Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Countryside Walk in Arnside

One quintessentially British thing is walking in the countryside. Such walks are so engrained in the culture that a large system of public rights of way crisscrosses the country, and indeed many towns, villages, and cities. People used to travel on foot quite a bit and still do, if only for leisure now rather than necessity then. I finally broke down and tried out a countryside walk during our visit to Arnside.

Fabulous English countryside

Our hotel provided a map of the area, which included several suggested walks. Once the children were in bed, I was left with a sun-drenched July evening. I examined the map and picked a route that seemed interesting if not circular. It led out to a spot called "Fairy Steps," which seemed promising to me.

I went down the street, around a corner, and down another street to get to the first gate that would leave me into more rural settings. This gate is actually a crossing for a railway so the signs on it are especially cautionary.

Train gate

I stopped, looked, and listened. Seeing and hearing nothing, I crossed the tracks into a field with a small public pathway fenced off for humans. On either side of me were sheep and cows grazing lazily in the sunny Saturday evening.

Sheep were shy

Cows were curious

The path led to a small bridge and a gate that led to an open field. Nearby was a signpost that pointed in one direction across the field to the Fairy Steps far beyond in the east and in another direction over a stile to a fenced path heading north.

Bridge over a small stream

Decision point with a simple stile for humans to cross

My path was supposed to cross the field but I didn't see any track in the grass nor did I see the other end of the path. I did see a mixture of cows and sheep having their evening meal. They probably eliminated the path, though with dead reckoning I could probably have come out alright. Nevertheless, I chickened out and took the stile across the small creek to a path I could easily see. This decision turned my one-way back and forth trip into a round trip, which was probably better for seeing more.

The new northerly path led through a field that had just been mowed. The grass was still there, drying out. It smelled wonderful.

Mowed field with path on right

Another stile led into an unmowed field. The grass was as high as my shoulder. I thought about snakes and then tried not to think about them. England isn't really famous for snakes, right?

Even simpler stile

A path among the grass

My map said this path would lead to a road and soon enough, I was there.

Running out of grass

Across the street was another path that followed an old rail bed. This path, however, is not a public right of way but as the signs said, it is a concessionary path. This means that the public is allowed by the land owner to use the path but the public has no right to use it and it may be closed at certain times or certain days. That day it was open, so I was free to walk the path.

Entrance to the concessionary footpath

How I knew it was concessionary (and it was an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty)

The area is being preserved as a saltmarsh sanctuary for birds to breed in. All I saw were a few scattered sheep grazing here and there. I stayed on the embankment which seemed pretty clearly where the old railway tracks had been laid.

Saltmarsh with a few sheep on it

The old railbed, I presume

The railbed ended at another gate. This gate had a kissing gate which allows people but not animals to get through. Presumably the animals aren't smart enough. The gate is a simple enclosure with a swinging gate that is not latched on either side. People open the gate, walk into the enclosure, swing the gate back to its original position, and then exit the other side. It makes more sense seeing it than reading about it.

Another gate

Kissing gate

A short road on the other side of the gate led quite naturally to the Arnside Railway station, where the new tracks are.

The station's platform with the path continuing on the extreme right

View from the train bridge

View of the train bridge

Across the street, another fenced in path led up the hill back into town. I heard a whistle blowing behind me and turned around to see the 8:14 train pulling in to the station.

Path back to the station

I turned my back on the train and headed along the pathway into the town. The path passed right next to a church, virtually through its parking area and into a walkway with stone walls on either side.

St. James Church

Public footpath continues

I followed this path to another road, where it crossed again and became a path with a hedge and a stone wall.

A more friendly path?

Passing another church

This path led onto one of the first roads of my walk, about a block south of the road leading to our hotel. I returned easily and spent another hour or so on the picnic tables out back, reading my book and enjoying a mug of tea. It was a fine evening.

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