With the continuing very warm and sunny weather being too good to miss, mid morning on the Bank Holiday Monday towards the end of May saw me setting off for somewhere I hadn’t been to for almost ten years, a place where Poppie and I could have a good walk and I could get some decent photos.
Skippool Creek, a historic docks area, is situated on the western bank of the River Wyre about three miles south of Fleetwood and Knott End on the coast. In constant use from the end of the Middle Ages it was a major trading port for hundreds of years, with goods arriving from all over the world. Flax was brought in from Ireland and the Baltic, timber came from North America and tallow from Russia, while closer to home limestone and oats were transported from Cumbria and coal from Preston. Eventually though, the popularity of the port waned with the opening of Fleetwood’s port in the 1840s, trading dwindled and the docks gradually fell into disrepair; nowadays the creek is owned by Wyre Council and provides moorings and jetties for a variety of private sailing craft although much of the area is more of a boat graveyard than anything else.
A narrow minor road off the main road to Thornton took me down to the creek. Half a dozen very pleasant large detached and semi detached houses were situated along one side of the road which ended at the premises and slipway of Blackpool & Fleetwood Yacht Club; halfway along was a free car park so my walk started from there. The creek itself ran parallel to the road and quite close to it for a distance before curving round to join the main river, and many of the wooden jetties had boats moored up at the ends.
Where the creek joined the river the marshy land became much wider with wooden walkways leading across it from the roadside to the jetties and moored up boats. Here the area became a hotch-potch of timber structures, seaworthy fishing and sailing boats, and serviceable trailers mixed in with many abandoned and unloved small wrecks beached on the grass, and there was even a sunken boat fastened by several long ropes to the end of a jetty.
The most well known wreck just there was the MV Good Hope, a fishing trawler thought to have been built in the 1830s, though other information says it was more than likely built in Scotland just after WW2 as there was a boat of that name registered in Wick at that time. It was launched in 1948 and stayed in Scotland for over twenty years; in 1975 it was recorded as fishing from Fleetwood and owned by a local man, then in 1984 it was decommissioned and subsequently dry-land moored at Skippool Creek. With rotting timbers on what had once been the upper deck, a collapsed wheelhouse and the bow propped up to stop the whole thing from tipping over it was a mess, though strangely there was a pretty little wrought iron gate across the adjacent walkway.
Crossing the slipway in front of the yacht club premises I could see that a few people were taking advantage of the high tide and indulging in a spot of sailing, with several boats out on the water. I’d left the creek behind and was now alongside the main river with a wide and pleasant tree lined path leading from the slipway and past the many wooden walkways across the marshy grass to the water.
After a while the path opened out to fields on my left and the farther I got from the sailing club the scruffier everything on the right became. The well kept jetties near the club were replaced by a long row of walkways built just above the grass, many with rotten and missing boards, jetties which were anything but straight, and a mish-mash of wooden sheds and small workshops cobbled together from whatever timber the various owners could get their hands on. Many of the jetties had small sheds built on them and one in particular was so crooked it looked like the slightest breeze would blow the whole thing over.
Abandoned and derelict boats were everywhere, some of them so far up on the grass it looked like they hadn’t seen water for a long time. The saddest sight for me though was towards the end of the row – an old wooden fishing trawler which had been used as a permanent live-aboard houseboat.
At one time the grass in front of it had been sectioned off into a small well kept private garden with fences and a neat little shed, and on my previous visit to Skippool nine years ago the boat itself had looked quite attractive with its bright paintwork. Now though it was just a broken down wreck with rotten timbers, a collapsed wheelhouse and a huge hole in the side of the hull – such a shame when it had once looked so nice.
Beyond the row of walkways the path made a U-turn over a narrow drainage channel and continued to follow the river, with more open fields on the left where the fences were interspersed with sections of hedgerow. A gate led to a pleasant looking tree lined lane and the sweet scent of hawthorn was everywhere; I even found something which doesn’t seem to be too common in my local area – pink hawthorn.
Round the next bend I came across something I didn’t expect to see – a boat sitting slap bang in the middle of the path. There was another one several yards farther along, sitting on the grass just off the path, and though the first one looked like it needed a bit of attention the second one seemed to be in good condition. Assuming that no-one would just dump a couple of boats right there I could only think that maybe they had been washed up in February’s heavy storms, which made me wonder if the storms had also been responsible for the extensive damage to the old houseboat.
Just past the boats and set back off the path were a couple of benches; the first one was plain but the second was a memorial bench with a lovely carving at each end of the backrest. Past more fields and the path split into three with the lower one continuing along the riverside, the middle one going through a woodland area and the upper one leading up a few steps into a sloping well mown meadow. Just for curiosity I went a little way up the slope; a couple of picnic benches were set to one side and looking back I got a good view of the river.
Back on the lower path it was another twenty minutes before I reached my goal – a car park, cafe and picnic area close to a slipway used by people with jet skis and speedboats. It was a shame the cafe was closed as it would have been nice to indulge in some cake and a can of Coke but I found a vacant bench overlooking the river and watched for a while as various jet skis zoomed up and down. Sitting in the sun with a great view in front of me was lovely but eventually Poppie started to get restless so it was time to reverse the walk and head back to the van.
By the time I got back to the creek the tide had gone down far enough to expose part of the mud banks along the side and the farther along the creek I got the less water was in there; it wouldn’t be long until the boats moored near the end would be settled on the mud until the next high tide.
Leaving the creek I drove round to Hambleton village on the other side of the river and found a Spar shop where I got a chocolate bar and something I’ve not had for many many years – a can of Barrs American Cream Soda. In fact it’s so long since I last had some that I thought it had gone out of production a long while ago. Behind the shop was a small car park with a pleasant view over some nearby fields so I parked up there and whiled away twenty minutes or so with my drink and snack before heading for home.
Thinking about my walk along Skippool Creek and the Wyre nothing much had changed in the nine years since my last visit – the scruffy parts were possibly a bit scruffier but to me that scruffiness gave the place a certain quirky charm. With perfect weather I’d really enjoyed the walk and made a mental note not to leave it so long before I make another visit – and maybe by then the cafe will be open and I can enjoy a drink and some cake.