Sunderland Point is cut off twice a day by the tide, I double-check the tables before venturing forth today on my cycle. High tide is 12noon, so I can have a lazy start — don’t I always. My plan is to arrive at the coast after lunch, when the tide should be receding.
In the18th century Sunderland between Morecambe bay and the Lune was a busy port and ship building yard, with ships sailing to Africa and the West Indies. Cotton, sugar, rum, timber and the slave trade, it’s main stay. When wharves in Lancaster and Glasson Dock developed Sunderland’s trade finished. Many of the houses found here were originally warehouses associated with the port. In time, the point became known as Cape Famine. The hamlet’s two pubs, cargo warehouses, rope and block makers, customs house and shop have long gone. But in Victorian times it found a lifeline as a holiday and bathing resort, Little Brighton, But holidaymakers eventually preferred the bustling new seaside resort of Morecambe, with its smart buildings and multitude of attractions. Sunderland Point became the sleepy, out-of-the-way place it is today.
I park up at Halton bridge once again, unload my bike and take to the old rail line. There is something wrong — a strange noise coming from my pedals with each revolution. I stop to try to identify the source. Along comes a tattooed, long-haired ageing hippy on his city bike, “what’s the problem, mate?” His probable diagnosis was lack of lubrication. I stand there looking hopeless as he suggests going to his nearby flat to pick up the necessary tools and oils to solve my problem. In a few minutes he is back, we dismantle the left pedal and apply some much-needed oil. I can’t thank him enough. A good Samaritan has uplifted my mood for the day. I pedal off, relieved and immensely grateful.
The Millennium Bridge in the centre of Lancaster is looking stunning in the sunshine.
Easy pedalling has me into Morecambe in no time. The views across the bay to the Lakeland Hills are so much clearer than the other day. I arrive at the information board for the Way of the Roses, a 170-mile ride to Bridlington — now there’s an idea.
The promenade takes me to Heysham and onwards towards the docks. I thought I had spotted a lane going towards Middleton, but ended up in a massive caravan park under the two nuclear power stations. A friendly dog walker told me of a footpath out of the site onto Carr Lane. I found it and escaped onto the coastal lanes to Potts Corner. The end of the road on the edge of Morecambe Bay.
The tide was going out as I chatted to a fellow cyclist on a day out from Settle, I’m almost becoming one of the inner circle of cyclists. A kestrel hovers overhead. In the distance, a ferry was heading for the Isle of Man. Vast open spaces.
Some soggy, muddy and saline riding and pushing on a vague track led me towards Sunderland Point.
I arrive at the site of Sambo’s grave on this windswept peninsula. ‘Sambo’, a generic name, had arrived at the Point in 1736, a cabin boy. Probably abandoned, the little African boy perished in the port’s brewhouse. Deprived of burial in consecrated ground, his body was interred in this field, overlooking the sea. A local man wrote a verse about him 60 years after his death, which is on a plaque on the grave. The grave is regularly visited and is festooned with messages and mementos. A memorial to the slave trade.
A wall has been built around the grave and it doesn’t seem to have the desolate atmosphere I remember from my last visit. This is further diminished by nearby structures — a wooden bird hide and an art installation, Horizontal Line Chamber, a camera obscura by Chris Drury.
https://chrisdrury.co.uk/horizon-line-chamber-sunderland-point-morecambe-bay/ is worth a read with its attached YouTube video.
I entered the stone igloo and managed this image for you, an upside down coastal horizon. A narrow lane leads to the village of Sunderland. A man is working on the old pub’s brewhouse where ‘Sambo’ supposedly died. The pub itself stood on the edge of the harbour, its present owner sitting outside gave me all the history. A line of stone pillars denoting the extent of the wharf. Of course with the tide being out one doesn’t get the full impact of this having been an important port.
I go along to the southerly terrace of houses which have been converted from former warehouses. Farther on is Sunderland Hall built by a Robert Pearson, a date stone states 1683. I should have dumped my bike here and walked to the actual point — next time. A good excuse to return to this unique place, there is much more to explore.
Across the water is Plover Light guiding ships into the Lune. Built in 1847 it was lit by paraffin lights until the 1950s when it became fully automated. There is a Pathé News clip of a Mrs Parkinson, the then light keeper in 1948, going about her duties.
In 2016 it was badly damaged by a passing ship, the light had to be removed whilst reconstructing the stone base took place. I remember seeing it in its truncated form from Cockersand Abbey in that October with the light housing on the beach…
The afternoon was passing and it was time to ride across the muddy causeway back to the ‘mainland’. The mud flats on either side have an eerie appearance Once off the marsh I cycle into the little village of Overton, past the historic Ship Hotel and on to find St. Helen’s Church. It is on a hill south of the village, looking out over the Lune and Glasson Dock. Originally 12th century, it has had several restorations and alterations, but retains its Norman doorway. A signed cycleway alongside the Lune avoided the rush hour traffic. I pass the Snatchems Inn where in the past youths were plied with drink and then ‘snatched’ as crew for the sailing ships leaving the port in Lancaster. When they sobered up they would be halfway to Africa. It is now called the Golden Ball and looks in a sorry state. In the fading light I catch an unusual view of Ingleborough.
Interestingly, as I approach the Millennium bridge in Lancaster on the far side of the Lune was the wharf, warehouses, and Customs Office of the old Lancaster port, St George’s Quay, which put an end to Sunderland’s prosperity.
