OK, this walk doesn’t strictly start from Sandside. Sandside is south of the River Kent, and this walk starts from the opposite bank of the river, on the north side. That’s because on the last stage I waded across the river to the start point of this walk, and so I can start from there this time. That’s great because it misses out a horrible section of road that at least one of my predecessors walked. Woohoo! After my earlier humiliating abortive attempt to get one over on my predecessors round Heysham nuclear power station, I’ve finally got one up… albeit at the expense of a wet pair of jeans! ?
Actually this walk doesn’t even start at the bank opposite Sandside, because that point is in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately I have to walk 1.8 miles from the nearest lane just to get there.
I park up somewhere in Grange Over Sands and unfold my bike. I think one day I might wash my car. I have a vague memory of it looking really quite nice when it’s clean, but my memory only stretches back a year or so…
I cycle to a place called Ulpha, which turns out to be just a single farm, and then head off on foot eastwards nearly two miles to my start point. I won’t bother posting any photos of that journey, I’ll post ones of the journey back, because the route today will come straight back to this point again. This feels a bit depressing, but I need to do it to make sure I’ve covered every inch of the coast.
So, now I’m back where I was three quarters of the way along my route two days ago, staring across the sands to the apartment block beneath the quarry.
I drop down off the raised bank, sit down and have a snack and a drink. It’s really hot today, and just the two mile walk from the lane to here feels like it’s taken a bit out of me.
You know that feeling you have when you think someone is watching you? Like a supernatural awareness that some dark spirit is out to get you? I’m getting that now. The hairs on the back of my neck rise, and a surge of panic sweeps through my body. I spin round to confront the malevolent demon that is stalking me…..
I gather my things and set off. It’s just too humiliating around here.
Out in the river, people are milling about and paddling where I crossed a couple of days ago.
The river really is very shallow at this point. I hear that when there’s been a lot of rain it gets a lot deeper, and the shores a lot muddier, but we’ve just had the driest May on record and the shores are baked hard, with a fine icing of salt for decoration.
The raised bank runs in a straight line for nearly a mile. I seem to struggle a bit when the route becomes a dead straight line.
There’s definitely a pattern forming. When I was walking the beach at Formby which was mile after mile along the sand the views were spectacular and I got a little bored. When I was walking the pretty Marsh Lane last time out and I got frustrated. And now walking this raised bank, with wonderful views over the river to Sandside and Arnside. I should be enjoying the views, but the straightness of the route somehow ruins it for me. How spoilt I am! ?
In the distance, visible through the shimmering ghosts rising from the baking salt plain, the railway viaduct threads its course across the sands, it’s multiple little spans like an open zipper from this far away…
I had briefly contemplated taking a shortcut over that viaduct a while back, but the authorities are clamping down on pedestrians trespassing over it now, and are issuing big fines. In the end I took a shortcut across the river just a little way upstream anyway.
Spring and the hot weather has brought an abundance of life not just to the lovely wild flowers sprinkled liberally across the landscape…
…but also to the farm-life.
I stare at the lamb in the picture above for quite a time, while he stares back at me. I wonder why his ears are sticking up like that. He wonders why I’m staring at him. I think his ears made him look like a rabbit. He thinks my hat made me look like a girl.
To my right, the imposing rockface of Newton Fell rises grandly up into the sky. To my left, sand, salt, and grass.
Bored of the long straight raised bank, I drop down onto the shoreline, where grass and sand intermingle, and the going somehow feels easier.
A fleck of dirt has somehow got on my camera lens, and the next few pictures have an annoying smudge in the bottom right corner – sorry about that! I could crop them but then they’d either be too narrow, or be unbalanced, so I’ll just post them as they are.
I wander further out into the dry channel. The river bed is almost completely covered with the hoof marks of sheep, who must venture quite far out into the river channel, but for what purpose? There is nothing out here except the vast emptiness and the tangible awareness of solitude. Maybe they came out here for the same reason I did, whatever that is… I don’t know, and perhaps they don’t either.
The rocky promontory of Birskwood Point breaks up the uniformity of the landscape…
…it’s gorse covered top, rocky sides, and grassy apron bestowing a pleasant spot for a drinks break.
To rejoin the route from here, I have to negotiate a wire fence. Most fences now seem to have a barbed wire thread along their top rung. I wonder whether it deters animals from pushing through it, or whether it’s just to annoy people. After wearing jeans on Friday’s walk and getting too hot, I wore shorts today, which only makes the barbed wire more annoying, and far more alarming as that top rung is at a particularly inconvenient height. I manage to find a section which makes it easier to preserve my body intact, and rejoin the track, which passes over a small bridge and arrives at the entrance to Crag Cottage.
