I think I’m going to give up my rule/guidance No. 3 (“Start each stage at the exact same point where the previous stage finished“). I’ve come to realise that with a full-time job, the vagaries of our weather, and the rural public transport system, it’s just going to be too hard making sure that the next walk always starts at the end of the last one.
The weather is still pretty awful this weekend after Storm Dennis, but the forecast said that Sunday would be OK from noon onwards. However, there is no bus on a Sunday to or from Glasson Dock, so I’ve decided to do the next stage that had a bus service running, which was Overton to Heysham, which skips two sections. I’ll just have to fill in the gaps as soon as I can.
So, here’s the picture you’ve all been waiting for… the bus stop in Heysham, and what a fine bus stop it is, apart from the seats facing away from the road… a bit weird that. A 20 minute ride takes me to the small village of Overton, which is where this walk starts from.
Overton is a nice enough little village. I follow Bazil Lane directly south towards Bazil Point. The lane crosses a field recently flooded by the storm, and then a short public footpath leads to the open sea.
The path follows the coast all the way around Bazil Point, where a marshy foreshore quickly gives way to a pebble beach.
At the southernmost point I come across a cute little stone hut, and a less cute dead goat on the beach. It’s a fully grown goat, not yet decomposed. I’ll spare you a photograph of that.
There’s no immediate sign of how the goat might have died and I don’t fancy examining it in any detail. Maybe the recent storm, I don’t know. Very sad though, poor thing. I love goats.
The sun is strong in a perfect February sky, reflecting in the ripples on the surface of the sea. It’s a lovely romantic location. Except for the dead goat.
Rounding the corner, the hulk of Heysham Nuclear Power Station rises out of the marsh, a sight that dominates the next couple of hours of this walk. It looks small from here, about three miles away, but its presence always looms over this stretch of the coastline.
The path passes over quite a few styles, each of which have been given little red name tags – how charming – and rises onto a sea defence bank, which for some reason seems to be muddier than the ground either side of it. How did all this water get up here?
The path then drops down to the sea shore, but it looks pretty boggy down there and I decide to walk along the bottom of the pasture adjoining it, where eventually a very tall and steep style allows access down onto the shore.
The path then shortly joins the road south to Sunderland Point, along which a cyclist slowly picks her way through the puddles.
This road is tidal, and Sunderland Point is cut off for a few hours every high tide. The residents’ whole lives are scheduled by the tides – shopping, schools, everything. Weird. The way to tell whether it’s safe to cross the tidal section is to see if the warning sign’s posts are still in the water…
Clearly it’s not yet safe, and so I carry on regardless, my recalcitrant character piqued by this authoritative challenge. It’s this reaction I have to authority that has brought me all my biggest adventures in life, and been the cause of most of my less successful, often disastrous, life experiences. Perhaps this one will result in a drowning incident? Or hopefully nothing worse than a humiliating rescue effort by the coastguard. The tide’s going out anyway, so I’m almost sure everything will be fine!
In the distance on my right, amongst the marsh grasses I spot a bird with a very long beak. I’m absolutely sure that’s a Bar-Tailed Godwit…
Actually, if you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that I have no idea what it is. I’ve never heard of a godwit. It could be a f***wit for all I know. I cheated, of course. Later on in this walk I came across this information board:
Well, that’s three new birds I can now recognise since I started this adventure… oystercatchers, pink booted geese, and these. And why are they called oyster catchers anyway? Surely you don’t have to catch an oyster? They’re not very fast, you can just pick them up. We’re really giving these birds a lot more credit than they deserve. And according to the information board those bar-tailed things fly 9 days and 9 nights non-stop just to get to a big muddy puddle. No wonder they’re called f***wits.
Anyway, enough of my expert ramblings on ornithology, back to the walk. The mud on the road is quite thick in places, and dodging the regular cars that are passing back and forth becomes a game of chicken.
How far over to the edge of the road am I prepared to go with the risk of sinking into the deep mud, and how much do I value my toes as the cars squeeze past me? Thinking about it, it’s not really a game of chicken, as the car drivers don’t have nearly as big a stake in this game as me. Yeah, actually this game’s pretty shit. The mud does look nice reflecting the rays of the sun though.
Finally I come to the tiny hamlet of Sunderland, where boats in various states of decay are scattered around in the marshy fields.
That last one seems like it’s actually being lived in! The path passes a row of small cottages, along an embankment, through a farmyard and finally past a rather grander house, before spilling onto a pebble beach.
The path continues along the side of the marsh, where I find various interesting things scattered, a worm-eaten log, a thick ship’s rope, a nuclear power station…
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ferry chugs out of Heysham Port, trading places with a dredger that I later encounter clearing the entrance to the harbour.
As the path meets the Ocean Edge Caravan Park, in theory I should follow the road inland to skirt the private caravan park. However, I reckon I can make it along the beach for quite a bit further, and if I get blocked off, then I’ll just climb the slope up into the private caravan park and pretend I’m a resident. It looks easy enough from here…
It turns out to be a good decision, avoiding the dull inland road. The shingle occasionally becomes a boulder-field but it’s not too difficult to traverse, just a bit demanding on the ankles! Eventually though I reach a point where it gets too tricky, and so I climb up to the caravan park, and encounter a manicured lawn path, thoughtfully maintained for trespassers like me to escape that tricky beach section.
