Although I’ve been to Morecambe many times over the years I’ve never actually walked the whole length of the promenade in one go, I’ve only been to various parts of it on different occasions. Walking the length of it was something I thought about doing a while ago but never got round to it, however the opportunity finally presented itself on a sunny day a week ago and I arrived in Morecambe just before 11am.
Of course wherever I parked meant that I would have to walk the promenade twice so rather than park at one end and walk straight to the other end and back I parked near the Festival Market, not far from the Midland Hotel and roughly in the centre of the main part of the promenade, then walked south to start my promenade walk by the Beach Cafe close to Sandylands promenade leading to Heysham village.
Close to the cafe was a play park then West End Gardens a bit farther along, and though I expected to see some colour in the flower beds bordering the road I was disappointed to see that they looked rather unloved and uncared for. Farther along still the retreating tide had left a long shallow lagoon across the beach, and while the promenade itself has been given a very attractive makeover in the last few years the same can’t be said for across the road.
Once past the guest houses and B & Bs several closed and shuttered up shops and the long-derelict land where the theme park once was gave the seafront a general air of shabbiness and neglect. Past the derelict land and a recently built Aldi supermarket was The Platform, once the promenade railway station building but now a music and arts venue, and on the promenade itself I was approaching the art deco Midland Hotel and the Stone Jetty which, to me at least, signified the start of the more interesting part of the seafront.
The Stone Jetty was built between 1853 and 1855 for the ‘Little’ North Western Railway Company as a wharf and rail terminal for both passenger and cargo transport to and from the Isle of Man and Ireland, though these services ended with the opening of Heysham Harbour in 1904. At what was once the end of the jetty is a long-disused lighthouse and the old railway station building, now a cafe; in 1994/95 the jetty was rebuilt and extended as part of Morecambe’s coastal defence works and was later resurfaced in patterned coloured concrete, with the addition of new seating, lamp standards and seabird sculptures. High on a stone plinth not far from the cafe was one of the ugliest sculptures I’ve ever seen, so ugly I almost didn’t take a photo of it but then decided it should still be included.
The art deco Midland Hotel occupies the site of a previous smaller building, the North Western Hotel, built by the ‘Little’ North Western Railway Company and opened in 1848; this was renamed the Midland in 1871 when the Midland Railway Company took over the North Western Railway and the hotel. By the late 1920s the old Midland had become inadequate for the changing times so the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, which was now responsible for the hotel, decided to replace it with a larger and more modern structure. Work started in 1932 with the new Midland being built on the lawns in front of the old Midland which was then demolished, with the new art deco hotel opening in July 1933.
Immediately after opening the new Midland rapidly became the place to stay but its heyday came to an end with the start of WW2 in 1939. With valuable items put into storage and the interior converted the hotel was used as a military hospital until almost the end of the war then in 1946 it was finally handed back to the LMS railway company, and after extensive repairs and renovations it was re-opened to the public in July 1948. In 1951 the Midland was sold to a private buyer and it prospered throughout the 50s and most of the 60s but by the early 70s it had lost its popularity, and after being bought and sold several times over the years it closed for good in 1998 and fell into a state of decline and disrepair. It was eventually bought by a Manchester-based development company and after an extensive renovation programme started in spring 2005 to restore the many art deco features the Midland finally re-opened its doors in June 2008.
Across the road from the Midland was Rita’s Cafe, a cheap and cheerful place which I’ve been to several times before, and as my early breakfast had long since worn off it was time to get something to eat. On such a nice day the place was quite busy but there was a small table for two vacant and forgoing my usual coffee and cake I opted for an equally unhealthy meal of steak pie, chips, peas and gravy with the coffee. At one point I heard someone at another table say “Aww, look at that little dog” and when I looked down Poppie was curled up in a little ball though as soon as I picked up the camera to take a photo she got up. Now I know human food is bad for dogs and normally I wouldn’t give it but she had been such a good little thing while I was having my meal that she deserved the last couple of chips as a treat.
