Notes and Guidance on the Way of the Roses Cycle Ride with Information on Pubs and Local History
PLEASE NOTE : we rode this route in June 2015 so all information refers to that period. Some elements, particularly within the pub's and café's, may have changed.
This cycle ride follows much of the Sustrans route entitled "Way of the Roses" but with a few diversions and add-ons so that we could incorporate some lovely pubs. And, believe me, there are some pub treasures on this route.
The official distance for the "Way of the Roses" is 273.5 kilometres [170 miles] but with a Lancaster Loop at the start, a meandering day cycling from Bridlington to Hull, plus a few extras, we rode 563 kilometres. Do not let that figure put you off because, if you follow these directions, it can be completed at a leisurely pace over six days. We stopped to look at most places and locations of interest, called into some classic inns and enjoyed some of the most beautiful scenery. Taking in parts of the Lune Valley, Yorkshire Dales and the Yorkshire Wolds, this is a ride to enrich your soul. There are nutters who complete the Coast-to-Coast ride in a day but I see no point in traversing the country without appreciating the rich tapestry the journey has to offer.
Some of our route deviations throughout this Coast-to-Coast ride were added to ensure we were in a busy town during the evening with plenty of pub choices but, more importantly, in locations where we could book into a Travelodge and leave the bikes to explore places on foot. At the end of a long day riding a bike the last thing we want to do is start erecting a tent in a field. Plus, after spending the evening enjoying a few beers, I prefer the comfort of a nice clean toilet a few yards away rather than tramping across a field to a shower block or getting stung by nettles when spending a penny in the nearest bush. Besides, we prefer to travel light, not lugging tents and camping equipment across the countryside. If you plan ahead you can sleep in relative comfort at very affordable prices at a Travelodge or Premier Inn. We use them for many trips as you can take your bikes in the room for extra security and added peace-of-mind. Admittedly, some are located next to busy motorways but, increasingly, they are being opened in ideal locations within towns and cities. On this trip we were located in the heart of Lancaster, Harrogate, York and Hull, all of which proved perfect for a nice pub tour during the evening. Cycling Tip : If you wish the likes of Travelodge or Premier Inn to continue allowing bikes within their rooms, please do not treat the place as a garage. Bike cleaning, repairs and maintenance should be conducted outside the building. Care should also be taken not to mark or scratch the walls and/or furniture.
By spending our first night at Lancaster Travelodge, it facilitated a pleasant evening in Skipton. In order to fulfil our "Coast-to-Coast" objective, I created a loop so that we could take the bikes to the official start line at Morecambe and take a look around some delightful pockets of Lancashire. This loop is 86.46 kilometres. Most people finish Day 1 of the "Way of the Roses" route in Settle, leaving themselves a very challenging second day tackling the notoriously 'lumpy' territory in the Yorkshire Dales. By stopping at Skipton, we found that the difficult climbs were spread across two days. My riding partner, La Goddess du Vélo, found this to be quite a bonus.
If you are unsure about bike and equipment here are a few of my guidelines. My weapon of choice for this ride was a touring machine that was realised in the Spring of 2014 after I had collected together a Tifosi carbon frame and components from a range of manufacturers. I had tested this custom-build on a couple of century rides and it had proved to be such a comfortable bike - always go for comfort on long days in the saddle. I opted to ride with a compact chainset but for those who like an easier time going uphill you may want to consider a triple chainset, particularly if you are not used to riding with the weight of pannier bags. This route has a couple of challenging climbs in the Yorkshire Dales.
Clothing and Equipment
If you intend to ride for six days, as we did, ensure you take ONLY the clothes you will NEED. If you finish the ride with clothing or kit you did not use then you will have carried extra weight up hills for no reason. I used large sealable food bags [available from supermarkets] and allocated a bag for each day, labelling each one for easy identification in the panniers. As you use the clean kit you can then recycle the bags to store dirty clothing. By using your bicycle as a clothes line, air your spent clothing overnight before packing away in the plastic bags during your morning ritual of preparations for the next leg of the journey. We did consider normal 'civilian' clothes for our evening strolls but, after weighing our pannier bags, decided against the extra weight and simply packed some leg warmers.
