Lancashire’s underrated scenery is often ignored in favour of its more popular, more famous, more spectacular neighbour, the Lake District. Lancastrians will often head to the Lakes for a day’s hiking or a weekend away (I am no exception, look at my previous mountain rambles detailed on this blog!) Holidaymakers will drive past the county in their bid to reach Wordsworth’s Paradise of the Lakes and Mountains. Even my Lonely Planet Walking in Britain book features the Yorkshire Dales, the Peak District and the Lake District but apparently there are no walks to be had in Lancashire! No scenic beauty!
There are many beauty spots in this very county and one such is Morecambe Bay, a destination crammed with nature, beauty and history.
Even in the modern age, there are places of stillness and tranquillity where you feel far, far away from the 21st century – and one such spot is a remote village called Sunderland Point. Author Karen Lloyd describes it as “if a warp in time as well as space had been crossed. Take away the street lights and TV aerials and you could imagine yourself back in the 18th century”. I cannot help but agree, that too was my impression of this unique olde worlde place.
It sits at the southern end of Morecambe Bay, at the end of a tidal causeway – which helps give it an isolated feeling – and overlooks the River Lune.
But behind this serene exterior lies a dark past. This lovely, tiny hamlet of only a few houses, which overlooks such a peaceful scene, actually has a tragic history.
There is a spot in this remote haven called Sambo’s Grave. Sambo (the name given, no one knows his real name) is believed to have been a black slave boy, possibly the only survivor of a shipwreck off Sunderland Point, although no one really knows his story.
In 1796, this grave was erected by Rev James Watson – about 60 years after the death of ‘Sambo’.
This remote hamlet was once seen as important because of its connection to slavery. In the early 1700s, the village was developed as an outport for the neighbouring city Lancaster, which was heavily involved in the slave trade.
According to Karen Lloyd’s The Gathering Tide, between 1736 and 1807, around 29,000 slaves were carried from West Africa to the West Indies on Lancaster’s ships.
However, Sunderland’s contribution to the slave trade was short-lived. By the end of the 1700s, Sunderland was no longer the go-to port. There were problems with the River Lune silting and competition from new ports – the newly constructed neighbour, Glasson Dock, and the much bigger Liverpool. Sunderland Point had now become ‘Cape Famine’.
It is strange to see a juxtaposition of beauty – the scenery, the tranquility, the wildlife – and the horror of the misery and suffering of slavery.
And yet, have we, the human species, moved on? Perhaps not. There are still atrocious human rights abuses taking place all over the world on a daily basis.
Our species can send astronauts out to space and to the moon, create vaccines and boast about AI and the latest technology, and yet too many humans still don’t know how to treat others with even the most basic levels of compassion and respect. How to treat others in the same way they themselves would like to be treated.
But I still have hope that one day our descendants will have a future where people can live alongside each other in harmony and peace. One can only hope…
Information about Sunderland Point comes from The Gathering Tide by Karen Lloyd