From gleaming sands to swirling waters in Morecambe Bay
Morecambe Bay is a vast bite out of England’s northwestern coast, more than 150 square miles of water which dry out at low tide to leave a vast expanse of golden sands. However, local inhabitants know the treacherous tides well enough not to venture far out over these sands on foot. Visitors tempted to explore them need to exercise extreme care because of the speed with which the waters race back with the incoming tide.
Despite its name, Roa Island is very firmly part of the mainland, linked to it by a half-mile causeway which carries the road from Rampside. Another spit leads more than 1 mile to the south-east to Foulney Island, which is the home of large nesting colonies of terns during the spring and summer. The shelter provided by the causeway has led to Roa Island’s development as a yachting centre.
A single main street runs along the edge of a muddy shingle beach, which at low water extends 2 miles out to sea. Deep pools and gullies have been scoured out by the fast currents which funnel out of this corner of Morecambe Bay, and bathing is safe only at high water. The late-17th-century Rampside Hall has a row of prominent diagonally set chimneys, known locally as the Twelve Apostles.
Over the centuries, Aldingham has lost more and more of its houses to the advancing sea. The parish church of St Cuthbert, which dates back to the 12th century, and the headstones in its little churchyard today stand just above high-water mark. Behind them are the narrow curving lanes of the more enduring part of the village which was built on the hill overlooking the sea.
The village of Baycliff has no need to fear the sea, being set at the summit of the low banks which border the west side of Morecambe Bay. Half a mile to the north the attractive public woodlands of Sea Wood lie across the main coast road. Birkrigg Common, 1 1/2 miles north-west of Baycliff, is notable for its prehistoric stone circles.
In the nearby village of Great Urswick, on the edge of Urswick Tarn, the 13th-century church of St Mary contains crosses made by the Angles and Vikings as well as stained-glass windows brought from Furness Abbey.
BARDSEA COUNTRY PARK
The coast road by-passes Bardsea, to run closer to the sea beside the Bardsea Country Park, which has car park and picnic spaces, marked footpaths and information boards right on the edge of Morecambe Bay. The view across to Morecambe and Heysham is dominated by the bulk of the nuclear reactor at Heysham Power Station.
Conishead Priory, north of Bardsea, was founded in the 12th century by a Norman nobleman, Gamel de Pennington, who chose the site because it was easily reached from the sea. The present house dates from the Gothic revival of the 1820s and has splendid wood panelling and elaborate plaster ceilings. The cost bankrupted the owner, who had to sell the house, unaware that the iron-ore veins under the estate were rich enough to have paid all his debts and more. The priory’s present owners, the Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist Monks, are carefully restoring the building, which is open to the public on some days in summer and has a craft shop and cafe. Set among trees in the fine gardens are the original lake, grotto and hermitage established by Gamel de Pennington.
A Saxon landowner named Ulph gave the town of Ulverston its name. After the Norman Conquest it became the property of the monks of Furness Abbey, and a favourite target for raiders from Scotland under Robert Bruce, who burned the town twice, in 1316 and 1322. Ulverston suffered again in the Civil War, being fought over by both sides. By the 18th century, however, it had become a prosperous port and an important stopping place for the mail coach from Lancaster and the south, which in those days saved hours of pounding over rough roads by taking a short cut across the sands of Morecambe Bay.
The cobbled streets of the old town, centred on its busy market square, became such a centre for trade that it was known as ‘the London of Furness’; but the same sands which assisted one kind of communication were to inhibit another, when shifting sandbanks silted up the harbour. To avoid this bottleneck the 2 mile long Ulverston Canal was built in 1795, to link the town with the sea at Canal Foot. The canal gave Ulverston another century as a busy port and shipbuilding centre, but fell into decline with the coming of the railway and was sealed off at its seaward end in the 1940s.
Today the tranquil waters of Ulverston Canal, and especially the area around the lock where the canal joined the sea, are favourite spots for fishermen and walkers enjoying the view across the estuary. The town has a market each Thursday, and for four days in May or early June and again in mid-November every year the Whit and Michaelmas fairs are held at the Gill, near the centre of the town.
On Hoad Hill, north-east of the town, a monument in the form of a lighthouse commemorates Sir John Barrow, geographer, explorer and Secretary to the Admiralty, who was born in Ulverston in 1764. The view from the hill is well worth the climb to the 435 ft summit.
