First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A glorious afternoon on the west Lancashire coast under wall-to-wall blue sky. We walked the green fields of Cockerham with the Bowland moors rising in the east, Blackpool Tower tiny and familiar down in the southwest, and the Lake District fells around Helvellyn and Scafell Pike standing as if cut from pale blue card on the northern horizon.
Down at the sea wall a great flat apron of saltmarsh lay spread at the edge of Cockerham Sands, cut with wriggling channels. Brackish pools winked in the sun like a thousand bright eyes. The tide was on the make, advancing along the shore road and up the creeks in a frothy mini-tsunami, driving flights of loudly piping dunlin, oystercatchers and redshank shoreward in agitation. Further out on a vanishing sandbank, geese babbled together, a musical chiming across the water, reminiscent of sheep bells in Alpine pastures.
The seawall path ran past Bank End and Bank Houses, remote farmsteads among flat green pastures out at the edge of the land. As the coast turned north we came to Cockersand Abbey, or what remains of it – a curious semi-rectagonal chapter house among angles of walls, its soft red sandstone rubbed into dimples and hollows by 800 years of wind and weather.
Cockersand Abbey was founded on this lonely shore as a leper hospital. When the site was excavated in the 1920s, archaeologists found fragments of lead and coloured glass from the windows that were smashed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The abbey ruin became a source of ready-worked building stone. Only the chapter house survived, because the local landowners wanted it for their family mausoleum.
From Cockersand Abbey we followed the windy coast path north to Crook Farm, with Heysham Power Station looming massively ahead like a 1950s suburban house designed by an ogre. Soon it was behind us, and we followed the grassy imprint of Marsh Lane over sheep pastures to Glasson Dock, a rare survival of a small working port. A dip into the cornucopia of goodies in the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse here, and a last stretch on a railway path into Conder Green above the golden marshes of the Lune Estuary.
Start: Manor Inn, Cockerham, near Lancaster, LA2 0EF (OS ref SD 465522)
Getting there: Bus 89, 89H (Lancaster-Knott End)
Road – Cockerham is on A588 between Conder Green and Pilling (M6, Jct 33)
Walk (7 miles, flat and easy, OS Explorer 296. Online map, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): South from Manor Inn down A588; in 50m, right beside Old Mill House. Follow lane; through garden at top; through kissing gate at end of garden (464524, yellow arrow/YA). Follow fence on right downhill; follow YAs along field edges, round cottage (462529). Leave cottage garden over stile; ahead over field and footbridge (YA); follow ditch/fence on right for ½ mile to Hillam Lane (455531). Left past Hillam Farm; in ½ mile, right (449528) along sea wall. Follow Lancaster Coastal Path/LCP north for 3¾ miles via Bank End (441528), Cockersand Abbey chapter house (427537), Crook Farm (431550) and Marsh Lane to road at Glasson (443556). Left, then right to Glasson Dock. Cross swing bridge (445561); cross road by Victoria Inn; right along LCP. In ¾ of a mile, cross bridge (456560); right to Conder Green. Bus 89/89H or taxi (01995-607777; £6.50) to Cockerham.
Lunch: Picnic – provisions from Port of Lancaster Smokehouse, Glasson – 01524-751493, lancastersmokehouse.co.uk
Accommodation: The Mill at Conder Green, Lancs, LA2 0BD (01524-752852; themillatcondergreen.co.uk) – really comfortable, superbly positioned.
Information: Lancaster TIC (01524-582394), visitlancashire.com