Arnside one of the north west's loveliest spots but danger is never far away
PUBLISHED: 17:23 14 November 2011 | UPDATED: 12:03 23 May 2017
It's one of the north west's loveliest spots but danger is never far away, writes Mike Glover
The print version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Lancashire Life
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Arnside is an edgy place, in more ways than one. It is on the far North East corner of Morecambe Bay, where the rivers Kent, Leven and Bela meet the incoming tides.
It is on the border of Lancashire and South Lakeland, although as it is in the parish of Beetham, it is firmly part of Westmorland, whatever mistaken map-makers may have claimed.
And danger is never far away with the lethal quicksands and rushing tides still likely to catch out the unwary.
But many believe it is the hidden gem of the North West coast, despite the efforts of a constant stream of entrepreneurs to bring awards and world-wide attention to its unique charms.
Westmorland’s only seaside resort was created by the building of the railway viaduct by Furness Railway back in 1857. As illustrated by local historian Roger Bingham in his new book, Memories of South Lakeland, the viaduct changed forever the region’s economy as it linked the nascent industrial town of Barrow with the main London and North Western Railway at Carnforth junction.
It also destroyed Westmorland’s only sea port of Milnthorpe by barring access to the estuary’s eastern tidal reaches at Sandside. But the lower slopes of Arnside Knott quickly became a new attraction in the late Victorian era.
This year the viaduct was closed for three months in early summer for much needed repairs. The absence of trains trundling over the sands had minimal effect on the number of visitors, which is more influenced by the vagaries of the weather.
It was one of those glorious Indian summer days when Lancashire Life
paid a visit to check up on the resort which is particularly popular with campers, caravaners and other trippers from the industrial heartlands of
Whether arriving by rail or road the first business on The Promenade is the The Arnside Chip Shop, which on November 1 celebrates 20 years since it was taken over by David Miller and his family.
He came from running a chippy in Lancaster and still lives in Morecambe, never having realised just how long term a project it would become to run such a successful business.
Haddock cooked in vegetable oil has been the backbone of the business, but David has always been keen to keep up with trends in takeaway cuisine, offering vegetarian and other alternatives. His latest is gluten-free batter for anyone who asks.
He has also added a cafe, although there are those who continue to prefer eating out of paper on the benches under the shadows of the viaduct. ‘Either way the views are amazing,’ said David.
He has built a world-wide reputation using a web-cam to reveal life behind the counter. This has a particular attraction to Americans and Canadians, who have been known to join the queue to see the real thing and plead to be filmed on-line.
Almost next door is Christine At Home, a new venture by local businesswoman Christine Kelly, who thinks she has hit on a winning formula of selling unwanted treasures on commission from her cellar-based shop. She has been inundated with interest. With no stock to invest in, and people keen to cash in on their spare furniture, jewellery and bric-a-brac, Christine may have come across the ideal business model for a recession.
A little further along the Promenade, past Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, one of two Blackburn brewery, Thwaites, pubs on the front, there is the ideal retailer if your taste is in new, rather than second-hand.
At number 21, Gallery-H is a nine room emporium in the magnificent old NatWest Bank. Launched nine years ago by Milnthorpe couple Mike and Pam Houghton, it is an Aladdin’s cave of jewellery, furniture, children’s toys and other trinkets as well as original art.
Manager Chris Wilkinson is particularly proud of the relationship with highly-collectable, top celebrity impressionist painter Cherree Valentine Daines who has kept faith with the gallery since it supported her in her early days. There were three of her originals there on the day we called.
Next door but two is Posh Sardine (an anagram of Arnside Shop), where antiques come with coffee and home-made cakes. It was bought earlier this year by Bolton couple Jane and Stephen Caudwell.
Stephen is an ex-international 800 metre runner turned PE teacher and Jane is a chartered accountant. But they shared a 30-year long ambition to turn a passion for antiques into a business.
Jane cites the ‘view to die for’ and the friendliness of the people as the two reasons they, and thousands of visitors, can’t resist Arnside.
A little further along the Promenade is the convenience store Nisa Local and Arnside Bakehouse, both owned by Tim and Erin Woodburn. Tim is from Arnside and Erin from the Phillipines. They met while Tim was rescuing a boat in Sumatra, like you do.
It was five and a half years ago they took over the bakery up a labrynth of old stone stairs behind the thriving cafe they also run. The home-made bread, pies and cakes sell like, well, hot cakes.
At the bottom of Silverdale Road, by the mini-roundabout, sits The Albion, the village’s other Thwaites pub run by John and Sue Hughes for the last 18 months. Three years ago, there was quite a commotion over the brewery changing the pub from managed to leasehold, with petitions, demonstrations and questions in the House of Commons, but the couple have revived its fortunes.
‘We were able to demonstrate to loyal local customers that we were committed to good service, good beer and good food,’ said John, who used to run the Hest Bank Hotel, near Lancaster.
They are prominent members of the 1807 Thwaites Cask Beer Club, which entitles them to feature occasional guest beers.
And over the roundabout, along the cul-de-sac to the coast walk, comes Number 43, The Promenade, voted by Visit England as the best bed and breakfast in the country.
LateRooms.com also calls it one of the country’s most popular bed and breakfasts.
The website said: ‘Its luxurious and unique coastal country retreat appeal is ideal for guests to relax and unwind.’
Sea views, luxurious suites and breakfasts were praised. It was opened less than four years ago by Lesley Hornsby, who had a life-time in hospitality but never in residential before. It was an ambition that reached fruition when she found a run-down Victorian town house that needed lots of tender loving care.
But the way she has turned around what was a bit of an ugly duckling into an award-winning B&B, with six en-suite rooms, so quickly is remarkable. Travel writers from national media have heaped praised on No 43. Lesley is very focused on supplying what she calls ‘timeless luxury’ for the ultimate relaxation after a day’s walking or sight-seeing in the nearby Lakes, along the coast or its limestone hinterlands.
Walking back along The Prom we bumped into Leyland birdwatchers Maureen and David Wareing who said they came to Arnside whenever they could, for the peace and the views.
As they spoke, the coastguard siren sounded and the Arnside Bore, the incoming tide that is faster than a man can run, swept in, scattering sea fishermen looking for the flukes, or flatties or flounders for which the bay is famous. One is reminded that many people, and their horses, have drowned while stuck in these sands and that this peaceful, popular village is never far from the edge of danger.
Eating fish and chips or having a pint while watching the sun go down over the Lake District fells as its fading rays glint on the mud flats, is, say some, on the edge of Paradise.
How to get there: By road, take the M6 to junctions 35 or 36, head into Milnthorpe centre and at the traffic lights follow the signs along the coast; or head for Carnforth and zig-zag through Warton, Leighton Moss and Silverdale to Arnside; By rail, from Manchester, Preston or Lancaster to Arnside along the Furness Line.