Early morning in Queen’s Park

Following the frequent bouts of torrential rain during last week’s storm whatever-it-was-called the weather here has been quite changeable. The mornings have started off sunny with blue skies promising nice days but by about 9am the clouds have appeared and lingered for most of the day, with the sun only returning in the late afternoons while I’ve been at work and unable to go anywhere. So when I woke to blue sky and sunshine yesterday I decided to forgo my usual leisurely Sunday morning and go out early for a walk round Queen’s Park on the edge of town, just a short drive from home and where I hadn’t been since April last year.
Being so early in the morning most of the areas near the park’s main entrance were still in shade so I went straight to where the park was more open – I could go back to those areas later on. Past the Sunken Garden and the Vantage Point Garden I came to the Promenade Terrace, a wide and pleasant walkway with statues set back in the shrubbery, benches at intervals and a viewpoint at one end; this was surrounded by a semi-circular wall which for some reason is known locally as the Pie Crust.

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The Pie Crust from down below
Down the hill from the terrace, and at the bottom end of the park, I came to the River Croal and a small fishing lake looking rather neglected with its surface covered in green weed. Spanning the river just there was a bridge which looked badly in need of a good coat of paint; the path at the far side split left and right with the left leading towards the town centre, however I went right and crossed back over the river via the much nicer restored and repainted Dobson Bridge.
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Up the hill from the bridge and set back off the path was a large collection of teddy bears at the base of a tree. If this was a personal memorial to someone it seemed to be a bit excessive but then I remembered – on Mother’s Day earlier this year a 7-year old little girl, innocently playing while out with her parents, had been stabbed in a random attack by an unknown woman, and in spite of all attempts to save her she died of her injuries; the teddy bears must be for her.
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Continuing past the tree I came to what must currently be the brightest part of the park, a long curving bed of red and yellow flowers near the wide stone steps leading back up to the Promenade Terrace. Near the bottom of the steps were a couple of benches and an ornamental fountain which would probably look nice if it was working but it wasn’t.
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Past the fountain was the large play area very much in the shade, then in the bottom corner of the park was the attractive stone built gatehouse with the not very attractive modern single storey cafe (which I didn’t take a photo of) situated behind it. Following a path up another hill I eventually came to the two duck ponds, and while there were a few ducks on the smaller pond most of the wildlife seemed to be congregated on the big one.
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From the big pond a path up yet another hill took me to the end of the Promenade Terrace and the steps back up to the Vantage Point Garden. An open and informal square with modern seating the garden was surrounded on three sides by low shrubs and flower borders but like several other areas of the park it seemed to be suffering from a fair amount of neglect. The fourth side was completely open and had extensive views across the rest of the park towards town although the sun was unfortunately in the wrong direction for a photo.
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Heading back towards the main entrance I found that most of the sunken garden was finally in the sunshine so I was able to get a few shots there though sadly the flower beds, which should have been a riot of colour, were completely bare. Past the sunken garden my eye was caught by a movement up ahead; a squirrel had scampered down from a tree and I watched it for several minutes while it rooted about in the grass then sat there nibbling on whatever it had found for its breakfast.
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Once the squirrel had gone back up its tree I continued round the edge of the park to the war memorial then with the last couple of shots taken I made my way back to the van which was parked just across the road from the entrance gates.
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It was only 9am when I got back home and as I made my breakfast I was glad I’d gone out when I did; clouds were beginning to gather and just like the last few days less than an hour later the sun had disappeared and the sky was grey. I didn’t mind too much though; I’d had a good walk with Poppie and got some nice photos so to misquote a popular saying – the early photographer catches the sun!

