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Sunday, 23 October 2016

Walk 196 Fleetwood to Blackpool (Lancs)

Walk 196 Fleetwood to Blackpool (Lancs)

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 102
Distance: 12 miles or 18km approx
Difficulty: Easy overall – a few hills but nothing strenuous.
Terrain: coastal path and pavement.
Access: Parking in both places
Public transport: Very good tram service between the two towns

During the summer this walk could be extended northwards to Knott End on Sea and up to Pilling Lane. A summer ferry runs between Fleetwood and Knott End (over the River Wyre) providing the weather conditions are suitable. I had a stroll up here but, at the time, it did not look the most attractive of places with an outlook over muddy sand.

At Fleetwood, a ferry used to run to Larne in Northern Ireland. The service to the Isle of Man stopped over 50 years ago. Fleetwood has three lighthouses. The Upper Lighthouse is referred to as The Pharos after one of the seven wonders of the world (then in Alexandria, Egypt). It is an impressive structure. Further round from the town is the lifeboat station built in 1858. It has a long and proud record of rescues which are recorded on a nearby plaque. An 'n' shaped sculpture depicting equipment used on a trawler is also close to the sea and is dedicated to the fishermen who served the community for generations. Further along is a sculpture of a family on the spot where wives and children welcomed their menfolk back from the sea. The fish port has declined since the 1970s.

Look out for the Lower Lighthouse built in 1840. A couple of miles out to sea is the Wyre lighthouse which is no longer in use.

On the land-side of the coast is The North Euston Hotel originally built to serve guests to and from Euston in London. Most then departed on steamers to Scotland. One of the passengers was Queen Victoria in 1847. In the 1850s the journey became obsolete with the opening of a direct rail link between London and Scotland. Fleetwood rail station was eventually closed as part of the Beeching cuts in the early 1960s. It was still a popular holiday resort at this time and John Lennon spent his childhood holidays here.

The North Euston Hotel was the centre piece of the development of the town undertaken by Peter Hesketh Fleetwood in 1831. The town, which is named after him, was landscaped into a half wheel shape using a sandy dune called The Mount as a focal point. This can be clearly seen from the promenade.

Further along the sea front is the old radar station which is a listed building. It was built for practical training and is now owned by a local college for nautical studies. Soon after this are Fleetwood Lakes. One of them is used by Blackpool and Fylde College for nautical training. An interesting looking vessel like a submarine was suspended over the lake when I went. Another lake is used by a model yacht and power boat club which was established when the lakes were formed in 1929. Both lakes are filled from the sea. You won't miss the many ducks, geese and swans wandering around on the grass. A notice nearby gives information about the mute swans that live here.

A flat concrete path adjacent to the sea wall leads in to Cleveleys. When the tide goes out golden sands are revealed beyond the pebbles. Helpful information boards identify landmarks, birds, seaweed, pebbles and shells. A cable connecting wind turbines out at sea to the National Grid comes ashore here.

Cleveleys is about four miles north of Blackpool. The town dates back to the nineteenth century and was named after a Mr Cleveley who built a hotel here. At the start of World War 2 several government departments were temporarily housed in the town. Some were in the nearby Rossal School which is an independent school founded in 1844 as a sister school to Marlborough College. Originally it was set up for the sons of clergymen but is now co-educational. It houses a space science and astronomy centre which (at the time of visiting) was the only one of its type in the UK.

On the way into Blackpool look out for the large and impressive Norbeck Castle Hotel with its 400 rooms, 22 conference centres plus pool and cinema. It was built in the 1900s and was popular with royalty and celebrities. If you go in late summer/autumn you may well start to see some of the highly creative Blackpool illuminations which go all the way into Blackpool and out the other side. Well worth a visit if you can go at the right time. Other landmarks to look out for on the walk into the town include: the tower (obviously), the Baroque style Cliffs Hotel, the emergency services sculpture and the 1867 Imperial Hotel (Charles Dickens and the current Queen have stayed at this impressive building).

This walk finishes at The North Pier which was built in the 1860s. It is the longest and oldest of Blackpool's three piers. It originally catered for the 'better class' market with orchestral concerts and 'respectable' comedians. It is a listed building which has survived despite damage from ships and fires. The 1500 seat theatre, built in 1938, has attracted a number of famous acts including Morecambe and Wise.

More about Blackpool on the next walk.

Photos show: The Upper Lighthouse, Fleetwood; The fishermen's sculpture overlooking Fleetwood beach; Dalek illuminations north of Blackpool town centre; Imperial Hotel Blackpool.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Walk 195 Grange over Sands, Arnside and Morecambe (Cumbria)

Walk 195 Grange over Sands, Arnside and Morecambe (Cumbria)

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 96/97
Distance: Kent Bank to Grange over Sands 2 miles/3 km approx. Arnsdie stroll is about a mile. Bolton Le Sands – Morecambe – Heysham -7 miles/11 km approx.
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: coastal path and pavement.
Access: Parking in all 3 places
Public transport: Trains between Barrow and Kent Bank/Grange over Sands and Arnside. Arnside to Morecambe - change at Lancaster. Buses 5 and 755 go regularly between Morecambe and Bolton Le Sands

The coastal path often cuts inland and is not very close to the sea so I opted to visit the three places above by train.

Kent Bank station is a mile or so before Grange over Sands. This area was originally on the estuary of the River Kent but the path of the river has changed over the years. Looking back from Kent Bank is Humphrey's Head which is now a nature reserve. Legend has it that the last wolf in England was killed here.

Follow the path into Grange over Sands. If you were expecting a nice sandy beach (as I was) then you will be disappointed. What is actually there is a kind of marsh land with treacherous sand underneath. Many people have died over the years when the tide rushes in. No access to the beach is allowed. On the positive side the coast around here is home to 200,000 wintering wildfowl.

It is worth a stroll back into the rather pleasant town of Grange with its welcoming lack of supermarkets and quite impressive church. I hope Lancasters, selling an extensive range of hardware and other goods, is still going. Near the station is an attractive lake with ornamental gardens which used to be part of the beach.

Arnside is worth a visit to get a good view of the coast northwards and down towards Morecambe Bay. The tide rushes up the estuary here and notices warn that they are fast rising resulting in quicksands. A siren alerts all in the locality of the incoming tide. To walk across Morecambe Bay Sands requires a local guide and should never be attempted alone. The death of many cockle pickers a few years back is a sad testament to this. Arnside itself was originally a fishing village which became a resort with the arrival of the railway. There is an interesting looking building (photo underneath) which is a bit of a mystery. The walk on to Arnside Knott, a nature reserve managed by the National Trust, gives superb views of the coast.

It is possible to start the next part of the walk from Silverdale. However, I did not like the look of the inland walk nor the marshes around Carnforth and opted to start the walk at Bolton Le Sands. This is a pleasant old village whose name originated from the need to distinguish it from Bolton, Lancs and other Boltons. The Lancaster Canal built in the 1790s is a feature of the village.

Continue the walk past Hest Bank and on to Bare on the outskirts of Morecambe. Keep strictly to the path especially near Hest Bank. The walk from here on follows the promenade and occasionally on pavement all the way down to Heysham.

Morecambe was a thriving resort in the mid twentieth century. It was home to the Miss Great Britain contest between 1956 and 1989. Look out for the 3D map which identifies the hills on the opposite side of Morecambe Bay.

Near the centre of the town, on the seafront, is the clocktower and nearby the art deco Midlands Hotel. On the seafront is a sculpture of Eric Morecambe (real name Eric Bartholemew) who came from the town. A great photo opportunity! The Stone Jetty displays some interesting artwork, it was originally a railway terminus, built in 1853, which served the Irish and Scottish ferries. You cannot miss the Polo Tower which is a remnant of an old 'themed' fun fair park. It was a mobile phone mast when I went but there were plans to develop it into a high-tech landmark. Further down the road is the old Morecambe Station, an impressive building which now houses the information centre. (The new station, about half a mile away, is much less impressive and is a one platform affair). The derelict Battery Pub may no longer be there but was a reminder of the decline of the town as a resort. Efforts are now being made to revive Morecambe. At Sandylands there is a plaque marking the removal of the last of the two piers and an aquarium in 1992.

The walk finishes nearing Heysham. A ferry service to the Isle of Man runs from here. I returned and walked back to the centre of Morecambe although I wished I'd got a bus back as the skies opened.

