CONTINUED.........

Hale to Lytham St.Annes / Blackpool to Grange-over-Sands / Humphrey Head to Muncaster


Blackpool


Blackpool TowerA mile north of here, we entered the phenomenon of Blackpool. Superlatives and statistics don’t do justice to the awfulness of the place. People drawn by the Tower and the huge Pleasure Beach with 150 rides, make more than 16 million visits to the town each year.

Every inch of the seafront is packed with hotels, bars, pubs and entertainments guaranteed to thrill, frighten, alarm, enrich or delight. There are 3,500 hotels, guest houses and self-catering units in the resort, which has 120,000 holiday beds - more than the whole of Portugal!

Blackpool BeachHolidaymakers were first introduced to the south shore in 1896 when John Outhwaite erected a famous American carousel amongst the sand dunes.

He later formed a partnership with George Bean, who leased an adjacent 32-acre site for an amusement park, and the first seeds of the modern pleasure beach were sown.

AmusementsFrom September to November there are the famous illuminations, with half a million bulbs, along the seven-mile promenade and the best way to see them is from one of the trams that trundle along the seafront to Fleetwood.

TramThe trouble with the trams is that they totally prevent parking for the entire length of the sea shore, so after finding a spot at the side of the road in the town centre to go to buy some sandwiches, we had to drive out to Bispham before we could find a parking place overlooking the sea to eat them.

Pier

There are no less than three piers, all stuffed full of machinery and burger bars. Personally, I can’t imagine a worse venue for a holiday, but thousands do! As it was February and well out of the tourist season, the town looked like any ordinary shopping centre. We decided that we should return when it is full of all the razzmatazz and bursting with fun-loving holidaymakers, just to see what all the fuss is about. I would like to go to the top of the Tower as well!

CleveleysJust to the north, Cleveleys is quieter and has a more modest range of attractions, including amusement arcades and the Jubilee Gardens behind the promenade. The beach is sandy, with some shingle and was inhabited by a lone fisherman.



Fleetwood


Fishing near FleetwoodWe followed the tram line all the way to Fleetwood, which faces the estuary of the River Lune. In 1840, plans for a new town were prepared by the architect Decimus Burton, but never completed. The centrepiece of the plan was ‘The Mount’, a grassy hill surmounted by a clock tower, which overlooks a long promenade with a boating lake and a pier. A great railway hotel, the North Euston was built for travellers to Scotland, who took a boat from Fleetwood to Ardrossan and travelled on to Glasgow by train.

Pharos Lighthouse

Fleetwood is located on a promontory between the sea and the River Wyre. It is a resort on the seaward side and has extensive working docks on the riverside. The strange looking Pharos Lighthouse is located well inland. In summer there are passenger ferries to Knott End across the Wyre, and vehicle ferries to the Isle of Man.

Marsh MillMillions of pounds are being spent to improve the town's facilities and facia, and there are excellent tourist attractions to visit. Fleetwood Pier holds a special place in pier history, being the last to be built during the 'golden age' of pier building.

After getting totally lost amongst the streets and tramways, we eventually found the road south around the Wyre with its docks and chemical works. At Thornton, there is the old Marsh Mill with its red sails, that produced flour until 1922. The mill has been restored to working order and now houses a clog museum.



Stanah and Skippool Creek


The Wyreside Ecology Centre is located at Stannah, near to the Wyre Estuary Country Park, where many birds may be seen on the mud flats and sandbanks. In winter, there are large flocks of lapwings, golden plovers and redshanks on the marshes. A path that floods at high tide leads to Skippool Creek. High tides on the River Wyre regularly reach up to 30ft in depth, filling a maze of creeks, a haven for birds and also a popular sailing centre.

In the 16th century Skippool was the port for the ancient market town of Poulton-le-Fylde, a mile inland. In the 1750’s, the port's trade is said to have been greater than that of Liverpool. Imports included wine, tobacco, timber, and guano from Africa for use as fertiliser on Fylde farms. The name Fylde comes from the Old English word gefilde, meaning a plain and it is one big flourishing market garden.



Knott End-on-Sea


Knott EndWe crossed the river at Shard Bridge and drove back up to Knott End, opposite Fleetwood docks. Sailing boats are moored beside stretches of mud in the estuary and beside the landing stage for the passenger ferry. From the quay, a path leads south along the riverbank past a golf course to the nature reserves of Barnaby's Sands and Burrows Marsh, set in large areas of salt marsh.

