A fantastic week in the Isle of Man, followed by a walk through the boroughs of Wyre and Fylde, and of course there was Blackpool.
I think I might have done my last camping next of the year as Sunday night was very cold and the morning dampness of everything is turning into sopping-wetness. I’ve really enjoyed the ease of camping in my lightweight tent and finding B&Bs/hostels for every night has the potential to become time consuming as well as expensive.
I have to mention the geese. There are thousands of them on this NW coast and they are fabulous. In the morning and the evening there are huge gathering flocks, all flying in formation and making lots of noise as they go. A very impressive sight.
It had been a mild night and the morning got off to a good start when Jimmy and Lesley invited me into their caravan for tea and a croissant before I set off. I spent 40 minutes chatting to them before heading off to get the Wyre Rose Ferry.
Although divided by the River Wyre, there appears to be a strong connection between Knott End and Fleetwood, probably linked by their fishing history.
The Victorian town of Fleetwood was finance by Sir Peter Hesketh in 1835 and the layout was well-designed for a seaside resort. Some of the buildings designed by the noted Victorian architect, Decimus Burton, still remain, as do the parks.
Reassuringly British resort names such as The Esplanade and Marine Gardens abound. The town has the air of a once-renowned resort.
Upon leaving Fleetwood the scenery changed. From here onwards I felt like I was walking my way through the British class system. Apart from Rossall School, which has rather a grand old building in the middle of a large estate, Rossall itself was very rundown. It reminded me of Jaywick, the Essex ‘benefits’ town. Cleveleys was not that much better; although the facade and design of the apartment blocks was steadily improving.
In contrast to the down-at-heel look of the accommodation, money had been spent on the Cleveleys sea front. The Tarmac was new, there were sculptures and weird-looking lampposts. It was a complete contrast to most of the houses and flats just across the street.
A notice told me that £1.5M was being spent enhancing the sea front. This is in conjunction with £85M being spent on improving the sea defences at Rossall and Anchorsholme.
I had been following the promenade most of the way but was forced to leave the sea front just after passing the rather splendid coastguard lookout tower. There were local volunteers there watching birds and collecting litter, and the tower was open to the public. I didn’t bother going in because it was a dull day so not much was visible.
The sea front was closed due to the work to improve the defences and I was forced onto the main road at Anchorsholme. I jumped on a tram to take me along the front to Blackpool Tower. The trams are very convenient and cover 11 miles of the coastline, from Fleetwood to the Southern tip of Blackpool.
Blackpool; an assault on my senses even from the tram. It was teaming with people. To begin with every house on the front was either a guest house or a hotel. Then came the attractions – there was stuff to look at everywhere. I don’t even know what most of it was but it was all big and colourful and the people were loud.
I alighted the tram at The Tower and made my way back a street to the shops (I needed to buy another map). There were street entertainers and sellers everywhere. I thought placing the 99p shop directly opposite the Pound shop was genius – I know which one my mother would shop at! This place is not short on things to see and do!
I thought I might go up the Blackpool Tower, but at £35 for the privilege I decided not to. Instead I got back on the tram and headed to the terminus at Starr Gate.
Blackpool had made me smile. It is definitely the King of the seaside resorts.
The tide was going out and from Blackpool to St Annes is a big sandy beach protected from the road behind by large dunes.
It was nice to give my feet a rest from the concrete. Yet more people! This time they all had husky-type dogs with leads tied around their waists. There were also families out on the beach and I saw kids taking donkey rides.
St Annes looked more upmarket, although it does have a rather dilapidated-looking pier. The houses and flats were getting bigger and better-looking. The beach ended as I rounded the corner into the Ribble estuary and I walked along the road admiring the buildings. I walked past another large, rather posh-looking school and then came to Fairhaven Lake. Here there was a Spitfire MkVb mounted on a pole. It was a replica of Lytham St Anne’s Spitfire, bought by the town’s community when they raised £6,500 in 1940 to help the war effort.
Lytham was the final, and looked to be the richest, town of the day.
The large, detached houses overlooked lovely grassy areas in front of the sea defences. It even had a beautiful windmill.
I walked along the edge of the River Ribble marshland to get to my campsite, just on the outskirts of Warton.
This was possibly the worst campsite I’ve stayed at yet and, weirdly, really quite busy. I booked in at the saloon bar, which was a homage to all things Wild West (there was also a shop that sells Stetsons amongst other things but that was shut). Unfortunately it was populated by Neanderthals (I thought they were extinct but it seems they live on in this place). The presence of an outsider was clearly the cue for lewd comments. I pitched my tent behind some trees where it couldn’t be seen and hunkered down for the night. The shower block was filthy and the price I paid was a rip-off. I shan’t hurry back that’s for sure.
Zephyrine kindly gave me a lift to Aldcliffe, a village just outside Lancaster, where the coastal path heads off-road. The first hour was spent walking a disused rail line all the way to Glasson, a small port near the mouth of the River Lune. Here is stopped at the Lantern O’er Lune cafe for brunch and was treated to the best full-English breakfast that I’ve had for a while.
I left Glasson with a spring in my step and enjoyed the walk around Cockerham Sands, listening to the wading birds and looking back at Heysham Power Station.
I stopped to look at Cockersand Abbey, which began life as a hermitage for someone called Hugh Garth back in 1180. All that’s left now is the chapter-house, in the middle of a field of cows.
I kept passing farms that looked new and seemed to combine farming with parachuting, power parachuting and small aircraft. The skies were full!
The Lancashire Coastal Path had been going so well and then the signs ran out. I think people in the houses by the path might remove them. I spent half an hour trying to find my way to Pilling and eventually had to walk through someone’s garden (that was the path route) and climb over stiles that were overgrown with nettles and bushes.
From Pilling the last few miles were along the sea wall (memories of Essex). At 3.15 pm the sky was suddenly filled with about 1000 geese all flying in numerous V formations onto Pilling Marsh. It was an impressive sight, and noisy. The tide was out and I saw runners and horse riders on the sands.
I arrived at the campsite, pitched my tent and headed to the local pub (1.5 miles away) for some dinner and to watch the rugby. A good day all in all.
Diane dropped me off at the ferry terminal in the morning and bought me a coffee while I checked in. (It should have been the other way around, with me buying the coffee after I’d been hosted so well.) Annoyingly I had my camping gas confiscated (no checks on the way out to Mann!). The ferry was packed full and I ended up sat outside and then on the floor in a corridor. Fortunately it was only 3.5 hours.
It was a grey day and trying to rain when I left Mann (perfect leaving weather) and still grey when I arrived back at Heysham.
In order to cross the River Lune I had to head into Lancaster to the first bridge so I set off back along the coast into Morecambe rather than walk cross-country via a mixture of tracks and roads. I was glad I chose that option as it didn’t take long for me to find the Chapel of St Patrick, one of the oldest Christian monuments in NW England that was built in the 8th Century. It was on the top of the hill overlooking the Bay and had clearly been a burial site as there were several graves cut in the rock.
Strangely, on the lower ground next to the chapel was the Parish Church of St Peter, founded around 967. Two ancient religious building in one small village. How unusual.
I enjoyed my stroll back along the Morecambe promenade to the old train station. Here I turned inland and walked the start of the Way of The Roses, along the disused railway line, into Lancaster.
I crossed the River Lune via the pedestrian bridge and headed into the centre of the city to find a post office.
Chores done, I walked to Zephyrine’s house and was treated to another night of lively debate, and good company.