Map 9   The Forgotten Highways; fords,Ferries and Sands. 12th. to 19th. Centuries


From earliest times a little known north-south route has existed on the Lancashire coast, by-passing the main centres of authority and control by crossing the wastes of mosses, bays and estuaries. It crossed the Ribble at Freckleton, the Wyre at Shard and Stanah, the Cocker at Pilling, the Lune at Overton and Morecambe Bay in two long stretches across the sands, continuing into Cumbria across the Duddon and on to the Solway. There was even a secret path across Pilling Moss, Kate's Pad, constructed in pre-Roman times linking the Wyre and the Cocker.
The Romans built a fort at Kirkham to sit astride and control it, with access roads along each side of the Wyre linking with their paved ford at Aldwath near Shard, just above the most likely position for a port at Skippool, the highest navigable point. One of these roads, from Kirkham to Stanah, was used in later centuries by Viking invaders coming up the Wyre, and thereby gained the name Dane's Pad. It used to be thought that this road continued on to King Scar off Fleetwood - now known to be untrue.

The main sands routes were clearly used by monks to access lands and properties distant from their monasteries, hence the granting of rights of way by Geoffrey of Hackinsall; and also by other travellers, hence the strictures placed upon the monasteries of Conishead, Cartmel and Cockersand (and their successors) to provide guides and bells for the safe passage of travellers across the sands 'according unto the old custom'. Cockersand oversaw the crossings of the Lune and Cocker, the latter also used by the people of Pilling exercising their historic right to take building stone from Wet Arse Scar.

The strategic Ribble crossing was much used by Royalist forces during the civil wars, and the way across the sands of Morecambe Bay became the normal route for coaches and carriers plying their trade between Lancaster, Cartmel and Furness, dangerous though it was due to quicksands and the swiftly rising tides. One coachman, asked whether many passengers were lost whilst crossing, replied "No, we usually find them again when the tide goes out".