Reserving spaces for our bikes, we travelled to Lancaster on the Virgin Trains service to Edinburgh. And once out of the station concourse, we were off - straight into our journey of exploration. Just time for a very quick look around Lancaster. So a quick whizz down Meeting House Lane and left onto a short climb up the cobbles of Castle Hill. I love riding pavé sections and will often go out of my way to fit a cobbled element into a route. Cobblestone, incidentally, is thought to derive from the Middle English term 'kobilstane,' something to ponder whilst your bones are being shaken as you concentrate on avoiding a wide slit between the 'setts,' the more accurate term for road cobbles. Kassei is the Belgian name for setts, a term that might come in handy next time you want to impress fellow riders when discussing Flemish racing!
Lancaster Castle was still being used as a Category C Prison until 2011. Given the state of security these days, this probably meant that inmates could nip out for a paper, put a bet on in the bookies and enjoy a quick pint in Wetherspoon's before popping back to the nick for dinner. The castle, built on the site of a Roman fort, has its origins in 1093 when Roger de Poitou, a cousin of William the Conqueror, built a motte and bailey castle on the site. The Pendle Witches were tried at Lancaster Castle in 1612 - if only they knew a famous beer would one day be named in their honour. Another very famous prisoner was George Fox, the founder of Quakerism. Around 200 executions took place at Lancaster Castle, 43 of them being for murder. Old Ned Barlow was responsible for 131 of the executions.
If you think you have enough time during your day the Lancaster Cottage Museum is just across the road from the castle. Here you can soak up life in Victorian days within a building that dates back to 1739. Also in the vicinity is the Judges' Lodgings, Lancaster's oldest town house and once the home of the keeper of the Castle.
We cycled along Long Marsh Lane to circumnavigate Lancaster Priory before taking a look at our first pub of the trip. Formerly known as the Red Lion and the Carpenters' Arms, the Three Mariners is, according to the pub, "one of only two sites in Britain with an original gravity-fed cellar, and the only one to be cooled by a natural spring seeping through from the castle rock." The cobbled road in front of the building is all that remains of Bridge Lane, the thoroughfare that the pub fronted in days of old. The medieval bridge which the lane's name references was demolished in the late 18th century to facilitate the passing of ships into Lancaster's developing port at St. George's Quay. Fragments of the old bridge have been seen when the water is low. Indeed, a section of the old bridge survived until the mid-19th century and was shown on Victorian maps of Lancaster.
The Three Mariners dates from the late 17th century though it is thought that a tavern has existed on the site since the 1400s. Certainly, the pub is one of the oldest surviving vernacular buildings in the city, though it was extended in the 19th century, and restored in later years. As the Carpenters' Arms, the house had a shocking reputation in the 19th century. In 1849 the licence was only renewed after owner had "got rid of all the disorderly characters who occupied the upper part of the premises." In the same year the publican, Charles Swithenbank, was summoned for allowing prostitutes to gather in the pub. In earlier times, it is claimed that prisoners at the castle were given their 'last drop' at this public house before their execution.
We pedalled around some of the streets of Lancaster before heading uphill for the first time on the trip. Even loaded with panniers, the climb up to Williamson Park was not too difficult and we wound our way up to the Ashton Memorial, a building commissioned by Lord Ashton as a tribute to his late wife. Overlooking the city and surrounding countryside, the memorial was designed by John Belcher, the work being completed in 1909. Unfortunately for us, the building was undergoing restoration so we were unable to look inside and visit the viewing gallery to enjoy an outlook across Morecambe Bay.
The former Palm House has a café and shop, along with toilets - all good stuff for cyclists. The building has been transformed into a tropical oasis and houses a large collection of butterflies. There is modest entrance fee.
We rolled down the hill and followed a canal and river route to pick up a cycle lane to the north of the River Lune. This afforded views across to St. George's Quay, an important reminder of the town's role as a port associated with the Atlantic trade. The Quay was developed in the mid-18th century on glebe land downstream of the aforementioned medieval bridge. The cycle route passes alongside a purpose-built cycle track. Bike-friendly Lancaster certainly has good provision for cyclists with excellent cycle lanes around the city.