I wander through the forest of identical little huts, heading towards the power station. It surprises me how many people would want to come here for a holiday. It’s not a beautiful coastline, there’s no sandy beach, nothing really. I mean, you’d surely have to be a pretty big fan of nuclear power to pay £36,000 for one of these static caravans…
Still, there’s quite a lot of people milling around. Horses for courses I suppose.
As my mind swims amongst this huge shoal of caravans, under the monstrous shadow of Heysham B, it drifts away to the subject of nuclear power. When I was young I did a degree in Electrical Engineering, and wanted to take the nuclear engineering option to learn more about it, but not enough other people did, so the course was cancelled. After decades of swinging one way then the other over the subject, I concluded that nuclear fission as a power source is a pretty bad idea. Of course the early stations were built to manufacture plutonium for our nuclear deterrent, electricity being a by-product, which is a whole other argument, but it just seems so short-sighted and arrogant to create a radioactive wastepile that generations of our children will have to take care of for the next 300,000 years, just for a few decades of convenience. How is that a morally defensible thing to do? And of course it’s a phenomenally expensive way to generate electricity, even after they cheat the accountancy calculations by ignoring the costs of looking after that waste for thousands of years. I find it deeply depressing.
Heysham will close in 2025, having generated electricity for 45 years, and some of it will then have to stand idle for the next few thousand years. We will have lived through and benefited from it for just 1% of its lifetime, while our descendants will live through the remaining 99% of that time, benefitting nothing, just suffering from our short-term greed. How will they look back on us? Hmmm.
I’m dragged back to the here and now by my arrival at the caravan site gates. I’ve got a choice to make here. Some previous coastal walkers made their way up Money Close Lane, sounding a lot nicer than it apparently is, which drifts inland to join up with the main docks road. However, I’ve spotted a path around the seaward side of the power station, and my mapping app, Komoot shows it leading through the docks to the same final location. This fits better with my rule/guidance No. 2 about staying as close as possible to the sea, so off I go, following the concrete sea wall which defends the power station from the angry sea. It’s not very angry today, actually.
The path continues for quite some way, before turning sharply right at the entrance to Heysham Port, where a light marks the southern entrance wall. It’s not exactly a lighthouse, but it’s close enough for me take its picture and add it to my collection.
The dredger that I pictured earlier steaming into port is busily clearing the entry for a pair of ferries sat patiently at the jetties. Both are truck ferries that sail between Heysham and Northern Ireland.
The path then appears to come to an end, but I spot a narrow passageway, and find it actually continues around a series of bends. I’m loving this! I love the industrial surroundings, and I’ve found the secret path that no other coastal walkers have managed to! I’m an intrepid explorer…!
Just as I’m celebrating my newfound expertise as a coastal adventurer I turn a corner and come to a padlocked gate. Beyond the gate, the docks are clearly no place that any health and safety zealot would allow an unbalanced kook like me to venture, so wearily I turn around, and with the heavy encumbrance of defeat weighing me down, I trudge back the mile or so to the caravan park. Bugger.
I skirt around the southerly fence of the power station, and pass through an attractive picnic area complete with duck pond.
No ducks though. Then a pleasant dog-walking path running parallel with Money Close Lane leads me to the lovely but petite Heysham Nature Reserve…
…which I cut through, under the impressive double transmission line feed from the power station…
…and join Princess Alexandra Way. Port Road then takes me back down to the sea again, having now successfully skirted the power station and docks.
Far across the water to the north and to the west I can see the grey outlines of other coastlines. A check of the compass and map on my phone shows me they are Grange-over-Sands and Barrow-in-Furness respectively, towns in southern Cumbria, adventures yet to be had.
The route quickly changes from industrial to rural, as the path climbs Chapel Hill, and becomes a National Trust cliff-top trail through the winter flowering gorse, passing over tiny secluded sandy beaches, and with views over the receding tide.
Then a steep climb takes me up to St Patrick’s Chapel that has stood sentry on the clifftop for over 1000 years. The stone steps that weave around it’s ruined skeleton testify to the millions of human feet that passed this way over those inconceivable centuries.
The path drops down through the streets of pretty little Heysham Village…
…and takes me to the promenade. From here it’s prom all the way to my endpoint, just short of Morecambe itself.
The prom has some cool shadow markings set into the surface… can you name them?
My original plan was to go all the way to Morecambe, but I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make it that far, so I parked up a couple of miles short in Sandylands. In fact, I feel I could go on another few miles beyond the 12.9 I’ve just done. It seems I’m finally starting to get a little bit fitter as a walker! Anyway, it’s now gone five o’clock due to my futile ramblings around the power station, the whippet walkers are finishing their evening rounds, and the sun sets in a few minutes, so it’s probably a good thing I didn’t.
At a later date I did some of this walk again with a friend, but this time managed to find Sambo’s grave. It’s such a sad story.
This walk was completed on 23rd February, 2020. It was about 12 miles long. Here’s a map:
And here’s the real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around…