 

Scavenger photo hunt – August

It’s photo challenge time once again and this month’s topics are – moving, boxes, starts with ‘D’, breakfast, making, and as always, my own choice. Admittedly a couple of these had me scratching my head and I wasn’t sure I’d find anything suitable but almost by accident I came up with something so here we go –
The first shot was taken in 2011 while I was camping at Filey in North Yorkshire. I’d gone to Bridlington for the afternoon, a place I’d never been to before, and while wandering round the seafront fairground decided to test the sports shot facility on my recently bought camera. The log flume seemed to be a good choice to ‘freeze’ a rapidly moving object and the results came out quite well.
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Moving – log flume boat on its descent
The opportunity for the next topic arrived at just the right time. My friend Lin was clearing out her spare bedroom and needed to put some things into storage temporarily so last weekend a couple of hours of my time were taken up in helping her to move her stuff down to the rented lock up. My large mpv was packed full of boxes and it took four trolley loads to get everything into the unit.
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Boxes – some had already been taken off this trolley
The next shot was taken back in April 2007 while I was looking after two dogs in my role as pet sitter. Fliss and Daisy lived in a large detached house only a few streets away from me and belonged to the lady vicar of the local parish church. They were lovely dogs, I looked after them several times and was quite sad when the family moved to another town.
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Starts with ‘D’ – dogs. Daisy on the left, Fliss on the right
A photo of my breakfast on a tray would be too obvious and very unexciting so after a bit of head scratching and quite by accident I ‘thought outside the box’ and came up with the next photo. Breakfast At Tiffany’s has long been a favourite film and I remember when I first saw it on tv back in the 70s – being the animal lover I am I cried near the end when the main character threw her cat out of the taxi into the pouring rain, then I cried again when she went back and found it cowering wet through under a cardboard box. I bought the dvd several years ago and even now that cat brings a lump to my throat.
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Breakfast – (at Tiffany’s) – one of my favourite films
Another head scratcher now as I don’t bake, knit, sew, or otherwise make anything on the domestic front, however the next shot, even though I used it in a previous post several weeks ago, just lends itself nicely to the topic so I just couldn’t resist using it again.
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Making – the mess Michael was making while rearranging his room
And finally, another ‘by accident’ shot now which I found while trawling the archives for a nice view to end the challenge. On a camping holiday in Norfolk back in 2010 I was taking the dogs for an early morning walk when I came across a wheelie bin with a picture stuck on the front of it. Not only was it cute it also made me smile so much I just had to have one, so back home I tracked one down via the internet and stuck it to the back of the door in the spare bedroom which is now Michael’s room. It’s still there and it makes him smile too.
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My own choice – a poster which always makes me smile
Well that’s it for another month and as usual I’m linking up with Kate’s blog, so I’m settling down with a brew now and hopping over to see what delights others have chosen this time.

 

A wander round Fleetwood

Following the very pleasant couple of hours I recently spent at Fleetwood Nature Reserve and the marshes I drove the short distance into Fleetwood itself to have a wander round there. Parking spaces along the seafront were all occupied so I went along to the large car park near the Marine Hall expecting to pay and was quite surprised to find it was free; leaving the van there I went through to the traffic free promenade and walked back in the opposite direction, eventually ending up back on the main seafront road.

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Painted pebbles along the beach wall

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Set back in a corner of the esplanade was the Beach Lighthouse, also known as the Lower Lighthouse. Commissioned by Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood, the landowner, developer and MP who founded the town, it was designed in 1839 by Decimus Burton, one of the foremost English architects and urban designers of the 19th century. Built of sandstone and 44ft tall its style is neoclassical with a square colonnaded base, square tower, and octagonal lantern gallery. First illuminated on December 1st 1840 it was originally run off the town’s gas supply before later being converted to electricity. It was designated a Grade ll listed building in April 1950.
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A bit farther along the promenade was ‘Welcome Home’, a bronze life size sculpture of a mother with her baby, daughter and family dog designed as a tribute to the families who would welcome back the ships bringing their loved ones home after several weeks of deep sea fishing. Sculpted by artist Anita Lafford it was sponsored by the Lofthouse Company, makers of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges, and unveiled in 1997. Unfortunately shooting directly into the sun meant that my photo wasn’t as good as it could have been.

