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)
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.
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.
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
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”.
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.
To be continued….!