The road southwards across Lades Marsh is only a matter of yards from The Globe at Overton. Nestled amid the marshes, Sunderland Point is about one-and-a-half miles from The Globe. However, the road crosses a tidal marsh and is submerged beneath the sea at high tide. Consequently, the old village and port is unique in that it is the only mainland community in the UK dependent upon tidal access. Our key issue was that it had rained all morning and the road was covered in mud - and salty mud at that. But the exceptional nature of this remote location is so alluring.
The port was developed by the Quaker Robert Lawson and, prior to the opening of Glasson Dock at Lancaster, Sunderland Point acted as a seaport for slave ships and a key harbour for the cotton trade. The growth of the quay and dock at Lancaster led to the decline of Sunderland Point which, in the 19th century, redefined itself as a tourist destination known at Little Brighton on the Lune. Of course, there was a pub here - appropriately known by the sign of The Ship. It was in the brewery of the tavern that a slave known as Sambo died in 1736. Located close to the windswept shoreline, his grave remains a macabre tourist attraction. A memorial was raised some sixty years following his death, largely through the efforts of James Watson, a retired headmaster. Ironically, he was was the brother of William Watson who had made a fortune from the slave trade. Consequently, his undertaking was perhaps a form of contrition or atonement.
Returning to Overton's Main Street and past the Ship Hotel, turn left in the direction of Middleton, once the location of Middleton Tower Holiday Camp. This was an early British holiday camp that first opened in August 1939 with an opening ceremony performed by Lady Bridgett Poulett. The camp was part of the resort and entertainment empire of a Japanese businessman Harry Kamiya. He acquired the farm on which the tower stood. Rebuilt in the early 19th century the original tower dated from the early 17th century. The ancient farmhouse was later used as an on-site pub.
The original holiday camp was very much like an army camp with uniform huts and chalets built in rows. No sooner had the place opened when it requisitioned by the government at the outbreak of World War Two. It is thought that the site was to be converted into a prisoner-of-war camp but was put to other uses between 1939-45. Following the war, the site was revamped and a new entertainment building was built. Featuring a 2,000 seat theatre, it was built in the style of an ocean liner and named S.S. Berengaria. Indeed, some artefacts from the Cunard liner of the same name were acquired and displayed within the building.
Harry Kamiya died in 1952 but his family continued to run the Middleton Tower Holiday Camp until the site was sold to Pontin's in 1964. The company founded by Fred Pontin and a rival to Billy Butlin's, replaced the original chalets and huts with brick buildings. The camp was closed in 1993. In more recent times the site has become a development for a retirement village. I wonder if some folks have returned in order to rekindle memories of the good times they had here on holiday. There must be thousands of people who enjoyed happy days here. It's easy in this digital age to mock the Hi-De-Hi-Ness of such holiday camps but, for many, this was a week of tremendous fun. And what of all the blue coats and other staff who strived to make people smile and enjoy themselves.
At the junction of Low Road stands the former Old Tree Inn which, at the time of our trip, was being converted into two residential properties. Thankfully, I did manage to take a photograph of the old inn sign which showed a monk surveying a 'new-build' with a cruck-frame truss. Formerly known as Middleton Hall, the building, largely dating from the 17th century, has a cruck truss in the main range, suggesting a building of greater antiquity possibly remodelled during the 1600's. The pub was last operated by Thwaite's but was certainly a free house in the 1950's.
We continued along the road in the direction of Heysham. We did follow the A683 that takes heavy traffic to the harbour, though there is a cycle path for safety. The reason for this slight diversion was to view the inn sign for the Duke of Rothesay, a signboard with a nautical theme. The illustration was based on a popular postcard view of the T.S.S. Duke of Rothesay, a steamer passenger ship commissioned by the London Midland and Scottish Railway to operate as a passenger ferry on the Heysham to Belfast route. Built at William Denny and Brothers of Dumbarton, the vessel was completed in 1928. The Duke of Argylll and Duke of Lancaster were sister ships. The Duke of Rothesay was both a trooping ship and hospital during the Second World War and was used during the Normandy invasion of June 1944. The steamer ship had a relatively short lifespan and was decommissioned in the mid-1950's. The vessel was dismantled at Milford Haven by which time a successor had been put into service by British Railways.
At this point of the journey you may think that Heysham is blighted by ugly modern development and an industrial mishmash. However, the heart of the old village will raise your spirits. Of key historical interest are the stone graves in the ruins of the ancient St. Patrick's Chapel, close to St. Peter's Church. A great idea is to park and lock your bicycle at the nearby Royal Hotel and walk to the present church and ruins of the old chapel. Cut out of the sandstone, the stone graves are thought to date from the 10th century, relative 'new' additions to the landscape compared to the chapel, the origins of which are probably two hundred years older. Discovered as recently as 1995, the nearby rocks feature a rare pre-Roman labyrinth, the only other example in Britain being at Tintagel in Cornwall.
St. Peter's Church is thought to have been built on the site of an older Saxon chapel. Some of the fabric is claimed to be from the 8th century building. Built with sandstone rubble with a stone slate roof, the chancel dates from the mid-14th century with a south aisle added some two hundred years later. A north aisle was added in 1864. The interior has plenty of interest, notably the a Viking hogback stone and a medieval sepulchral slab with a floriated cross and sword.