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A few yards along from there was the Fishing Community Memorial and farther on still was the Helicopter Crash Memorial. On December 27th 2006 a helicopter with two crew was ferrying five gas rig workers between platforms beyond Morecambe Bay when it crashed into the sea, killing everyone on board. Rescue efforts recovered the bodies of six men, including the two pilots, and they were brought back to shore at Fleetwood by RNLI lifeboat crew. The body of the seventh victim was never recovered.
An investigation into the crash started the same night as the accident and the subsequent formal report stated that ‘human factors’ were the cause of the crash. Sandra Potton, wife of the pilot Steve Potton, chose the spot near Fleetwood lifeboat station for the lectern-style memorial and met the cost of it herself.

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Fishing Community memorial
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Helicopter crash memorial
A short distance down a side road off the promenade was the Pharos Lighthouse, otherwise known as the Upper Lighthouse. Also designed by Decimus Burton and with a height of 93ft it was, like the Lower Lighthouse, first illuminated on December 1st 1840 and ran off the town’s gas supply before being converted to electricity. Operating in conjunction with its sister lighthouse it guides shipping safely through the treacherous sandbanks of the Wyre estuary. Unusually for a functioning lighthouse it stands in the middle of a residential street and was once a striking cream and red colour but in the late 1970s the paint was stripped off to expose the original sandstone.
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Back on the seafront I had a wander down by the side of what must be Fleetwood’s one and only amusement arcade just to see what was down there and came to a long concrete path running above the riverside and past several jetties. With nothing of interest to see I didn’t bother walking along but there were some good views across the river to Knott End on the other side.
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Cottages at Knott End
On the seafront once more I crossed the road into Euston Park situated on a corner plot between the esplanade and the large North Euston Hotel. Not really big enough to call a proper park it was more of a large garden but it was a very pleasant place; the obelisk in the centre bears a plaque with the inscription ‘Erected by public subscription to the memory of James Abram and George Greenall who lost their lives in the storm of November 1890 whilst heroically endeavouring to save others’.
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Heading south along the esplanade my next port of call was the boating lake and model yacht pond but I remembered they were quite a distance down so I collected the van and drove down, just managing to find a space in a small car park between the road and the yacht pond. A bridge between the boating lake and the yacht pond took me to the beach and dunes; the view was nice enough but there was nothing else there so with just one shot I retraced my steps for a walk by the side of the yacht pond before going back to the van – it was time to head for home.
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Driving back along the esplanade there was just one more place I wanted to check out before I left Fleetwood completely. About twenty years ago I’d gone with someone else to what was then Freeport Leisure, a large shopping ‘village’ on the outskirts of the town; I hadn’t been there since but I remembered there was a marina there so I went to take a quick look. Apparently the place has undergone a few changes over the years and is now known as Affinity Outlet Lancashire; for some reason it didn’t seem to be as big as I remembered but that could just be my mind playing tricks. It was a pleasant enough place though and I got a handful of shots before I finally set off for home.
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By the time I’d reached the shopping village the sky had clouded over a fair bit but the sun was still shining and it stayed with me all the way back home. It had been an interesting and enjoyable day out but with Poppie now curled up in her bed it was time to grab a chilled can of Coke from the fridge and relax for a while.