A car park and picnic site at Lane Ends, 4½ miles east of Knott End, is an ideal spot for bird watching, and gives broad views over Morecambe Bay.



Cockersand Abbey


Cockersand AbbeyCows graze placidly among the scattered ruins of Cockersand Abbey, once one of the great religious houses in northwest England. The squat tower of the 13th century chapter house, and a few stunted walls, are all that remain of the abbey, built in the early 12th century on the tip of a remote tongue of land at the mouth of the River Lune. The remnants of a fish trap built by the monks can be seen at low tide.

A few hundred yards from the shore is a small lighthouse topped by a black cone. The bulk of Heysham nuclear power station looms on the far shore, and beyond are the Lakeland hills. A narrow lane, with limited parking space at the end, leads to the shore, from where it is a pleasant 10 minute stroll beside the bay to the abbey.

GlassonUnlike many of the small ports in the area, Glasson, a port since the late 18th century, has not declined to become a historical curiosity but is a lively mix of working docks, a barge-lined canal and a yacht basin. Glasson's fortunes improved when it was linked to the main Lancaster Canal in 1826 and shipped raw materials for Lancaster's mills.

A 6 mile path leading along the Lune estuary as far as Lancaster offers excellent opportunities for bird watching.



Lancaster


cobbled alleyLancaster is the county town, full of stone buildings and cobbled alleys and we stayed the night in a central hotel – (next to Waterstones - which is always a financial mistake for us). We checked into our ‘executive’ room to find it had not been made up and were not impressed; we had to move to another room but we had a good view of the castle. The town has a formidable history and some of its oldest buildings are still in use.

LancasterWe went for a walk up to the castle in the evening. It is owned by HM The Queen in right of Her Duchy of Lancaster, and is often known as John O' Gaunt's Castle. From its commanding position on the hill overlooking Lancaster and the River Lune, it stood as a bastion against the marauding forces of Picts and Scots.

Hanging cornerToday, it is used as law courts and a prison, but it is still possible to take a tour and see where the Lancashire Witches were tried and condemned, 'Hanging Corner' where hundreds of condemned prisoners were publicly hanged in front of cheering crowds, the magnificent Shire Hall with its display of heraldic shields and the Crown Court from where convicts were transported to Australia.

Priory ChurchNext to it is the Priory Church of St Mary, dating from the 14th century but with a history going back to before the Normans. We could see across Morecambe Bay as we went down a footpath, past the site of a Roman bath-house and down to St George's Quay by the River.

Maritime MuseumThe Maritime Museum is housed in the former Custom House and relates the story of the port of Lancaster, which was one of the busiest in Britain until the silting up of the River Lune.

In the evening we walked around the centre of town, teenagers were out in force, trekking between bars and clubs on a Saturday night binge.

The next day, the weather was awful so we went across the city to the highest point, where the impressive Ashton Memorial stands in the pretty Williamson Park. Lord Ashton’s father, a linoleum manufacturer, gave it to the city in the 19th century.

Ashton MemorialInside, we climbed up to a viewing gallery and inside the dome, saw some intricate sculptures. The views from the top were stunning but the sleet prevented us from staying outside for long. Next to the memorial is an Edwardian Palm House with a collection of tropical butterflies, so we went in to get warm and dry and grab a cup of coffee.



Sunderland


Road signWe crossed the River Lune in Lancaster in the freezing rain and headed south again. At the tip of the peninsula is Sunderland Point. In the early 18th century cargoes from the West Indies were unloaded there and transferred to smaller vessels for the onward journey to Lancaster but traffic declined with the growth of Glasson Dock and the tiny village became known for sea bathing.

nuclear power stationThe only road into Sunderland leads across a narrow causeway that floods at high tide and traverses a maze of muddy channels. At the start of the road, several vehicles were turning round and so we decided not to cross as the tide was obviously coming in. We will return.

Visible for miles, is the square block of the nuclear power station that is beside the harbour, the starting point for a vehicle ferry to the Isle of Man, and the base of support vessels for the Morecambe Bay gas field.



Heysham


St Patrick's ChapelAt the centre of Old Heysham, high on a headland looking across Morecambe Bay, are the ruins of St Patrick's Chapel, whose thick walls were built in the 8th century.

graves cut into the rockBeside it are graves cut into the rock and just below is the pretty Church of St Peter whose garden was full of snowdrops. We called into the tiny heritage centre for some information and then went for a nice lunch in a local café.

We were surprised at what a pretty village this is, right next to such a busy harbour.



