Silverdale Travelling. Morecambe Bay
The Cumbria Coastal Way
by Ian and Krysia Brodie
Silverdale Travelling. Morecambe Bay
Silverdale. The first section of the walk leads from the Lancashire Coastal Path round the imposing estuary where the Rivers Kent and Leven and their tributaries merge into the tidal expanse. Before tracks were turnpiked or the railways constructed, most people travelling north crossed the sands of Morecambe Bay. Whilst there are still fishermen who seek a living on the estuary in traditional ways there are also ‘salaried’ sand pilots to guide people over the Kent and Leven Sands at low water.
Around 350 million years ago the eroded hills that once formed a central dome in primeval Lakeland gradually sank beneath the sea and were covered with marine sediments which formed carboniferous limestone. The rock is best seen on the shores of Morecambe Bay and on the Duddon estuary. Limestone produces a distinctive landscape and supports a special flora and, being an integral part of the smelting process, was important to the former iron industry of the Cumbrian coast.
After The Wash, Morecambe Bay is the largest area of intertidal estuarine flats in Britain. This SSSI stretches from Heysham to Walney Island lighthouse and is of international significance for overwintering wildfowl. It provides vital feeding and roosting grounds for migrating birds, and part of the bay is an RSPB reserve. Overwintering birds include oystercatcher, dunlin, knot, curlew, redshank, bar-tailed godwit, grey plover and ringed plover. Some of these birds nest round the bay, as do species such as lapwing, snipe, wheatear, reed bunting, common tern, sedge warbler and linnet. Ducks include shelduck, pintail, eider, goldeneye and redbreasted merganser.
The saltmarshes that fringe the bay are important for their diverse vegetation which support a number of rare plants as well as nationally scarce invertebrates. Most of the intertidal flats consist of fine sand and silts, with some muddy areas. Cockle and mussel beds are a feature of the bay, as are scars or skeers (stony outcrops which are the remains of glacial drumlins). Estuaries reflect light in different ways and at different states of the tide; they are constantly changing. This first section of the route gives ample opportunity to sample this whilst offering excellent photographic opportunities.
Walney Island can be reached from Barrow-in-Furness. A good full day’s walk is needed to explore much of this island with its archaeological sites and renowned nature reserves at north and south ends. The island, providing sheltered harbouring and relatively flat land for housing development, played its part in the development of Barrow. Transport and Accommodation
This section can be reached easily by rail to Silverdale or to Arnside. There are good supporting train services all the way between Silverdale and Barrow thus enabling day walkers to plan their route easily. The following make long full-day walks: Arnside to Grange; Grange to Ulverston; and Ulverston to Barrow. This section is well served by the Furness Coast railway line. There are stations at Carnforth and Silverdale in Lancashire, Arnside, Grange-over-Sands, Kents Bank, Cark and Cartmel, Ulverston, Dalton, Roose and Barrow-in Furness.
Silverdale. A number of bus services connect with the walk, but with limited Sunday services:
- 55 Carnforth–Silverdale (not Sunday)
- 430 Carnforth–Silverdale (Tuesday and Thursday only)
- LL1 Lancaster–Carnforth–Silverdale–Arnside (Sunday only)
- 550 Kendal–Milnthorpe–Silverdale (not Sunday)
- 552 Kendal–Levens–Milnthorpe–Arnside (not Sunday)
- 555 Lancaster–Kendal and on to Keswick and some to Carlisle
- 530/531 Kendal–Grange–Cartmel (Wednesday only)
- 532 Grange area local service
- 10 or 11 Barrow–Roa Island–Ulverston
- 1/1A Furness Hospital, Barrow and Biggar Bank (Walney). Service 6 also goes to Walney West Shore
- X35 Kendal–Grange–Ulverston–Barrow
- There is a shuttle bus around Silverdale village from the station.
For walkers undertaking the full or a significant part of the route the following schedule is recommended. Each day’s destination offers accommodation.
Day 1 Silverdale to Arnside
Day 2 Arnside to Grange (with accommodation also at Levens)
Day 3 Grange to Ulverston (with accommodation also available in Cark, Cartmel and Greenodd)
Day 4 Ulverston to Barrow (with limited accommodation in Bardsea, Baycliff and Rampside)
There is a youth hostel at Arnside; camping may be available at Silverdale, Arnside, Sampool (Levens), Grange and Piel Island.
The relevant TICs are Morecambe (Silverdale area), Kendal (Arnside and Levens), Grange (Cartmel Peninsula), Ulverston and Barrow.
The Cumbria Coastal Way actually starts on the border between Cumbria and Lancashire, but our walk starts at Silverdale railway station and follows the last few miles of the Lancashire Coastal Path to the county border. This section traverses low cliffs, open coast and rich woodland. After passing Silverdale the route passes near to Arnside Tower, an imposing pele tower, built in the 15th century to provide safety from Scottish raiders.
The bulk of Arnside Knott forms a distinctive feature on this stretch. An SSSI, the designated area stretches from the shore to the far side of the lumpy fell. Beyond the second caravan site to the shore-side area are herbrich calcareous grasslands and woods that are home to several butterfly species: the Scotch argus, the Duke of Burgundy, high brown fritillary, pearl-bordered fritillary, northern brown argus, grayling and green hairstreak. Common lizards flit across the stones or bathe in the sun, whilst the tree species include Lancastrian whitebeam, small-leaved lime and the wild service tree. (A guide to wild flowers would prove of benefit to all sections of the Cumbria Coastal Way.)