Heysham Coastal Walk

After leaving Sunderland Point we headed back towards Overton, took a left and about 15 minutes later we were pulling into the main carpark in the neighbouring Lancashire coastal town of Heysham.

Needing a bit of a pick me up, we made our first port of call the popular Curiosity Corner Cafe  right on the main high street. It was ‘cash only’ on the day we visited, luckily it’s only a short jog back to the carpark, if like me you needed to go hunt for some spare change. I don’t think this was a permanent thing though, but bring some money just in case.  It’s dog friendly with bowls of water available for your furry friends and so we sat outside with a couple of nice coffees and planned our next move, picking up a free courgette as we left, from their veg box out front.

Once refreshed we followed the sign to St Peter’s Church, an incredibly old building, with parts of it dating as far back at the 8th century, with evidence that there may have been a previous church on the site even before then. The graveyard outside makes for an interesting wander, and the wild coastal views were spectacular.

Next to the church is Glebe Garden, a small neglected space of woodland, carefully tended and brought back to life by the locals. There are statues, memorial seats, tiny fairies and toadstools hidden all around giving the place a peaceful, magical feel, as well as beautiful flowers including the red rose of Lancashire of course.

Next it was back up the path and to the Saxon St Patrick’s chapel, now a ruin, it stands above St Peter’s Church, overlooking Morecambe Bay. Although the building dates back from around the 8th century, there has been activity at this site a lot longer than that, there are some incredibly cool graves cut into the rock which have been excavated and are estimated to be about 1300 year old!

From there, there’s a footpath that takes you along the coast line with parts of it leading down to little patches of beach. So we headed off with our excited furry companion for a windy but stunning coastal walk, with the ferry terminal in the distance preparing for the next trip over to the Isle of Man.

This whole coastal area is actually a free National Trust site, and absolutely deserves it, there is a lot of history around here for those interested, and the national trust website has a trail walk you can download if you really want to immerse yourself. Instead of walking back the way we came, we took a detour through Rectory Woods, a sort of walled garden with stone steps and plenty of distractions and smells for the dog.

It was then a short walk back to the centre of town, past the Heritage Centre, to Tracy’s Homemade Pies & Cakes, who do a good selection of dairy free treats and I picked up some cake to take back home, would be rude not too!

By then, the fresh air was taking its toll, feeling tired, we all bundled back into the car and slowly made our way back home, and although it was only an hour away, it really felt like we have travelled a lot further to this lesser known Lancashire beauty spot.

Sunderland Point – tides, slavery and a muddy causeway.

Feeling tired, but still wanting a little adventure, I asked mum and her Borrow My Doggy Sam if they would like to visit an area of my home county Lancashire that I hadn’t really explored. Turns out they had both been before, Sam when he was a puppy & mum over 30 years ago, so they were both keen to re-visit. The area I fancied was along the coast, south of Morecambe, south west of Lancaster, starting at Sunderland Point, then driving up to Heysham.

Sunderland Point is a small hamlet overlooking the River Lune, and can be accessed by one single track road from the neighbouring village of Overton. But you can’t just turn up any time, when it’s high tide the road becomes flooded, so this little Lancashire peninsula becomes cut off from the mainland twice a day. We set off early, taking junction 34 off the M6 and using the A68 Bay Gateway which neither of us had used before, as its only been open since 2016, before turning off towards Overton. It must have been around 10.30am when we arrived, and although the single track road was clear, it was still muddy in patches and made for a fun drive over.

 

As soon as you get to the other side, there is a small parking area, with a helpful HIGH WATER LINE sign as well as a lifebuoy, in case I guess you are too late back and the tide has come in, good to know! A little higher up on the ground above the water line, are some public toilets, a map and a little history of this fascinating patch of Lancashire.

There are approximately 35 houses here, with just 3 main streets, and other than some farmland, there are no schools or businesses here, so whether you need to drive to the mainland for work, school or your groceries, its all entirely dependant on the tides, it wouldn’t do for me, but I can understand the appeal.

But other than the excitement of driving along the single track causeway and the beautiful windswept views on arrival,  there’s a lot more here to make it worth your while.

