Lancashire Coastal Heritage and Hinterland Forest

Sea, hills and woodland hinterland are the backdrop for our exploration in the North of Lancashire …

Morecambe tide out

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…  One of the wonders of the North, Morecambe’s four mile curved promenade gives panoramic views of Lakeland hills across Morecambe Bay, a name mentioned on maps as far back as circa 100 AD. The bay, a tidal estuary into which five rivers drain, is a beautiful natural environment with abundant bird life and varied marine habitats. Eric Morecambe entertains holiday makers even today, his statue cherished by visitors. The binoculars around his neck reference his love of bird life. Sandy beach in front of the promenade prompt holiday makers to indulge the great views of sea and hills whilst relaxing with more traditional seaside activities. Happy Mount Park offers themed attractions and refreshments for children, whilst visitors of all ages can enjoy walks around gardens of interest that attract wildlife.

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A focal point of beauty is situated around the promenade at the Morecambe leisure park and stone jetty that thrusts out into Morecambe Bay. Here the 1930’s Art Deco Midland hotel, a three storey ‘streamline moderne’ with curved front, is guarded above by two sea horses. The hotel was used in filming episodes of the TV series Agatha Christie’s Poirot. The Winter Gardens are an architectural treat from 1897, with a richly-decorated entrance hall and an auditorium with two tiers of balconies and elaborate plasterwork. For the bay itself, guided walks are available orchestrated by The Queen’s own official guide. His post is interestingly paid just £15 per year, a throw back to its century old origins.  A short journey Souths brings you to the largely unspoilt landscape of  Heysham cliffs, with ancient body-shaped graves cut into the rock. Ruined 5th century St Patrick’s chapel and Saxon St Peter’s church are in close proximity. Great cliff side views of Morecambe and Heysham Bay are here, as there are of the ferries to Douglas on the Isle of Man. The 17th century long barn heritage centre in the village, delves deeply into the history of the area. South of Heysham is Glasson Dock a scheduled monument to an 18th century harbour, once the largest port in the North West, importing trade from Africa and the Indies, linked by the canal to the inland towns. The dock is alive with cargo today.

Morecambe bay
Morecambe Bay

A short drive East brings us to Lancaster, once known well by the Romans in 79 AD who occupied the hill where the castle now stands. Ninety minute tours at the castle take you on a journey through time, covering witches, crime and punishment from the times the castle has been used as a prison. The remains of the Roman bath house were likely to belong to a Roman official but it eventually gave way to the ‘Wery Wall’ fortifications around 340 AD. St Georges Quay is below the bath house with its magnificent 18th century maritime museum with notable Georgian porticoes. This former Custom House is built around a captivating riverside setting, displaying the maritime trade of Lancaster, the history of the port, the Lancaster Canal and the fishing industry of the Lune Estuary plus Morecambe Bay using interactive methods. Features include four restored local fishing vessels, and an aquarium. Lancaster City Museum on Market St, is housed in the former Georgian town hall, a stunning 18th century building with projecting porticoes. Displays of city life past are inside, with the Lancaster Roman tombstone from 100 AD a centrepiece. The 150ft tall Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park is an Edwardian Baroque cathedralesque memorial set on a hill, dominating Lancaster’s skyline, rendering fine views to the coast. Lancaster’s ancient charter market is on Wednesdays and Saturdays, hosting a wide variety of stalls with produce and textiles from across the County. Established in 1193, today’s feasts include potted shrimps from Morecambe Bay, Lancashire cheese, Lancashire sauce, smoked fish as examples of just some of its culinary joys. J.Atkinson & Co coffee roasters on Bridge Lane established in 1837, heralded to be the city’s oldest business, occupies two cafes: The Hall and The Music Room. A variety of coffees are on display and for sale in the main premises that has the appearance of a museum, a time capsule with original shop furniture. The Judge’s Lodgings is a museum, originally home to a keeper of Lancaster Castle who was a notorious witch hunter. The grand house is the oldest in Lancaster, with parts dating from 1550. Between 1776 and 1975 judges stayed here whilst visiting the court at the castle. Now it’s a museum with a renowned collection of Gillow furniture. 43 miles of lock-free canal winds its way through Lancaster and the surrounding farmland. Lancaster canal boats operate pleasure cruise across an impressive Georgian aqueduct over the River Lune. A return trip of 4.2 miles takes nearly two hours.

Lancaster Priory and Castle
Lancaster Priory and Castle

Photo © David Medcalf (cc-by-sa/2.0)

In medieval times the Forest of Bowland was a royal hunting ground. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty alive with nature is often overlooked as visitors flock to the nearby Yorkshire Dales and Lake District with lanes that wind through stone villages and moorland hills. One of the beauty spots here is Hindburndale, where the Hindburn scores the scenery gently through a artistic valley before later cascading down waterfalls and wooded rapids. Abbeystead, once home to Cistercian monks is a gorgeous hamlet at the head of the Wyre valley, where woodland meet wild fells like the Trough of Bowland, hosting spectacular views for walkers of mountain streams, valleys and trees.

Forest of Bowland
Forest of Bowland (C) Matthew Hartley

Carnforth is a short journey North of Morecambe, and its railway station has been lovingly restored by rail enthusiasts to recreate its 1940’s splendour. The station‘s clock has links with one of the most iconic scenes for the 1945 film classic ‘Brief Encounter’,  described as one of the greatest romantic films of all time.  Just a few miles North, the BBC’ filmed their 2014 series of Autumnwatch at Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve, and nearby 18th century Leighton Hall famed for the Gillow furniture family, is prominent in an astounding setting with rolling parkland and attractive gardens.

Leighton Moss Reserve
Leighton Moss Reserve (C) Jean Mottershead

The coastal region of Lancashire is a canvas of untamed beauty and a must see for the discerning traveller who seeks out the new.

In the next blog, we visit Pembrokeshire’s Southerly Coast

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These places and many others are listed as markers on the map on our home page. Places to visit in the UK and Ireland. – Find accommodation in Lancashire.

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