Silverdale is just the place for jolly japes
PUBLISHED: 00:47 14 June 2013 | UPDATED: 18:30 12 May 2016
A trip to Silverdale takes writer Sue Riley back to an age of fun and frolics.
PHOTOGRAPHY: KIRSTY THOMPSON & John Lenehan
Silverdale always make me think of a Famous Five adventure, a place where youngsters make dens, run wild on the coastal hills and end their day with a meal cooked over a campfire, probably with lashings of ginger beer. This seaside community fills me with nostalia.
What is certainly true is that its scenery rivals the Lake District yet it has a fraction of the visitors. Mind you, if you visit this month you might catch the village at its busiest.
From June 28-30, at least 1,000 visitors will double the village population to attend Silverdale & Arnside Art and Craft Trail where you can look around studios, attend workshops and even bag a bargain. Since it started nine years ago, the trail has turned into a major attraction and this year more than 95 artists will be exhibiting at 35 venues in the area. Many open their homes and visitors have the chance to chat and look around their work spaces. Debbie Copley and Clare Martin are co-ordinating the event as well as exhibiting their work. Debbie, who makes stained glass, gave up her part-time job last year to focus on art as a result of the commissions she received from showing her work on the trail.
Her house in the centre of Silverdale is full of artwork from other exhibitors. ‘Look at my wall and you can see the art trail,’ she jokes. ‘The artists open up their portfolios and you can have a root through and possibly pick up a bargain. It’s like looking at their sketch books.’ Then she points to a small image by local artist Chris Rigby which she picked up for a tenner and framed up. Needless to say, his work usually sells for a lot more.
Clare, who will be exhibiting her micro-photography at the arts trail alongside her sister’s pottery, said when she moved to the village it was the quality of the light she really noticed. ‘I am defecting aren’t I? I was born and bred in Grasmere!’ she said. As a member of the Lake District’s famous Heaton Cooper artistic dynasty – she’s the daughter of William and grand-daughter of Alfred - she has art in her genes. So maybe the light is why so many artists have chosen Silverdale as their home. If you visit this month you’ll be able to ask them.
When the trail is over the village returns to normal and people visit to experience the area’s natural beauty and its stunning views over Morecambe Bay. Walkers, cyclists and families all make the most of the coastal and woodland walks in the area. Clare summed up its attraction: ‘It’s for people who do not want the busy-busy of the central Lakes. We have rail links but without the people.’ There’s a range of walks for all abilities and plenty for young families and, for those in wheelchairs, nearby Hawes Water is a particularly good option. Particularly popular are the hills, known as the Lots, which overlook the sea in the heart of the village. A good place to watch the sunset is at Jack Scout or a walk around the National Trust’s Eaves Wood with its beeches and junipers growing out of limestone pavement shows off the area’s stunning scenery.
An increasing number of visitors now take to two wheels, something villager Jason Kennedy decided to capitalise on last year when he opened Silverdale Cycles. ‘A lot more elderly people are cycling, people who have rediscovered cycling in the lovely quiet lanes. This north west corner is overlooked but, once seen, it is never forgotten,’ he said.
Families often enjoy pottering about buying eggs from the farmyard in Gibraltar Farm and then going for a homemade ice-cream at the caravan park next door with its views over the bay before heading to Jenny Brown’s Point (a favourite with bird watchers) and examining the remains of the Victorian lime kilns en route.
The village also attracts literary tourists. Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell wrote some of her books in Lindeth Tower (see Where to Stay panel) which is set in a private garden near Gibraltar Farm but can easily be seen from the road. It’s also said that author Charlotte Bronte once stayed at Cove House - now a residential home for the elderly - when she was being educated at Cowan Bridge. Comedian and writer Victoria Wood is also a former resident.
But mostly it’s the flora and fauna in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which attracts visitors. Orchids like the rare lady’s slipper can be seen if you know where to look.
The nearby RSPB nature reserve, Leighton Moss, attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year. Following a £700,000 investment the centre has just refurbished four of its hides and this summer is opening a new family friendly garden complete with sensory plants and a pond with glass panels so youngsters can see the secret life of the pond creatures. A selection of self-laid trails for families are also being organised and later in the year work will start on building a 20-metre tower so visitors will be able to see the birds at eye level.
Visitor services manager Jacqui Fereday said the refurbishments were about ‘enhancing visits’ rather than trying to attract more people. Marketing officer Annabel Rushton added: ‘We are finding people want to do things for themselves rather than have things put on for them. They just want to go off and explore.’ Just like The Famous Five!
5 Famous Events
Silverdale Field Day is being held on June 15th and features a fancy dress competition, parade through the village, crowning of the Rosebud Princess, sporting events including the popular fell race and tug of war, stalls and refreshments.
Silverdale and Arnside Arts Trail runs from June 28-30 with 35 venues open for the public. Visit www.silverdalearttrail.co.uk This year a free shuttle bus will run between Silverdale and Arnside during the weekend.
Red Deer Watch at Leighton Moss is a popular early evening event during the summer. June is also a good time to spot avocets (the emblem of the RSPB) at the reserve as it’s their breeding season. There are many other events on here during June. For details call 01524 701601 or visit www.rspb.org.uk/leightonmoss
Silverdale Golf Club is holding a Golf and Beer Festival from July 2nd to 7th. (The 13th hole at the club was voted one of the best in the UK)
Leighton Hall, the ancestral home of the Gillow furniture family, opens its house and gardens until September, although pre-booked groups can visit all year round. The Hall also hosts special events, including an open air performance of Romeo and Juliet on June 25th and Lakeland Classic Car Rally on July 7th. More details on www.leightonhall.co.uk
5 Places to Stay
The village has a range of accommodation even a historic folly. They include:
Wolfhouse Cottages offers a range of accommodation including The Coach House which has stunning views over the bay and sleeps 8.
More information from www.wolfhousecottages.co.uk.
Silverdale Hotel in Shore Road is a traditional hotel close to the village centre. www.thesilverdalehotel.co.uk.
Lindeth Tower, a folly thought to have inspired Mrs Gaskell, sleeps two. For more details email Joy Sharp at email@example.com
Silverdale Boat House sleeps two and has fantastic views over the bay. It has its own Facebook site.
The award-winning No 43 at nearby Arnside offers a luxury bed and breakfast option. This place gets extremely popular so booking is advised. More details on www.no43.org.uk