Arnside – on the Lancashire/Cumbria border – is one of those places you pass by (with little, if any, thought) on the way to the Lake District. Ignoring it – as I have often done – is unfair, though. Looking to walk somewhere that I hoped would be quiet (and was), on a Saturday that hinted at a soon-to-be spring, I therefore parked early on the Promenade, and decided to be led by the signs drawing both the wary and unwary onwards and upwards to the summit of ‘The Knott’.
I know I’m not as fit as I once was (by a very long way): and the increasingly steep 159-metre climb from sea-level left me gasping for air, and in worse shape – temporarily – than the trees sculpted and stunted by the permanent on-shore winds (gusting up to fifty miles per hour, when I was there: although it felt like such gusts were actually the norm…). Fortunately, once you leave behind the bigger houses, with the bigger views, there are frequent benches for the weary of limb, but ambitious (and stubborn) of mind – although often at view-points (and, therefore, gust-points) that turn into one vast, glorious panorama, as you near the top.
I’m sure, on a clear day, the vista of the Lakeland fells would be more than enough reward; but, even on a day marked by gloom (only lifting in my rear-view mirror, as I headed back towards the M6), there was an air of rugged, blurred mystery about the scene below me: looking across to Grange-over-Sands and along Morecambe Bay and the Kent Estuary – clogged with orange, grey and dull brown, dangerous, deceiving sands – and this was sufficient a prize (along with knowing that I had, for a moment, overcome the permanent pain that sears through my body, that would hold me back; and appearing to be the only soul around).
If it hadn’t been so very breezy and chill up there (even the birds were hiding – apart from the odd intrepid, acrobatic raven), I would have stayed longer – there are paths and paths to be followed and tempted by: of scree, grass, rock, and occasionally mud. Even with gloves, and many layers, the plethora of coffee-shops and cafés on the Promenade was too tempting. My timing was good, as well: as, descending, I met a large party of hail fellows well met, who had cleared the tables of one of those eateries before setting off to also conquer the local summit.
The town itself puts up a staunch front against the prevailing weather; and, I suppose, could appear forbidding in its apparent greyness. However, it is an honest place; and the houses jostle agreeably for position and prospect on the slopes down to the Prom: a short walk taking you past what looked (and smelled) like an excellent chippy (not quite open for lunch) to a typically scenic coastal railway station – its long line stretching purposefully across the tide to Grange and beyond.
Returning to the town via Church Hill, I headed off, suitably fortified, towards New Barns Bay. I should have left my walking boots on, though: as the concrete path soon crumbles, once past the lifeboat station and old boatyard – so I sat, photographed, and collected my thoughts.
Definitely a place worth returning to: when the sun is shining (and not just a broken promise); the breezes are gentle; when the fish and chip shop is open. However, then, I fear, I will be amongst crowds – some of whom learned long ago of its secretive and subtle delights.