Arnside & Milnthorpe
Milnthorpe, on the banks of the River Bela and sitting astride the A6, is a thriving market town with a diverse range of industries. Its former port at Sandside was a busy commercial centre until the building of the viaduct silted up the estuary.
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Inland is Beetham at the parochial heart of the area. This attractive village on the banks of the River Bela can trace its lineage back to Anglo-Saxon times, with its ancient church, fortified farmhouse and historic corn mill.
On the eastern edges is Burton-in-Kendal, an 18th-century village that was on the stagecoach run between Kendal and Lancaster; its former importance reflected by its market cross and a wealth of Georgian architecture.
To the north is Heversham, another ecclesiastical centre associated with an Anglian monastery and an early grammar school.
A picturesque coastal village overlooking Morecambe Bay. Situated approximately 8 miles north of Lancaster looking across the bay to the Lake District, and stands within the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is also home to Leighton Moss, the RSPB coastal nature reserve.
By contrast, life in nearby Holme revolved around a large flax mill, now home to a thriving complex of craft workshops and small enterprises.
Although Heversham and Beetham were the ecclesiastical centres, Milnthorpe (‘the village by the mill’) was the economic centre by virtue of its proximity to the Kent estuary and its overland links with Kendal and Lancaster. In 1280 the town gained its charter for a weekly market and annual fair, and trade flourished with numerous inns and hostelries accommodating the needs of travellers. For centuries the Bela was navigable to Milnthorpe, and port facilities developed along the river and at Sandside on the estuary. The town thrived on coastal trade well into the 19th century exporting woollen goods, leather, charcoal, gunpowder, limestone and timber, and importing coal, grain, spirits and ‘exotic’ goods such as sugar and spices until the building of the Arnside Viaduct in 1857 effectively cut off sea-borne trade for ever.
The swift-flowing River Bela also supported numerous water-powered mills further upstream, one of which was Heron Corn Mill at Beetham. Conishead Priory acquired the rights to grind corn here in 1220 – an agreement that lasted until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538. The mill continued in use into the 20th century, and is now a working museum that still relies on water power to turn the machinery. As well as flour production, other early industries included iron smelting at Leighton Furnace, boat building, salt making, charcoal burning and making quicklime.
The railway age also impacted on Arnside. From being a quiet fishing village, Arnside began to develop as a resort in the 19th century, with pleasure boats sailing from Morecambe and Fleetwood. Passengers came ashore to enjoy the promenade walks, partake of the famous salmon and shrimp teas or ride up Arnside Knott by wagonette. The construction of the Arnside Viaduct to carry the Furness Railway over the Kent estuary made the village even more accessible and led to a proliferation of guesthouses, many of which line the promenade today. The final chapter in the railway era came with the building of the Arnside to Hincaster branch line (opened in 1876) to connect the Furness railway with the main north−south line at Hincaster junction. Although providing a useful link between the two railways, the line became a victim of the Beeching cuts of 1963 and now forms part of a permissive footpath between Arnside and Sandside.
Limestone has not only shaped the landscape of Arnside and Milnthorpe, it has influenced the way in which people have used the land from earliest times. In 1972, the varied landscapes and habitats within this small corner of Cumbria area were recognised through designation of the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Beauty − a body that works in partnership with other organisations to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area.
St Michael and All Angel’s church
The Knott is a limestone hill of woodland and grassland, brimming with butterflies and enjoying panoramic views over Morecambe Bay. Numerous footpaths wend their way to the summit where a toposcope identifies the surrounding Lakeland fells (on a clear day you can see Blackpool Tower).
One of the finest Elizabethan mansions in the north of England, built around a 13th century pele tower and housing a fine collection of Jacobean furniture, ornate plasterwork and oak panelling. However, most visitors come to admire the topiary gardens – a delightful jumble of fantastical sculptures in box and yew held within a geometrical framework of low box hedges and gravelled paths, and rightly applauded as the finest in the world.