A hundred yards or so from the the cafe was the Winter Gardens, a theatre and events venue built in 1897. Originally the Victoria Pavilion Theatre it was part of a complex dating from 1878 which included sea water baths, bars and a ballroom though these have long since been demolished, leaving the theatre building as it is today. Over the years the stage played host to many famous personalities including George Formby, Gracie Fields, Vera Lynn and the Rolling Stones, though declining profits led to the theatre’s eventual closure in 1977. It became Grade ll* listed the same year then in the mid 1980s the Friends of the Winter Gardens were formed to campaign for its restoration and preservation.
In 2008 the building was featured on the ghost hunting tv show Most Haunted then in 2009 it was re-opened to the public for eight consecutive nights of Most Haunted Live! broadcasts. Although all shows and events for this year have so far been cancelled the theatre is open at weekends for limited pre-booked guided and self-guided tours.
Back across the road the Central Gardens were looking very attractive with their bright flower beds which more than made up for the unkempt appearance of the West End Gardens. Farther along I came to the iconic Eric Morecambe statue, and though I did like Morecambe and Wise back in the day I wasn’t really interested in taking a close-up shot of it as most people do so I kept it in the background and concentrated more on the colourful surroundings instead.
Past the statue and a small children’s play area I came to the clock tower. In 1902 Morecambe Council approached philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for a grant to finance the building of a technical school and Free Library but though the grant itself was refused an offer of £4000 was made towards the cost on condition that the council would produce £300 per year to keep the library stocked. Unfortunately the council couldn’t, or wouldn’t, agree to find the finances so the offer was withdrawn, then in 1905 it was announced that the mayor had expressed a desire to present a clock tower to the town in place of the Free Library. The foundation stone was laid in June that year and the tower was built by a John Edmonson, while Rhodes of Lancaster made the clock itself, which featured four dials, struck the hours and was illuminated at night.
Not far from the clock tower was the Lakeland Panorama, a long curving sculpture created in 2004 by sculptor Russ Coleman. Depicting the view of the Lake District fells across the bay and made from the same steel as the Angel of the North in Gateshead the panorama is constructed of four separate pieces which have rusted over time to a reddish-brown finish, with the largest piece being 8ft high at its highest point.
Round a slight bend in the promenade and quite a distance farther on I came to the Town Hall set back in its own attractive gardens across the road. Commissioned to replace an old 19th century town centre building which had originally been built for the local Board of Health, the foundation stone was laid in August 1931 and the neo-classical style building was officially opened in June 1932; it was registered as Grade ll listed in November 2001 after a campaign by local historians.
Back on the promenade was another play area and the race watch tower belonging to Morecambe Sailing Club, originally started in 1936 by local fishermen who liked to race their boats. Round another bend I walked quite a bit farther on but with just hotels and guest houses stretching into the distance there was nothing else of interest to see unless I went all the way up to Happy Mount Park, which I visited back in May, so I turned round and retraced my steps, snapping photos here and there as I headed back south.
Just after passing the back of the Eric Morecambe statue I heard music and a few yards farther on was a Michael Jackson lookalike dancing to the sounds of Billie Jean and Thriller coming from a stand-alone sound system. He was good and he’d attracted quite an audience so I watched him for quite a while, even filming him at one point, before I moved on.
Round the back of what was once Bubbles open air pool were modern railings adorned with several different types of seabirds and the land itself, where usually there’s a small fairground, was now a temporary home to the huge bright red marquee of the touring Big Kid Circus along with its many equally bright red vans and circus wagons. Not far away was the RNLI lifeboat station and slipway with the Midland Hotel close by, and finding a couple of pretty bright orange flowers tucked in a corner I took my last shot of the day.
Back across the road from the hotel I made a second visit to Rita’s Cafe for a coffee before returning to the van in the nearby car park and setting off for home. Weather-wise the day had been perfect, and even though grey clouds had appeared over the sea at various times the sun had kept shining. Checking my pedometer my promenade walk since leaving the van and getting back to it had covered six miles and almost 21,000 steps but it had been very interesting and enjoyable and was now one I could tick off my ‘walks to do’ list.
There are three parts to this story but they are all interlinked so bear with me on this.
