Sunday, 13 September 2020

Lake District, September, Day 4. Sunderland Point

 Having watched a television programme about Sunderland point and also read about it in Karen LLoyd's excellent book, Gathering Tide, in which she explores the edgelands of Morecambe Bay, I had long wanted to visit.  We met Thomas in the old village of Heysham, which I have to admit I was delighted to discover was a very attractive spot with a few narrow streets and attractive shops, pubs and cafes.  We had gone there first in order to visit the stone cut graves.  I had always linked Heysham with the power station and ferry terminal and had not realised that the old village was so attractive.  We wandered through the village and up past the parish church of St Peter to the ruins of St Patrick's Chapel, high on the headland looking along to the power station and port. The chapel ruins date from the 8th or 9th century and are constructed attractively of sandstone rubble.  Beside the chapel right on the headland lie the six stone cut coffins.  These are cut into the solid rock and thought to date from the 11th century.  Local legend tells that St Patrick landed here after crossing from Ireland but the chapel was actually built 300 years after his death.  Of more interest to some may be the fact that the coffins feature on the album cover of The Best of Black Sabbath.  After our culture fix it was time to retreat to village for tea and scones before heading on to visit Sunderland Point.

Sunderland Point is a tiny village set in the windswept marshes between the mouth of the River Lune and Morecambe Bay.  It is the only village in England to be on the mainland yet only accessible by causeway at low tide. It developed as an outport of Lancaster which was once the third largest in the country and played a major part in the 'Slave Triangle'.  One of the saddest stories from this area centres around a black slave called Sambo who was abandoned at Sunderland Point by his master.  Sambo refused to eat and died in the old brewery in 1736.  Sambo was buried in unconsecrated ground on the shoreline of Morecambe Bay and our walk took us past it.  The grave almost always bears flowers or stones painted by local children.

Rather than risk being cut off by the tide and also to give us a longer walk we parked a mile or so up the bay coastline and walked along the beach, past Sambo's grave and around the point to reach the village.  Although in a bleak and desolate spot it looked very attractive in the dramatic light we had for our visit and I found the whole area to be extremely photogenic.  I was particularly taken with the fishing boats beached on the salt marsh; some still in use, others abandoned.

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