I have really enjoyed the peace and relative remoteness of Sunderland Point today, an antidote to our modern hectic lives. Oh! And my pedal was silent and stayed on to the end of the 25 miles.
There are some dramatic YouTube drone videos of this windswept coast with the tides in and out. Such as…
I covered much of that ground on 3rd February 2020
Good photos and a much more informative report from you. Re the bike rescue – you’ll be getting free cups of tea next – keep at it! The music on the video was dramatic – do you think it is electronic?
I think there is an orchestra in there somewhere — do you remember that proms concert with Anoushka Shankar accompanied by an electronic mix?
An epic journey into the past. Enjoyed reading this very much. I:be never been to Sunderland Point, but stared out at it often enough from Glasson. Never fancied taking the car because of the business wig the tides. But a bicycle? Now there’s an idea. It’s good to know there are still some decent hearts souls around who will go out of their way to help.
Yes, it seemed like a journey to another world. I spent some time wandering along the old wharf with all the interesting buildings and with the views across the water I became somewhat transfixed with the place. It must be even more atmospheric with the tide in – maybe next time
The little blue car would get very muddy on the causeway. I actually took mine across about ten years ago with my then 90yr old mother. We were so nervous of the tides that we just turned around and drove back. I think the longest you can be stranded is 2 or 3 hours if that is any comfort to you.
I think I could manage to kill 2-3 hours with a picnic and the camera, if the weather was good. I stayed over the tide a few times on Lindisfarne, and that was very atmospheric.
Did you ever see the Polanski’s film ‘Cul-de-sac’ set on Lindisfarne. Donald Pleasence at his creepiest best.
Haven’t seen that one. I shall have to look it up.
Ahhh, I remember Sunderland Point very well – a very very strange place, but I did like it a lot.
That caravan park right next to the nuclear power station in Heysham always made me laugh. Ocean View it’s called. I guess it sounds nicer than Atomic Pile view….
The village of Heysham is nice though, I liked that too.
I had forgotten it was called Ocean View
I would love to go to Sunderland Point oneday. Looks such an atmospheric place. That’s a great shot of the flying kestrel.
It’s a day out from Clitheroe — if you get the tides right. https://www.tidetimes.org.uk/
It certainly is a special place.
Next time I would like to go over as the tide is coming in and spend a few hours there waiting for it to go out again.
I’m another one who’s been to the other side of the Lune at Glasson, but never ventured to Sunderland Point. I’ve always fancied a visit but it’s a bit of an awkward drive and a walk over a flat landscape there doesn’t appeal. I’ll have to dig that bike out of the shed!
It is worth a visit, quite a unique place. If you don’t fancy the causeway you can walk down the beach from Potts Corner reached on little lanes from Middleton.
On my list! All being well, I’ll start having more time to get out and about and visiting places on my rather long wish list!
An interesting post BC, especially as I’ve been to Sunderland Point myself and researched the history of it. I wrote two posts about it – May 15th 2019 when the tide was out and May 27th 2019 for a different perspective when the tide was in. It’s amazing how far up it comes in good weather, I can imagine in winter the small parking area will be completely covered.
I’m glad you actually managed to see an image in the horizon line chamber, I saw nothing at all on both occasions and to be honest I think the whole thing is hideously ugly, completely out of place in its surroundings and a total waste of money – and I said so on my blog!
I like the shots of Morecambe, it was certainly clear looking across the bay. Incidentally, that caravan site is called Ocean Edge, not Ocean View as Paul said – my son’s in-laws used to have a caravan there. Snatchems is definitely looking rather worse for wear – when I saw it last summer it didn’t look too bad, I assumed it was closed because of the pandemic but obviously not. A shame really as it’s in a great location.
I’ll have to look at your posts, especially when the tide was in. Must be a different place.
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I have just started the Lancashire Coastal Way and wondered if you have any light to throw on the reason why Heysham, Middleton,Sunderland Point and Overton are completely bypassed on the route?
Interesting point. I do not know the official reason, but would suggest that Heysham Power Station has something to do with the routing inland. There is nothing to stop one walking from Morecambe to Middleton and then regaining the coast, obviously taking the tides into consideration for the crossing to Overton.
Absolutely, a slight detour from the coast would take you around the power station. I live in Heysham and regularly walk stretches from the power station. along Middleton Sands and around Sunderland Point. The Lancashire coastline is not the most inspiring I’m sorry to say and can’t help but feel that this stretch is a bit of a gem that is missed out.
Yes, a ‘Lancashire Coastal Walk’ must include Sunderland Point.
Could you walk along the beach past the power stations?
The Power Station and the Ferry port kind of merge into 1 inpenetrable area, so on the Northern side of the port you can walk up to the edge of the harbour wall at the port. It is very thick mud, so walking on the beach would not be advised and in any case you would be cut off by the permanent ferry channel that is constantly dredged. So you would have to retrace your steps back around the perimeter of the port and power station, through Heysham nature reserve and along the jetty behind the power station on the southern side of the channel. This in itself is fascinating though taking in a wonderful rusty lighthouse and the powerstation outflows. Once again though you would retrace your steps back along the jetty to join the sands at the holiday park and on to Middleton and Sunderland. Non purists however could just leave the coast at half moon bay and rejoin the coast at the holiday park without the retracing.
Half Moon to Holiday Park sounds the bet.
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