13. Heysham via Morecambe to Hest Bank

It’s been 71 days since I last walked a section of my coastal adventure. In that time the world has become a very different place. Back then people went to pubs and chatted to each other. We went dancing, ate out in restaurants. We kissed and hugged each other. When we needed groceries we just walked into a shop and bought them. In the mornings we went to work, and came home again in the evening.

Then we stopped seeing each other. We stopped going out. We stopped visiting our families and friends. We stopped eating and drinking outside our homes. We queued glumly to get into shops, reviving scenes from Soviet Russia. Police roamed the streets randomly stopping motorists and asking where they were going and why they were out… reviving scenes from Soviet Russia. And worst of all, our elderly died on their own, in their houses and care homes, and in the hospitals, with no family to hold their hands as they slipped away.

Of course all of the former things were necessary to reduce the likelihood of the last thing happening, but still it happened. Most of the population willingly followed the lockdown. We all knew it was necessary, and the love that the country has for our National Health Service was demonstrated every day, and especially every Thursday evening. In some ways the experience has been inspiring and amazing. Everyone has been reminded how important it is that every member of our society can enter a hospital and know they will be given the best care in the world, and can walk out with no debt, no worries how they will pay for it… perhaps some people had forgotten how important that really is. But that experience has been so expensive in terms of the loss of some of our loved ones.

This has been a vicious virus. A newcomer to our species that has voraciously consumed on its new vulnerable hosts. Spreading itself before we even realise we are harbouring it, and cutting us down in far greater numbers than the nasty influenzas that visit us every winter. I was one of its victims, and as a 53 year old male was one of its favourite feasts, but just by being lucky my antibodies managed to adapt to it in time before it ravaged my lungs like it has so many others. I’m thankful to fate for that, as it is only luck that I’m still here.

Living on my own, at times during the height of the disease I envisaged myself fading away and no-one realising for days. A couple of nights at its worst I wondered if I went to sleep whether I would wake up again. That scared me a little bit, and I feel a kind of debt now that I have escaped its clutches.

I’m trying to repay some of that debt by donating my antibodies to a Convalescent Plasma trial, and I sincerely hope that my antibodies can go on to save the lives of many of those that have been struck down worse than I was, and are struggling to win their own personal battles with it. The evidence so far seems to show that it is a very effective treatment.

On Sunday 10th May 2020, the prime minister announced that a small number of the lockdown restrictions were to be relaxed. Unfortunately, in particular for a close friend of mine, it still doesn’t allow visits to see close family in other households. Even if it was a single nominated other household, that would bring so much joy and relief to so many, without significantly increasing the risk. A shame. But fortunately for me and the progress of my coastal walk, it does allow unlimited driving to get exercise, and unlimited exercise, which means I can now resume my adventure.

So the next stage. This was originally planned to be from Heysham all the way to Silverdale, just south of Arnside. That would have been about 14 miles, which I could have managed okay back then. A drive to Silverdale, bus to Heysham, a walk to Silverdale. But we’re still not allowed to use public transport except for emergency commuting to work, so that option was out.

My completely impractical car (and my son)

So I bought a folding bike. It had to be a folding bike because the boot of my car, a 20 year old Jaguar XKR, is only really designed to fit a set of golf sticks. Since I’ve never played golf it hasn’t got any of them in it, and it’s just big enough to fit a folding bike. The bike arrived on Saturday, and after the tiniest amount of construction and testing round the block, I was ready.

My new foldable bike

Now I haven’t been on a push-bike for a very long time, apart from an occasional 3 mile ride to work when the car was in the garage. I’m talking 30 years or so since I did any significant distance on a bike! So I decide to take it easy, and restrict this to 6 miles.

Saddle sore

So on Sunday I drive to Hest Bank, significantly south of Arnside, then cycled to Heysham. By the time I got there I was knackered! There was a strong wind in my face all the way, which I think is totally unfair to a newbie cyclist. And don’t even mention the saddle soreness!

I locked the bike up against some railings, and started trudging northwards in a strange John Wayne-type walk.

North Heysham promenade

It’s a pretty grey day, and the wind’s quite strong. In fact, for 17th May it’s bloody freezing! I think some of my coastal walks back in February were warmer than this. Oh well, at least the wind’s at my back, but I didn’t bring a woolly hat or gloves, and I’m starting to regret that decision. Just to cheer me up, it starts raining. Oh, it’s great to be back!

Just after the start point, there’s a tiny pier sort of thing, more a jetty I guess, and you know how I can’t resist a pier, especially ones I’m actually allowed to go on, so I walk the 50 yards to the end of it. It wasn’t very exciting.

A pointless pier (or jetty actually) just north of Heysham

Looking south is the familiar hulk of Heysham nuclear power station. The path takes a turn to the north east shortly, and I wonder if this is the last time I’ll see it. It’s been an ever-present for the last three or four walks, and in a strange kind of way I’ll miss it. I get very sentimental!

Heysham nuclear power station

Actually, looking at a map I’ll probably keep seeing it for quite a long time yet – it’s not so far from the Furness peninsular in Cumbria.

Looking north, the expanse of sand in Morecambe Bay reminds me that I haven’t walked on sand for a long time. (Actually, that’s not strictly true, for some reason there was loads of sand on my lockdown walk along the footpath next to the Manchester Ship Canal, but this is proper sand, beach sand).

The beach just south of Morecambe

A curious low structure on the beach creates an angular pool, for who knows what reason…

A little further on, the sand becomes a bit muddy, and plants are growing on the beach, including this lovely Armeria Maritima, or “seapink” (No, I didn’t have a clue, I had to look it up on PlantSnap)

Lovely sea pinks at Morecambe

Walking along the beach you miss quite a lot of what’s going on up on the shore road, but there’s really not a great deal in this part of south Morecambe until you get to the old Alhambra Theatre, which is now just a fishing tackle shop.

Alhambra Palace, Morecambe

It was built in 1901 as the Alhambra Palace and served as an entertainment venue for many years, until 1970 when a fire gutted it, and destroyed quite a bit of it. Here it is in its wonderful heyday:

Just beyond the Alhambra is the rather grand entrance to West End Road, marked by two turreted buildings. It’s just a shame they didn’t put the steps down to the beach in the dead centre ‘cos it’s ruined my photograph. No consideration!

West End Road, Morecambe

I reach the nearest thing Morecambe has to a pier – “The Stone Jetty” – which was built by the North Western Railway in 1851 as a wharf and rail terminal for both passenger and cargo transport to serve ferries to Ireland and Scotland. It replaced a previous wooden jetty which also incorporated a railway line.

Down its length are numerous artworks, including these delightful cormorants (I think).

Cormorants on the Stone Jetty

Near the end of the jetty is a stone building which used to be the railway station terminus.

Morecambe jetty railway station

To my delight, attached to the old railway station is a tiny lighthouse, to add to my collection of lighthouses I’ve seen.

Morecambe jetty lighthouse

A few old fishing boats are scattered forlornly on the muddy beach.

The snaking channels of unnamed rivers meander gently down to the sea…

Swirling channels on Morecambe beach

Overhanging the jetty back near the promenade is a Tide Bell, that tolls with each turn of the tide. Unfortunately the tide was far out and I could hang around to experience it, but you can see and hear it on this YouTube video. Cool.

Morecambe jetty tide bell

Just north of the stone jetty is the site of the old Morecambe Lido. It’s filled in now, and at the moment there’s a circus tent occupying the site, with all the caravans, but of course no shows to put on. Hopping around it is a little black and white bird, which I tried to identify on the RSPB bird identifier site, but couldn’t find it. Any ideas?

[13-Jun-20: it’s a wagtail Paul]

…and any ideas about this one…

The Morecambe Winter Gardens was opened as the Victoria Pavilion Theatre in 1897 as an extension to the existing Winter Gardens complex, which unfortunately has since been demolished. 

Morecambe winter gardens

Shortly after the winter gardens, Eric is still keeping passersby entertained. This really is quite a lovely memorial to the town’s favourite son.

Eric, amongst some of his quotes

Heading out of town now, another artwork replicates the mountainous horizon over the water, and names all the peaks. Can you see them all in the distance?… it’s a great idea, but doesn’t work so well on such a grey day.

Whitelow House

Whitelow House, now a nursing home, stands out amongst the inconspicuous houses around it, with its patches of art nouveau style. Just beyond on the seaward side of the road is a little boating lake. It seems much too small for boats though. One pull of the oars and you’d be at the other end. Maybe for model boats….

Morecambe boating pond

I’m out of town now, and opposite the golf club is a beautiful sculpture of a mother and child, called Venus and Cupid. So I guess it’s not a mother and child. If it was a mother and child it would make sense, playing together, but why would Venus be swinging Cupid round by the arms? Reading up the Wikipedia article it’s described as “…a seated woman, facing out to sea, holding the hands of a child who is suspended in the air extending horizontally from her arms, as if being swung round”, so it is a mother and child, so why’s it called Venus and Cupid? Hmmm.

I’m not getting anywhere here, am I? Anyway, I love it whatever. 

“Venus and Cupid”

I hear a buzz overhead, and look up to see a small plane…

German spies

I imagine I’m Richard Hannay being pursued by German spies, dodging in and out of the bushes. It’s so exciting… except there aren’t any bushes. And the plane doesn’t come any lower. And I think I’ve been locked up in my flat for too long during the lockdown.

Soon after, a lane branches off to the left following the coast, and I arrive at a cafe with a sign proclaiming “Still open during the lockdown“. It’s closed. OK, admittedly it’s 6pm on a Sunday, it’s freezing cold and drizzling, but really they should get their signage right.

Open all hours cafe…. closed.

Beyond the cafe the footpath at the top of the beach becomes strewn with very large pebbles, or small boulders, (same thing) and is a bit tricky to walk on, so I head down onto the sand.

The remains of an old concrete jetty emerge out of the sand, standing in lonely isolation from the shore. It comes from nowhere and leads to nowhere, reminds me of my life! Somehow it looks almost prehistoric… I like it.

At the top of the beach the boulders give way to a grassy shoreline. What look like boulders turn out to be huge lumps of muddy clay that the waves have disdainfully wrenched from the land and thrown upon the beach.

The coastal path passes through a dry stone wall, into a field of sheep, and rises up a steep hill. It’s nice here, this is one of the images I had in my mind when I first considered a walk around the coast. Sandy beaches, ice creams in pretty little coastal towns, and pleasant pastures atop cliffs with the sea below.

In reality there have been only a few of those things so far, but many more estuaries, mud, depressing towns, factories, and sewage works.

At the far end of the field, in a little corner fenced off with barbed wire, is this statue, called “Praying Shell“. It sits above the site where 23 Chinese cockle pickers working for criminal gangmasters died in 2004, although it wasn’t originally made to commemorate that tragic event. It’s a nice memorial to those poor people.

I stare out to sea and imagine how frightened those people must have been when the tide cut them off, when they realised they would have to swim such a long distance through the icy February waters, and realised they stood little chance of survival…. so sad.

The path passes through a tiny static caravan park belonging to the farm, and then squeezes through a tight gap between the stone wall and the farmhouse, emerging into the car park where I left my car.

Style at Red Bank Farm, Bolton-le-Sands

A far too poignant way to end a walk.

This walk was completed on 18th May 2020, and was about 6¼ miles long. Here’s the map:

Here’s the real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around…:

22 thoughts on “13. Heysham via Morecambe to Hest Bank

  1. Welcome back to the coast. It is a shame public transport is out for the time being.
    Your bike looks rather smart, hope it’s not too heavy.
    A nicely balanced write up with your Covid background.
    Think the bird is a pied wagtail.

    1. Thanks BC? It’s a surprisingly light bike actually. It was £275 which I initially thought was a hell of a lot, but many years have passed since I last bought a bike, and that’s cheap these days!
      A wagtail makes sense since it was wagging it’s tail!??? Maybe I could have guessed!
      Are you planning any trips further afield?

      1. No, I’m virtually isolated except for the short local forays when nobody about. No shops or anything.
        I’m intending to see it through, not sure how long that will take.

  2. Nice to see a post from you Paul, I’ve been checking every day to see if there was a new one and wondering if you were going to continue your canal walks. I was looking at the Morecambe webcams at lunch time, I wouldn’t have liked to be there today as the weather looked horribly dark, grey and damp. I’m not particularly keen on the mother and child sculpture, to be honest I think it’s ugly, but I do like the Praying Shell 🙂

    1. Awww, thanks Eunice ?. They said the weather wasn’t going to be great, so I took a raincoat, but never even thought about gloves or a wooly hat, I mean, it’s May! By the end of the bike ride my hands were welded to the handlebars with cold! ?.
      The praying shell is beautiful, and so very poignant of course. Ruth is right about the mother and child one, it does look good in real life. Maybe it’s my photograph, I was trying to get an “arty” angle!! ??

  3. Nice to see you back on the coast again. I am also planning to get a folding bike to resume my walk when we are allowed to go to Scotland and stay overnight again. However it seems they are now really hard to get hold of because everyone is buying one, which I suppose is not surprising but despite this, it did catch me by surprise.

    The cycling will probably get easier as you get more used to it. Maybe. Possibly.

    Anyway you find quite a lot of interest along here (more than I remember to be honest). I loved the statue of Eric Morecambe too and I think you did well to get it with no one there. People were putting a jacket on him and having their picture taken etc both times I was here. It always brings to my mind his famous song “Bring me sunshine”… which it looks like something you were lacking on this walk (sunshine).

    Your comment about sandy beaches ice creams etc is quite true. A lot of people think all of the coast is like that (probably because the bits they go to *are* like this). But as you are finding in practice a lot of it isn’t like that at all (and Cumbria has a lot of estuaries….).

    1. Hiya Jon, I got lucky with that bike. A few people were telling me you couldn’t get bikes anywhere these days. It’s like weights, I was trying to get some more discs to increase the weight on my dumbells but they’re 5 times the price they should be at the moment, now the gyms have all closed! I found that bike on Amazon no problem, but now I look again at the same one and they’re all sold out! I wish you luck getting one ?.

      It wasn’t just the Eric Morecambe statue that was empty, the whole town was! People with more sense than me, avoiding the wind and rain.

      It’s unfortunate for you that you’re currently doing Scotland, with their lockdown continuing, and no public transport. Who knows when you’ll be able to get back on a train or a plane ?…

  4. Glad to see you’re walking again. Shame about the weather! I liked Morecambe and loved the various statues, particularly the mother and child one (it’s much nicer in real life, Eunice). I seem to remember there was some dispute and the artist threatened to take it down, so glad to see it’s still there.

    Was good of you to donate your plasma. I presume antibody tests have confirmed you really did have Covid19?

    So fed up with this lockdown now. Really want to get back to Scotland.

    1. Hiya Ruth, I liked Morecambe too. I last went there about 20 years ago shortly after we moved to Manchester, but haven’t been back since. My favourite statues were the cormorants I think, don’t know why, maybe the expressions on their faces ?. The mother and child one I think is very evocative, you can feel the love and joy between them. I guess it comes across better in real life! Yeah, there was an argument about who would maintain it, but now there’s a sculpture trust been set up so it’s all sorted.

      Hey, they’re welcome to as much of my blood as they like, it’s free to me! I’ll look like one of Dracula’s cast-off maidens by the end of it… but maybe without the heaving breasts!?. Just the thought that I could be saving the lives of some of the poor people that have been hit so much harder than I was makes me very happy. I’ll get the results in two weeks, how strong an antibody concentration I have, so I still don’t know 100% whether I had it or not. If I’ve got a good antibody load I can donate every two weeks. It was amazing, the machine took the blood out of me, separated the plasma and then pumped what was left back in again! That way they can take a lot more without the donor passing out! At the end there was just a big bag of clear golden plasma.

      I can imagine how fed up you are, especially now that I’m back walking again, and you can’t. It’s unfortunate the way it’s worked out for you, doing Scotland at the moment. It’s almost like I’m teasing you publishing this, sorry about that Ruth?!! Hopefully Scotland will follow suit shortly. Given how we do our walks, we hardly meet anyone anyway, social distancing is easy, so I guess that makes it all the more frustrating for you.

      All the best, p.

    1. Thanks Anabel ?. Yeah, there was loads of artworks, especially down the stone jetty, which I only showed a tiny amount of. Quite different from where I live in Manchester, where most of the public art is done by informal street artists, although some of that is spectacular too, like this very recent one…

      1. Wow! I hope that one stays there longer than the end of this month as I’d love to see it. I can’t wait to photograph some more street art but I absolutely refuse to put myself through the nightmare of driving into the city centre and I’m not sure about getting the train 🙁

        1. Hopefully it will stay longer. Akse’s paintings are the most popular, so there should be quite a bit of local pressure to keep it!

  5. Good to see you back again. Like my friend Bowland Climber I am also isolating – haven’t been into a shop since Lockdown. You will next be passing through Arnside, or may well have done so by the time you read this. Whilst I am committed to social distancing if there is anyway you need any help please don’t hesitate to give me a shout – conrob@me.com

    1. Hi Conrad, thanks matey ?. My next planned route is just Hest Bank to Silverdale. I originally planned to go all the way to Arnside, but although the 14 mile walk would be fine, the 12 mile cycle ride would finish me off! ??? so I decided to be a bit less ambitious and stick to just 7 or 8 miles.

      I guess the next stage will probably get me to Arnside, so if you fancy a chat over your garden wall that’d be really nice! Living on my own now I relish every opportunity to talk to a real life human being!

  6. I think you’re brave leaving that desirable bike chained up. Hope it doesn’t disappear while you’re walking back to your car.
    Good to be able to get out somewhere different on the coast

    1. I’ve got a good U-lock on it, and a big thick motorbike chain as well! Hopefully they’ll keep it safe! It’s not a very expensive one either (well I thought it was expensive but then I’ve not bought a bike for 20 years!) so hopefully wouldn’t attract serious bike thieves!

      1. Well seems like you’ve not had a problem so far. Those locks will add weight when you’re riding, but worth it. You wouldn’t want to have to walk back to the car after your walk.

        1. I drive to the end then cycle to the beginning. I always like to end at the car when I’m knackered!

  7. I got trench foot on this stage thru fording shallow streams in mid January. Eric morecambe is always a joy and much better than the Ernie wise one at Morley which looks like it was done by a two year old and left out in the rain to melt

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