Because of its position near the confluence of the River Crake and River Leven, Greenodd harbour was for many years an impoVtant outlet for the local iron ore and Cumberland slate. When the Furness Railway line was built along the coast through Grange-over-Sands and Ulverston, a branch line was laid through Greenodd to the shores of Windermere 5 miles to the north-east. Much of this line has now vanished, but a 3 ½ mile section which range from hot-air balloon races to rallies for old cars and horse-team driving. There is also a Lakeland Industries Museum, a Countryside Museum, a Lakeland Motor Museum, a baby animal farm and a craft museum.
A thriving fishing fleet operates from Flook-burgh, and its catches of flukes (the local name for flounders) gave the village its name. It is also an important centre for the local shrimping industry.
Flookburgh was originally granted a borough charter in the reign of Edward I, and the original charter can be seen in the parish church, which has a weathervane in the form of a fluke, or flatfish, crowning its massive west tower.
Most of the Morecambe Bay coast is low-lying, but the cliffs at Humphrey Head, between the estuaries of the Rivers Kent and of it is still used by the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Steam Railway. Steam locomotives carry passengers from Haverthwaite, 2½ miles north-east of Greenodd, through a succession of tunnels and rock cuttings alongside the Leven, to connect with steamer sailings from Lakeside steamer pier on Windermere.
There is a large car park in the old goods yard of Haverthwaite station, beside the Ulverston to Newby Bridge main road.
This fine mansion was built in Tudor times by the Cavendish family, but additions were made in succeeding centuries and the house is a splendid jumble of styles. The Victorian part of the house is open to the public, and so are 22 acres of formal and woodland gardens, which include a deer park.
Other attractions in the grounds of Holker Hall include spectacular displays of azaleas and rhododendrons in the spring, the annual Lakeland Rose Show in July, and events
Leven, rise to 172 ft, giving wide views over the sands to the Lancashire coast to the south. At the foot of the cliffs is St Agnes Well, whose waters were supposed to cure a variety of ailments including gout, ague and worms. The well brought a steady stream of pilgrims during the Middle Ages and, later, traders who sold phials of the water in the markets of Morecambe.
Near by the 14th-century Wraysholme Tower, an old fortified farmhouse, was once the home of John Harrington, who was said to have killed on Humphrey Head the last wolf seen in England.
All the amenities of a modern holiday resort are found at Grange in the surroundings of a genteel Victorian watering place. The town takes its name from the grange, or granary, once built there by the Augustinian monks of Cartmel Priory which stood Wi miles inland. Grange grew in the 16th and 17th centuries on the thriving coastal trade in coal, and its modern role as a holiday resort was assured when it was joined to the main Furness Railway line in 1857.
Grange’s position, facing south-east and therefore sheltered from westerly winds, makes it a gardener’s paradise, and its ornamental gardens are renowned. Bathing is best confined to the public swimming pool, because of currents off the beach and the rapid approach of the incoming tide. Hampsficld Fell, behind the town, is crowned by the Hospice, a shelter for travellers built by Thomas Remmington, Vicar of Cartmel between 1835 and 1854. An indicator on the 700 ft hilltop identifies the peaks which make up the spectacular view.
The fine church at the village of Cartmel belonged to the Augustinian priory built there in 1188, and was spared when the priory itself was destroyed after the Dissolution. Its stalls and screen are among the finest examples of 17th-century carving in England. The nave has an old wooden door, called Cromwell’s Door, scarred by bullets said to have been fired by Parliamentary cavalry who stabled their horses in the church during the Civil War.
This pretty little fishing village was once an important boat-building centre, and is now increasingly popular as a holiday resort and sailing centre. It is also an ideal base for the walker and ornithologist. The mud-flats provide a home for almost every sea-bird known in Britain, while Arnside Knott is criss-crossed by footpaths and bridle paths. Close to the pier is the railway viaduct which carries the line from Carnforth to Barrow, a short cut across the Kent estuary.
PLACES TO SEE INLAND
Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Museum ol Lakeland Lite and Industry, Kendal, 10 miles N of Arnside. Daily,
Kendal Museum of Archaeology and Natural History. Weekdays and Sat. afternoons.
Levens Hall, Kendal. Elizabethan house, gardens. Most days in summer.
Priory Gatehouse (NT), Cartmel, 2 miles W of Grange-over-Sands. Augustinian priory remains and art gallery. Most days in summer.
Sizergh Castle (NT), Kendal, 14th-century pele tower, with later additions. Some afternoons in