Part 1 – It’s an established fact that although I may be good at DIY and practical things I just don’t ‘do’ technology. The latest new-fangled smart phones are absolutely beyond me and anyway I have no use for all the features they come with so I just stick to a basic older model Nokia – phone calls and text messages are all I really need from a phone.
Now the phone I’m currently using is the second one of this make and model, the previous one had got rather battered and bruised from use over time and being dropped more than once so I replaced it a while ago but this second one is weird. I’m still using the sim card from my previous phone and if anyone rings me the phone shows the name if it’s in my contacts but for some reason a text message only shows the number, so unless I recognise the last three digits or the gist of the message I have no idea who has messaged me – which links to Part 3 of this post.
Part 2 – At the beginning of the week my friend Lin’s daughter Dee took in what seemed to be a stray cat. Apparently it had been wandering round for a week or so, was obviously elderly and didn’t look to be in the best of health, so Dee and her boyfriend Adam took it to a local vet to get it checked over. The vet said to leave it there and it would be checked for a microchip – if the owners were traced they would be contacted but with no ID it would either go to a rescue place or Dee may be able to adopt it herself, although it would have had to go to Adam’s sister’s as Dee’s dog doesn’t like cats. The following day (Tuesday) just before going to my evening job, I asked Dee if she had any news of the cat but she hadn’t so I told her to let me know if she heard anything – which also links to Part 3.
Part 3 – I hadn’t been at work very long when Tracy, the young woman who is temporarily working with me, shouted to tell me that the sink in the ladies toilet was blocked up. I knew there was a plunger somewhere but not being able to find it anywhere around the offices I went over to the works to see if somehow it had ended up there, and while I was there I got a text message which just said “Got it!”
Now as my phone only showed a number which I didn’t recognise, and thinking it was Dee telling me that she’d got the cat, I sent back the message “Brilliant! Are you taking it to Adam’s sister’s?” This was immediately followed by a phone call from Tracy – “Who the heck is Adam and why would I be taking a plunger to his sister’s??”
The text message had actually come from her to say that she had found the plunger! Cue a fit of giggles at my own misunderstanding and my phone’s inability to show me who’s texting me, but if Tracy had put “Found it” instead of “Got it” I would have known what the message meant. Of course when I got back over to the offices we both had a laugh about it.
I told Michael the tale later on and when he’d finished laughing he said “Mum, don’t ever change your phone, it won’t be half as much fun if you do!” I suppose he’s got a point – a new-fangled smart phone might be able to do everything except sole shoes and make dinner but it wouldn’t create funny situations like this so I think for now I’ll be sticking to my basic little Nokia even if I don’t always know who’s texting me.
A few days after my unplanned walk to White Coppice I found out that there was a chain of three lakes in the vicinity of the hamlet; they seemed easy to get to and would probably make a good dog walk so a very warm and sunny Sunday morning a week ago saw me setting off from home to explore pastures new. My original intention was to start the walk from White Coppice but the plan was scuppered when I came to the turn off for the hamlet and encountered problem No.1, a large wagon taking up the whole of the narrow lane and a board saying there was a 15-minute delay. Okay, I could live with that, so I reversed into the end of a nearby farm track and waited…and waited…and waited.
I couldn’t see what was going on behind the wagon but even after almost half an hour there was no sign of it moving so I gave up waiting and drove on to what would have been the turn around point of the walk, the third lake in the Heapey area – and that’s when I found problem No.2. There was a car park adjacent to the lake but as I drove in I saw the sign – ‘Wigan & District Angling Association – Car park for anglers use only – non anglers will be clamped’. That may or may not have been true, I certainly didn’t see anyone walking round checking the cars already there, but I didn’t want to take any risks so I drove out again and managed to find a safe parking spot a short distance along the road.
Back at the car park steps took me down to the end of Lake 1 where I had the choice of a path along the dam or one to the right; I chose right first but I hadn’t gone far when I met with a large and extremely wet and muddy patch right across the path. It was too long and wide to negotiate without wellies, Poppie would have got filthy, and trying to get round the side of it could have ended up with the pair of us tumbling down the steep bank into the water so I retraced my steps and went along the dam instead. I could only go so far though before the outflow channel stopped me so with just a few shots taken I headed back to the car park and the gate to the next lake.