Riverdance wreck – a disaster and a tourist attraction

While writing about the Fleetwood wrecks the other day I remembered that somewhere in my archives I had some photos of a much more recent wreck so I looked them out and did some research which proved to be very interesting. Unfortunately due to cloudy weather and safety restrictions at the time my own photos aren’t exactly brilliant so for the purposes of this post I’ve pinched a few from the internet.
Built in 1977 and initially named Mashala the ro-ro (roll on/roll off) cargo ship was registered in Nassau, Bahamas, and operated first in the Mediterranean then in the Caribbean, the North Sea and the Irish Sea. After several name changes over the years and being chartered to different companies it was bought by Seatruck Ferries in 1997 and renamed Riverdance, sailing a regular route to and from Heysham in Lancashire and Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland.
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MS Riverdance – photo from Wikipedia
At 7.30pm on January 31st 2008, while carrying 54 trailers, 19 crew and 4 passengers and sailing through rain, high winds and rough seas en route to Heysham, the Riverdance was broadsided by a huge wave causing the cargo to shift. This in turn made the ferry lean slightly to one side but before it could right itself a second wave slammed into it, the cargo in the trailers became loose and the ship developed a 45 degree lean. After the main port engine failed Riverdance began drifting south; it was only seven miles from the Lancashire coast so at 7.40pm the captain asked Liverpool Coastguard for tug assistance but conditions rapidly worsened; some of the trailers broke free and slid across the deck and with the ship now listing at 60 degrees a mayday call was sent out.
Helicopters from the RAF, Royal Navy and Irish Coast Guard were dispatched, along with lifeboats from Fleetwood and Lytham while two oil rig support vessels and a tanker also made their way there to assist if necessary. Those on board were told they would be evacuated though one of the passengers, a trucker who was bringing his lorry back from its regular run to Northern Ireland, made what he thought then was the final phone call home to his wife to say goodbye.
Before evacuating the engine room one of the crew managed to start the machinery used to steady a listing ship and it reduced the lean to 20 degrees, then starting at 9pm the four passengers and eight non-essential crew were winched to safety by a helicopter crew from Anglesey in some of the hardest flying conditions they had ever experienced. After the second main engine failed Riverdance drifted into shallow water off the Fylde coast and bumped along the seabed, then at 10.50pm during a second winching operation which evacuated six more crew it grounded on Cleveleys beach at right angles to the promenade.
With Riverdance finally settled upright on the sand the remaining nine crew prepared to refloat at the next rising tide but all attempts to get the ship off the beach failed and it came to a stop, listing again and with all power finally lost. After a second mayday call the captain and remaining crew were winched to safety and at 5.15am on February 1st the Riverdance was finally abandoned. Of the 23 people on board no-one was injured although two of them suffered mild hypothermia and were checked over at Blackpool hospital as a precaution, and the trucker who had phoned his wife to say goodbye was able to phone her again to say he was safe.
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Riverdance soon after beaching – photo from VisitCleveleys online
The bad weather continued for a while after Riverdance beached and the trailers on board started to spill their contents into the sea. The first thing that came off was a consignment of McVities chocolate digestives, with hundreds of packets of biscuits eventually being washed up onto the beach just north of the wreck; these were followed by long planks of wood, upholstery foam and mattresses, big blue barrells and hundreds of plastic disposable cups which blew everywhere.
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Photo from the internet

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Photos taken 24/02/2008 – two trailers are just visible here
A salvage team assessed the ship and prepared to refloat it in mid February but the rescue operation was hampered by more stormy weather during which several trailers fell off, causing Riverdance to shift position and sink into the sand parallel to the shore. After re-evaluating the salvage plan, and with no hope of refloating and towing the ship off the beach the Riverdance was declared a constructive total loss in March and the decision was made to cut it up on site.
A large section of the promenade was closed off and turned into a scrap yard and with rigs and cranes working in conjunction with the tides the remaining cargo and all the fuel was removed, then Riverdance was painstakingly dismantled bit by bit, with lumps of ship being taken away on huge lorry after lorry. Although the estimated completion date for the demolition was the end of June the process took much longer than first thought and the wreck wasn’t reduced to beach level until early October.
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Photo from VisitCleveleys online
Unfortunately the complete removal of Riverdance wasn’t the end of all the problems. When the ship beached it landed on the huge United Utilities sewage outfall pipe with the weight damaging a large section which had to be excavated and replaced, so back came rigs, boats and yet more workmen to put things right.
The Riverdance disaster was all over the news and tv and from the moment it beached at Cleveleys it became a tourist sensation with people travelling from all over to see the spectacle of a huge ship marooned on the beach. Roads around the town became instantly gridlocked, car parks were full and the promenade and side streets were solid with parked cars, with many streets having to be closed off when they became impassable. The shops in the town centre did a roaring trade in the best winter season they’d ever had, and it was estimated that 100,000 people flocked to Cleveleys and Blackpool between early February and April that year; even during the months of demolition people were still going to look at it.
Not far from where Riverdance landed the remains of the Abana, wrecked in 1894, can often be seen at low tide with its ribs sticking up out of the sand and many photos were taken of the two wrecks in sight of each other. Now, years later, there’s nothing to see on the part of the beach where Riverdance was wrecked back in early 2008, though it will live on in many photos in albums and on the internet. It’s also listed on the modern shipwreck memorial erected on Cleveleys promenade in 2012, and if you face the memorial you also face in the exact direction to remember the ghosts of those two ships.

