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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Walk 195 Grange over Sands, Arnside and Morecambe (Cumbria)

Walk 195 Grange over Sands, Arnside and Morecambe (Cumbria)

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 96/97
Distance: Kent Bank to Grange over Sands 2 miles/3 km approx. Arnsdie stroll is about a mile. Bolton Le Sands – Morecambe – Heysham -7 miles/11 km approx.
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: coastal path and pavement.
Access: Parking in all 3 places
Public transport: Trains between Barrow and Kent Bank/Grange over Sands and Arnside. Arnside to Morecambe - change at Lancaster. Buses 5 and 755 go regularly between Morecambe and Bolton Le Sands

The coastal path often cuts inland and is not very close to the sea so I opted to visit the three places above by train.

Kent Bank station is a mile or so before Grange over Sands. This area was originally on the estuary of the River Kent but the path of the river has changed over the years. Looking back from Kent Bank is Humphrey's Head which is now a nature reserve. Legend has it that the last wolf in England was killed here.

Follow the path into Grange over Sands. If you were expecting a nice sandy beach (as I was) then you will be disappointed. What is actually there is a kind of marsh land with treacherous sand underneath. Many people have died over the years when the tide rushes in. No access to the beach is allowed. On the positive side the coast around here is home to 200,000 wintering wildfowl.

It is worth a stroll back into the rather pleasant town of Grange with its welcoming lack of supermarkets and quite impressive church. I hope Lancasters, selling an extensive range of hardware and other goods, is still going. Near the station is an attractive lake with ornamental gardens which used to be part of the beach.

Arnside is worth a visit to get a good view of the coast northwards and down towards Morecambe Bay. The tide rushes up the estuary here and notices warn that they are fast rising resulting in quicksands. A siren alerts all in the locality of the incoming tide. To walk across Morecambe Bay Sands requires a local guide and should never be attempted alone. The death of many cockle pickers a few years back is a sad testament to this. Arnside itself was originally a fishing village which became a resort with the arrival of the railway. There is an interesting looking building (photo underneath) which is a bit of a mystery. The walk on to Arnside Knott, a nature reserve managed by the National Trust, gives superb views of the coast.

It is possible to start the next part of the walk from Silverdale. However, I did not like the look of the inland walk nor the marshes around Carnforth and opted to start the walk at Bolton Le Sands. This is a pleasant old village whose name originated from the need to distinguish it from Bolton, Lancs and other Boltons. The Lancaster Canal built in the 1790s is a feature of the village.

Continue the walk past Hest Bank and on to Bare on the outskirts of Morecambe. Keep strictly to the path especially near Hest Bank. The walk from here on follows the promenade and occasionally on pavement all the way down to Heysham.

Morecambe was a thriving resort in the mid twentieth century. It was home to the Miss Great Britain contest between 1956 and 1989. Look out for the 3D map which identifies the hills on the opposite side of Morecambe Bay.

Near the centre of the town, on the seafront, is the clocktower and nearby the art deco Midlands Hotel. On the seafront is a sculpture of Eric Morecambe (real name Eric Bartholemew) who came from the town. A great photo opportunity! The Stone Jetty displays some interesting artwork, it was originally a railway terminus, built in 1853, which served the Irish and Scottish ferries. You cannot miss the Polo Tower which is a remnant of an old 'themed' fun fair park. It was a mobile phone mast when I went but there were plans to develop it into a high-tech landmark. Further down the road is the old Morecambe Station, an impressive building which now houses the information centre. (The new station, about half a mile away, is much less impressive and is a one platform affair). The derelict Battery Pub may no longer be there but was a reminder of the decline of the town as a resort. Efforts are now being made to revive Morecambe. At Sandylands there is a plaque marking the removal of the last of the two piers and an aquarium in 1992.

The walk finishes nearing Heysham. A ferry service to the Isle of Man runs from here. I returned and walked back to the centre of Morecambe although I wished I'd got a bus back as the skies opened.

Photos show: Grange over Sands 'beach'; interesting but unidentified building in Arnside; Eric Morecambe sculpture in Morecambe; a view south of Morecambe towards Heysham. 

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