With views across Morecambe Bay and the Lake District forming a backdrop, the panorama from St. Peter's is magnificent. Little wonder that J. M. W. Turner put brush to canvas when visiting Heysham in the 1790's. It is a real wrench to tear yourself away from this location. Mind you, the lure of a decent pub is tolerable compensation. The Royal Hotel dates from the mid-18th century and is noted for its fine snug. The passage from the entrance is rather nice too. The timber and leaded-glass screen features a service hatch. Much of the interior dates from a 1930's refurbishment and is a good example of the type of pub regional breweries favoured during the inter-war years. We found the pub selling some rather good ales, including By The Horns Lambeth Walk, a dark porter. On the opposite end of the tastebud scale was the grapefruit-laced Oakham Citra.
These days it is possible to drink in the Royal Hotel on Sunday's. However, this was not the case for much of the late 19th century and up until March 1949 when the pub's seven day licence was restored. In the early Victorian days the inn was owned by the Rector of Heysham, Reverend Royds. Legend has it that when church attendances declined in the middle of the 19th century the vicar went to the village squire at Heysham Hall and a gentlemen's agreement was struck in which the Royal would be closed on Sundays as long as the village off-licence, owned by the squire, was also closed for business.
We could have lingered in Heysham for a while but time waits for no cyclist... besides, we still had lots of miles to clock up during the day. You can pick up a cycle route from either the ice cream shop or on Knowlys Road and then it's a ride along the promenade all the way to Morecambe and beyond. To ride next to the sea is exhilarating and we love these prom-rides. As you ride towards Morecambe you can look to the right for the old Battery Hotel which was actually in Heysham Parish. The older Battery Inn stands next to the larger hotel operated by Thwaite's. The pub started life as a beer house. A full licence for the house was granted in 1870 to Edward Edmondson. The publican's good conduct in running the beer house was a key factor in the spirits licence being granted by the local magistrates. The Edmondson family kept this pub for a good many years. The name commemorates a coastal battery which was manned by the Lancashire Artillery. An old mill building was used as an arsenal for the battery.
From here it's a short roll into Morecambe for the official start line of the "Coast-to-Coast" route by riding along the cycle-friendly promenade. During the previous summer we'd enjoyed a similar cycle route along the south coast at Bournemouth and wished that there was a similar path all the way around Britain. Now, that would be a ride!
View and Download Map
The route map covers the entire day's cycle ride so it is NOT only this section of the route but also the section from Lancaster to Overton and Heysham to Lancaster.
The route profile for this day of cycling shows that there are only a couple of climbs. Most of the route is gently undulating.
You may have downloaded my Garmin file for this route but there's nothing like sitting down with a pint and looking at the bigger picture. The entire route for the "Way of the Roses" is presented here in a manageable foldout map. Not only is the official route highlighted, but there is a useful mileage guide, local information and route profiles. Details of cycle shops are also included just in case you have a mechanical. The scale is 1:100,000 so don't expect every pothole to be marked but it's a useful lightweight addition to the pannier bag. Incidentally, the signposting for the official route is excellent so you'd have to be a bit of a numpty to get lost!!
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any further information on this route - perhaps you drank in different pubs? Or maybe you spotted something I missed en-route? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or route guidance for others. Simply send a message and I'll post it here.
More Images From This Route
There are a number of channels of deep sandy mud when the tide goes out at Sunderland Point. In places, the road isn't much better!
The graveyard at St. Peter's is one of those enigmatic shoreline locations that make you want to linger and reflect. The hills of the Lake District can be seen across Morecambe Bay.
The passage from the entrance of the Royal Hotel in Heysham features a timber and leaded-glass screen with a service hatch. Much of the pub's interior furnishing dates from a 1930's brewery refit.
Some Inn Signs on this Route
"There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul."
"When riding a pedal cycle towards Caton in company with another cyclist, last night, Herbert Howard , Langdale Road, Lancaster, was
knocked off his machine near Nelson's Silk Works by a Ribble bus driven by Leo Thompson, Westham Street, Lancaster, and had to be conveyed to the Royal Lancaster
Infirmary suffering from a lacerated right ear, cut under the right eye and injury to the right shoulder."
"Lancaster Cyclist Injured"
Lancashire Evening Post : July 15th 1933 Page 6.
"Apparently losing control after going down a steep hill at the junction of Kellet Lane and Halton Road, Lancaster, yesterday, Emily
Pilkington , of Trafalgar Road. Lancaster, was thrown from the bicycle and received fatal injuries."
"Lancaster Girl Cyclist Killed"
Lancashire Evening Post : June 23rd 1939 P.7.
"A fatal cycling accident occurred in the Trough of Bowland, about two miles from Dunsop Bridge, about noon on Sunday. The unfortunate
man was Hamilton Dawson Cripps. of Brookhouse Road. Caton, Lancaster. The deceased was cycling with a number of friends, and was riding in front. When descending a
steep hill the party behind found deceased lying in the road dead. Deceased appeared to have been thrown from his machine, and received severe injuries his head. The
bicycle is said have been without brake and constructed with wooden rims, and the accident is attributed to the collapsing of the front wheel."
"Lancaster Cyclist Killed in Trough of Bowland"
Lancashire Evening Post : September 14th 1903 Page 4.