Thursday, April 11, 2013

Walk 317 -- Arnside to Morecambe

Ages:  Colin was 70 years and 338 days.  Rosemary was 68 years and 115 days.
Weather:  Cold breeze.  Poor visibility.  ‘Flat’ light (for photography).  Rain in the middle of Walk lasting three hours.
Location:  Arnside to Morecambe.
Distance:  15 miles.
Total distance:  3247 miles.
Terrain:  Some concrete/tarmac.  Woodland paths.  Squishy marsh with rivulets.  Shingle and muddy beaches.  Mostly flat, some undulating.
Tide:  Coming in — FAST!  Then going out.
Rivers: No.393, River Keer.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.401 & 402 as we approached Silverdale.
Pubs:  None.
‘English Heritage’ properties:  No.50, Warton Old Rectory which we visited on a different day.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  No.68, at Silverdale — because the tide was in covering the official coastal path.  No. 69, past Silverdale where there was a ‘disputed right of way’.
How we got there and back:  Yesterday we towed our caravan from home and set it up on a site in the southern fringes of Blackpool.  This morning we drove to Morecambe and parked on the seafront for free a little to the north of the centre — half a mile further south we would have had to pay £8 for the day!  We walked to the station and caught a train via Lancaster to Arnside.  There we walked about a hundred yards to the southern end of the railway viaduct across the Kent Channel.
At the end we came to our car parked on Morecambe seafront.  We had our tea and chocolate biscuits, then drove back to our caravan in Blackpool.

Here we are, back in the Spring and hoping for drier weather for our Walks than we had last Summer.  Colin had a set-back last December — he began to realise, with horror, that his artificial sphincter wasn’t working as well as it should.  By Christmas it had completely packed up, and he was as incontinent as he had been just after his prostatectomy back in 2002.   He was told, when he had the sphincter inserted back in 2005, that it would last about fifteen years — it lasted just half that.  If he wasn’t so active it wouldn’t be nearly such a problem, but then he wouldn’t be himself if he slowed up.  To watch him living his life, you’d never believe that he was approaching his 71st birthday!
He got an appointment with a urologist at our local hospital, a Mr Chen, who told him they “didn’t do” replacement sphincters and he would just have to put up with the incontinence for the rest of his life.  Although very depressed, he didn’t accept that.  He persisted, and eventually he was referred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham to see the top urologist in the country — a man described as “brilliant”!  Mr Almallah told him a replacement sphincter was one of the options (so much for Mr Chen), but first he wanted to find out why the sphincter had failed.  Colin would have to go through a series of tests, and that is as far as we have got.  Appointments are very slow in coming through.
Meanwhile, Colin has to wear the biggest size pads which are available, and they frequently need changing, sometimes with urgency.  It makes life very difficult, especially when we are away from home.  But one good thing is that we both now own a ‘Radar’ key which lets us into every disabled public toilet in Britain for free!
We started our Walk in Arnside at the end of the railway bridge across the Kent Channel.  Almost immediately we came to a public toilet which would have cost us 20p each to enter — so we used our ‘Radar’ keys for the very first time!  We were very glad to have them because we found that most of the public toilets on this north-west coast, and on into Wales, were charging to enter.  It would have cost us a small fortune, especially Colin.
Arnside is a pretty seaside village, pity it was such a grey day.  We passed the village pump trough which was used until the 1880s when mains water arrived.  We passed a clock which was a memorial to an early 20th century vicar and his family, and we walked on to a little stone pier.  This pier was built in 1857 by the railway company when the railway viaduct was constructed, blocking ships from reaching the port of Milnthorpe further up the Kent estuary.  (I wonder what the people of Milnthorpe thought about that!)  The pier was destroyed by a storm in 1983, then restored by public subscription, reopening a year later.  I don’t know if it is used even by pleasure craft today, but certainly not when the tide is out!
We met a young couple on holiday with their baby, and stopped for a chat.  We all agreed that Arnside is a lovely little place, well worth visiting.  We saw a baker’s shop across the road, so we bought fresh pasties and sat on a seat to consume them while they were still warm.  Delicious!
We passed a water fountain (not working) which was also a memorial to somebody, we think a child.  And we were bothered by two young boys walking along kicking a football backwards and forwards.  They were with their mother who seemed oblivious to the fact that they were continually dodging round us as we walked along — we found them such a nuisance, we were almost tripping over them.
Fortunately the ball went over the wall on to the beach, I knew it would, and they followed it down there much to our relief.  We dawdled to take photographs and let them get well ahead.  We stopped to look at a tree stump that had started to put out shoots, I’m sure it was saying, “Down, but not out — I’m not dead yet!”
At the end of the promenade was a notice warning us of “extreme danger” because of fast rising tides, quicksands and hidden channels.  (This is the notorious Morecambe Bay they were talking about, a warning not to be ignored.)  The coast path led down on to the beach, and it was there that we heard a siren start up.  It sounded like a Second World War air raid siren, but it’s purpose is to warn that the tide is coming in fast so get off the sands quick!
But two canoeists nearby did just the opposite.  On hearing the siren they picked up their inflatable canoes and went out into the water.  We overheard one warning the other, “Remember it turns you when you get out in it!”  But he couldn’t cope because almost straight away the water flipped him over and he fell in.  They didn’t stay out there any longer, I think they were too cold.
The siren went again, and then we saw the tide coming in as a wave — it reminded me of the Severn Bore.  It was racing, far faster than a man can run!  Now we understand how it kills people.
The going got rougher and most of the other walkers turned back (including the nuisance boys with their football!)  But we are hardy souls so we carried on.  Occasionally we had to scramble round a few rocks, there was just enough room on the sandy beach. We could see Grange-over-Sands across the water.  We had to go a bit inland at New Barns Bay in order to cross a deep ditch on a little bridge.  Then it was out to Blackstone Point where the wind was quite keen.
We walked out a bit on the sand to take photos of each other, but we had to be careful as the sand was muddy and gooey.  We didn’t want to slip, so we kept to the very top of the beach as we rounded the Point.

