Lancaster
Next week sees the opening of the Duke’s Theatre walkabout in the Park production of “the Three Musketeers.” (See https://dukes-lancaster.org  for details) Given the vagaries of the English summer the continued success of Lancaster’s theatre in the park series represents the triumph of hope over experience yet in its 32 year history very few performances have ever been cancelled. As a venue Williamson Park is admirably suited to walkabout theatre by offering a variety of settings both indoor and outdoor to stage a play. To begin with there is the Ashton Memorial so the wonderfully imposing that it has been dubbed “the Taj Mahal of the North”. Its ground floor space is ideal for theatre in the round. Add to this the sweeping parkland, formal gardens and naturalistic lake the combination becomes an artistic director’s dream. All that is needed is a perfect summer’s evening (or shall we settle for dry) and an audience which follows the action by walking from scene to scene. Yep theatre in the park involves going for a walk!
The route described below crosses the city from the railway station to the park assuming the reader will want to take in some of the sights before experiencing that quintessential aspect of summer in the North of England – Walkabout Theatre in Williamson Park.

Fact file.
Start: The Railway Station, Meeting House Lane, Lancaster.
 

Distance: 3 miles

Time: Although the distance is not great allow three to four hours for curious exploration.
 

Summary: Mainly easy but not without exertion.

Map: OS Street Atlas Lancashire

 

 Map by kind permission of Johnson Press

Directions: In keeping with its surroundings the station is styled with mock medieval decorative features preparing the visitor for the sights to come. From the main entrance turn left to exit the car park by a footpath with the railway on the left. As you reach West Street turn right and almost immediately arrive at the castle precinct.

 

As befitting the Duchy of Lancaster of which the Queen is officeholder the castle exudes strength and power. It is an obvious tourist attraction with its resplendent Shire Hall, apartments and dungeons.
Close by the castle stands the ancient Priory Church of St Mary which was established in the 11th century. Church and Castle occupy a hill which commands a superb vantage point over the River Lune. To the left of the church follow a path in the direction of St George's Quay. En route a short diversion to the right will bring you to the Roman Baths an excavated site

 

alongside Bridge Lane bringing into focus another stratum of Lancaster's history - the Roman Period.

Return to the footpath and keep ahead to arrive at the riverside.

 

Turn right. Almost immediately there is a monument to this country's truly horrible history - a memorial to Captured Africans by Kevin Dalton Johnson. It is a reminder that Lancaster was once complicit in the Slave Trade. From here we would want to move swiftly on - but pause and think. There is a view that schools should place greater emphasis on the benefits the British Empire bestowed on the world. It would take an awful lot of benefits to wipe the stain of this evil trade practiced by some who have been lauded as national heroes.

From here cut through on Damside which crosses busy Bridge Lane (in effect the A6) and passes the bus station to Thurnham Street turn right and cross the road at a pedestrian crossing into Moor Lane.

 

Just after the Duke's Playhouse look for another grim reminder of our glorious history. This one is about the War on Women characterised 400 years ago by killing witches. Nearby this spot the so called Pendle Witches were executed.

Continue on Moor Lane following it as it bends to meet a junction close to Royal Lancaster Grammar School. Keep ahead into Wyresdale Road and continue to climb past annexes of the school to arrive at the entrance of Williamson Park.
 

Turn left into this attractive amenity

 

and follow its main drive through trees to a wide area of open space dominated by the impressive Ashton memorial - a great domed neo classical building which is one of Lancashire's most prominent landmarks particularly eye catching for motorists on the M6 especially when heading north.

 

Close up it is even more imposing. Built for Lord Ashton in the first decade of the 20th century it was intended as a memorial to his deceased second wife. Happily this rather morbid aspect of its creation has been well and truly subverted because now the city promotes the spacious ground floor hall as a wedding venue. And why not - the almost white Portland stone and its graceful lines seem to suggest a tiered wedding cake.
If there is not a wedding or a theatre production access to the ground floor is free and a contribution to an honesty box will ensure a guilt free visit to the first floor balcony - a must do item on any Lancastrian's bucket list. The views across the River Lune and Morecambe Bay are extensive.
There is far more to see in Lancaster but this walk will give you a taster and an appetite to return to delve deeper into its wonderful heritage.