First of all there is a footpath to take you around the tip of the peninsula, it’s about 3 miles, so short enough that you can take your time, drink in those views and still get back  to your car with plenty of time before the tide returns. We took a right turn between the houses and headed west, following the sign post for Sambo’s Grave.

We walked down the footpath, between some farm land across to the other side, once you get there, take the well maintained path to your left, leading you to the grave site.

This is were the slave history comes in, this seemingly unspoilt, quiet, remote part of Lancashire, was actually an important and busy port that formed part of the Slavery Triangle and was used to import cotton, sugar as well as enslaved Africans. This was in the early 1700’s and the area thrived until the Port of Lancaster opened up, becoming the 4th biggest port in the country.  (For a more comprehensive timeline, the Open Learn website has a great article to read). But back to Sambo, he was a young African boy, taken from Africa to the West Indies as a slave, then travelled with his master in 1736 over to Sunderland Point, where he became ill and died on arrival. I was pleased to see such an important but often hidden part of our UK history remembered here, with the grave being well take care of by the local residents.

Next to the grave is a stone chamber, which I initially thought had something to do with Sambo, but its actually an art installation by Chris Drury and features a camera obscura to observe the skyline of Morecambe Bay. Or if you are a small dog, it features a little ledge to climb on and you observe the view that way instead.

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We then continued our walk along the shoreline around the tip of the peninsula, its a bit tricky in parts, as you negotiate large rocks, some still slippy from the recent high tide, as well as large pieces of driftwood and other things that usually spend half their day under the water. There is a tonne of wildlife too, I’m not too familiar on my birds, but mum was better informed and pointed out some curlews and a heron.

The path understandably becomes hard to follow in places, as it is often submerged, but you can walk right around the edge, before you find yourself coming back towards the houses again. We came across a few other walkers, and we all checked in with each other, ‘yes, you can walk all the way around’ as well as ‘yes, you should have plenty of time to get back to your car before the tide comes in’. That didn’t stop me checking the time every few minutes as well as keeping an eye on the direction of the water, mum and Sam seemed less bothered than me though, but then they had both been here before.

As we approached civilisation and our car again, I slowed down, wanting to take in the windswept views for one last time, as I wasn’t sure if or when I would ever return, the landscape was truly stunning and peaceful, the complete opposite I presume from when it was a busy slave port 300 years earlier.

We grabbed some wild blackberries to eat and curious about house prices, I took note of a house for sale (it was £235.000). Then I wandered out, as close to the water as possible without getting too muddy, to take a few last photos before I drove us back across the causeway and quite literally back to dry land.

Next stop . . .  Heysham . . .

 

Bank Holiday Hike – Moel Famau

August bank holiday weekend in the UK, is often remembered for terrible weather and long queues on the motorway, but when a friend texted from my sober social circle, inviting me to hike Moel Famau (Mother Mountain), I couldnt resist.

The hill in the north east Welsh county of Denbighshire, is the highest and most popular of all the hills in the Clwydian Range, and at only an hours drive away from home, I am not sure how I’ve overlooked it all these years.

Being mindful of how heavy the traffic can get at this time of the year, and being an early riser, I got all my stuff ready the night before, and pretty much woke up, dressed, grabbed my backpack and drove one hour west.  Starting on a motorway, the roads gradually got smaller the longer I drove, with the final few minutes ending up on a small almost single track road in places, as I arrived in the The Clwydian Range area of outstanding natural beauty.

I got to the lower carpark pretty much as it opened at 8am, it’s a large carpark with toilets, picnic benches and a play area, the fee was £2 (cash only) when I was there, but there is also a smaller carpark further down the road, which had an card payment options.  My plan was to eat breakfast once I got there, enjoy the views and wait for the others to arrive, so with my overnight oats and a flask of coffee, I had the pick of the seating area, and chilled for a while.

Important to note, there is virtually no phone signal in this part of the park, so if you are meeting other people, get your meet up details spot on. I briefly got a signal & texted one of my friends, who had actually parked further down the road, luckily they realised where I must be, and we all eventually found each other and headed up the trail.