 

A walk to Fleetwood wrecks

Searching the internet for something a couple of weeks ago I found out about some old wrecked boats which were abandoned many years ago on Fleetwood marshes. They were nothing to do with what I was originally searching for but they seemed to offer several photo opportunities so I found their exact location and how to get there and in hot sunny weather a few days ago I set out on a mission to find them.
My walk started from the very pleasant free car park at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Reserve. The site originally started out as salt marsh then after the building of Fleetwood docks in 1860 it came into industrial use. Between 1912 and 1932 what is now the pond area was used for storing timber from a timber yard on the nearby docks, then in 1956 a coal fired power station was opened and coal was stored on part of the site. The power station closed down in the 1980s and during the following years the site suffered greatly from neglect and misuse, then in 2003 Lancashire County Council obtained a grant from the North West Development Agency to develop the area into what is now the nature reserve.
The reserve lies between the marshes and a very modern housing estate, with several paths criss-crossing the open grassland and with the large pond in the centre, separated into two distinct parts by a long low wooden bridge. One side of the pond was edged with reed beds and was inaccessible to the public while the other side had a path all the way round and a couple of shingle beaches ideal for picnics or just chilling out. With ducks, swans and various other wildlife it all looked really nice so I spent fifteen minutes or so wandering round there before going to find the wrecks.
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At the far side of the reserve was a very attractive archway over the path with the path itself continuing past the edge of the housing estate, and just off to the right a short track led through the bushes and down onto a path running along the edge of the marsh where I got my first sight of the wrecks in the distance. A couple of minutes walking got me to a wide grassy track leading from the path out to the wrecks and though the track itself was fine I had to watch where I was putting my feet when I got closer to the wrecks as there were several deep, narrow and muddy channels hidden under the longer grass.
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The history of the Fleetwood wrecks is quite surprising and ultimately not a very good story. At its height the town was a major British fishing port and in the 1960s it boasted more than 200 fishing boats with about half the adult population employed in the fishing industry itself and other industries connected to it. In the latter years of that decade the second of the so-called Cod Wars broke out, initially between Britain and Iceland but then including other European fishing nations; Iceland extended its territorial waters claim to another 200 miles and Britain did likewise, extending its own territorial waters claim, then the European government in Brussels decided they wanted a piece of the action.
In the early 1970s pressure was put on the then Heath administration to allow EU trawlers unrestricted access to Britain’s fishing waters. Heath himself was so desperate for Britain to join what was then called the Common Market that he agreed to Brussels’ demands, then because far more boats were now fishing British waters the EU brought in the much hated quota system in an attempt to protect the very fish stocks their own actions had put at risk. British waters held 90% of the EU’s fish but British fishermen were only allowed to catch 14% of them and the quotas weren’t enough to make a decent living.
The EU eventually brought in the decommissioning scheme where fishermen were given a substantial cash incentive from Brussels to give up their fishing licences and scrap their trawlers, but under the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy they had to destroy their fishing vessels so comprehensively there was absolutely no chance of them ever being recovered or re-used. All around the country dozens and dozens of boats were wrecked by their owners for the money they could get and the rusting, rotting wrecks on Fleetwood marshes are just a small handful.
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These wrecks were all within a few yards of each other with another one a couple of hundred yards farther along the marshes upriver but unfortunately I couldn’t get to it. It was closer to the water’s edge and the marsh was split by a deep channel which was long, wide, very muddy and impossible for me to cross, so seeing some smaller boats anchored on the sand in the other direction I went to take a look.
The sand/mud combination was mainly quite firm to walk on but every so often I had to stride or jump over a soft sided narrow channel running from the marsh down into the river; I crossed them all without problem though and walked along until my way was barred by a wide river inlet leading to the marina. Apart from one small dinghy filled with water none of the smaller boats along there were wrecks, they seemed to be well maintained and with Knott End in the background across the river I got some very colourful shots before I headed back past the wrecks to the nature reserve and my van.
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Crossing the bridge over the pond at the reserve my attention was caught by the sound of constant squeaking coming from the nearby reeds so I stopped and waited and eventually a baby coot appeared. Still with its baby fluff and scruffy bright orange-red face and head it was a peculiar looking little thing though I thought it was quite cute; it must have been looking for its mum and was being quite vocal about it, though as soon as an adult coot appeared from under the bridge the squeaking stopped.
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My last visit to Fleetwood had been ten years previously and I hadn’t known about the nature reserve or the wrecks then so the couple of hours I’d just spent exploring somewhere new had been very enjoyable, and apart from various butterflies flitting around and birds flying overhead the wildlife seen on my walk had been several ducks, swans and adult coots, the baby coot, two jellyfish and a dead crab. As for the wrecks, it would be interesting to see them again in a year or so’s time so I may very well make a return visit in the not-too-distant future.

