An easy-going walk, yet fascinating with its continuous changes of scenery.
Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 426ft (130m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Little bit of everything, 10 stiles
Landscape Pot-pourri of woodland, pasture, village lanes and shoreline
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL7 The English Lakes (SE)
Start/finish SD 471759
Dog friendliness Can run free on shore and in woods
Parking Small National Trust car park for Eaves Wood
Public toilets In Silverdale village
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 From the end of the National Trust car park at Eaves Wood, follow the footpath to a T-junction. Go right a few paces then left, climbing gently. Keep left to the beech ring, then straight on. Descend through a complex junction to a high wall and continue on this line to a lane.
2 Cross on to a track signed 'Cove Road'. Keep ahead down a narrow path (Wallings Lane), a drive, another track and another narrow path to a wider road. After 200yds (183m) go left down Cove Road.
3 From the Cove walk leftward, below the cliffs, to the shore. Walk up the road to Beach Garage then take the footpath alongside.
4 At the next road turn right for 600yds (549m) then bear right down Gibraltar Lane for 350yds (320m). Enter the National Trust property of Jack Scout.
5 Descend left to the limekiln then follow a narrowing path directly away from it. This swings left above a steep drop and descends. Follow a broad green path to a gate. After 100yds (91m), another gate leads into the lane. At its end bear left below Brown's Houses. Follow the edge of the salt marsh to a stile, go up slightly, then along to a signpost.
6 Turn left, climbing steeply to an awkward squeeze stile. The gradient eases, over rock and through a lightly wooded area into the open. Go left to a stile then follow a wall down and into a small wood. Follow a track down right. Cross the road to a gap in the wall, descend, then walk below the crags to Woodwell.
7 The path signed 'The Green via cliff path' leads to a rocky staircase. At the top go straight ahead to join a broader path. Follow it left, slant right, then continue into woodland. A stile on the right and a narrow section lead to a road. Go right 100yds (91m), then left into The Green. Keep right at a junction then join a wider road.
8 Go left for 75yds (69m) then right, signposted 'Burton Well Lambert's Meadow'. The track soon descends then swings left, passing Burton Well on the right. Cross a stile into Lambert's Meadow, then go right, over a footbridge to a gate. Climb up, with some steps, and continue more easily to a fork. Go left alongside a pool (Bank Well) into a lane. Go left and at the end the car park is virtually opposite.
The Arnside-Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is barely longer than its name, yet intricate and exquisite. Unfortunately - for this book, anyway - half of it is in Cumbria. This walk attempts the impossible, to sample all of its delights in one go.
The AONB covers a mere 29 square miles (75sq km) yet includes rocky coastline, salt marsh, wetland, pasture, woodland, heathland, crags and quarries, and some attractive villages, principally Silverdale in Lancashire and Arnside in Cumbria. With such a mosaic of habitats, it's no surprise that the area is rich in wildlife - more than half of all British flowering plant species are found here.
There's a fine start, through Eaves Wood with its yew trees and impressive beech ring, then the route sidles through the back lanes of Silverdale before reaching the coast. The channels of Morecambe Bay shift over time and so does the shoreline. The band of salt marsh around the Cove has shrunk drastically in the last few years. In future it may become more difficult to follow the shore, at least at high tide. (Fortunately the footpath across The Lots, just above, offers a ready-made alternative.)
The described route avoids a tricky section of the coast south of Silverdale, returning to the shore near Jenny Brown's Point. The breakwater running out to sea recalls a failed 19th-century land reclamation scheme. Just around the corner stands the tall chimney of a copper smelting mill that operated around 200 years ago.
After Heald Brow comes Woodwell, the first of three 'wells' (actually springs) on the walk. At Woodwell the water issues from the crag above the square pool. This was used for watering cattle but now you're more likely to see dragonflies. Woodwell and the other 'wells' around Silverdale are found where the water-permeable limestone is interrupted by a band of impermeable material such as clay. Rainfall generally sinks quickly into limestone and there are no surface streams over most of the area, so the springs were of vital importance. This rapid drainage also means that relatively few of the footpaths are persistently muddy, even after heavy rain.
Lambert's Meadow, however, is usually damp. It sits in a hollow where fine wind-blown silt (known as loess) accumulated after the last ice age. The soil is dark and acidic, very different from that formed on the limestone, and the plant community is different too.
The Leighton Moss RSPB reserve and nearby Leighton Hall are obvious attractions, but for something different (and free) pop in to Trowbarrow Quarry. Last worked in 1959, the quarry is now a Local Nature Reserve, and it's also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its geology. Most striking is the near-vertical Main Wall, basically an upturned slice of fossil sea-bed. Trowbarrow is also very popular with rock climbers.
If you do this walk in winter, you'll see huge flocks of wading birds around the shoreline. Morecambe Bay is an internationally important site for migrants and over-wintering birds. In spring listen, rather than look, for the rare bittern. This relative of the heron is rarely seen but its booming courtship call - like someone blowing across the top of a milk bottle - can be heard up to a mile (1.6km) away.
The tea room at Wolf House Gallery is a great spot for mid-walk refreshments, as long as you can find a table. For post-walk celebrations, head for the New Inn in the nearby village of Yealand Conyers. There's good food and beer, a small cosy bar, a non-smoking dining room and a walled beer garden that's delightful on summer evenings.