The circular walk around Sunderland Point, Lancashire, is far more than just another headland walk. It is filled with unique tidal landscapes that affect the way of life here. It’s also much quieter than its huge industrial age past may lead one to imagine.
There are also remnants of Britain’s darker past in the poignant form of Sambo’s Grave. More than just a walk, there is a history lesson to be had here too.
Parking in Overton
Before heading out for this walk you must check the tide timings. When the tide is in, the road to the village of Sunderland from Overton is completely cut off under the water, and the start of this walk and the place to park is, in fact, the village of Overton.
At the far end of the village is The Globe pub, the last building before the causeway.
Across the road from The Globe is a large free car park. Postcode LA3 3HF.
The Causeway To The Sunderland Community
It is this mile and a half of the walk that requires us to check the tide timings. From the car park, turn right and you’ll follow the road to Sunderland. Just remember, when the tide is in, the village of Sunderland is cut off from Overton.
Don’t confuse this small Lancashire village called Sunderland with the City of Sunderland over on the east coast.
The word ‘sunder’ means separated, or apart, so you can see how Sunderland gets its name.
The village of Sunderland is quite unique to our country. Technically it is still on the mainland of Britain, yet its accessibility by road is entirely dependant upon the tides. Children who live in the community of Sunderland have to adjust their school hours due to align with the challenges of getting to and from the schools themselves.
This road is often under 4 feet of water.
The walk along the road is naturally a bit muddy underfoot. The sea coming over it a couple of times a day does that!
When walking along here it feels like another beautiful coastal lane walk. But those Morecambe Bay tides can be fast and high. This road and marsh area is completely transformed as it goes under water.
Malc, my collie, had some fun in the mud for sure.
If you look left from the lane you will see the mouth of the Lune Estuary across the water to Glasson Dock and the Lancashire hills beyond.
That part of Lancashire is also great for walking near Conder Green.
After the first mile and a half you reach the end of the causeway and come upon the buildings and houses that make up the community of Sunderland.
So why are there houses here when they are cut off from the tide so much? To answer this we need to head back into Britain’s maritime past.
At the end of the 17th and early 18th Century this area was the biggest port in North West England for slave, cotton and sugar ships coming in from North America and the West Indies. As the entrance to the Lune Estuary, this is where many ships docked and unloaded.
Again, due to the tides, smaller ships needed to dock here too if they had to wait for deeper water to sail up river to Lancaster itself. The houses and buildings you see are from this time period.
By the late 18th Century, Glasson Dock across the way became the main port and then Liverpool grew too. So these quiet houses are what remain of a huge and bustling history.
Keeping to the left of the buildings on the walk, the path eventually turns to shingle and beach. You will see a shortcut path to the right off to Sambo’s Grave, but instead keep straight ahead and walk around the tip of Sunderland Point.
It is very pebbly underfoot but worth the effort. On the tip of the peninsula you get a great view directly south.
The sight of Plover Scar Lighthouse will be directly in front of you.
After turning back around the point you will soon come to the place of Sambo’s Grave. A grave that reminds us of our dark roots to slavery and a grave that tells a story along with it.
Sambo was a slave boy or young man of African origin, who arrived at Sunderland Point with a trading ship from the West Indies in 1736.
He is said to have been the cabin boy or servant to the ship’s master. Prior to this it is presumed he had the most horrible experiences on the sugar plantations of the West Indies as a slave.
Once at Sunderland Point his master had to go and tend to business elsewhere in the country, so Sambo was left at the local inn. This sent Sambo into what was described as a state of stupefaction. He was in a strange cold land, unknowing of the language and, to him, deserted by his master. We also do not know how he was treated.
He is said to have retreated in sheer panic to the rafters of the building and refused all sustenance of food and water. He died there only a few days later. It is not known conclusively either whether he died from mistreatment or due to contact with a European disease he had no immunity to.
With him being a black slave and non Christian, he was not allowed to be buried on consecrated land. The sailors dug him an unmarked grave here, out of the village, alone, just a few yards from the sea line.
60 years later, in 1796, the retired headmaster of Lancaster Grammar School, James Watson, heard of the story of Sambo. He went to raise money from local visitors to have a plaque made for Sambo’s, what-was-then unmarked, grave. James also happened to be the brother of a local slave trader by the name of William Watson. James wrote the epitaph you read today when visiting Sambo’s Grave.
If you visit the grave today you will find it has been protected from the sea and elements by a wall that has been built around it.
You will also find that it is permanently adorned with flowers and painted stones, some of which contain messages. As you read them you can tell how local school children feel as they are taught about this sad era in our history, spending time dedicating their thoughts to Sambo, rest his soul.
After leaving Sambo’s Grave you have 2 options. Like me, you can keep along the shoreline until you reach Pott’s Corner or, by the grave, you can cut back across the peninsula to the causeway via a path inland.
Pott’s Corner is where you would park if you just wanted to visit the grave without a big walk or if the tide was in. It is also a great place for those wanting to spot birds.
You can see over the tidal mudflats here for miles!
It is estimated that up to 50,000 birds come to Pott’s corner to feed. Waders like redshanks and godwits or flocks of dunlins, knots and oystercatchers are just a few of the species found here.
The Way Back To Overton
From Pott’s Corner you will need to cut back across the top of Sunderland Point Peninsula to Overton.
Turn right onto the only lane here. After about half a mile you will see a farm lane entrance with a public footpath sign. Take this and just as you get to the farm go over the stile on your left.
Now you will cross wide open grassy farmland. Keep to the right hand fence and jump over the first stile on the right, then cut directly across the field keeping the farm on your right hand side.
You will now just need to go over 2 more fields and 2 more stiles before stepping onto a narrow quiet lane. Turn left and you will arrive back at the car park and The Globe in Overton.
Another walk done filled with magnificent views, nature, and packed with history. Wonderful!
Route Details and GPX
Distance: 5 miles
Time taken: 1 hour 45 minutes