Under lock down we have stayed at home, getting out most days to walk or cycle the paths, streets and tracks we can reach from our humble Morecambe abode. One of the positive things about this dreadful period of isolation has been the chance to explore what is available from our doorstep and we have found diverse and beautiful areas in this marvellous corner of Lancashire.
If you aren’t lucky enough to live in Morecambe, I hope these walking and cycling ideas will whet your appetite to visit Morecambe when you can.
Morecambe’s Magnificent Promenade
I have to start with Morecambe’s Promenade. The views across Morecambe Bay from the prom are panoramic, with the mountains of the Lake District a tantalising backdrop to the expanse of the tidal sands; it is said it takes the water from 40 Niagara Falls to fill the bay on a spring tide and looking out to the Irish Sea that is easy to believe. Morecambe’s promenade is a mixed-use 8 km (5 mile) flat cycle or walking route with a good surface. This is an accessible place to take your daily exercise and with the wildlife, tides and weather there is always something new to see. From Heysham in the south curving around to Hest Bank in the north-east you are separated from the traffic on the elevated promenade and, depending on the tides, you can also step onto the sandy and pebbly shore for a truly sea-level view. We pretty much always see oystercatchers and hear their familiar piercing calls as they wing along the shore, we might see a curlew or a redshank and black headed or herring gulls. It is usually clear enough to pick out the familiar bumps of the Langdale Fells in the Lake District. In different times we will stop for hot chocolate in a cafe or [for a treat] in the magnificent restored 1930s Midland Hotel. Ice-cream at Bruccianis, another charming remnant of Morecambe’s Art Deco past, is one more pleasure we are missing at the moment, although we have been delighted to see that some of the ice-cream stalls have re-opened.
Seeking out Statues
Looking to add variety to our daily walk and give us a theme to explore, I took us on a tour of some of Morecambe Bay’s statues. Starting at the Midland Hotel and The Stone Jetty you are surrounded by some of the TERN project stone sculptures of elegant coastal birds. Not much further along the Promenade toward Hest Bank, don’t miss the cheery statue to local lad Eric Morecambe. Born John Eric Bartholomew in 1926, he formed a comedy double-act with Ernie Wise and his statue is an outstanding addition to Morecambe’s attractions, it has even recently been adorned with a face mask! Almost everyone has their picture taken in the iconic pose and sings, ‘Bring Me Sunshine!’
Continuing towards Hest Bank, leave the promenade at the side of Morecambe Town Hall and slip through a gateway to find a hidden fading cemetery opened in 1874 and attached to the parish church. You are in what was the old fishing village of Poulton-le-Sands and among the tree-lined graves are two personality-packed fisher-folk sculptures carved from elm trees by Tim Burgess.
Return to the coast and maybe linger and watch the fishing boats before continuing towards Happy Mount Park. At the end of the Promenade sits the colourful and dramatic Venus and Cupid statue, created by a local artist Shane Johnstone in 2005 in memory of his partner. The two multi-coloured mosaic figures for me exquisitely symbolise love, loss and human connections and offers some sense of comfort during a pandemic.
Taking the road to Jo ‘n’ Lees cafe, looking out for oystercatchers that often sit on the rocks near here, walkers can follow the curve of the pebbly coast to Hest Bank. One of the seven metal sculptures of a wader by Ulverston-based artist Chris Bramall is on the grassy area above the beach here, celebrating Morecambe Bay’s importance for wintering birds. You have walked about 4.5 km by now [just under three miles] and you have to walk back but if you’ve got the time and energy it is worth carrying on along the shore or over the fields to Red Bank Farm to see the poignant and brilliant white Praying Shell sculpture that looks over the sands and is a memorial to the 23 cockle pickers [this is the reported number but it is hard to be sure] who died in 2004 after being left to the tides by abusive gang masters. I will always stop here, remember and pay my respects.
Cruising beside the Lancaster Canal
The Lancaster Canal runs 66 km [41 miles] from Preston to Kendal and is a haven for tranquillity and wildlife. We can reach it easily from Folly Lane that runs beside the new road into Morecambe, The Bay Gateway. The canal was built to transport coal from Lancashire and limestone from Cumbria, the Glasson branch giving the opportunity of cargo transfers from the barges to seagoing vessels. We begin on a section of the canal between Lancaster and Hest Bank that flows peacefully through lush fields, with views back to Torrisholme Barrow on the edge of Morecambe; we often have these first few miles to ourselves.
As you reach the outskirts of Hest Bank, gardens spill down to the canal side and views open out across Morecambe Bay to the Lake District fells. On the banks of the canal look out for wild flowers and there are always mallards, coots and swans on the water. In the spring sunshine we usually spot a string of tiny fluffy ducklings following mum.