The cycle lane joins Lancaster Road and passes in front of the Golden Ball Inn at Snatchems, a colloquial name that possibly derives from the actions of Press Gangs who took local farmers and fishermen off to sea. Impressment also took place at the aforementioned Three Mariners. The term is thought to derive from an old French term prest or an advance of money offered to sailors. In the army the inducement was the King's Shilling which was sometimes surreptitiously dropped into the jar of ale of an unsuspecting imbiber who, on finishing his drink, would be charged with accepting money from the crown and forced to enlist. The glass-bottomed tankard became popular, particularly during the Napoleonic period, and was manufactured in order for drinkers to inspect their ale before consumption and thwart any scurrilous activity by a pressgang-leader.
The road passing in front of the Golden Ball is subject to tidal waters at times - little wonder that the former Mitchell's-operated house is on an elevated position. At one time there was a ferry to transport customers across the River Lune. Nathaniel Thornton, landlord of the pub in the 1880s, used the ferry almost exclusively for his patrons. We only had to contend with a centimetre of water on the road passing in front of the Golden Ball. There is an old rampart up to the front of the house.
Unfortunately, on this occasion the pub had yet to open for trading so it was not until a return visit in September 2017 that I was able to venture inside this cosy tavern. With modern comforts for contemporary patrons, the oldest parts of this early 18th century building remain reasonably true to the spirit of the place. Low beamed ceilings, cosy corners, some antiques and maritime memorabilia make for a pleasant drinking environment. And then there is that view across the River Lune - great stuff.
The Golden Ball sells a range of real ales and is a key outlet for the Cross Bay Brewery at Morecambe. Sunset Blonde Bitter and Zenith India Pale Ale were both available during our visit and supplemented by Black Sheep Best Bitter from Masham. For some reason we did not encounter beers from Cross Bay in any other of the Lancaster pubs we visited - and we patronised around a dozen boozers. Another good reason therefore to seek refreshment here on the Lune estuary. Cross Bay Brewery started production in 2011 and have gained a good reputation, picking up a number of prestigious awards en-route. I believe that the brewery's origins go back to Bryson's, an older microbrewery established in 2000 by George Palmer at Heysham Industrial Estate. He sold the business which was relocated to the White Lund Industrial Estate, on the outskirts of Morecambe. Indeed, the brewery is only a stone's throw from the Golden Ball. The small brewing kit was enlarged after acquiring plant from Moorhouse's Brewery at Burnley and Nick Taylor was brought in as a new head brewer.
The Golden Ball Inn is a pub of some antiquity. It is claimed that there has been a hostelry on this site from around 1650, though documented evidence seems to suggest a slightly later date. The tavern is mentioned in September 1779 when it was the venue for an auction for a number of sailing vessels and a warehouse on St. George's Quay. This sale included the Lancaster-built 200-ton vessel named Nanny, the 120-ton British-built snow-boat named Watson complete with all her guns, and a quarter-share in a vessel named Lancaster, an 80-ton brigantine that had been built two years earlier in the town. However, I do need to stress that the advertisement does not state the address of the Golden Ball Inn so this could refer to another pub of this name in St. Nicholas Street.
I do not know the story of the rifle mounted above the pub's stove within the ancient stone fireplace. However, the Golden Ball Inn was once a popular venue for pigeon-shooting, particularly on New Year's Day when an annual competition was staged, no doubt boosting trade at the pub and kick-starting the annual profits. As a veggie I was somewhat glad to read that in January 1869 hardly a bird was shot "owing to a high wind and the birds being strong on the wing they well got away." The Golden Ball also offered prizes for games of quoits back in the day.