Lakes 1 and 2 were separated by a second dam with a very pleasant wide grassy area overlooking Lake 2 and a footpath leading to the far side, but once again I came up against another obstacle blocking the path at the end of the dam. This time it was a semblance of a low dry stone wall topped by strands of a wire fence with a gap at one end and a notice saying ‘Access for anglers only’ – so back I went and continued the walk along the main path, getting a few lake view shots as I went.
Past the end of another dam which carried a track from the fields up to a farm across the other side I came to Lake 3. It was narrower, darker and more overshadowed by trees than Lake 2 meaning decent photo opportunities were few so I headed on towards White Coppice. Near the end of the lake a wooden footbridge crossed a narrow brook almost hidden in a deep ditch then a boardwalk ran along the edge of a field to another wooden footbridge which came out at a pleasant grassy lay-by on the main lane through the hamlet.
Across the lane were the cottages set at an angle which I’d photographed on my previous visit and growing above and behind the large driveway gate of the end house was a profusion of bright red flowers which seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere – I was sure they hadn’t been there before as they were so bright I could hardly have missed them. Along the lane the ford had a bit more water running across it than before; Poppie enjoyed a little paddle and while I was there I took a few more shots of the cottages and gardens across the stream.
On the corner by the ford was a footpath sign pointing up the steep narrow lane so I decided to walk up the hill to see what was up there. The answer was not much; after a few hundred yards and three bends the tree shaded lane ended in the driveway to a couple of cottages and several farm buildings. Walking back down to the main lane a movement at the top of the bank on my right caught my eye; a dark bay horse was standing by the fence and a few yards farther on an inquisitive donkey was staring at me from up above.
Back down on the main lane I took a couple of shots of the pretty garden with the stream flowing through it then headed back to the lay-by where the wooden footbridge would take me back towards the three lakes; there was no point walking up to the village green and cricket pitch as nothing would have changed within the last two-and-a-half weeks.
Walking along through the field near Lake 3 I was suddenly surprised by a flash of bright turquoise blue flying up from the grass right in front of me and landing just a few feet away. It was a damsel fly, something I’ve never photographed before, so hoping it wouldn’t suddenly take off again I lay flat on the grass to get a couple of close-ups – and it was only when I got back home and put the photos on the pc that I realised I hadn’t photographed just one damsel fly, I’d got two and they were in the process of mating.
I must have looked a bit odd lying flat on the grass like that so I was glad there was no-one around just then to see me. The damsel fly (and presumably its partner) flew off after a few minutes so I got back on my feet and continued the walk back to the van, with my final shot being another one overlooking the end of Lake 2.
The walk hadn’t been a long one – time-wise less than two hours including stops to take photos. Being almost level for most of the way it had been an easy and very enjoyable walk, and seeing the two damsel flies had certainly been a very unexpected and delightful bonus.
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting here at the computer, minding my own business – as you do – when I heard a fair amount of bumping and banging coming from Michael’s room. He’d been asleep all day following a 12-hour nightshift so wondering what on earth all the noise was I went to see what he was doing and found a scene of utter chaos – he’d decided, on the spur of the moment, to rearrange his room again and the whole place looked like a bomb had hit it.
While moving his bed he’d accidentally caught one of the curtains and pulled one end of the rail off the wall so he’d taken the thing off completely and rigged up the curtains on a temporary wire; the bed itself was buried under a mountain of furniture and other stuff and I could only just about squeeze in through the door as one of his units was on its end just a couple of feet in.
Unfortunately the room isn’t the biggest and it’s also an odd shape with space at a premium so there’s nowhere really to put anything; it all looked such a mess that I just had to grab the camera and take these two shots but amazingly, just an hour later, he’d got everything where he wanted it, the room was tidy and the bed was clear. He does actually need a new chest of drawers though so it probably won’t be long before the room gets yet another makeover!
My Monday walk this week is a relatively short one done at the end of May on a weekday when the constraints of work meant that I didn’t have a lot of time. A very short drive from home is Doffcocker Lodge, originally a mill pond dating from 1874 but with the mill long since gone and the area being a popular spot for local dog walkers it was designated as the town’s first local nature reserve in 1992.