Morecambe


Morecambe BayMorecambe, famous for its shrimps and bay, is a thriving holiday resort with a massive sandy bay that rapidly becomes covered by the incoming tide and has wonderful sunsets.

Morecambe's success was built on sea, sand and entertainment with a 5-mile promenade with ubiquitous attractions. The resort was born with the coming of the railway in the 19th century, providing cheap travel for thousands of workers from the industrial towns of the North West.

bird sculptures

A restoration program is underway with the extension of the old stone jetty and the building of granite and steel bird sculptures on roundabouts and along the sea-front.

statue of Eric MorecambeWe stopped to photograph the statue of Eric Morecambe that was unveiled by the Queen last year and noticed that the landmark Polo Tower is either being restored or demolished. As the town is vulnerable to storms, sea defences have been strengthened and there are hazardous quick sands in the bay.

It is possible to walk the 10 miles from Hest Bank to Cumbria across the dangerous sands at low tide but this should only be done on organised excursions, when lead by the ‘Queen’s Guide to the Sands’.

Bolton-le-Sands

We drove through Bolton-le-Sands with the salt marshes on one side and the Lancaster Canal on the other; it is now used for recreation but was once crowded with barges carrying sand and gravel between Preston and Kendal. Until 1931 Carnforth had a steelworks but after it closed, there remained a busy railway junction and the film Brief Encounter was shot on location at Carnforth station. Steamtown, to the north, has a collection of locomotives and a short section of track along which trains still run.



Jenny Brown's Point


Jack ScoutWe drove along a small road through the marshes with the railway on our left until we reached an area belonging to the National Trust called Jack Scout. We obeyed the road signs discouraging vehicles and walked towards Jenny Brown’s Point. There was no-one else around and the road was perfectly adequate for cars, but despite the driving sleet we enjoyed the walk and the eeriness of the place was peculiar.

Jenny Brown's PointAcross the bay there is some sort of sea defence that ribbons into the mist and the point is strikingly solitary, with a moon-like landscape. The name is a mystery, but it is known that a man called Brown farmed there in the 16th century and it was once a centre for copper smelting, but all that remains is an old stone chimney stack.

We returned to the car freezing, soaking and laughing at ourselves!

The winding lanes round Silverdale give occasional glimpses of the sea. At one time the village stood beside the River Kent and steamers cruised there from Morecambe, but in the 1920s the river changed its course, leaving Silverdale high and dry. The village has a long tradition as a resort, with the novelists Charlotte Bronte and Mrs Gaskell among its 19th century visitors. A house above the shore was built as a bathhouse where Victorians could enjoy in comfort the 'fashionable benefits of immersion in the sea'.



WESTMORLAND

This county only has a tiny access to the sea at the north of Morecambe Bay and used to cut Lancashire into two, but nowadays, together with the western part of Lancashire forms part of the larger Cumbrian authority. The original nam was Westmoringland, which means the people west of the moors. We had a short trip into the county as we drove through Arnside and around the estuary of the River Kent.



Arnside


A holiday resort and sailing centre, the village hugs the lower slopes of Arnside Knott, whose summit is reached on foot and has wonderful views across the Kent estuary. A siren sounds at Arnside when the tide starts to come in. Under certain conditions, the tide rushes in at such a pace that it can be heard from the village as a distant roar. The train journey from Arnside to Ulverston crosses low viaducts, built over Warton Sands and Cartmel Sands, and gives superb coastal panoramas.



Cartmel


CartmelAs we drove to our hotel at Aynsome Manor, the snow began to fall and we were very pleased to arrive and see a welcoming fire burning. We had a cosy room and splendid meal and decided to come back and stay here again when we complete this section of the coast.

The next day we went to see the cathedral-like Priory Church of St Mary and St Michael with its huge east window and a fine set of misericords. The village surrounds a little square with cafes and little shops - it is nice.

Try the locally made sticky toffee pudding!



Grange-Over-Sands


Grange over Sands

Our last stop on this trip was Grange, a resort with a sedate Edwardian feel complete with gardens and a bandstand. The road into town is steep and passes a church with an ornate clock tower. We parked by the railway, called at the tourist information and walked to the promenade.

Grange in the rainThe trouble was that the railway runs between the town and the prom so we had a long walk before we could find a bridge to get across. By this time the weather was absolutely awful and we dripped our way back beside the marshy shore. We re-crossed the railway, actually on the track, which was a bit spooky and found the way back to the car.


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