I find myself climbing a minor limestone cliff on a ‘footpath’ in the environs of Silverdale. That was not what I wanted with my dodgy knee. I push on, having to check my position using my phone and eventually reappear onto lanes I recognise and make it back to Leighton Moss car park at the end of a grand outing.
We are a very diverse county, last week I was in the industrial eastern mill valleys. Now I’m on the coastal fringe in sylvan limestone country. Limestone knolls and salt marches around Silverdale. I should have come by train to Silverdale Station as the guide book hints at, I reflect upon that and think long and hard how I could reduce my car mileage by taking the train in future. One problem that as I live in Longridge I have to take a bus into Preston and then walk across to the station, there is no integrated transport connection. That is just an excuse. But there again they are on strike this weekend – you can’t win.
Walk 19 of Mark Sutcliffe’s guide, Silverdale and Wharton Crag. I can’t find anywhere to park at the station so drive around to Leighton Moss, the RSPB reserve and centre. As a member I feel justified using their car park. I’m the only one without a telescopic scope heading for the causeway across the march. I wonder why there is a causeway in the first place. Halfway across is a bird hide with views across the open water. There are swans and cormorants, ducks and geese. My camera is in for repair, I am reliant on my inadequate phone so don’t waste much time on photography.
At the end of the causeway a lane leads up into the grounds of Leighton Hall. This was the home of legendary Lancaster furniture magnate, Richard Gillow, it is still in the family. Today it is closed to visitors, but there are sounds of shooting from the woods above. It is open pheasant shooting season, and it doesn’t sit well with the RSPB reserve below. Do these toffs still need to carry out these barbaric practices? They can be seen heading for a resplendent lunch before making a reappearance later in the day.
The energetic hill ahead of me soon clears my militant thoughts. At the top there are seats with views back over Leighton Hall, the marshes, limestone escarpments and far away the Lakeland Hills. What a grand day to be out.
I relax on quiet country lanes until a sudden right turn up a steep bridleway has me huffing and puffing, the path is obvious taking me into the Wharton Nature Reserve. I have inadvertently left my trekking poles at home and miss their aid and added stability on the steep rocky ground. The limestone bedrock pokes through the surface giving a slippery passage.
Not sure how I find myself on the summit of Warton Crag but here is the trig point and the metal beacon. I find a place to sit and look out at the view across the sands of Morecambe Bay. Checking the surroundings for stray dogs I get out my sandwich and flask. What a place for a picnic.
Back at the bridleway, Occupation Road an old drover’s lane, which takes me down to Crag Foot with its chimney. The chimney once served a coal-fired water pump which drained land now occupied by the Leighton Moss reserve. Rising coal prices during the First World War led to the discontinuation of pumping and waterlogging of the once very productive farmland.
The path across the marshes is flooded in places, but I arrive at Jenny Brown’s Point virtually dry footed. There are good view back to Warton Crag. The chimney here is the remains of a short-lived copper smelting project in the 1780s.
The house at the point doesn’t want people using the public right of way through their property and have a plethora of Private Signs this side. I balance past precariously outside their wall only to find more helpful signs on the other side. (I love these Peak and Northern Footpath signs which keep cropping up in my posts) In future, I will know which way to take. Presumably when they purchased the property they were aware of the right of way, I put this down to arrogance on their part.
The lane is familiar to me, I could have taken paths along the cliff faces, but I’m happy to stroll into the outskirts of Silverdale. It was from there that following the guide’s route felt at odds, I was clueless as to my whereabouts and was hoping ‘beatingthebounds’ would make an appearance to direct me across Lambert’s Meadow, but I made it back. Time for a brew with Sir Hugh in nearby Arnside.