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15 February, 2004

Cycling again: Lancaster-Sunderland-Lancaster

Another cycle ride today, this time exploring the north/west bank of the River Lune downstream of Lancaster, somewhere I'd never been before in over a decade of being a Lancaster resident.  I've been to Morecambe a few times, and to White Lund Industrial Estate midway between Lancaster and Morecambe, but the rest of the 'peninsula' was entirely unfamiliar, partly because it's not on the way to anywhere, and partly because the land around White Lund is unattractive - sight lines are dominated by industrial units, and for some reason any remaining land is used to graze horses; since the local water table is at (or above) the ground surface, grazed land is invariably a dispiriting mass of mud.  Combined with wind-blown litter and smell from the adjacent Salt Ayre landfill site, the result is very off-putting.

However, only about a mile along a tiny riverside road, things began to improve. The road is covered by high tides (to the depth of a car roof, as indicated by a line on the wall of the pub car park at 'The Golden Ball', which seems to offer a ferry service for customers trapped by the tide!), so littered with driftwood and silt, but the views across the estuary were pretty good, of a very familiar landscape from an unseen angle (photos here).

Further on (surprisingly further - I hadn't appreciated the distances involved), there was little indication that the green hills and village of Overton were even coastal, never mind in a pocket between a city, a run-down seaside resort and a nuclear power station. Back on the estuary road, again silt-covered and clearly tidal, the sense of remoteness was even greater, as the unusually flat (for N.Lancashire) land seemed absolutely empty in every direction, and the sky seemed bigger than usual. I'm not entirely sure I liked it.

At the end of the road is the hamlet of Sunderland, at the mouth of the Lune. This is where trading ships stopped to collect river pilots, who would guide them up the estuary to the port of Lancaster. The river ceased to be navigable long ago, so I'm not sure who lives there now; I can imagine the nearby fields would support a farmer, artists might like to stay/visit, and I saw a couple of fishing boats, but otherwise I'd guess the cottages are rented by seasonal holiday makers.
The last kilometre of the road is unsurfaced, and one section is only passable at low tide, so I had to walk with the bike; eventually the road ran out completely and I would have had to cross the beach to the very end, Sunderland Point. However, there was nowhere to leave my bike, and nothing at the end anyway, not even the prospect of an especially good view, so I turned back a couple of hundred metres short of the objective.

My original plan had been to visit Sunderland Point, then return to Lancaster via Heysham (specifically the nuclear power station) and the West End of Morecambe, two other places I've never been, but it had taken much longer than expected to get this far. If I returned the way I'd come, Sunderland would obviously have been the halfway point. To return the long way would have put Sunderland only about a third of the way along a total route of around 30 miles (50 km), so I went straight home! I'll visit Heysham and Morecambe another time. Today's ride took about two hours (actually moving for 105 mins, according to the bike computer) to cover 19.05 miles (31.75 km), peaking at 26.6 mph (44.3 km/h).


I live in Overton. It is a good place to live. We have descent bird watching, fishing and pub life. there is a pleasant walk around the headland, unsuitable for bikes and when the tide is out it is possible to cross the river bed by foot and sample Glason Docks delights. there is good sailing and canoeing on the river and there are three riding stables in the village. I am not trying to sell the village since we are all happy to be stook out between the sea and ther river away from straying tourists. There is a new cycle way to be built this year to link the new from Overton to the bridge. Dont tell everyone.

Posted by Mr R.U Local at July 8, 2004 01:31 PM

Very interesting.Could we have more photos please.

Posted by Peter at July 9, 2004 06:01 PM
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