You can return the same way but we like to make this a circular walk and the options are varied to suit the time we have. Follow The Crescent and Station Road in Hest Bank and you are soon on the path along the shore [see statues walk above] that will take you back to Morecambe [a 12 km / 8 miles round trip from the centre of Morecambe]. We like to carry on to Bolton-le-Sands to enjoy the views and calmness of the canal for as long as possible and head down to the coast via Mill Lane. This route gives us a chance to come by the memorial statue to the cockle pickers [see statues walk] and stroll along the lovely pebbly bay near there and adds about 5.5 km / 3.5 miles, making something like a 17.5 km / 11.5 mile walk.
The coast draws us on our walks and reaching it we can choose to turn either right or left. Up to now the walks have turned to the right, but turning left at the Midland Hotel it is about 5 km / 3 miles mostly along the Promenade to Half Moon Bay at Heysham. This takes you to a different side of Morecambe, away from the bustle of the 20th century resort. Reaching the end of the Promenade at Heysham you will see St Peter’s Church above the bay. Follow the winding village lanes to explore its lovely graveyard and enjoy the views. Take the time to go inside the church and you will find a carved Norse hog-back stone which would originally have been a grave cover. Adjacent to the church is Glebe Gardens, a charming community garden that is a colourful place to linger.
Eventually you will want to climb the steps onto Heysham Barrows and Heysham Head. Here are perched the ruins of St Patrick’s Chapel and the rock cut graves dating back to the 8th century. We like to follow the coast around the hidden sandy cove lined with fragrant yellow gorse bushes and enjoy the views to Arnside Knott before continuing on to Half Moon Bay. Heysham Port, where freight and Isle of Man ferries sail in and out, is now in sight and provides an active scene with the two bulky nuclear powers stations as a backdrop. Construction on Heysham 1 began in 1970 and it came into operation in 1983, followed by Heysham 2. At Half Moon Bay you will find Anna Gillespie’s SHIP, a sculpture that features two men sitting on the bow and stern of a ship looking in opposite directions. The views along the coast are so good that returning the same way is no hardship.
The seaside resort of Morecambe grew in the late 1800s from a collection of villages. A harbour and a railway, linking the coast with Yorkshire, arrived by 1850 and the town expanded to absorb Poulton-le-Sands, Bare and Torrisholme. The name of Morecambe was officially adopted by the town from 1889, after the bay it overlooks. Despite many 1960s housing estates, there are a surprising number of snickets, alleys or ginnels around Morecambe and I enjoy exploring these and the streets of our home town and finding glimpses of the past.
Opposite the handsome 1930s Midland Hotel, built to look like an elegant ocean liner, is The Platform, today an unusual music and theatre venue, this was built in 1907 as a railway station for Morecambe Promenade. Look to your left and you will spot the splendour of Morecambe Winter Gardens, a grand Victorian landmark building in red brick that is currently being renovated.
Follow the entertaining bird-themed walkway alongside The Festival Market, a cornucopia of stalls in pre-lock-down days that I hope will return, and set off along Victoria Street. Keep your eyes peeled above and behind you for murals of fishing boats, motorcycles and celebrities.
Take a left back to the sea front and turn right, passing buildings constructed to entertain and house the abundance of visitors that came to Morecambe in its heyday; you will certainly see signs of cinemas and boarding houses. The 1905 Clock Tower is another landmark and further on the Pier Hotel and the Old Pier Bookshop, a warren of a shop stuffed with second-hand books, both give you a clue as to what once stretched out to sea here. Morecambe’s Pier, like many, suffered from fires and was demolished in 1992.
Take Clarence Street by the bookshop and admire the tall, bay-windowed buildings and look for old fishing cottages, you might decide to check out an alleyway. Make sure you turn back near The Bull to see the large fisherman mural on the gable of one of the houses. Left onto Poulton Road takes you by Queen Victoria Hospital and at the Police Station turn left into Church Street to wander around the Parish Church and through the old cemetery, noting the pretty cobble-stone wall.
Double-back briefly and take the narrow inviting lane opposite the school, crossing Thornton Road onto a snicket called Stuart Avenue that runs between playing fields. Turn right onto Grasmere Road and you will eventually wind your way through tidy bungalows to Bare Lane Railway Station. Although now part of Morecambe, Bare still retains a village feel and on early 20th century maps is clearly shown as a separate village. Even on our 1940s map, Bare is a one-road settlement clearly distinct from the resort.