We were able to cycle up the old rampart to park our bikes outside the Golden Ball. In days of yore this was used by many a horse-drawn vehicle. This led to a fatal accident in November 1887 when William Shuttleworth rolled up to the pub for a quick glass of ale. He had taken his sister-in-law, wife of the fisherman James Shuttleworth, into Lancaster and was returning to his brother's house in Overton when he rolled up to the front of the Golden Ball Inn. He left Margaret Shuttleworth sat in the pony-trap outside the front door whilst he nipped inside for a quick beer. He was served by Mary, wife of the publican Nathaniel Thornton but he had not long been inside the pub when he saw the horse backing over the wall of the rampart, a depth of about five feet. On seeing the horse and trap and Margaret Shuttleworth falling over the rampart, he ran outside to her aid. However, he found her lying on the road under the horse, her head partly under the cart head, one shaft being over her chest. This broke several of her ribs on the left side. Also suffering from a badly broken leg, she was carried into the Golden Ball and Dr. Irvin was sent for. However, the poor woman had suffered such injuries that she could not be transported back to Overton so remained in the tavern. Her condition deteriorated and the 38 year-old fisherman's wife died three days later.
There was another fatal accident outside the Golden Ball Inn seven years later when the horse-breaker John Wright drowned in the River Lune. The 56 year-old had been engaged in breaking in a couple of horses belonging to Titus Escolme of Moss House Farm at Morecambe. One evening in June 1894 he rode up to the Golden Ball Inn and asked Mrs. Thompson to supply him with some rum in a bottle. However, the landlady could see that he was already inebriated and, from the window, refused to serve him. He subsequently walked the horses down the rampart and into the river. On entering the water the horse on which Wright was riding stumbled and threw him into the river, where he sunk at once, and was never seen to rise again. Although every effort was made by two fishermen, William Bland and John Woodhouse, to recover his body, he was not found for a couple of days. At the coroner's inquest the landlady of the Golden Ball was commended for refusing to serve him and a verdict of "Accidentally drowned' was returned.
The two fishermen involved in trying to recover the body of John Wright were living in huts close to the Golden Ball Inn. During the Victorian and Edwardian periods there were a number of huts next to the tavern which, during the height of the salmon season, were the abode of the local fishermen working the Lune Salmon Fleet.
One of the most bizarre incidents seen outside the Golden Ball Inn took place in January 1890. The story involved Elizabeth Gibbons who, "having differences with her husband," had decided to leave him. However, she hired a Preston haulier to remove a piano, sewing machine and some items of furniture she had purchased with her own private income. The firm duly sent a driver named Haydock to transport the items. He was warned not to go near the Golden Ball Inn but the lure of the pub's excellent ale proved too much for him and, consequently, he called inside for a beer. On returning home James Gibbons found that the piano and other items had been removed and he went in search of them. With the driver enjoying a session in the Golden Ball, he was able to catch up with the vehicle and took the decision to smash the piano in the road. Elizabeth Gibbons was able to prove that the driver had not taken reasonable care of her belongings and successfully sued his employers, Messrs. Harding & Co. of Preston, for damages.
The isolated location of the Golden Ball Inn made it an ideal venue for those who sought refreshments outside of strictly regulated opening hours, particularly on Sundays. Back in Victorian times a public house with inn status was able to offer victuals to a lawful traveller - the rule being that a customer had travelled more than three miles from the place where they had slept on the previous evening. Consequently, people living in Morecambe would hire a charabanc or landau and head over to Snatchems for a beer or two. Some even took a boat around the estuary to enjoy a pint.
It was perfectly legal during a period when those travelling long distances on horseback could reasonably seek shelter, food and refreshments, but other imbibers took advantage of the ruling. Superintendent Moss of the County Police Force took exception to what he deemed a loophole in the law and, in the autumn of 1883, decided to take action against the publican of the Golden Ball Inn. Consequently, he sent a police sergeant from Morecambe to follow two men who travelled to the pub by road. Coincidentally, six other men had come up the river and entered the Golden Ball to order some ale. The publican protested that the men had travelled more than three miles to his house. Superintendent Moss then set about establishing that it was less than three miles from Morecambe to the Golden Ball Inn. And so he used several police officers to measure the distance by chain. However it was touch and go whether the distance was less than three miles so, determined to gain a conviction, he instructed his officers to take the chain through a private farm yard and along Euston Road, a street that was still under construction. To gain a few feet the officers even went through the yard of the New Inn. And so, with all their manoeuvring and manipulation, the police got the distance eight yards within the permitted distance of three miles.
