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Glasson and Cockersands

A very easy walk, at its most atmospheric on a blustery day.

Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 82ft (25m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Village streets, tow path, lanes, tracks and sea wall, 8 stiles

Landscape Level fields, a wide estuary and rocky foreshore

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 296 Lancaster, Morecambe & Fleetwood

Start/finish SD 446560

Dog friendliness Grazing land, dogs need to be under close control

Parking Car park at East Quay, Glasson

Public toilets Across road from car park

1 From the car park, go left along the edge of the harbour and continue up the canal, past the church to Brows Bridge. Go up to the bridge and cross it. After 100yds (91m) fork left into Jeremy Lane. Just after a sharp double bend there's a footpath sign on the right over a culvert and through a gate. Follow the right field edge, round to the left and through a gate, over another culvert bridge and along an obvious track.

2 Go left at a junction along the lane to Kendal Hill farm. Just after the bungalow, but before the farm itself, cross a stile on the right, then another beside a drinking trough. Walk down past the farm to another culvert and continue straight ahead for about ½ mile (800m) over various footbridges and stiles. From a substantial bridge over a ditch, go straight ahead to a gap then along the side of the field towards Crook Cottage. The track alongside leads to the sea wall. Go left, left again by Lighthouse Cottage, then right at the next junction. At the second sharp left-hand bend there's a gate on the right with a stile alongside. Follow the track to the farm, round past the house, and out to the ruins of Cockersands Abbey.

3 From the ruins, walk out to the sea wall and turn right, which brings you back to the junction by Lighthouse Cottage. Retrace the short section to Crook Cottage but continue to Crook Farm. Turn right just before the houses and along a track. After a gate on a bridge it becomes little more than tractor ruts as it swings towards a line of hawthorns, then becomes clearer again. Continue alongside a caravan site, then a lane leads out to a road. Go left and up to Tithebarn Hill.

4 There's no sign of a tithe barn today, but this is the highest point of the walk at 60ft (18m). The view indicator isn't as easy to read as it once was but it's clear enough. And isn't it good to know that Coniston Old Man is 27¾ miles (44.6km) away (especially if you can't see it)?

5 Directly opposite, at the mouth of the river, is Sunderland. The road to the village still floods at high tides. Turn right down Tithe Barn Hill into the village and across the swing bridge or lock gates. The car park's just beyond, on the right.

It's immediately apparent that Glasson Dock is a working port, albeit on a modest scale, as well as being home to many pleasure craft. Lancaster itself, about 5 miles (8km) up the Lune, suffered a sharp decline in trade in the early 19th-century. The opening of the canal link to the sea at Glasson, in 1826, only partly stemmed the drop in the area's fortunes. Glasson is now a minor outpost of the Port of Lancaster, which centres on the deep-water harbour at Heysham.

The Lancaster Canal never achieved its full economic potential because it was not linked to the rest of the national network. Ironically this is now set to change, with the development of a link at Preston.

The site is most evocative on a wild day, but even then it's hard to imagine how isolated it must have been in the 12th century, when Hugh Garth, 'a hermit of great perfection', came here. It was then a virtual island. Erosion has pushed the shoreline closer while the marshes, which then stretched several miles inland, have now been drained - you've just walked across them. The site was relatively safe from marauders and well-removed from worldly temptation. It subsequently became a hospital and then a Premonstratensian priory. The only standing building is based on the Chapter House. A few other fragments of masonry remain. From here you can walk out to the sea wall and, if the tide's not too high it's worth venturing on to the foreshore, where you may find great drifts of mussel and cockle shells. These shellfish are still harvested commercially in Morecambe Bay.

About ¼ mile (400m) out, at the mouth of the Lune channel, is a small lighthouse. This still works, for the benefit of those craft which use the Lune channel. These are relatively few and it's much more probable that you'll see container ships or the Isle of Man ferry heading to or from Heysham, beyond the low spit of Sunderland Point. The harbour itself is just beyond the obvious and unsightly nuclear power stations.

Where to eat and drink

In addition to a café and a couple of pubs in the village itself, there's the highly-regarded Stork at Conder Green. You can walk there, along the old railway line, a return trip of about a mile (1.6km). There's well-kept ale and a good selection of food in hefty portions.

What to look for

Apart from Tithebarn Hill, and that's hardly a mountain, you might think this walk was completely flat. In fact variations in height of just a few feet were immensely significant before the marshes were drained. The abbey for instance, stands about 15ft (5m) above its surroundings. Other names - Kendal Hill, Thursland Hill, Bank Houses - also record the significance of higher ground.

While you're there

Glasson itself is worth a little more time: there's usually something going on in the outer harbour or the inner yacht basin. There's also a gallery/craft shop and, round the corner, the Smokehouse offers a wide range of delicacies.

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