My walk started from the small car park by the dam at the bottom end of the lake and heading in my usual anti-clockwise direction the path took me past a couple of small coppices and the long back gardens of a few houses on the nearby main road. Low bushes and several wide gaps in the trees on the left gave me good views over the lake until the path eventually veered away from the water and led across a wide meadow enclosed by tall trees.
At the far side of the meadow I went through a small wooded area then the path passed between the end of the main lake and a smaller lake where a young coot was swimming with one of its parents; still with a lot of its ‘baby fluff’ it was a scruffy looking little thing but also quite cute and was actually the first young coot I’ve ever seen.
After passing the end of the lake the path led into a second meadow, more open this time and where several benches were set at well placed intervals to take in the views across the main lake. A bit farther on a tree shaded grass bank separated the path from a row of pleasant looking houses and from there it wasn’t much farther to the bridge across the outflow channel and the dam at the end of the lake.
The walk round the lake had been barely a mile but in the warm sunshine it had been very enjoyable so Poppie and I were both happy. Last year I did that walk in early springtime when the trees were still bare so I’m now thinking of repeating it in a few months time – it might be nice when the trees are in their autumn colours.
I originally had today’s post sorted out at the beginning of the week but it was put on hold when I got wind of something else – a new street art installation has just appeared on the side of a building on the fringe of the town centre so I just had to go check it out and take a few photos.
The building in question was once a 4-storey textile mill dating from the late 19th century, joined to its 4-storey twin by a 2-storey central annexe, and set in the wall above what would once have been a doorway is a carved date stone – ‘J B & Co 1890’. Abandoned and derelict for many years the buildings are now owned by a north east property development company and are in the process of being converted into luxury apartments as part of a regeneration scheme, and it was this company which commissioned the artwork.
Measuring 50ft x 40ft and depicting much of the town’s history and heritage the mural was painted over the last three months by Manchester-based artists Kelzo and Entise using eight tiers of scaffolding, and it was only fully revealed last weekend. Included in the picture are Samuel Crompton’s Spinning Mule, the town hall and three of the town’s symbolic elephants, plus a couple of Manchester bees which represent the two artists. The peaks of the old mill’s original roofline are depicted in the hills at the top of the picture and the man featured is Joshua Barber, a Victorian cotton waste merchant who once owned the mill and whose initials are carved in the date stone.
Unfortunately a high wall and solid double gates prevented me from getting the very bottom of the mural in the photo but I didn’t miss much out. A comment in the local press said the mural has ruined the side of the building but I’m sure many others will think differently – after all, a well painted piece of artwork brightening up a currently run down area has got to look better than a blank brick wall. I know which I prefer.
My Monday walk this week was done the day after my Heysham visit and on the second extremely hot day of the week, and though not immediately local the start of the walk was only just a 20-minute drive from home. During a conversation with a friend a few days previously she had told me about a lake she and her partner had stopped at briefly while on an afternoon out round the countryside; it sounded nice for a walk round without going too far so after checking out the location on Google maps off I went.
At the far side of Belmont moors a left turn took me another couple of miles to Brinscall village and the lake which was situated behind the swimming pool building and had a small free car park. At the end of the car park was a pleasant looking small park area with a playground and benches overlooking the lake but looking down the lake itself I could see it wasn’t as big as I first thought and it wouldn’t take me long to walk round it.
The lake was bordered on one side by a densely wooded area and as I set off along the path I came to a signpost for the hamlet of White Coppice, just one-and-a-half miles away. I hadn’t been there for easily twenty years and as I had plenty of time I decided to abandon my round-the-lake walk and head for there instead. A short boardwalk took me over a bit of a boggy area then from there a long almost straight path followed a shallow river, with the trees opening out occasionally to give views of the surrounding hillsides.