Skirting the cottage, the path passes through a pleasant shady dell, and over a substantial concrete footbridge.
The whole structure of this bridge seems ridiculously excessive, and I guess it may have something to do with drainage or irrigation.
The path opens out onto some pasture, accompanied by a little stream which sparkles in the sunlight.
I’m near the point where I locked up my bike now and started today’s walking, which makes it feel like I haven’t accomplished anything yet! Of course I have, I’ve ticked off another 1.8 miles of the 5500 mile total journey. This is a trick I use to lift myself, which is especially useful when trudging along estuaries that require detours miles inland, or where the path heads south when the general direction is north. Those aberrations to the general direction can be disheartening, so I just think about chalking one more mile off the 5500. That way the direction is always forwards, even if the path is temporarily backwards!
A cute little memorial stone bench affords me the opportunity to contemplate that concept. Hmm, sounds deep, but in truth I just feel a bit knackered so have a sit down. I was actually thinking about whether slugs go to sleep, which is a little less profound.
I follow a lane which leads up to Meathop Fell. Arnside sits across the marshy fields and the unseen river.
As is becoming the tradition of coastal walkers, here is an obligatory picture of an old red tractor. This one appears to be still in use, with a roller still connected, but the grass has grown up around it so tall it must have been a while since it last spluttered into life!
The little lane comes to a fork, and I have to make a decision. The route my Komoot app planned for me takes a right. But if I take a left, there’s a track which passes through a farm, into Limegarth Wood, which would emerge near a disused quarry next to the railway line, much closer to the coast. However, there’s no more tracks marked after that, and I don’t fancy taking the risk and having to turn back, I’m just not in the mood. Besides, my predecessors took the inland route as well, so I follow in their footsteps. I’ve already had one success wading across the river and don’t want to push my luck!
The next few miles the lanes pass through delightful wooded glades, but I’m not enjoying it that much.
I’m not a hiker at heart. It isn’t in my blood like many other walkers. I love being outside in the fresh air, but long distance walking wouldn’t be my first choice of how to enjoy it. The reason for this epic journey is more about the personal achievement, my love of the sea, and I’m ashamed to admit, running away from certain things. I still fully intend to complete it, however long it takes me, but it does mean that stages like this through woodland, far from the coast, don’t inspire the passion in me. I know once I’m back at the coast again I’ll cheer up. I’m just acting spoilt again – just look at that lovely lane through the woods!
There’s an opportunity to buy some beautiful woodland here. It’s tempting, but I’m not sure what I’d do with it. It’s a long drive from Manchester to here, and then what would I do when I got here? Besides, I’m broke. Divorces are very expensive! It’s a nice idea though…
The lane emerges from the woods onto a plain with pastures, overlooked by the imposing Hazelwood Court (now apartments).
Buttercups flood the luscious pastures with their innocent delightful speckles of golden yellow.
The lane passes over the River Winster – at this point redirected as a drainage channel – past the rocky outcrop that hosts the disused quarry that I would have arrived at had I trespassed through Limegarth Wood. That’s a lovely view from that little cottage, a really scenic spot.
Further along the lane, there’s a little gate which leads up some steps onto the railway line, which would give me a grand view of the bay – I’m desperate to be by the sea again. Unfortunately the gate is locked, and even though it would be easy to scale, the £1000 fine for trespassing on the railway wouldn’t be as easy for me to pay!
The lane skirts the golf course on my right, and joins the main road into Grange Over Sands, and I get my first glimpse through the trees for quite some time of the sea…
The view is quickly obscured by industrial buildings and trees, until a path branches left over the railway line to Grange Over Sands promenade.
And finally I’m back next to the sea! I get a mental lift immediately as the panorama sweeps into my consciousness, and the view opens up in front of me.
I even get a view of my old friend in Heysham…
The promenade passes by the railway station, where an underpass allows me to cross the railway line. I’d rather stay on the coastal side, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get across the railway if I don’t take this route, and I need to get back to my car which is parked somewhere in the town.
I stick close to the railway line, which passes the pretty ornamental gardens.
By the time I find a path up between some cottages which rejoins the main road through the town, I realise I’ve overshot quite a bit, and my car is quarter of a mile away back near the station. Spring has caused wild flowers to erupt out of every nook and cranny available…
On the way to the car I pass a Community Orchard, what a lovely idea! Although I can’t help but picture mass brawls at harvest time, as everyone scrambles to get as many apples as they can!
This walk was completed on 31st May 2020, and was about 6 miles, although in total I had to walk 8 miles. Here’s a map:
Here’s the real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around…: