The Dog and I were overdue a big walk and with the forecast looking good, we headed to the coast.
We didn’t head to our usual haunt of Hest Bank, but decided to head further south to Heysham near Morecambe. It’s an easy drive with by-passes around Lancaster and Morecambe, so there was no need to fight our way through both towns. The dual carriageways cross seemingly flat scrubby marshland, with farms scattered. You feel it’s about to be built on by the likes of Amazon and their huge warehouses. Pylons marched across the landscape from all angles, converging on the edge of Heysham to an enormous electrical substation. I was sure my hair briefly stood on end and wafted to the left. We approached a roundabout on the edge of Heysham and dutifully turned right.
I was after Heysham Village, but I was driving along a main road flanked by post war, pebble dashed housing that seemed to go on for ages. It didn’t seem very villagey. A road sign pointed left marked Heysham Village and took us down into the original Heysham settlement.￼
The Dog and I parked in a large deserted car park and paid £1 for 4 hours. We walked towards Main Street, past an ugly toilet block and it still felt very modern. But once on Main Street, it all changed – we walked past little cottages with date lintels marked 1629. Wow, nearly 400 years old. Most had been sadly pebble dashed (that should be a criminal offence in my world) which didn’t reflect their antiquity – they were stone buildings. It was a narrow street, with a one way system for cars. There were little shops (mainly cafes) and the Royal Hotel in the middle. It was all rather charming. Further along, off the street was St Peter’s church staring out to sea. The road swung round to the right and ended about a hundred yards, the little cottages petering out and large 19th century villas taking over. Many years ago, it was probably a sleepy isolated fishing village, miles from anywhere and self sufficient. Now it was attached to the modern world by housing estates and had been subsumed into the greater Heysham area.
We took the path by the side of St Peters church, pointing the way to the Chapel and up onto the headland. Here a ruined chapel stands, facing the westerly winds and looking across Morecambe Bay. Only a few walls remain and the stone coffins – open to the elements and the contents gone, but the shapes still held.
It was an exposed spot here and I wondered what it was like to come here especially during storms, being lashed by wind and rain. In the murky distance you could see the south Lakeland fells. It just added to sense of loneliness this place once had.
The Dog was excited and galloped down to a little sandy bay. This was her heaven. The sun popped out sporadically and there was a chilly wind. The tide was heading out. We headed south along the grassy headland along with numerous other dog walkers, the dogs enjoying the freedom of running free. We followed the well worn paths as Heysham Nuclear Power Station and docks hoved into view. I’m not completely happy with nuclear power stations for some reason, expecting to meet people with a green glow and a third eye slap bang in the middle of their forehead. There were some fancy houses on the ridge line on our left and I wondered why you would buy one. Look right to see the glorious fells of the Lake District, look left and the imposing rectangular twin bulks of a humming nuclear reactor.
We dropped down onto the pebbly sandy beach and wandered along. The ferries for the Isle of Man departed from here as well so the foreground was quite industrial. At the end of the beach is a cracking little cafe. It must serve all the workers from the power station and ferry terminal. We didn’t stop, but turned to walk back to the village. We stopped to look at the newly installed Ship monument, which was quite stunning, but seemed strangely out of place, on this seemingly remote straggly part of coastline next door to dock lands. There was a little sign on it, but gave no information why it was built and it’s significance.We headed back to the centre of the village and had a poke around. It was mainly a huddle of 17th cottages, with 19th century interruptions and the odd 1950’s bungalow squeezed in. The village was kind of growing in its own right before Britain launched the massive house building after the Second World War.￼We wandered around the church yard, full of gravestones old and new. It dropped down towards the sea and had a wonderful view of Morecambe Bay. It was a lovely spot. The church itself was dinky, with a slate roof and not particularly tall. I poked my head into the church as The Dog wasn’t allowed in. It was enchanting, with timber beams, lanterns and stained windows. It was so cosy and welcoming, a lovely little place of worship.
We then went into a little woodland opposite which delighted The Dog as there were unsuspecting squirrels to be chased and she spent a happy half hour on red alert. It was a pleasant little diversion, full of rocky crags in its small acreage and offered a view of the surrounding urban area between the trees. We did a lot of exploring, up and down steps and following paths.
The Dog was impatient for her beach walk I had promised, so we ambled back past the church, onto Main Street and strolled further down the road, turning down a little alleyway to the promenade. It stretches all the way to Morecambe. We walked along until steps allowed us access to the beach itself. The Dog was elated. We strolled across the wet sand, the sea on one side and the edge of civilisation on the other.
To prevent flooding, huge sea defences in the shape of massive boulders had been built along the length of the promenade. They were impressive and not a eyesore at all. They were also built out into the sea, probably to break up the power of the waves, so the beach was in sections. Every so often, we had to leave the beach and walk along the promenade before we could drop back into the beach, but the access points were few and far between. In consequence, we missed large chunks of beach. However, on our visits to the promenade, we found these little plaques giving little bits of information. There was lots of them, embedded in the path. We spent some time reading them.
We could of walked to Morecambe, but we had gone far enough. We turned around and retraced our steps. From this angle, we could see the little village cascade down from headland to the edge of the beach, sheltering in a natural valley. You could imagine it being a tiny isolated fishing hamlet now, tucked away from the heaving Atlantic storms.
We got back into the Main Street – there were a few people wandering around, but there seemed to be an overwhelming amount of cafes vying for our business. Perhaps I come at the wrong time of year, but never seen it heaving or the car park full and wondered how they stayed in business. For a not so obvious tourist destination, the retail outlets seem to be thriving and good for them! Maybe it was a mixture of locals, dog walkers and visitors that came to Heysham Village time and time again and supported the local economy.
The Dog and I had now exhausted Heysham Village and lunch was beckoning. She was very reluctant to jump into the back of the car, but she finally did, not looking impressed. We drove through Morecambe with its impressive frontage and promenade, but distinctly struggling in its shopping area and surrounding areas. It’s all rather sad – a typical British seaside town suffering from the lack of investment and unable to reinvent itself. We drove home as the sun disappeared and the clouds took over. It had been a good morning’s walk.