 

The wrong sandwich

Last Saturday I had to pop into town and while I was there I went to do one of my cleaning jobs so I didn’t need to get up very early on Monday morning. It was mid afternoon and I was feeling a bit peckish so decided to get a Yorkie bar or a KitKat from the small shop round the corner from work. I’d never been in there before and the first thing I saw when I went in was a chiller cabinet with various items including sandwiches so I decided to get one of those instead of the chocolate bar.
The sandwiches were all on the top shelf and from left to right there was ham, BLT, egg mayo, cheese and tomato, cheese and onion, and chicken and bacon with red onion and jalepeno mayo. Opting for the cheese and onion I picked up the sandwich, paid for it, and went to work, and it was only once I’d made a brew I realised – I’d picked up the wrong sandwich and instead of cheese and onion I’d got the chicken and bacon one.
Now I don’t like spicy food at all  and as I hadn’t opened the packet I thought about going back to the shop to see if I could swap the sandwich for what I intended to get, but it was the first time I’d ever been in there and as they didn’t know me they may have been reluctant to agree so I decided to eat it anyway. I didn’t really know what to expect but jalapeno mayo couldn’t be that bad – could it?
Having cut the sandwich into four my opinion of the first quarter was “Mmm, it’s different but not too bad”. The second quarter was “Err, it’s definitely spicy”, the third quarter was “I really don’t think I like this but I’ll persevere” and the last bit was “Urgh! That was vile, horrible, I wish I’d taken it back. Now I know why I don’t like spicy food!”
There’s one thing which puzzles me about this – how on earth did I pick up the wrong sandwich in the first place? My eyes saw which sandwiches were on the shelf and my brain registered where the cheese and onion ones were, yet my hand inexplicably picked up the wrong one without me realising it. I think there was definitely a lack of hand/eye co-ordination there! One thing I did learn though – a sandwich with jalapeno mayo on it definitely does not  go well with a mug of tea!

 

