A Families Weekend at Ours

I haven’t fallen out of love with blogging, I’ve just been preposterously busy; and then, the further one gets behind, the more daunting the prospect of catching up becomes.

So – hopefully on the road to catching-up – a weekend back in September. What has become one of the many regular fixtures in our calendar – a gaggle of friends dropping in for a weekend in the Arnside/Silverdale AONB. We can just about squeeze them all in, although some have to sleep on the drive in their campervan. Two years ago the weather was rotten. Last year it was superb. This year it was….well, neither one nor the other really.

On the Saturday, when we finally dragged ourselves away from copious cups of tea around the kitchen table, we walked down through Fleagarth Wood to Jenny Brown’s Point and then back via Jack Scout and very possibly the Lots and the Cove.

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Near Jenny Brown’s Cottages there were numerous and varied fossils in the rocks.

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Most impressive (I’m hoping the Andy’s photos do them more justice than mine), but I can’t work out how I’ve walked past them hundreds of times in the 20 years I’ve lived in the area without noticing them before.

As in previous years, we rounded off our Saturday with a very fine sample of dishes from our local Indian take-away. (I’m very fond of the Handi Achar, but the Kursi Chicken was very good too. So much so that it may be my new favourite.)

The weather on Sunday showed much more promise and we were full of hope as we crossed the causeway at Leighton Moss (soon afterward the scene of the BBC’s AutumnWatch).

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But when we stopped for some lunch on the benches on Summer House Hill above Leighton Hall, there was a rather cold wind….

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…and we watched a curious blanket of low cloud enveloping the view and putting a bit of a damper on the day.

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We decided to abandon our plan of an ascent of Warton Crag and instead went to explore Cringlebarrow, Deepdale, Yealand Allotment and the environs of Hawes Water – which, according to some younger members of the party, was much too long a walk even without the addition of Warton Crag.

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Anyway – a very fine weekend. The ankle-biters are firmly of the opinion that we should have two such weekends next year……

A Families Weekend at Ours

A Weekend at Ours I – Golden Time

Steep shingle beach, Far Arnside

Our year revolves around a cycle of regular get-togethers with a group of old friends. A relatively recent addition to the programme is a family weekend in the autumn at our house.

Last year, the weekend was a complete wash-out, with wall-to-wall cloud and rain. So it was pleasing last week to look at the forecast and see, sandwiched between two bouts of foul wet weather, a fine weekend predicted, cold but dry.

In the event, after a hard frost early on, Saturday wasn’t cold at all. We opted for a walk to Arnside. Our daughter A asked for, and received (thanks G!), a local OS map for her birthday and happily took charge of the route planning and navigation. She managed to find a circuit which incorporated four playgrounds, so very child friendly.

How many on the zip wire? 

Here are some of the assembled ankle-biters, stress-testing the zip-wire at the first of those parks, which is just a few hundred yards from home.

From there we ambled through Holgates Caravan Park to the coast at Far Arnside (see the top photo). There are many fossilised corals on display in the rocks there.

Far Arnside Coral Fossil I 

I always forget to put something in the shot to give scale. This one above is quite large, perhaps almost a foot long. This…

Far Arnside Coral Fossil II 

…is a roughly football sized patch of these…

Far Arnside Coral Fossil III - detail 

This tessellation of irregular polygons…

Far Arnside Coral Fossil IV 

…was tiny.

(There’s a bit more about the fossils in this post.)

We took an early, and leisurely lunch on the rocks here, chiefly because it looked such an inviting place to sit in the sun.

Lunch Stop 

At Far Arnside we’d passed ivy absolutely thronging with bees. On the cliff path the scabious flowers were attracting hover-flies…

Hoverfly on Scabious 

A convenient rocky ramp….

Down to the beach 

…leads down from the cliff-top to…

 

…the wide open spaces of the sands. This has long been a favourite spot of mine and I was pleased that our friend D, the Junior Sherpa, was impressed. He isn’t easily impressed. The playgrounds were ‘mundane’. And I think he found our general lack of pace and ambition frustrating. After-all, he’s a seasoned mountain man these days. He was also keen to get back to the house for some ‘Golden Time’ with his friends. (No, I’m not sure what he meant either).

