A caravanning season in South Cumbria
Words: Val Chapman Photos: Richard Chapman
Restrictions are constantly changing so readers must check with individual campsites, attractions and local government websites prior to making any travel arrangements.
As holidays are redefined, the great outdoors, and walking in particular, is now more appealing than ever. In this article, we explore one area that offers beaches, woodland and hill walking – and discover the advantages of seasonal caravan siting.
We sat down on the near-white, sea-rounded limestone pebbles of a little beach, basking in unusually hot September sunshine. It was a serene scene.
Total silence broken only by the occasional bird cheeping from the woodland that borders the beach. Not a person in sight at all, yet this was a Sunday morning.
Suddenly, we became aware of what we thought was a rustling sound. Yet there was no breeze to disturb the leaves in the woodland. The rustling sound grew more audible.
As we watched, the water in the bay began to appear ruffled. Then a small wave appeared, in a single line. Within minutes, sea water was approaching, fast flooding the bay that, minutes earlier, had been a vast expanse of sand. There was no time to get a camera and the wave was too far from the shore for a phone to have done it justice, so words will have to suffice.
By chance, our beach pause during a coastal walk had coincided with a spectacular occurrence: a tidal bore.
This is a phenomenon of tide versus river flow. When the surge of an incoming tide meets resistance from water flowing out of a river, a wave forms. There are only 60 tidal bores in the world; 11 of them are in the UK. (The word bore derives from the old Norse word for wave, bara.)
We were witnessing the River Kent tidal bore as it forms when the tide meets the outflow from the river into the wide estuary of Morecambe Bay, on the south fringe of Cumbria. Legend says the tide comes in at the speed of a galloping horse – and we can believe it.
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Exploring the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Our vantage point is a beach at Far Arnside, on a walking route between the coastal villages of Silverdale and Arnside.
We are here to explore the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for a specific reason.
This area, which covers around 30 square miles, is a microcosm of all that is enticing about the great outdoors, to the walker, the cyclist, the birdwatcher and the palaeontologist (fossils are often found on the beach and can be seen in the rocks that border it).
The AONB’s website describes it as ‘an extraordinary place’. With increasing focus on getting outside and staying away from people (call us antisocial if you like, but we will, for a long time to come, like most people, want to take our leisure-time breaks as far away from people and potential virus transmission as possible), walking, in particular, is more enticing than ever before.
Brilliant walking terrain – and brilliant caravan sites
If you enjoy walking and like your terrain varied but not mountainous, if you want coastal path walking, hill walking and woodland trails, this area offers it all.
The Arnside and Silverdale AONB is a tiny corner of northwest Britain, bordered to the north by the Lake District and with the waters of vast Morecambe Bay lapping – or sometimes surging – onto its pretty beaches.
You can find remote walking and popular spots, noted birdwatching sites, rare flowers and butterflies – and a couple of brilliant caravan sites, too.
The River Kent is the northern boundary of this AONB; it rises in the fells of Kentdale and flows 20 miles to Morecambe Bay. The southern edge of the AONB is the River Keer that reaches the sea just west of Carnforth. On the east side, it’s bordered by the A6.
The most spectacular part of this region that straddles the border of Cumbria and Lancashire is the ancient one-time port of Arnside, and the hill that rises above it, called Arnside Knott, from which there are views of the Lake District mountains and the shoreline of Morecambe Bay.
You can drive up a rough track to a small, informal car park, with space for about 15 cars, on Arnside Knott (at weekends you need to be there early to find a place), and walk to the 159-metre summit. It’s not an arduous route, and you’ll be there in minutes, but the limestone screes mean descent needs a little bit of caution in places.
This area is criss-crossed by walking routes.
From Arnside Knott you can make for Arnside village or go through woodland to reach New Barns Bay (a great place for a picnic on the rocks). From here, through more woodland, you can cling to the coast and eventually reach the beach at Far Arnside, from where we watched the River Kent bore. Or you can take another route, to the same place…
Your descent from the Knott, as it is locally known, on this route, is via a hill called Heathwaite. As the name suggests, it’s heathland, intersperse by woodland. One of the paths from the foot of Heathwaite leads through fields to a little lane and then down to Far Arnside beach.
The other leads to Hollins Farm Holiday Park. Until it became part of the Holgates group of holiday parks, this was just a farm with a few caravans in a field. Now, it’s a superior touring caravan site with impressive facilities housed in a beautifully designed building faced with the limestone that characterises the area.
Importantly, it’s still a farm – sheep, beef cattle and, occasionally, Gloucester Old Spot pigs are reared here.
Seasonal caravan siting
Unsurprisingly, it’s a popular spot, one of our Premier Parks, so booking a touring pitch well in advance is vital. Once here, you’re likely to be captivated by the site’s charm, with views of the sea from its elevated position.
That’s why seasonal siting here is so popular; this is surely one of Britain’s most spectacular places for a seasonal pitch. That brings us to the advantages of obtaining a seasonal pitch in a favourite place, amid the current climate of seeking out ways of getting away from it all.
