These walks are getting a long way from home now. It took me an hour and twenty minutes to drive from Manchester to Heversham. To drive to my first walk took me barely 35 minutes to get to Crosby. And to think all that extra time is distance that I have walked… wow! And yet I’ve only done 2.5% of the whole journey…
This is actually my second attempt at this walk. Last week I drove all the way up to Heversham, parked up, unfolded my new bike and set off on my way to Silverdale. After about a mile, the chain went over the top of the first gear cog and got jammed between the gear cassette and the wheel. I tugged and spun and twisted and pulled, and even tried shouting swear words at it (actually that was the first thing I tried), but there was no way it was coming out, so I had to walk back to the car, drive to pick the bike up and return home. Almost three hours of driving for a 20 minute walk!
This weekend, the bike is fixed, and I’m hoping for a bit more luck. The sun is out and it’s the hottest day of the year so far, 23°C with hardly any wind. This week I park a further mile and a half away from Silverdale, to make the next walk a bit easier. Seemed like a great idea, but it came back to bite me as you’ll see. The cycle ride today was about 7 miles, my furthest so far. It was a little bit hilly but I managed it without too much pain, and avoided any breakdowns. I still don’t like bikes though.
Silverdale lies at the southern end of a huge beach. This is the view from the lane that leads down to the beach.
I set off across the sands, quickly distancing myself from the crowded part of the beach near the cars. The sand is weird here. It’s like half way between sand and mud.
To my left is the familiar sight of Heysham nuclear power station, it’s a long way away now (the picture is using quite a bit of zoom), but still dominates the horizon, such is the size of it. It feels like an old friend now, and it’ll be in my sight for quite a few walks yet I think, certainly until I get north of Barrow in Furness.
Halfway across the beach I cross from Lancashire into Cumbria – Woohoo! My second county boundary. I never even noticed the boundary between Merseyside and Lancashire, and I don’t notice this one either. My planned route was actually along a lane where there is a county boundary sign, but because the tide is right out I can take a shortcut right across the bay, and there are no signs out here. In fact there’s no nothing out here….
Today is the first day that I’ve worn a hat to keep the sun off. I was very proud of my desert sun hat – it even has a flap at the back you can drop down to protect your neck – but when I posted this picture to a friend of mine she asked why I was wearing a women’s hat! I’m devastated now…
How can I wear it again now? I’ve already had the indignity of a little girl saying she wanted a purple bag just like mine way back in Liverpool. Might as well get a skirt and heels and be done with it….. mind a skirt would be a lot cooler than these jeans I’m wearing for this walk. What made me think a pair of jeans would be a good idea on a hot day’s walking?
The sand goes on and on, and the sea is a figment of my imagination… perhaps it’s out there amongst the swirling mirages somewhere. The sun beats down and I feel like a character from Flight Of The Phoenix. Only my girly hat protects me from sunstroke and insanity…..
Eventually I reach the end of the Sahara. The rapid incoming tide creates small cliff-faces of sand, then undermines them and sends them foundering dramatically into the water, like a glacier fracturing and succumbing to the scathing cuts of an incessant ocean…. hmmm, except it’s sand and it’s warm. Plopping into the sea is probably a better description.
The tide comes in so fast here that you can see it progressing, the shallows quickly filling with the incoming waters.
At the other end of the beach, rocks climb up to a tree-lined low cliff. The path picks its way through the rocks.
Where they have broken, the rocks show flesh-like injuries… really strange, and a bit freaky!
I take the opportunity of a rocky ledge to take a selfie with my camera…
…and I wonder why I’ve struck up such a girly pose…. is that hat really affecting me that much?
I pick my way around the boulders and low cliffs, and emerge onto another vast beach. It feels like something between a beach and a river estuary, which of course is exactly what it is.
The route now swings around to the east and I catch my first glimpse of the railway viaduct that passes over the River Kent from Arnside to Grange Over Sands. I’m still a way off from it, so the train that trundles its way over remains silent to me.
I’ve arranged to meet a blogger-friend, Conrad, in Arnside where he lives, so text him to say when I’ll get there – it’s a good 30 minutes to go yet. Gradually the little coves get busier with people as I work my way up the River Kent, and get nearer to the town.
People are enjoying the sun and the river, and a couple remark on how warm the water is. I’m sweaty and hot and feel an urge to take my rucksack and camera off and jump in. I seriously think about holding my rucksack up and wading across the river, the water is only about chest high… if I cut across the river here I’d save about 13 miles off my journey… but then I realise I’ve arranged to meet Conrad, and I’ve already let him down once last week when my bike broke! And I really want to meet up with him anyway, so I carry on eastwards along the bank.
There are signs of industrial activity along here….
…on a miniature scale! ? Some poor little kid is going to be crying tonight that they’re missing their lorry.
The run into Arnside from here is accompanied by a grand line of trees in full leaf, but unfortunately with the sun high in the sky they offer no shade from the tropical sun.
At the far end of the railway viaduct lies a derelict little cottage. Viewing it from here, it nestles behind the grand cliffs of the Newton Fell, but they are deeper into the lake district.
I finally get into the village of Arnside and meet up with my mate Conrad and his daughter, which was really nice.
We walk together the next mile or so. Over the railway line and along a permissive path skirting the bay, until we meet up with the main road.