Photos show: Grange over Sands 'beach'; interesting but unidentified building in Arnside; Eric Morecambe sculpture in Morecambe; a view south of Morecambe towards Heysham. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Walk 194 Barrow in Furness to Ulverston (Cumbria)

Walk 194 Barrow in Furness to Ulverston (Cumbria)

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 96
Distance: 16 miles or 25km approx
Difficulty: Easy, mostly flat
Terrain: coastal path and pavement.
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Trains between Barrow and Ulverston

A fairly long walk with a confusing start. Follow the A5087 out of Barrow and take the road on the right after the railway bridge – this is the Cumbria Coastal Way also marked as the Cistercian Way (a walk that goes inland and follows a monastic theme). When I walked here there were a number of diversions which required a bit of guess work at times. Dilapidated old industrial buildings, sewage works and a power station provide much of the scenery. However, the walking became easier when the route followed a new cycle path.

The coastal way winds its way around to Roa Island which has not really been an island since the 1840s when a causeway and later a road were built. Not a lot to see here. It is home to about 100 people, there is a yacht club, an old watch tower and ferries can be caught to nearby Piel Island.

Continue the walk on the 'mainland' and along to Rampside. At low tide the sands stretch for 2 miles out to sea. The path from here to just outside Ulverston mostly follows the main road. In the 18th century Rampside gained a reputation as a bathing resort and was frequented by the poet William Wordsworth. In 1865 a small earthquake caused serious damage to property. Rampside Lighthouse, also known as The Needle (for obvious reasons), was built in the 19th century. Look out for Rampside Hall on the land side of the road – this listed building is well known for its 12 chimneys known as 'the twelve apostles'.

The next few miles include the small settlements of Roosebeck and Newbiggin. Although the map seems to show a beach route, I found that the only option was to follow the path inland at Aldingham. This is a very old settlement which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Folklore has it that it that it used to be a much bigger place but it was wasted away by the tide. Look out for St Cuthbert's Church which was originally built in the 12th century, with additions over the years. In the eastern wall of the church there is a hole where it is believed that lepers could observe the services. The church gets its name because Cuthbert's body was said to have rested here on its way to be buried at Durham Cathedral.

The path returns to the beach near Baycliff, a farming and fishing communitybefore it became an area for mining iron. Limestone is still quarried in the area. A few miles further up is the very old settlement of Bardsea with its stony beach. The area became associated with the Quaker movement when its founder, George Fox, married local land owner Margaret Fell. For a while Bardsea was an important port for iron ore until the canal at Ulverston took the business away.

Further along, Chapel Island can be seen offshore. In the 14th century Cistercian monks from nearby Conishead Priory built a small chapel on the island. This no longer exists but a mock Victorian ruin can be spotted. You can cross the sands at low tide but local advice must be sought as the sands are very dangerous. I did not attempt this.

Alongside the path a notice on the fence invites walkers to tour the nearby Buddhist Temple – free of charge. Soon after this the path cuts inland opposite some interesting rock formations. Soon an old chimney, the remains of a local brickworks, comes into view.

Follow the path around to the canal foot at Ulverston where gates built in 1940 seal off the canal from the sea. The port here got silted up in the 18th century so in 1796 the shortest (less than 2 miles), widest, deepest and straightest canal in England was built. During the 19th century more than 500 ships sailed into the town every year and ship building flourished until 1878.

The path into Ulverston follows the canal and, although the buildings of Glaxo Smith Kline do little to enhance the beauty of the surroundings, the company do look after the canal and ensure it is home to a variety of wildlife including ducks, swans, dragonflies and diving beetles. Notices warn about the depth of the water.

On entering Ulverston look out for the lighthouse shaped tower on the hill. This was built in 1850 as a memorial to Sir John Barrow, a secretary to the admiralty who was born in the town. It is open to the public at certain times.

Be sure to go to the centre of Ulverston to see the Laurel and Hardy sculpture. Stan Laurel was born in the town in 1890 and there is a museum devoted to the pair nearby. The Stan Laurel Inn is nearby for refreshment!

Ulverston Station is a particularly well kept and attractive place to wait for a train.

Photos: the shore at Bardsea; interesting rock formation just before turning inland towards Ulverston; the gates of the Ulverston Canal where it meets the sea; Laurel and Hardy sculpture in Ulverston.