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23 May, 2004

Cycle ride: Lancaster-Heysham-Hest Bank-Halton-Lancaster

In February, I cycled to Sunderland (Lancs.!), with the vague intention of returning via Heysham.  The trip to the former took longer than expected, so I abandoned the latter for a later date.  Due to other commitments and plans, that didn't happen until today.

The cycle track to Morecambe is familiar, but this was the first time I'd ever turned south from there, along the coast road past the West End and Sandylands. Not the nicest of areas, but that's more of a comment on their reputation than anything specific I saw for myself; parts of Lancaster look worse. Sandylands merged seamlessly into Heysham, which was initially disappointing; the 'historical village' appeared no older nor inspiring than any estate built in the 1950s-60s. It was only when I turned off the main road towards the church and Heysham Head that I found the original village, which was far more as I'd expected. The contradiction actually confused me, and I cycled past it, out towards Half Moon Bay and the nuclear power station. I'd planned to look at that area anyway, then returned to the village to sit on the cliffs.

Beyond that, I didn't have any plans, which is the way I prefer to cycle. From Heysham Head, I saw that there was a promenade all the way from Heysham to Morecambe, and I knew that it continued north almost to Hest Bank. A previous cycle ride had also shown that the the canal towpath is a shortcut back to Lancaster, so that's the route I chose.

The southern parts of Morecambe looked rather better from the promenade than from the main coast road (which is really set one street back from the shore). The decline from the resort's heyday was obvious, but these guest houses and small hotels seemed to have aged gracefully, in contrast to the tacky and ultimately counterproductive 'amusements' of the northern area. I have to say that part did look better than usual, too, on a sunny day and seen from the modern promenade.
I got up to 20mph on the quiet part of the promenade, so was in Hest Bank sooner than anticipated. Consequently I idly turned left along the canal, towards Carnforth rather than back towards home. I think my objective was to follow the recently resurfaced section of towpath to its end, but luckily my mental map reasserted itself within a few minutes and I realised I could be cycling a further ten miles in the wrong direction. For speed, I returned to the main road at Bolton-le-Sands and back to Hest Bank. Somehow I missed the canal turning, and found myself on the Halton road. Not a problem; I crossed the river there and followed the Lune Cycleway back to Lancaster.

I wasn't obsessively watching the clock and speedometer, but since my bike computer logs these parameters, I might as well mention that I travelled 28.52 miles in 2 hours, 38 mins (and 33 seconds), not counting stops; call it a further twenty minutes. Maximum speed was 27.5 mph (44.3 km/h), probably downhill into Halton.

Oh; the accompanying photos are here, with several more comments about the trip.

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