We took the train to Heysham to find out what was really there
Turns out it’s not a bad place…
Heysham (pronounced “Hee-sham”, according to the very annoyed locals) is the end destination of the 1/1A bus route that students at Lancaster Uni take to leave campus. Now in my fourth year of uni, I decided to travel to this semi-mythical place to discover what really goes on there.
To make things interesting for myself, I decided to take the train to Heysham Port. This is a very limited service, only occurring once a day both ways. The service is intended to act as a connection for passengers taking the ferry to the Isle of Man. Though it would have been easier to take the bus, I have a slightly nerdy bucket list to visit every train station in the city of Lancaster region.
My ticket cost £2.95 and I boarded a small two-car train operated by Northern Rail at Lancaster Railway Station (a class 156 for any Train fanatics). The journey took around 20 minutes, calling at Bare Lane and Morecambe. At Morecambe, the train reverses, and I witnessed the driver having to physically get out of the train and change the points manually, which shows how little used the Heysham branch line is. This infrequent passenger service, along with the occasional nuclear flask freight train (yes, that is a thing) that goes the power station are the only uses for the line.
The port and power station
When a visitor arrives at Heysham Port Railway station, the landscape is not an ideal location for a day trip. After stepping of the train, I was greeted with a hellish industrial landscape, a mixture of power cables, urban decline, a maze of lorry trailers, dockyard infrastructure, a gravel heap and a solitary wind turbine. On one side is the imposing towers of Heysham Nuclear power station. Run by EDF energy, the site contains four nuclear reactors and has been in operation since 1989. On the other side is the port of Heysham itself, where a medium-sized car ferry called the MV Ben-my-Chree operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company was waiting, and where everyone on the train accept seemed to be heading.
The train station itself is rather basic, being a simple one-platform terminus with a few notice boards, though the presence of an abandoned platform opposite the track suggests it once saw better days. In fact prior to the troubles in Northern Ireland, A regular Belfast-Heysham ferry service used to exist here.
Fearing that staying any longer in the port and power station area would lead me receiving a dangerous dose of radiation, I headed out of Mordor and walked north along the coast where I found the complete opposite, an Eden. A lovely area of grassland, bushes, cliffs and trees, maintained by the National Trust. Unlike many areas of Morecambe Bay, this coastline has a few decent sandy beaches that would make for an ideal spot for a barbeque in the summer.
This is why I think a trip to Heysham coastline could be a viable alternative to Williamson Park for students in the summer. It features a similar sized area of grassland, has a beach café, sand and is easily accessible by the 1/1A bus route.
Continuing along the coastline, as the weather started to turn bad, I stumbled upon the ruins of St-Patricks Chapel, an eighth century Anglo-Saxon ruin. An incredibly historic monument that predates the Norman Conquest. The nearby St Peter’s church also has stone carvings from the Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods. The area around the ruins is also a good spot for a summer picnic or barbeque.
Continuing to the village itself, it is a mixture of old-style houses and narrow streets with modern developments. There are couple of shops, a very fancy looking gastropub, and a couple of small eateries. A shout out must be given to Tracy’s café, which does really nice homemade pies for decent prices, and where I had a bowl of chips for two pounds to warm me up. After which, I got the bus back to Lancaster.
So, is Heysham worth a visit for Lancaster students brave enough to venture outside of the student bubble? I think so.
The coastline alone is worth it, a good place to come for a walk any time of the year and perhaps an ideal place for a picnic or barbeque in the summer. There’s also a small heritage centre and some buildings which date back from the 1600s. Weather permitting, it could also be a good place for outdoor revision. The village itself is also worthy of a lunch trip or for those interested in a bit of exploring. It’s a shame the train isn’t more regular, but Heysham is still easily accessible by bus.