I couldn’t persuade D, or indeed anybody else, to taste the samphire which was thrusting up through the beach. I was pretty tentative myself, bit I did nibble a small piece. Salty. And reminiscent of something……,which I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

 Samphire

The first part of the river-bank walk into Arnside, on estuarine mud, was a sloppy, slip-sliding affair. Some of the children, well principally my boys, were coated, seemingly from head to foot.

There’s a spot on the bank where deadly night-shade grows every year, and we admired the smooth, shiny black berries from a respectful distance.

The tide warning siren at the Coastguard station was sounded a couple of times. We enjoyed an ice-cream on the promenade and watched the tidal bore shoot down past the viaduct.

From there, after a brief visit to another playground, we climbed up on to Arnside Knott.

Arnside Knott panorama 

The air was very clear and the views were stunning. A high-effort-to-view-ratio according to the Shandy Sherpa and the Adopted Yorkshireman.

A spot of tree climbing 

The kids were more interested in a bit of tree climbing.

Group photo 

The Next Generation.

I’d been boasting that the hills of North Wales could be seen from the Knott in the right conditions. It was certainly a clear day. We could see Skiddaw over Dunmail Raise, a ferry arriving from Ireland at Heysham, and Blackpool Tower down the coast. And also, apparently, the afore-mentioned hills of North Wales, which I missed, being too busy gabbing.

Our route home took us past Arnside Tower…

Arnside Tower

…and through Eaves Wood.

With sixteen to serve for tea, we settled on two sittings: simple pasta based fare for the kids and a fabulous take-away from our local Indian Restaurant, Cinnamon Spice, for the greying brigade. Heartily recommended by the way. I always go for the mixed kebab and Chicken Handi Achar. Everybody else seemed to enjoy their meals too. The onion bahjis were superb.

A lazy walk. Sunshine. Good company. Curry. A few beers. Loads of blather.

Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

A Weekend at Ours I – Golden Time

Far Arnside Fossils

A select band of just 4 walked back to Silverdale from Arnside. A and I were joined by another Father and Daughter team. They have moved away from Silverdale (but fortunately not too far away)  and so the girls had some catching-up to do. We soon became two parties. Although we often waited for the girls, somehow they contrived to almost immediately fall far behind again every time.

The weather was fabulous for February and I’ve probably eulogised before about the area around White Creek and Arnside Point, the vast spaces of the bay and the views of the hills which surround it.

 

Chris is an artist and it’s always fascinating to talk to him, especially when he talks, as he did on this occasion, about his painting and how his approach is evolving. You can see some of his paintings here.

He’s also much more observant than me and without his help I might never have found the many fossils we examined in the rocks at Far Arnside Bay.

One of the most rare and important geological exposures is on the western side of the beach at Far Arnside. Here a smooth bed of upper Dalton Limestone was exposed in 2000, when the salt marsh was eroded by the River Kent channel. The surface of this bed is called a ‘marine peneplaned hard-ground’. It was eroded by coarse calcareous sands shortly after the sediment became lithified (became solid rock). This scouring action cross-sectioned the bedrock and has produced a near-polished surface that now displays many perfectly persevered fossil corals. *

I’m not sure that we found the ‘near-polished surface’, perhaps I shall have to look again sometime. So are the fossils all corals then? I thought the one above looked like a fish and a piece of shell.

 Possibly a fossilised basketball?

 The ghost of an ammonite?

 This was about the right size to be a polo mint glued to the rock.

I’m happy to think that this is coral, so it’s probably the only one which isn’t!

The Kent channel seems to be a little further from the shore here than it was, and it has left behind a nice firm sandy surface, pleasant to walk on.

 

Things became a little stickier around the stream channels we crossed. Stand around for a while here and you will almost inevitably witness the collapse of part of the bank. It’s like watching the erosion of a river in time-lapse super-speed. It looks like an ox-bow lake, or maybe an oxbow pond, is in the making here.

 

The Cove.