There are multiple routes to the summit, I photographed the information sign at the top of the carpark, but had no idea which we were doing. My friends had all done the hike a few times before though, so with that in mind, I decided to do no research, and was just happy to just follow their lead. Turns out we were doing the Jubilee Tower Circular, one of the moderate tracks, but for those wanting something less or something more, there are plenty of other options.

The hike was wonderful, the views spectacular, it was foggy at the start of the day, but as we began our climb, the fog lifted and the sun came out. With it being such a clear day, the views went on for miles, down to the River Dee, across the rest of the undulating hills of the Clwydian’s, and even over to Snowdonia in the distance with fields of purple heather all around us.

There is quite a steep bit to get your heart pumping at around a third in, but we found a bench to rest and hydrate, before continuing up to the summit. As far as hikes go, it didnt take that long to get to the top, at least not along this path we took, and as it was only late morning, it wasn’t too busy either. With the weather warm and sunny, we ended up sitting on the ground, eating our snacks, taking in the views and having a good old natter for maybe an hour! Usually at summits, its cold and windy, and you only have time for a quick selfie before you lose the feeling in your hands, but the weather was on our side, and as this is only actually a hilltop at 558 metres, (when you think Snowdon further to the west is 1,085 metres), you’re not really that exposed to the elements and can really take the time to appreciate the incredible scenary.

After about an hour, and almost losing the dog who ran off to chase a squirrel, we slowly headed back down, arriving back in the now almost full carpark. A quick change of shoes and one podcast later, I was back home, with that tiredness you only experience from a good walk and fresh countryside air. Bank holiday Sunday, done right!

 

 

Dovestone Rocks, Oldham

So this hike, organised by the Bee Sober Sunday walking group, was advertised as a full day, long walk, but I think that bit went over my head. I just saw the words Peak District Sunday Hike and cleared my diary (who am I kidding we are in the middle of a pandemic, in the worse hit area of the UK, I had no other plans) So slightly unprepared, I turned up to an already busy carpark, at 9.30am on Sunday morning, scrabbling for change for the carpark, which seemed to reject every other 20p I put into it.

I could see the majority of the people parked up were here for a stroll around the Reservoir. Located just to the edge of the Peak District meant on a clear day, the views are superb, but I was well aware, we were walking in a completely different direction, away from said reservoir.

After a slight back and forth, our hike leader (i.e the one who downloaded the route onto his phone) found the correct path, and we headed North up a rather steep hill, it was a bit of a sharp wake up call for still early on a Sunday morning, but I slowly acclimatised and was able to appreciate the views soon enough, (once I got my breath back).

First spot for a group photo and quick break for snacks was the Pots and Pans war memorial atop Aldermans Hill.

Then, it was back onto the track, across to Dick Hill, full of rocks precariously looking out across the Peak District and down to the reservoir, not a place to hang around if someone has a fear of heights, and so we quickly retreated to lower ground when one of our group turned a rather pale shade of grey.

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Back on lower ground, some of us in the group (the tired ones) looked longingly at the reservoir and the carpark as it came back into view, but not for long, we headed East along the top of the reservoir, then back up a sharp incline, following the path alongside the rather magnificent Dovestones Cascade, that brings the water down. 490A98E2-CEB3-4DE3-804E-3F1695ED6AC3

At the top is Ashway Rocks, and it was here we stopped for lunch, and took in the misty and atmospheric views across the Peak District, which also distracted from my slightly undercooked pasta salad I had brought for lunch. Then, realising we still had a good 2 hours to go to get back to the carpark, we headed back on the trail. This portion of the walk was high up along the top, along Alphins Pike, with views of the reservoir below and Manchester up ahead and I’m sure I could spot my car down in the carpark!

I have to admit, the descent was painful, my underused muscles were not happy, but as soon as we landed back on the track heading for the car, my muscles relaxed again & all was happy.  Until the next morning of course, when I was rudely reminded of just how far we had walked the previous day. It was challenging in parts, but fun, with a great likeminded group of folk, all of us just making the most of the Covid restrictions and joining up to get out and connect with nature. Overall, another successful hike.

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