The air was so still and the day so gentle that even the river could cast almost perfect reflections…
My Panasonic bridge camera (FZ72) is good for almost all situations. The 60x zoom is great, but pictures into the sunshine come out a bit disappointing. My iPhone 6 has a much tinier lens, but pictures taken into the sun result in moody dusk-like images, which I like…
I could probably take good pictures into the sun with the Panasonic, but it’s too complicated for me to be bothered to learn all its features , so I just stick it on ‘auto’ all the time!
Once we reach the main road, we say our goodbyes and make our separate ways. The road has no pavement for the next half mile or so, so I follow the route of the old railway line, which cuts a gorge through the cliffs and provides some welcome shade.
The path emerges beside The Ship Inn, where they’re selling drinks and ice cream. I’ve already lost a bottle of water earlier on somewhere, and on a day like today there’s no way I’m turning down ice cream. I get my second water bottle filled up with tap water at the same time, and buy a can of diet coke too.
A path leads alongside the estuary below the level of the road, so I jump over the wall separating it from the road, and trek my way north-eastwards.
Above me on the other side of the road, an apartment block overlooks the estuary. The style is a bit reminiscent of 1930s architecture, but I think it’s modern.
A top floor flat is for sale, and I think how wonderful it would be to live there, overlooking the river on a day like this. Then perhaps it wouldn’t be. I’m a city person now, even though I grew up in a small town in Cornwall. Well, it’s probably because I grew up in a small town in Cornwall. Every time in my life that I moved, I went somewhere bigger. Launceston to Loughborough, to Chelmsford, to Folkestone, to Cardiff, to Manchester (with a few others sprinkled along the way).
I’m not sure I could survive mentally in a place like this, especially now I’m single again. This lockdown is having a bad effect on me mentally. Living on my own was always going to be difficult but I was meant to be able to go to work and talk to colleagues and friends, go out to pubs and talk to people. Then suddenly all that was taken away Day after day, week after week, not seeing or talking face to face with another soul. Most people have a partner or family with them in the lockdown. Some joke about being with their partner too much! Solitary confinement is often used as a punishment and mental torture in repressive regimes. Now I’m paying £850 a month in rent for the privilege.
I look across the water and see a guy paddling in the river. He’s almost in the middle. Is the river really that shallow? I look across to the other side and see the bank which must carry the Cumbria Coastal Path, just a few hundred yards away. The route from this point to that point that I had planned is a good ten miles, and some of that is on depressing main roads, other parts along lanes with no views of the water.
It takes me but a few seconds to take my boots and socks off. The socks go in my rucksack, and the boots I tie by their laces to my bag, and I set off for the water. I step into the shallow waters, which are surprisingly warm, and the sandy mud beneath my feet feels very soothing, after the seven miles or so they’ve trudged so far today. The disturbance my feet make on the riverbed sends misty clouds into the water, contrasting with the sparkles of sunlight diffracted onto the riverbed below.
The water never even reaches my knees, and I arrive on the other side to be greeted by a shocked flock of sheep, used to having their own private pasture on the banks of the river, and seemingly disgusted by my unwelcome intrusion.
I make my way tentatively up the bank, avoiding the sheep droppings and thistles nestling amongst the short grass, and arrive on top of the bank on the Cumbria Coastal Path. Ten miles ahead of schedule.
This would be great, but of course, my car is parked on the other side of the river. Even worse, I’d decided to extend this walk a couple of miles further than I’d originally planned. I could stop the walk right here and now, and be twelve miles ahead of schedule, but I’m stranded on the wrong side of the river. I look back across the river to the apartments, nestled below a dramatic cliff.
I catch myself, then berate myself for thinking negatively. OK, I still have to walk all the way to my car, but I’m saving ten miles off the whole trip. And the next stage of the walk was going to be a long one that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to, and that has suddenly improved in an instant! I take another selfie with soaking wet jeans just to prove that I definitely made it over here, and make my way back across the river.
On my route back across I try to head eastwards rather than south east to where I started the crossing, so I arrive nearer my destination. The river is a bit deeper here though, and I get my jeans wet up to the thighs this time! I arrive on a nice grassy field, and after walking a few hundred yards across the grass to allow my feet to dry off, I sit down and put my socks and boots back on, in the company of a few curious lambs.
Following the footpath across the field I very quickly come across a bridge across the river Bela (a tributary of the river Kent) which I recognise from my cycle ride earlier. I sit and wonder why a river in south Cumbria is named after a famous 1930s horror film actor, then my mind quickly drifts on to the wonderful Bauhaus song also named in his honour….my mind drifts easily!
A pair of swans paddle across a pool formed above a small weir. Countryside swans ignore humans; the ones I know in the city make a beeline to humans begging for food.
Now I get to the annoying bit. Last week on my abortive attempt to do this section I parked just a hundred yards or so up Marsh Lane here. Of course today I’m parked a good mile and a half further north, so I begin the trudge along the country lane that leads to my car. The lane is actually quite pleasant, but just knowing that I could have parked where I did last week and saved this bit of the walk is getting to me. My legs feel more tired because of it, I feel hotter because of it. Oh well, it is what it is, and I force myself to think of the roads I can now avoid on the next walk….. but boy, this lane just goes on and on and on and on and…….
This walk was completed on 29th May 2020, and was about 10.1 miles long. Here’s the real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around…: