Arnside & Silverdale
Situated where North Lancashire meets South Cumbria the Arnside & Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was formed in 1972. Covering only 29 square miles it is one of the smallest AONBs in the country. The designation is well earned for within its small boundaries can be found a great variety of scenery including rich woodland, saltmarshes, limestone pavements and some fantastic coastal scenery overlooking Morecambe Bay and the Kent Estuary.
The highest point within the AONB is Warton Crag at a modest 163m and which features the remnants of an iron age hillfort. The most popular hill within the AONB is Arnside Knott which at 159m in height has the distinction of being the lowest Marilyn top in England. The hill also features some absolutely fabulous views, not only of the immediate surrounding area but in particular across the Kent Estuary to the Lake District fells to the north.
Much of the underlying rock of the AONB is limestone and this outcrops right on the coast line including a delightful limestone cliff between Arnside Point and Park Point. Further inland is the Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve which has the best example of lowland limestone pavement in Britain. It is also home to the Lady's Slipper Orchid, one of the rarest flowers in Britain and was actually declared extinct in 1917 until it was discovered growing in Silverdale.
The AONB is in fact well known for its flora and fauna and supports more than half the flowering plant species to be found in the British Isles. The estuary and saltmarshes are also home to countless birds. The AONB also contains RSPB Leighton Moss, the largest reed bed in north west England and home to bittern, bearded tit and the marsh harrier amongst many others.
Just to the east of the AONB, across the M6 and the Lancaster Canal is a substantial area of upland limestone centred on Farleton Fell and Hutton Roof Crags. Combined the two contain a significant proportion of the UK's limestone pavement and whilst both fells are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) it is odd that the opportunity wasn't taken to include them as an outlying area of the AONB when it was formed. I've passed Farleton Fell and Hutton Roof Crags numerous times on the way to the Lake District and often thought that Farleton Fell in particular manages to look much higher than it really is.
My first awareness of Arnside and Silverdale was when, in 2005, I first purchased the Ordnance Survey OL7 Explorer Map covering the south-eastern Lake District. While I was curious at the time about the small green shaded area shown on the back cover just south of the Lake District National Park it took me seven years before I finally went out there for the first time in order to climb Arnside Knott. I had a superb walk, one of my favourites, and I imagine I'll be getting much better acquainted with the AONB in the future.