Walk be­tween river and bay

Mark Hills­don ex­plores the shin­gle, marsh and som­bre past of a windswept penin­sula on the Lan­cashire coast, home to wad­ing birds, salmon on a mis­sion and pods of por­poise

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents - Mark Hills­don is a writer spe­cial­is­ing in na­ture, the en­vi­ron­ment and sus­tain­abil­ity.

Sun­der­land Point, Lan­cashire

Sun­der­land Point is set at the mouth of the River Lune on the south­ern shores of More­cambe Bay. It’s a re­mote and se­cre­tive spit of land, sur­rounded by creeks and marshes. But with this iso­la­tion comes soli­tude and the chance for na­ture to thrive.


From the mo­ment you stride out from the car park at Pott’s Cor­ner, you re­alise that you’re walk­ing in a spe­cial place. Look­ing out across the mud­flats at this time of year, you can en­joy one of na­ture’s great spec­ta­cles – swirling flocks of knots and dun­lins al­ter­nate from dark to light, swerv­ing and chang­ing di­rec­tion, their move­ments paint­ing elab­o­rate pic­tures in the sky.

As many as 50,000 birds feed here – look out for long-legged waders such as bar-tailed god­wits and red­shanks with their brightor­ange legs, of­ten joined by plump shel­ducks out on the mud. Thou­sands more birds pass over­head on their mi­gra­tion, while soli­tary curlews swoop down, their mourn­ful calls mix­ing with the pip­ing trills of oys­ter­catch­ers.


This cor­ner of Lan­cashire was a big part of Bri­tain’s mer­can­tile his­tory – it’s said that the first bale of cot­ton from the New World ar­rived at this once-thriv­ing port. Along with ma­hogany, rum, sugar and mo­lasses, many of the ships also car­ried slaves.

Af­ter roughly half a mile strolling along the shore­line, you’ll come to a tragic re­minder of the area’s wretched past. A small en­clo­sure marks Sambo’s Grave, the tomb­stone of a young African boy and ser­vant to a ship’s cap­tain who, wracked with ill­ness, was set ashore here in 1736. Ac­counts dif­fer about whether he was taken in by vil­lagers or shunned, but he passed away just four days af­ter he made land­fall. The grave­stone was added some 60 years later and de­crees that God will judge “Not on man’s colour, but his worth of heart.” Flow­ers and mes­sages are of­ten left be­side the grave.


Reach­ing the tip of this of­ten-bleak yet mes­meris­ing land­scape, you will see the diminu­tive Plover Scar Light­house sit­ting out in the chan­nel. Built in 1847, the re­fur­bished eight-me­tre-high build­ing con­tin­ues to guide ships into the Lune es­tu­ary.


Loop north, stop­ping for a while to watch the swirling wa­ters of the Lune. You may spot por­poise here, and salmon trav­el­ling up­stream to an­cient spawn­ing grounds, while roe deer have even been known to swim across the chan­nel.

In the early 1800s, hav­ing lost its key mar­itime role to the docks at Glas­son on the op­po­site bank, Sun­der­land rein­vented it­self as Lit­tle Brighton on the Lune. The river be­came pop­u­lar with bathers, who sought the medic­i­nal prop­er­ties of the salt wa­ter and the gloopy es­tu­ar­ine mud – all the vogue in those days.


A few hun­dred yards fur­ther, you en­ter Sun­der­land. Twice a day, the cause­way over to the main­land is cut off by the swirling tide, an event that gives the vil­lage its name – a land sun­dered from the main. It is a com­mu­nity of no more than 30 homes with a clutch of listed build­ings, but no shop or café. Num­ber two on First Ter­race was once the smithy and rope­walk, while next door was the Cus­toms House. From the vil­lage, fol­low

The Lane as it crosses the penin­sula, and re­trace your steps back north to Potts Cor­ner. With any luck, this marshy won­der­land will be bathed in the glow of a per­fect au­tumn sun­set.

Fish­ing boats grounded on the ti­dal mud­flats of Sun­der­land Point, a penin­sula sand­wiched be­tween the River Lune and More­cambe Bay

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