We passed an interesting rock — we thought it was a granite lying end-on so it displayed all its hexagonal shapes.   We also passed a tree swing in the woods lining the beach — Colin had to have a go, of course!
We were still on the beach as we crossed a small bay.  We hadn’t seen any path leading off the beach, but when we got to the further end of the bay the beach ran out.  We looked around, puzzled.  Then Colin noticed a memorial bench on top of the low cliff lining the bay, but how to get up there?  We back-tracked a little, then we pushed our way through bushes up a steep slope until we emerged on to a lovely woodland path which passed the seat.  We had no idea where we should have got on to it, we must have completely missed the turning.
Our way forward was now clear, and very pleasant too.  Walking in woodland, especially in the Spring, is my favourite walking environment — well, I can’t really decide between that and a firm sandy beach ‘twixt dunes and rolling surf, both are wonderful.  We noticed there were no leaves budding on the trees even though we are well into April — it’s the legacy of the long and cold Winter we have just endured.  Spring is very late this year.
We met quite a few walkers, this wood seemed to be popular with the locals.  The path was a bit undulating and occasionally it split into two, but it always joined up again and we agreed it was a lovely path to walk.  It’s main advantage was that it was sheltered from the wind.  It had good views on the sea side, and we could see Silverdale ahead.
We came across a bed of wild daffodils!  It was a lovely show, a dash of bright yellow in this mono-colour wood.  It really was refreshing to see them, we have been getting impatient for Spring to appear this year.  The path led us away up a steep slope, and soon we emerged into a holiday park.  Outside the main building two stone piggies guarded a pot of crocuses.
We walked down to the road and turned towards Silverdale.  In an adjacent field were some belted Galloway cattle, and one of them had a lovely furry calf — cute!  (Actually, as it turned towards us we saw that it was an ugly brute really, but “aaaaaaahh!” all the same!)
We crossed the border into Lancashire, so that’s done with Cumbria.  In an adjacent field we saw a number of llamas — “aaaaaaahh!” all over again!
Further down we turned off the road and walked down to the beach where we sat and ate our sarnies.  We idly watched a fisherman on the rocks below, he didn’t seem to catch anything.
The tide was right in by then so we couldn’t take the official coast path along the beach — it was under water!  So we climbed up a hill and over several fields to the southern fringes of Silverton.  At the end of a residential road, Colin noticed a ‘temporary footpath diversion’ notice because of a ‘disputed right of way’.  We dithered as to whether we should ignore it because, on our OS map, that track was the way-marked coast path.  But…….Colin was feeling miserable coping with his incontinence — the first time he has had to do it on a long walk — and he didn’t want a confrontation with the landowner to add to his troubles.  Also, we noted from the map that the second bit of the disputed path was along the beach.  The tide was right in, and we had just seen what happened to the beach path from our lunch stop.  So we chose the diversion route, which was shorter anyway but further from the sea.
The trouble was, this route was in fields up a hill.  It continued back down to the marsh where it was uneven and steep with some deep steps.  I found it quite difficult to negotiate with my monocular vision.  We met a couple coming the other way.  They were local, and told us that the landowner who is disputing the right of way through his farm had been shouting at people who were using the path.  He claimed they upset his dog whose barking upsets his sheep, but we suggested that hadn’t perhaps his shouting something to do with these upsets?  We were so glad we didn’t go that way — we don’t like confrontations of any sort, even when we are in the right.
At the bottom of the bank we caught up with the official path again.  We crossed the marsh on the flat, and found ourselves inadvertently ‘herding’ sheep again — we wondered if they belonged to the shouting farmer.  According to the map, the footpath goes more or less in a straight line across the marsh, but that footpath was simply not there in the field.  We realised it had been diverted to the river bank (“Quicksand Pool” marked on the map!) which was longer, but at least our boots remained dry.  We went under the railway and out to the road where we sat and ate our first chocolate.  It started to rain, so we put the cameras away.