*From the article ‘South Cumbrian Limestones in the Arnside Area’ by Mike Balderstone and Michael Dewey, originally printed in ‘Keer to Kent’ magazine and anthologised in ‘The Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ edited by Terry Keefe.

Far Arnside Fossils

Piel Island

 

Waiting on the jetty, the Roa Island Lifeboat station to the left and Piel castle just visible on the right of the picture.

We continued our exploration of the north side of the bay with a first ever trip to Piel Island. An interesting drive along the coast from Ulverston brought us to Roa Island – a tidal island connected to the mainland by a short causeway. From there we had the excitement of a brief boat trip across the channel on the Piel Ferry. After becoming frightened on a dinghy on Coniston Water earlier in the summer,A became quite hysterical about this trip, but the ferryman was very sympathetic and although she didn’t enjoy the journey, she was much more confident when it came time for our return trip.

The island has a ruined castle, a pub and a row of cottages.

The castle was clearly once very extensive. Built by the monks of Furness Abbey it protected their harbour here and their lucrative trade particularly with Ireland. It’s big moment in history came during the reign of Henry VII when Lambert Simnel, a pretender to the thrown supported by the Yorkist party, landed here from Ireland. The uprising was soundly defeated, but unusually the story has a happy ending for the puppet figurehead of the coup who was pardoned by Henry and given a job as spit turner in the royal kitchens.

The castle has both outer and inner walls, the latter quite well preserved except on the seaward side where the action of tide and waves has undermined and destroyed them. The keep is quite large and it looks as though it should be possible to explore the battlements, but sadly at present the access to those are barred by a locked grille.

 

The keep.

The wall corners and the edges of windows and doorways are all in the same red sandstone as Furness Abbey, but otherwise the walls are built of a more rough and ready rubble and mortar construction.

The sandstone was everywhere pocked and creased by erosion into fabulous miniature landscapes. The walls on close inspection turned out to be a haven for a wide variety of mini beasts. One wall of the keep was festooned with snails, at least until the boys pulled them all off.

More mobile and therefore not so easy to photograph were a tiny black and white wasp hauling the carcass of a pale spider up a wall, and the odd earwig like creature which B coaxed out of a narrow fissure and onto his coat. There were inevitably plenty of spiders taking advantage of the rich pickings.

With the white cross on its abdomen I think that this is our Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus. A little surfing leads me to believe the diadematus means crowned or wearing a diadem, perhaps a reference to that rather spectacular pattern. A more successful resident of the castle than old Lambert Simnel then (and isn’t that a name to conjure with?).

The island has a wild and stark beauty of its own. The beaches are shingle…

With stones of many hues, textures and types.

This was a feature of the beaches on the Baltic too, indeed the holiday home which we stopped in (a house swap – thoroughly recommended if you haven’t tried it) had copies of two colourful guide books – Strandsteine and Noch Mehr Strandsteine with identifying pictures of the geological treasures to be found.

I found a fossil here on the beach…

It’s the one on the right, on a desk at home. The circular striated pattern runs through to the other side of the stone. The fossil on the left I found in Germany. I think that it’s something like a Sea Urchin, it’s not really seen to best advantage here, but has a five neat lines of dots like a thin starfish on the bottom.

The top edge of the shingle was colonised by specialists like this Horned Poppy

All parts of which are apparently poisonous.

Or this Sea Campion with its gorgeous veined pattern…

Scarlet Pimpernel is rather less specialised and much more widespread, but as some common names imply – ‘change-of-the-weather’, ‘poor-man’s-weatherglass’, ‘shepherd’s-sundial’ – it closes in dull weather and so I offer this photo as evidence that despite the cloudy views on show we did have some sunshine!

At present camping on the island is free and a number of groups were taking advantage of that opportunity. There is a toilet block by the pub with a couple of showers. The pub is being refurbished but drinks and food can still be had. The publican is traditionally ‘King of Piel Island’ and I suspect that the pub will be well worth visiting when the new incumbents have restored the seat of their fiefdom.

We rounded of our day with a visit to the Lifeboat station on Roa Island…

…and an ice-cream in the cafe.

These handsome Starlings were feeding in the road by our car. I presume that the beige heads are because they are juveniles?

Piel Island