The path seemed to go on for ever but eventually I caught a glimpse through the trees of a couple of buildings and soon a slope led me down to a rough track and I emerged at the side of White Coppice village green and cricket pitch with its pretty cottages over the far side. Benches were set at intervals around the edge of the green and though there was no cricket match to watch several people were taking advantage of the sunshine and nice views. On a corner down the lane from the village green was a very pretty lake but it seemed to be private, belonging to one of the houses set just up the hill off the lane, so unable to walk round it I had to be happy with just one shot from over the wall.
A bit farther on a shallow brook ran parallel to the lane for a short distance, creating a ford across a minor lane and skirting the edge of a very pretty garden before disappearing under the road, and at the far side of the brook an attractive row of cottages was accessed by wooden footbridges over the water.
A little way on, and round a bend, I came to the last row of cottages, set at an angle to the lane and with the garden wall of the end one covered in pretty red and yellow flowers and lots of foliage. Back at the ford Poppie decided she wanted to cool off a bit so I spent several minutes with my feet just about on dry land while she paddled about at the end of her lead.
Heading back to the village green I came to the gated entrance to what was obviously a fishing lake; I wasn’t sure if I could go in to take some photos but there was a young guy repairing the fence just inside the gate so I asked him and he said it was okay. The lake was only accessible on that one side and at the far end of the bank was just one lone person sitting peacefully fishing.
With the last shot of the lake I made my way back to the footpath beyond the village green and as I headed back to Brinscall the cooling shade of the trees made a welcome change from the heat of the afternoon sun. When I got to the bottom end of Brinscall lake I continued with my original plan to walk all the way round it and went along the far side back to the car park. This side was more open than the other side, with a road bordered by a wide well kept grass verge with benches set at intervals, views across the lake and nice looking houses and bungalows with attractive gardens, and just by the last bench before the car park I came across a Muscovy duck pecking about on the grass.
Although the visit to White Coppice had been totally unplanned the walk there and back had been very enjoyable and it had been nice to see the hamlet again after so many years, but now it was time to go back home and relax for a while with a much needed long cold drink.
This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for quite a while but somehow I’ve never got round to it until now. Back in January, when I was devoting all my time to nursing Sophie through her illness following a stroke, I had an email from a friend to say she was sending a parcel to me, though she didn’t say what it was. A couple of days later the parcel duly arrived and though I can’t remember now what I’d initially thought it might be I was way off the mark as it was something so unexpected.
Now although I don’t have any particular interest in most of the tv soaps the one I do watch regularly is Coronation Street and a couple of years ago I even went on the official tour of the soap’s new outdoor set at MediaCity in Salford, so I was very surprised to find that the parcel contained several individually wrapped collectors’ pieces which make up the terraced row of Coronation Street houses as they were in the mid 1990s.
Each piece is labelled on the bottom with the house number and the names of the occupants at the time though of course these have changed probably more than once over the years since then, also many of the house fronts bear no resemblance to the ones on today’s new outdoor set, but the collection makes a great piece of memorabilia and it was lovely of my friend to send it to cheer me up when I was going through a difficult time with Sophie.
Not long after losing Sophie in February I started looking for another little Jack Russell, not only for myself but also as another friend for Poppie, but any rescue centres I could get to easily only seemed to have big dogs and any Jack Russells advertised on the internet were going for ridiculously high prices – and still are – so the search goes on. I did however, get a Jack Russell in April thanks to another friend who sent me the surprise gift of a Jack Russell ornament. It may not be alive, and it doesn’t look like Sophie, Poppie, or any of my previous Jack Russells, but it’s very sweet and now lives on the unit next to my computer.
It’s strange to think that if it wasn’t for the internet I wouldn’t have known either of these friends in the first place, so a very belated blog post thank you goes to both of you (you know who you are) for thinking of me and sending me these lovely surprise gifts, they are both very much appreciated.
**Useless information time now – there is actually a real Coronation Street in Salford, probably only about a mile or so away from the new ITV studios at MediaCity, and back in the 1970s a cousin of Michael’s dad lived there, though other than the downstairs bay windows the house fronts bore very little resemblance to the ones in the programme. We visited a few times and I remember it was quite a nice street. The title of the programme isn’t connected to it though – when the soap was first created back in 1960 it was intended to be called Florizel Street until one of the studio cleaners said the name sounded like a disinfectant!