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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England

Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (as defined in the Preamble). Here is a list of all Saunterings so far.
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This is one of several items about walking and walks from home during the coronavirus lockdown of January - March 2021.

123.  Over to Overton and Around Little Fylde

(I promised in Sauntering 122 to answer here the question posed there but a rare opportunity for a non-local walk has intervened.)

The government’s February 23rd ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown has not so far led to any change in the advice on the Ramblers web-page that “you must continue to stay local and avoid non-essential travel”. So I have. However, it became essential for me to travel to have the car serviced, even though it hardly ever moves. While it was in the garage I took the opportunity to have my first walk this year not from home.

Nobody would choose to walk on a cold, drizzly March morning along the A589 (Heysham Road) but I was determined to relish the change of scenery, such as it was. I walked briskly for three miles or more to Overton because I knew that there was little of interest on the way. Overton is a small village at the northern end of the road that runs across the tidal marshes of the Lune estuary to Sunderland.

On previous visits, I have found Overton to be a lively, sunny place with two pubs, a garden centre, and a school. I anticipated that it would be different on a grey day during a pandemic. I could hear children, recently returned to school, and there were a couple of people in the garden centre, but the two pubs were, like all pubs, closed. They looked like they have been closed for some time and are unlikely to re-open any time soon. The two houses (Overton Hall and the Manor House) that were once the grandest of the village both looked neglected and forlorn. On the other hand, there were a number of roofers, carpenters, and so on working on various properties.

According to Visit Lancashire, Overton “occupies the site of a Roman settlement”. Visit Lancashire is “the tourist board for the county and a division of Marketing Lancashire”, which is “the agency charged with promoting the county on a national and international stage” – charged by the County Council, I assume. None of these bodies would wish to mislead about Lancashire but what is the evidence for this Roman settlement?  A number of other websites make the same assertion, in the same words. They have probably copied from one another. The book The Romans in Lunesdale (Shotter and White, 1995) makes no mention of Overton. As far as I know, no Roman artefacts or remains of Roman roads or buildings have been found in the region. I wonder if somebody once confused Overton with Over Burrow (where there was a Roman fort) or Overtown (which is on the line of a Roman road), midway up the Lune valley.
st helens         st helens2

Left: St Helen's Church, Overton, today;  Right: St Helen's Church, on a sunnier occasion, in 2006.

At least we know that Overton is old since it is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Today, the main reminder of this antiquity is the church of St Helen’s. Being of the 12th century, it is one of the oldest churches in Lancashire. It must have been one of the most isolated too. I walked to it next. It was locked, as all churches are nowadays, but I remember on a previous visit being intrigued by the novel (to me) arrangement inside, where an extension to the side has no view of the altar. The church building is small and plain, although the south doorway has a weathered Norman arch.

Walking on to Bazil Point, I came to a peaceful but gloomy view across the mud of the Lune estuary to Glasson Dock and the Bowland hills, in cloud. I treaded carefully through the tidal debris and walked up to the trig point (31 metres) for its view over to Sunderland.
bazil point

Bazil Point, Overton


Looking along the Lune estuary towards Sunderland from near the trig point

I had intended to return by walking across the flat area known as Little Fylde when it was an undrained bog, or moss as they are called hereabouts. However, I thought that there was a good chance that the paths were under water so I stayed on the roads. The Lancaster Road from Overton is not a road that people are expected to walk on, certainly not by the surprisingly large number of drivers on their ‘essential travel’. The only light relief from the constant hopping into the hedge was the sight of two horses pulling one cart with five people in luminous yellow (drivers wouldn't be expecting to bump into them either).

After my recent discussion of hills, I should admit that, after walking up to the Bazil Point trig point, I didn’t tackle any of the other formidable hills of Little Fylde (they’re all on private land, anyway). Their names (Byroe Hill, Colloway Hill, Great Swart Hill, Oxcliffe Hill, Windmill Hill) are impressive; their heights (28m, 36m, 23m, 15m, 25m, respectively) less so. As in the (big) Fylde, any rise from low-lying land is deemed worthy of being called a Hill.

Continuing on the road over the marsh to the legendary Golden Ball pub (Snatchems), I was not surprised to find it closed but was sad to see it up for sale. I wonder how many of our closed pubs are closed for good. Will we ever again see Snatchems as it was?

Snatchems as it was (from the Snatchems web-site)


Snatchems as it is today

The surroundings did not lift me from the thought that we will have lost more important things than pubs. The air of dereliction was emphasised by all the rubbish washed ashore by tides. Old baths, sofas, trampolines, cupboards, you name it, I walked past it. It’s not all tidal debris: people know that there’s rubbish here so feel free to add to it. I’m sorry to say that on this walk I passed a record amount of rubbish, not just from the tides but beside all the roads – and all of this walk apart from around Bazil Point was on roads. When I provide details of a route (as below) it should never be taken to imply that I recommend it. With all the squalor and danger, I certainly don’t in this case. But it was my first non-local walk of 2021. Yippee.

    Date: March 9th 2021
    Start: SD422626, Woodlands Drive, Heysham  (Map: 296)
    Route: S, W – A589 – S – A683 roundabout – S, SE – Middleton – E, SE – Overton – S past church – Ferry Cottage – W around Bazil Point, N – Overton – W – Globe – E, N on Lancaster Road, E – Woodhouse Farm – N, NE past Snatchems – B5273 roundabout – W on Mellishaw Lane, on Oxcliffe Road, S, W, N – Woodlands Drive, Heysham
    Distance: 10 miles;   Ascent: 30 metres

The two following items:
     125.   “Walking is not a sport”
     124.   The Most Prominent Hills of North-West England
The two preceding items:
     122.   Walking Uphill and Walking Up a Hill
     121.   The Phantom Hills of Mallowdale Pike, High Stephen's Head and Gallows Hill
Two nearby items:
     101.   Passing the Time at Heysham
       76.   The Belted Beauties of Sunderland
A list of all items so far:

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018-


Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar; Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell