Why people love to visit Arnside and Silverdale

PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 March 2019

Boats on the beach at Arnside Sailing Club's 2018 Try Sailing Day

Boats on the beach at Arnside Sailing Club's 2018 Try Sailing Day

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There’s plenty to admire in the neighbouring villages of Arnside and Silverdale, as Mike Glover reports.


Arnside and Silverdale may be distinct seaside villages each with a charm of its own, but they share much of a stunning stretch of coastline, views over Morecambe Bay and an official joint designation as an area of outstanding natural beauty.

One of the smallest AONBs, it covers 29 square miles between the Kent Estuary, the River Keer and the A6 road. It was designated in 1972 and it overlaps with 19 Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Lucy Barron, the AONB manager, said: ‘It is an extraordinary place, somewhere that is loved and valued by many people from all over the world and nationally designated for its natural beauty, stunning views and distinctive and diverse landscape.

‘It is especially celebrated for its distinctive limestone landscape, magnificent views and extraordinary diversity of wildlife.

Businesses along the PromenadeBusinesses along the Promenade

‘Low limestone hills, limestone pavements, ancient woodlands, mosses, orchards, meadows and pastures and an impressive coastline, along with a rich cultural history, make this a truly special place.’ Many visitors to Arnside walk, cycle, sail or drive to Silverdale, and vice versa. And the star attractions for many are the birds. It is no surprise that the RSPB set up one of its most prized reserves at Leighton Moss back in 1964.

Leighton Moss boasts the largest reed beds in North West England and is home to a wide range of spectacular wildlife including otters, bearded tits, marsh harriers, egrets and red deer.

Around 110,000 visitors a year make use of the special viewing from the hides, or explore the trails.

Last year bitterns nested for the first time in nine years, following extensive improvements to the reed beds. This work will continue, largely out of sight of the visitors, this year.

Arnside promenadeArnside promenade

‘In spring the reserve really comes to life,’ said visitor experience manager, Jon Carter. ‘The insects are emerging and birds arriving to nest. The bitterns are booming and marsh harriers are starting to pair up.

‘The sounds and sights of the wetlands are fantastic. We want people to come and be inspired to take away with them ideas for making homes for nature where they live.’

As well as the reed beds housing regionally important breeding populations of bearded tits, marsh harriers, reed warblers and bitterns, there are areas of woodland and limestone grassland, extensive mudflats, coastal marsh and saltwater lagoons.

In the mixed woodland, marsh tits, nuthatches, bullfinches and tawny owls as well as roving long-tailed tits, tree creepers and woodpeckers make their nests.

The yacht Severn in the bayThe yacht Severn in the bay

Wildlife ponds support dragonflies and damselflies, as well as newts, toads, frogs and fish such as pike, eel and perch. The coastal salt marsh lagoons attract large numbers of wading birds including avocet, oystercatcher, curlew, redshank and dunlin.

Visitors can also enjoy spotting otters undulating in and out of the water. With a shop, cafe and a free car park (for reserve use only!), its is no wonder the visitors keep coming.

And just a little way along the foreshore, Arnside Sailing Club is also riding the crest of a wave. The club has been selected as Royal Yachting Association’s North West Sailing Club of the Year and shortlisted for the national award.

The club has more than doubled its membership in the last four years, from 57 to 138, as a result of introducing a free children’s programme and adult training.

Grants mean the club now has a fleet of nine club boats that are available for use by members free of charge when they are not been using for training.

Sailing secretary Alasdair Simpson said: ‘We aim to keep membership fees low so that cost is not a barrier to people starting to sail.

‘Arnside is a great place to sail in the sea with a large area of water at high tide and scenic surroundings. The village has a long history of sailing. The Victorians held regattas here’

In 2018, the club purchased Severn, a yacht built by Crossfields of Arnside in 1912, with the help of a Heritage Lottery Grant.

For about a century from the 1840s, Crossfields were leading builders of Morecambe Bay Prawners or Lancashire Nobbies, and yachts. Severn is one ten River Class boats built for the Royal Mersey Yacht Club by Crossfields in their Beach Walk boatyard on the shore at Arnside.

Mr Simpson said: ‘While there were Crossfields boats elsewhere, there were none in Arnside. Few people knew about our boat building heritage. Bringing Severn back to Arnside has reignited interest in our maritime heritage. It is surprising how many people have taken an interest in the boat.

‘Over the summer people were constantly stopping to take photos of the yacht.’

For landlubbers, an award of £50,000 to Morecambe Bay Partnership will explore the opportunities and the cost of a walking and cycling route alongside the Arnside rail viaduct. The idea has been around for years and the community group Arnside to Grange (AToG) has been working with Morecambe Partnership and others to see how this could happen.

The idea comes from the local community who used to enjoy walking across the viaduct on Christmas Day. But a decade ago it was stopped for safety reasons and the idea to build a new footpath/cyclepath along the side of the viaduct was born.

Susannah Bleakley, chief executive of Morecambe Bay Partnership said: ‘We are excited to be leading this project, working closely with the local Arnside to Grange community group, investigating whether or not it’s possible to cross the bay on foot and by bike using Arnside viaduct, linking communities along the coast.

‘We will be exploring where the route could go, if it’s worth the investment and whether there would be more positives than negatives. If the studies show it’s a good investment we’ll have everything we need to raise funds to build the route.’

This connection will create a vital link in the English Coastal Path, and offer a new route for the Bay Cycle Way, creating a new circular route starting from either Grange or Arnside stations.

At 2,800 miles, the England Coast Path will be the longest managed and way-marked coastal path in the world when it opens fully in 2022. The present plans are for the Coastal Path to have a halt between Grange and Arnside with the railway forming the link. This footway link could plug that gap.

Evidence from other long distance cycling and walking routes suggest that more walkers and cyclists could bring a very significant boost to the local economy.

Susannah added: ‘Our vision is for a thriving bay rich in heritage and wildlife – a place where culture and history is celebrated, appreciated and understood and which inspires and attracts visitors and local people.’

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