The case caused quite an uproar in the local press. Both the media and the local magistrates also took exception to the behaviour of Superintendent Moss. The Bench refused to admit the measurement by Euston Road. A professional land surveyor had to be commissioned to measure the distance and he made it three miles and eighteen yards, thus the publican was able to vindicate himself from the charge brought against him. The six men who had travelled by boat had actually come from Glasson Dock and Thurnham and the publican had to expend travel allowances to bring them to the court as witnesses. The bench considered the actions of Superintendent Moss as "reprehensible." The press condemned him and reported that "these attempts to strain the law and distort facts in order to obtain a conviction are not creditable, and are calculated to undermine public confidence in the police."
Whether this particular case stayed in the memory of the local police force is not clear, but the use of the Golden Ball Inn as a "Jolly" destination remained for decades and the pub was still visited by Morecambe-based charabancs during the mid-1950s.
Mitchell's, the Lancaster brewery that had bought the property around 1910, closed the Golden Ball a century later and put the pub on the market. In 2010 it was acquired by Stephen Hunt who manages the pub with his children Joseph and Nicole. They added an extension to the building in 2012. The family now offer hotel rooms and camping pods. In the pub itself there is a wide range of cheap bar meals on offer.
The road out towards Overton rises slightly so you will not be surprised to learn that a windmill was once operated on this elevation. Located close to the mouth of the Lune, Overton once had a thriving fishing trade. Being on the road to sort of, well, nowhere, we were surprised at the volume of traffic in the village. Following the signs for the parish church, turn left to take a look at the sandstone building, the oldest parts of which date from the 12th century. St. Helen's was partly rebuilt in 1771. This work resulted in a chancel wider than the nave. Further work was conducted in 1830 and a restoration of the building in 1902, during which the foundations of an earlier canted apse at the east end was discovered. The church is midway along a lane heading out to Dunnal Point. There was a sandstone quarry towards the river, a source no doubt of some of the building materials. The churchyard is a tranquil spot these days - a nice setting to dismount and just listen to the sound of the breeze and the singing birds.
Leaving the church, one has to retrace one's pedal strokes to return to the Lancaster Road. Turn left and you soon come across the old Ship Hotel. It was during my research for this trip that I learned of the pub's closure in September 2014. Being ever-the-optimist, I had hoped that some brave soul had taken on the place and re-opened this outpost. The business folded following the death of Cynthia Webber who, along with her husband Geoffrey, had run the Ship Hotel for many years.
The Ship Hotel was once operated by Yates & Jackson. However, the Lancaster brewers left things well alone inside and there were rare features such as the shuttered bar that had lower screens which could be moved to seal the servery. The rear games room was converted from Ma McLusky's living room. Her family kept the pub for around sixty years. In fact, it would seem that most publicans who kept the Ship Hotel didn't want to leave. Thomas Jackson was licensee for 48 years. He was a former oversee for the township, an honorary member of the Rose of Lune Lodge of Oddfellows, and from 1907 until his death in 1924, a member of the Lancaster Rural District Council and Board of Guardians. He left the pub in 1922, a period when the Ship Hotel had a Blacksmith's Shop, Bowling Green and Pleasure Grounds.
Update : this former Thwaite's-operated pub was later re-opened by artist Stephanie Province and her partner Phil. I believe that the building was acquired by private property landlord Jonathan Higginson, a resident of Overton since 1997. The village egg collection, a famous Victorian array of over 5,000 birds eggs has since been re-instated in the first floor function room.
You only have to cycle a short distance along Overton's Main Street until you arrive at The Globe, a pub that stands near to the lane that heads out to Sunderland Point. When the notorious George Slater was the gaffer in the 1930s it cost eight shillings to spend a night near the marshes. The publican's unique selling point in his advertising material was the "glorious views of Morecambe Bay" and that the building was "beautifully illuminated in the evenings and visible for miles around." The pub also boasted a putting green and bowling green. During the Second World War George Slater was pivotal in the arrest of Arthur Thompson, a Bootle-born soldier who was subsequently charged with the murder of Jane Coulton, former licensee of the Nag's Head Inn at Clayton Heights.