Cross the railway line, turn left into Fairhope Avenue and right onto Low Lane. You are now well away from the old fishing villages and are walking through a tidy housing estate of mainly bungalows that attract retirees. In this flat landscape you will notice a rise to your left with trees. Turn left down Fulwood Drive and look for the narrow path on your right that will take you onto the hill that is topped with Torrisholme Barrow, a round barrow from 2400-1500 BC. Alternatively, continue along Low Lane and take the snicket into the trees and make your way behind the houses and uphill on informal paths to the barrow. There is a triangulation pillar on the hill but only scant evidence of a barrow. What Torrisholme Barrow has is views that surely make this a perfect spot for burials. Some say this hill was an old moot or meeting hill and at Easter you will often find a cross placed here. On a clear day, as well as seeing your route through Morecambe, you will gaze across the bay to the Lake District and Barrow-in-Furness. Turn around and over the row of hawthorn hedging you will spot the line of the Lancaster Canal and beyond that the bulk of the Bowland Fells. The elaborate and domed Ashton Memorial perched above Lancaster is another local landmark.
Torrisholme is one more village that is now incorporated into Morecambe. The triangular green of Torrisholme Square remains and is surrounded by smart stone houses, some dating back to the 17th century. Head down Torrisholme Barrow to your left and climb over the stile in the corner of the field onto Slyne Road, turning right. Left onto Russell Drive will take you to the main road to Lancaster, turn right and cross the road to take the snicket enigmatically called The Way that cuts behind the houses. Over the main road you will find a road [McDonalds to your right] which leads to a path following parallel with the Bay Gateway for walkers and cyclists. This reaches the old railway line that is now a multi-use route. Turn right towards Morecambe and you are soon back at The Midland Hotel.
This interesting circuit is about 10 km / 6 miles with options to make it shorter if you wish.
Perfect cycling along the River Lune to Caton
You can walk this route but 30 km [almost 20 miles] could be a long day and it is much easier on a bicycle. The lovely traffic-free path is also perfect for cycling. The popular old railway line runs from near Morecambe Railway Station to the historic city of Lancaster (5.4 km / 3.4 miles). In spring you cycle under green birch trees, alongside drainage ditches and eventually reach the banks of the River Lune. Look ahead and you will spot Lancaster Castle on the hilltop and the splendour of the 18th century waterfront below. On the way you pass the cycle route to the fishing village at Sunderland Point (6.8 km / 4.2 miles) where you can stop and watch the wading birds on the tidal marshes.
In Lancaster the old railway line is well signed, continuing along the River Lune for a further 10 km (6.2 miles), although at the moment work on the canal aqueduct means that cyclists and walkers have to follow Caton Road for a short distance. Cycling by the river you get occasional glimpses of the water through the trees. Crossing a road, you might want to detour a short distance to look at Halton Bridge, a narrow bridge built from the remains of Lancaster’s old wrought iron Greyhound Bridge in 1913. At only 6 feet wide, many a vehicle has lost some paint on the bridge’s bollards!
The best views of the River Lune are where the track crosses the river twice at the horse-shoe bend of the Crook O’Lune and pretty much everyone stops to take in the scenery at this much-loved local beauty spot. You can find a grassy spot to picnic here, looking across the picturesque river to distant hills or follow a short circuit of the river bank.
We prefer to carry on to Caton and maybe cycle up the steep hill to Caton Moor to sit below the wind turbines and take in the wide views over Lancashire. Alternatively we might leave the bikes in Caton and add a 13 km / 8 mile walk to our cycle ride. Climbing up the quiet lane to Caton Moor, we will take the lovely track back down the hillside through the gorse bushes and bluebells and along the woodland edge to Claughton. The Claughton Aerial Ropeway crosses high over the track. Built in 1924, the ropeway carries shale from the quarry high on the moor down to the brick works. Cross straight over the A683 in Claugton and leave the track for a footpath that takes you to a particularly picturesque stretch of the River Lune. I could sit here watching the sand martins wheeling over the river for hours. The grassy paths take you back to the cycle route and Caton.
The River Lune to Glasson Dock
From Morecambe take the railway line / cycle track once again to Lancaster [see above]. In Lancaster a tarmac and later gravel track along the quayside and river takes cyclists and walkers to the hamlet of Conder Green and on to Glasson Dock (9.3 km / 8 miles one-way). This is a quiet and peaceful route with occasional views across the river that is nevertheless popular with walkers and cyclists. Today the pleasant village of Glasson has a marina packed with colourful boats, connected to a still busy harbour by a lock. The harbour at Glasson originally opened in 1787 as Lancaster became un-navigable for ships and goods came through Glasson and were distributed via the Lancaster Canal. If you’re lucky the village shop will be open and have some local Wallings ice-cream in stock.