Your own little bit of Far Arnside (in this instance); your touring caravan always ready to drive to, open the door and instantly begin your break…
This is a concept of caravanning discovered by many – and made even more desirable now that holidays have been redefined by the impact of coronavirus. That is exactly why the Chapman family now has a seasonal pitch at Hollins Farm – with a view of the sea.
Our Sterling Elite Explorer that we bought new in 2007 and has been in the family all of that time, now ranks as ‘second caravan’ (we have a Bailey Unicorn Barcelona for touring) and is our weekend bolthole as often as work allows. Our own decision to go seasonal is what prompted us to look at the wider seasonal siting concept.
First, though, a couple more gems of this wonderful little region that we perused during our stays there this month…
The resort of Arnside
At one time a port (there is still a pier where boats once tied up), some would say Arnside is a resort in miniature. A resort simply because it attracts visitors, not in any Skegness or Margate sort of way, though.
A couple of ancient pubs, a few shops, cafés, and an old-world charm that engenders a time-stood-still appeal, this pretty village on the edge of the River Kent estuary draws families and fishermen, walkers and cyclists. Magnificent views of the Lake District mountains are to be enjoyed from the promenade/road. And Arnside is famous for its stunning sunsets.
About a mile and a half from Arnside, in a valley alongside a footpath that leads from Arnside to Silverdale, sits a spectacular pele tower, constructed in the late fourteenth century.
Storms and years have taken their toll and the tower is now a roofless, but compellingly intriguing ruin, with one side almost completely fallen away. The spiral staircase is still visible, as are fireplaces which retain fire-blackening.
This was one of a chain of pele towers strategically placed as lookouts, in case of invasion from the Scots. Fascinating and magnificent, it’s one of this area’s many excuses for a walk.
Seasonal pitches – cost & equipment
So, much does a seasonal pitch cost? And how does seasonal siting differ, in terms of equipment, from touring?
The cost – some examples
Hollins Farm Holiday Park
We pay £3,450 for our full-service pitch at Hollins Farm Holiday Park (water point, drain, TV connection and electricity, which is metred, and the use of the restaurant, swimming pool and other facilities at nearby Holgates’ Silverdale Holiday Park).
Dulhorn Farm Holiday Park
Another example of a park that we can highly recommend is Dulhorn Farm in Somerset, a few miles from Weston-super-Mare.
This is also a Premier Park – and, like Hollins Farm, is a working farm and brilliant for families. Owner, Gary Bowden, told us this month that he’s now expanding the seasonal pitch offering in line with increasing demand. The pitch fee here is £1,935 including electricity.
Waterrow Touring Park
Also in Somerset, this time close to the Devon border, at Taunton, Waterrow Touring Park is another site which we can recommend, offering seasonal pitches.
Also one of our 100 Premier Parks, this is an adults-only site with the River Tone running along one side (riverside walks are a delight) and a lovely woodland aspect. Seasonal pitch prices range from £1,500 to £2,500 for the summer season and from £700 to £950 for the winter season.
Andrewshayes Holiday Park
We drew on our knowledge of Devon for another Premier Park example Andrewshayes Holiday Park near Axminster, a 20-minute drive from the coast at Lyme Regis or Charmouth. The seasonal pitch fee here is £2,260; electricity is metred.
Ideally, if your pitch has its own water point, you can get a direct connection from it to your caravan, so eliminating the need to refill water barrels. The connection devices are around £80 but well worth it.
If there’s a drain on the pitch, you can connect to that, too, via a rigid pipe or a flexible hose. Awnings need careful consideration if you are going to leave them up when you are not there to supervise if a high wind whips up.
Several awning manufacturers make units specifically designed for seasonal pitch use. Among them are Dorema, Isabella and Bradcot. Standard advice is to go for steel, rather than fibreglass poles, for seasonal use.
Air awnings, while brilliant for touring holidays, are not all ideal for leaving up for seasonal use; some, though, are designed to be robust enough.
Check that your insurance cover includes your awning when pitched for extended periods.
Know the tide times – and stay on the shore. Quicksands and strong currents are a danger in Morecambe Bay.
Go to tidetimes.org.uk/arnside-tide-times. The bore typically arrives two hours before high tide.
Quicksands and fast tides
Below the expanse of sands of Morecambe Bay lies potential danger. Changing channels and fast-flowing waters combine to create saturated sand hiding beneath an apparently firm surface. The saturated sand turns to liquid when stepped on, causing you to sink into it. That is quicksand and you can’t tell it’s there until you step on it. Dangerous? Definitely.
The speed of the incoming tide, as we have seen for ourselves, is another reason why it’s best to stay on shore in this region.
We stayed at:
Prices per couple, electric hook-up, per night
Hollins Farm Holiday Park
Arnside, Silverdale LA5 0SL
T 01524 701508
Open: 1 March to 14 November
Price: From £37