The road southwards across Lades Marsh is only a matter of metres from The Globe. 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. 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. So, best to check tide times for your journey. If you miss the low tide you will just have to miss out this part of the route. Or it is possible to cycle through Middleton to a car park at Potts Corner from where one can trudge the coastal footpath to Sunderland Point.
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 erected. 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 is 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 Roof Tree, a pub which, at the time of our trip, was being converted into two residential properties. Although an old building, the public-house was the first in Middleton to gain a licence in 1952. It was on March 1st in that year that South Lonsdale Magistrates granted the application made by Joseph Hulme Wyatt, a retired police inspector, to open the Old Roof Tree Inn. The magistates were told that it was intended to convert the house into a country inn, one that was unique as a tree was growing inside the walls and its branches could be seen from outside. Joseph Hulme Wyatt, whose father had been a publican, had served in the West Riding Constabulary for 26 years. His wife's father and grandfather had also been licensees in their time. The police inspector did not stick around for long as the Old Roof Tree Inn, advertised as a Tudor building, was up for sale in June 1955. Thwaite's brewery snapped up the property with Alex Chipchase taking over as licensee. He had formerly run the Star and Garter at Blackburn.
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 re-modelled during the 1600s. The sign was painted by C. Highton.
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 is based on a popular postcard view of the R.M.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 Argyll 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-1950s. 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, amid container lorries, industrial sprawl and the nuclear power station, one could be forgiven for thinking that Heysham is blighted by ugly modern development and an industrial mish-mash. 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.
The stone graves were full of the morning's rain but at least the sun was shining gloriously as we wandered on this mini-peninsular known as Throbshaw Point. Tourists used to come in their thousands to Heysham but we had the place to ourselves on a warm June afternoon. Cut out of the sandstone, the graves are thought to date from the 10th century. The burial chambers were probably once covered with heavy stone slabs. The sockets at the head of the graves suggests that each would have been marked by a cross. This may have been a site of pilgrimage, particularly with the chapel's association with Saint Patrick.
The stone graves are relative 'new' additions to the landscape compared to the chapel, the origins of which are probably two hundred years older. It was rebuilt and extended in the 10th so it is oh so modern. Discovered as recently as September 1995 by Clive Dainty, the nearby rocks feature a rare pre-Roman labyrinth or petroglyph, the only other example in Britain being at Tintagel in Cornwall. The petroglyph has not been dated but could be from the Bronze Age.
Unfortunately for us, but good news for the building, St. Peter's Church was under wraps and scaffolding as part of restoration work. The 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 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 1790s. 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 1930s refurbishment and is a good example of the type of pub regional breweries favoured during the inter-war years.
We found the Royal Hotel selling some rather good ales, including Lambeth Walk, a 5.1% dark porter produced at By The Horns Brewery at south-west London. First produced in 2012, Lambeth Walk features British Extra Pale Malted Barley, Brown, Amber and Chocolate Malts. First Gold and Fuggles hops combine to deliver the punch in what is a nicely-rounded chocolate-cum-coffee laced porter with a hint of fruitiness. This brewery was founded in 2011 by Alex Bull and Chris Mills, two blokes who, colliding at Bristol University, found that they shared a passion for both American craft beer and British real ale. In August they found premises in Summerstown at south-west London and within a month started their steep learning curve by brewing on a five-and-a-half barrel plant whilst retaining their jobs just in case it all went pear-shaped. Thankfully, they hit on a couple of recipes that hit all the right notes, including this excellent porter. They found success relatively quickly for the brewing world and have increased their premises to include a part-time tap. Before hitting the road we hit the opposite end of the tastebud scale with the grapefruit-laced Oakham Citra.
These days it is possible to drink in the Royal Hotel on Sundays. 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 is 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 property 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 that was manned by the Lancashire Artillery. An old mill building was used as an arsenal for the battery.
From here it is 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 had 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 bike ride!
MORE TO FOLLOW...