The sights, sounds and smells of Lancaster
by Maria Clark
Every time you visit a place, you’ll remember different things about it. Sights, sounds and smells. The first time I visited Lancaster, I was struck by the crispiness of the air and the cold. However, as I’ve got to know the city and the surrounding area, there are distinctive connections I’ve made with my university home, and, particularly during the lockdown, being able to appreciate these little things in my surroundings has been wonderful. So, without further ado, here are some of the best sights, smells and sounds of Lancaster for you to enjoy.
Williamson Park in autumn
Williamson Park is a hidden paradise that all first-years vaguely hear about but barely visit. When you get to your second year, however, and live much closer to it, the phrase "why didn’t we come here sooner, then?" will inevitably cross your lips.
Located just behind the residential area of Bowerham, Williamson Park covers 54 acres of parkland, with woodland walks and twisting trails winding through nature. The Ashton Memorial - the iconic white folly, topped in green - provides the most incredible views across Morecambe Bay and the Lake District. It was originally commissioned by Lord Ashton as a memorial to his wife, Jessy, and is now a popular place to watch the sunset and picnic in the summer. The rest of the park, however, is equally as beautiful - and even more so in autumn. Imagine orange and red-tipped trees arching over hidden paths, with leaves scattered across the lake. It’s the perfect place to get away from your studies - and, of course, to take those perfect autumnal photos for Instagram.
Where I come from, the canal is a really beautiful part of my hometown, and I was excited to hear that Lancaster had a canal, too. It’s actually one of the few coastal canals in the UK, which means that for 41 miles, there are no locks, and the canal is gentle and flat. Stretching all the way from town to the campus itself, it’s a lovely walk and really transports you away from the bustle of student life. The water is a beautiful green-blue, and it’s surrounded by fields dotted with cows, sheep and even llamas. It can get a bit muddy along some bits, however, so make sure you don’t wear those brand-new white trainers!
Dalton Square at Christmas
Everyone loves Christmas and the lights that magically appear around campus and town. (Are you really a student, if you haven’t seen flats covered in cheap decorations?). Dalton Square, in town, knows how to be simple, and classy: with classic silvery-white lights entwined around the trees, it’s a beautiful sight to behold. At night, too, it has a lovely atmosphere when Lancaster Town Hall is lit up and the clock glows blue. There’s usually an ice rink located in the centre of the square during the Christmas period, and skating around the Queen Victoria statue with the trees sparkling will really put you in the festive mood!
The ducks quacking
Would this really be a list about Lancaster without mentioning the ducks? Although they’re predominantly spotted on campus - wandering up and down the Spine; swimming outside LICA - if you head into Lancaster town itself, chances are you’ll see them wandering around. You might hear them quacking in Williamson Park, or as they swim up the canal and past the Water Witch. It’s never an aggressive quack, though. These ducks are such a part of the Lancaster community that they’ve really taken on board the friendliness of the students, and, rain or shine, they’ll never fail to put a smile on your face!
The spinning of bicycle wheels
If there’s one thing you’ve got to know about Lancaster, it’s that cycling is a big thing. With designated cycle paths heading straight from campus into the city, Lancaster is one of the best cities for cycling in the UK, and you’ll always hear those wheels spinning. It’s a great way to get around both campus and town, allowing you to enjoy the fresh air and get in some exercise. There are lots of bike racks and locked bicycle sheds on campus, too, so your bike can be securely stored until you need it for the journey home.
The Charter Market
If you ever want to really indulge your senses, head to the Charter Market, which is currently located in Dalton Square every Wednesday and Saturday. Those living on campus might prefer to visit the Farmers Market in Alex Square, but I’d definitely recommend heading to town for the Charter Market, as you won’t regret it! With stalls selling all different kinds of food, produce and homemade products, the air is filled with an incredible explosion of scents and flavours. My favourite stalls include The Pancake Man (with the most amazing crepes); the deliciously-smelling Dal Fiorentino, and my personal favourite of The Sweet Escape, which does the most heavenly cupcakes, cakes and brownies. (You haven’t lived, by the way, until you’ve tried the Biscoff Millionaire’s Shortbread).
The smell of the rain across the cobbles
Let’s not pretend, here: it does rain in Lancaster. It is part of England, after all. However, there’s something so lovely about the smell of fresh rain across the cobbles in town - and, in particular, leading up to Lancaster Castle. With the castle standing tall and imposing ahead of you, breathe in deeply, and appreciate the simple aspects of nature. There’s also a lovely café inside the castle, so if you want to escape the rain, it’s a great place to take shelter, too!
The earthiness of the fields
One of the main reasons I chose to come to Lancaster was because the university is surrounded by the most beautiful green landscape. With fields stretching in all directions, and the Lake District, Bowland Forest and Grizedale Forest just around the corner, the campus is situated directly in the heart of nature. I didn’t quite realise how polluted my own town was until I moved to university, and the freshness of the air and the smell of the soil is something that I miss greatly when I’m away. Even if it’s just walking around the campus Woodland Trail, and crunching across the autumn leaves, there are plenty of opportunities for you to experience nature, which is a great way to improve both your mental and physical wellbeing.
This list is not exhaustive, and certainly only scrapes the hidden corners and characteristics of Lancaster city and its surroundings. I could have made a video, to show you these, but I thought I’d give you just a little taster - before you go out, and explore for yourself. I look forward to seeing what you all find!