to be transported to Beetham for burial in consecrated ground. In those days there wasn’t a road alongside the river and this would have been the main route between the two villages. It seems impossible to get a coffin up through the narrow gap but I suppose that in those days the corpse would have been wrapped in a shroud rather than put in a wooden box. But I certainly wouldn’t have liked the job of carrying the body.

DSC00386

I stopped for a bite to eat and a hot drink from my flask at the top of the steps with views through the trees across to the Kent Estuary and Arnside Knott on the other side of the moss.

Refreshed, I carried on through the woods, down the hill in the direction of Beetham

but turned off in the direction of Storth. I reached a minor road and followed it a short distance before turing onto a path through more woodland

eventually emerging near the small village of Storth

DSC00391

I passed through the village arriving on the banks of the Kent Estuary.

It was still a glorious bright sunny day and the Lake District Fells from Coniston to Red Screes were clearly visible in the distance

I joined the path that followed an old railway line along the banks of the river towards Arnside. The bright sun was very low preventing me from taking photos in th edirection I was walking, but I grabbed a few snaps looking back towards Storth and across the river.

There were sheep grazing out on the marsh. Salt Marsh lamb is a delicacy yet, along with flounder and shrimps from Morecambe Bay, you never see it on the menu of the local hostelries in Arnside which serve up the usual formulistic “pub grub”.

DSC00405
DSC00412
DSC00414

The path terminates behind the station and as it was about 3 pm there was a direct train back to Wigan due in less than half an hour. But I had an idea. So instead of waiting on the station, I crossed the footbridge and headed towards the prom.

DSC00416
DSC00417
DSC00418

To be continued….!

The Plantations in Autumn

It’s been a while since I’ve put a post up on here. Since our holiday in Anglesey back at the beginning of October I’ve not had much opportunity to stray far from home, except for my walk in the Westmoreland Dales. This has been due to a combination of factors. We’ve been back in lock down in England for the past month, which has limited my horizons for walking and has continued to prevent us from getting out and about, visiting museums and galleries etc., and on top of that work has been very busy. This has also meant that I’ve not been keeping up with the posts on the blogs I follow – something I’ll try and remedy in the near future as work goes a little quieter after this week.

The nights drawing in – it’s getting dark now by half past four – has also limited opportunities to get out for a walk after I’ve finished work for the day. Despite this I’ve managed to keep myself from going completely stir crazy by getting out for a wander in the plantations and the country lanes to the north of the town whenever I can.

When the Covid situation first arose, I was worried that I might find it boring wandering around the same territory, but I’ve enjoyed watching the changes taking place as we move through the seasons. I can also vary my route to some extent and have worked out circular routes of between 3 and 8 miles leaving from the front door, mainly keeping to paths through the woods and quiet tracks through the fields. The wet Autumn weather has caused the quieter paths through the woods to get very wet and muddy underfoot which has restricted my options a little of late – time to get some wellies once the shops open up again after Tuesday!

I’ve been snapping photos on my phone during my walks – they illustrate changes over the past couple of months. Here’s a few 🙂

Early October
Mid October on the Leeds Liverpool Canal
Mid October on the Leeds Liverpool Canal
Early November in the Plantations
A few days after Halloween
Early November in the Plantations
A sunny day early November
Mid November – not many leaves left on the trees
View over the fields from Senicar Lane, mid November
View over the fields from Pennington Lane, late afternoon on a fine November day
Late November – the trees are bare now.
A grey late November day on the Leeds Liverpool canal
A foggy Sunday afternoon in the Plantations at the end of November

We come out of lockdown on Tuesday (or is it Wednesday?). Doesn’t really matter as we’re going to be Tier 3 in Greater Manchester and most of Lancashire so I’m going to have to stay local for a while – no wandering up to the Lakes for a walk for a while by the looks of things. I’ll have to keep making the most of the Plantations.

Autumn in the Plantations

November hasn’t been a great month for getting out an about. The weather has been utterly miserable. We’ve not had the deluge that they’ve been experiencing across the eastern side of the country, but we’ve had more than the normal amount of rain and its been generally grey and miserable. On top of that this time of year is always busy at work and the damp weather brings out the colds and sniffles. So all in all I’ve not been out walking as much as I’d like and when I have been out its mainly been in relatively close vicinity to home. However, I am lucky in that although I live close to the centre of town, just a short walk down to the bottom of our street and I’m down by the river and on my way to the Plantations.

So, during November, I have managed a few walks around the Plantations and have been able to see the leaves change colour and gradually fall to earth, covering the paths through the woods. So here’s a few shots taken during several ambles through the Woodland Park.

The path down towards the Dougie

It’s hard to believe that this was once an industrial wasteland, but the Plantations were laid out in the 1860s to hide the condition of the landscape after being damaged by the mining activity. This provided work for Wiganers made unemployed by the cotton famine caused by the American Civil War. Today they’re a great amenity, an area of woodland within walking distance of the town centre and accessed by a “green corridor” along the River Douglas.