From that point we had a choice of routes, two parallel roads both of which led to Carnforth.  The official coast path took the more inland of the two routes, probably because it is a much quieter way trafficwise.  But we chose the road nearer the coast because we didn’t want to climb another hill and it was shorter than the official route.  We put on our high-viz waistcoats and marched on.  The road wasn’t too busy, we’ve walked worse.  The rain increased in intensity, so we stopped in a field gateway and donned full wet-weather gear with high-viz waistcoats on top.  We carried on marching.  Colin noticed a parallel concrete track on the other side of the hedge, so we went through the next gate and walked away from the traffic until this track diverted.  We exited through the next gate back to the road, but we were nearly in Carnforth by then.  We crossed over the railway and followed the track along to a footbridge over the River Keer.  There we sat on a bench, in the wet, and ate our apples. 
Warton  Old  Rectory 
About a mile inland from Carnforth is a 14th century stone house which served as a residence and courthouse for the wealthy rectors of the village of Warton.  We visited it on a different day when the weather, unlike the day of the Walk, was warm and sunny.
It is a ruin, of course, and there isn’t much of it left.  But it made an interesting diversion on one of our ‘rest’ days. 
Back to the Walk:
Having crossed the river, we followed a road, then diverted on to a footpath along the edge of the marsh.  There were notices warning of quicksands, but we found it was the rivulets crossing our path which were the main problem.  It was quite slippery in places, and we found this stretch to be a tricky bit of walking, but at least it had the decency to stop raining while we were negotiating it.  I was feeling very tired by now.
Eventually the going became more even.  We couldn’t get over the amount of rubbish that had been washed up to the top of the marsh, obviously brought in by very high tides.  Makes you wonder just how much there is in the sea.  We were in more civilised country now, with people walking their dogs.  Some of them were going right out on the sands because the tide had receded almost out of sight.  We hoped they knew their way back across the quicksands!
We came up to a building and the path suddenly seemed to deteriorate into nothingness.  The beach was far too rocky to walk on beyond this point, and we didn’t know which way to proceed.  We looked around, puzzled, then Colin saw a notice with an arrow behind a wall.  He climbed up there and found there was a very narrow concrete step between the wall and the building.  We stepped over it (good job we were slim enough!) and found it led into a small caravan park.  On the other side of this we stepped over a similar stile into a field.  After a couple of fields, we had to divert sideways to ‘escape’ back to the beach through a narrow gap in the wall.  Initiative test passed!
We had at least another mile of beach-walking ahead of us.  This beach was shelly in places, and quite tricky walking.  It was squidgy and rocky with more of the dreaded rivulets — not easy.  We were relieved to emerge into ‘civilisation’ again at a leisure club.  Through the car park we came out on to a busy road, but were pleased to find a ‘shared path’ (pedestrians and cyclists) led parallel to it until we reached the northern end of Morecambe promenade, so we were well away from the traffic.
We didn’t think much of the beach, it was more mud than sand.  This is probably why Morecambe, like Bognor, has a reputation of being a run-down resort.  We passed a ‘Welcome to Morecambe’ sign, so we knew we were nearly at the end of today’s trek.  Beyond the sign was a fine sculpture of a mother swinging her child round like an aeroplane — a thing small children love to do.  (I can remember adults doing it to me when I was about five, and I cried, “More!  More!” until I was giddy and they were exhausted.  Halcyon days!)
We passed a seawater swimming-cum-boating pool just below the prom — sea-swimming must be difficult in Morecambe because of the huge tides.  Then we came to a shallow harbour with stranded boats because the tide was by now far out.  Eventually we came to our car, parked on the road by the prom.

That ended Walk no.317, we shall pick up Walk no.318 on Morecambe seafront.   It was twenty past seven, so the Walk had taken us nine hours and twenty minutes.  We had our tea and chocolate biscuits, then drove back to our caravan in Blackpool.

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