Not a lot at Knott End

Yesterday I made my second visit to the big car boot sale at St Michael’s, this time to collect something which I’d ordered last week and which I can’t get from anywhere else. It was a beautifully sunny day and very warm but yet again clouds were hanging over Garstang; it looked like my canal walk would have to be postponed again, though looking west towards the coast the sky was clear so I decided to drive round the country lanes to Knott End, a place I hadn’t been to for about ten years.
Knott End-on-Sea, to give it it’s full title, is a large spread out village at the estuary of the River Wyre and opposite the seaside town of Fleetwood. The area has Norse roots dating back to the early Bronze Age and the village’s name is said to stem from when the Norse seafarers made their way into the dangerous Wyre estuary; they used knotted ropes to aid their navigation, with the knots marking the distance, and Knott End was the end of the rope.
With just a very small handful of shops, a golf course, a chippy, a sea front cafe and a pub, but with no hotels, B & Bs, parks or seafront gardens it’s definitely not a holiday destination though on a nice day it’s an okay-ish place to pass a couple of hours – you wouldn’t want to be there any longer than that as there’s nothing there. Probably the most interesting thing about the place is the quaint little passenger ferry which runs a frequent five-minute journey across the estuary to and from Fleetwood at a cost of £2 per person each way.
Arriving on the esplanade I was surprised to see that in spite of the place not being very exciting it was still quite busy; seafront parking spaces were all full but I found a place in the large free car park between the cafe and the golf club and set out for a wander. Over the low wall bordering the car park was a concrete walkway running along the riverside, with a steep grass bank separating it from the nearby golf course, and a couple of hundred yards along I came to two whitewashed cottages with very pretty gardens set back off the path. Farther along still was an attractive row of terraced cottages and in the garden of the first one I saw a beautiful peacock butterfly.
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At the end of the terrace the path turned a corner and ended in steps leading down to the sand. Close to the water’s edge was the seaweed covered skeleton of a long-dead fishing boat and though I would have liked to take a closer look I could see that the sand was very wet and probably slippery so I stayed firmly on dry land. Looking out to sea I could see in the distance the Ben-my-Chree ferry as it sailed on its way from Heysham across to Douglas on the Isle of Man; this modern Ben-my-Chree certainly looks very different to the one I remember seeing while on holiday on the Isle of Man during my childhood years.
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Heading back along the concrete walkway I decided on the spur of the moment to scramble up the grass bank to see if there were any good views from the top. Being quite steep it wasn’t an easy climb but with Poppie pulling me up I made it to the top without mishap and ended up by one of the golf course greens with a path running along the edge. Seeing a couple of people walking towards me who obviously weren’t golfers I realised the path was a public one; it seemed infinitely better than sliding back down the steep grass bank so I followed it past a couple of greens and came out by the two whitewashed cottages. Across the river a handful of yachts were sailing out to sea and the small red and white passenger ferry was on its way over from Fleetwood.
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Intending to take a photo of the ferry at close quarters I made my way past the car park and the coastguard station to the slipway but halfway down it my attention was caught by a cute little dog lying on a towel in a small inflatable dinghy; by the time I’d finished chatting to its owner the ferry was halfway back to Fleetwood so I photographed some guys on jets skis instead.
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Across from the top of the slipway was the Knott End Cafe with a small and very full parking area at the front and a long queue for ice cream from the side window. Today’s modern cafe sits on the site of an old railway station building; in 1870 a railway line was opened between Garstang and Pilling then in 1908 an extension to Knott End was opened. The line ran profitably for over twenty years but closed to passenger traffic in 1930, with the section from Knott End back to Pilling closing fully in 1950, followed by the complete closure of the whole line in 1965. The cafe itself has been owned and run by the same family since 1946 when it was still part of the old railway station building.
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Knott End Cafe – photo from the internet
At the end of the esplanade and across from the cafe was the Bourne Arms pub/restaurant and as I walked past a quick look at the menu in the entrance window told me it wasn’t the cheapest of places to dine. Looking out across the nearby salt marsh and the vast expanse of sand I could see Heysham power station in the distance; there was nothing along the esplanade except private houses and flats and a couple of bus shelters so with nothing else to see I headed back to the van.

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View along the esplanade
At the far end of the esplanade the road turned back inland and as I turned the corner I could see that the esplanade continued as a traffic free footpath; it was worth checking out so I nipped down a side street on the left and was able to park at the far end within just a few yards of the path. Past a long row of nice looking bungalows with pretty gardens, then the long back gardens of more houses, with the sea wall on my left and flowering shrubs and bushes here and there it was a very pleasant walk. The path looked like it could go on for miles (I found out later that it did as it was part of the 137-mile long Lancashire Coastal Way) so I only went a certain distance before retracing my steps back to the van.

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Sign on a garden wall

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Heading for home my route took me across Shard Bridge over the River Wyre near Hambleton village; the river was at high tide so looking for another few photo opportunities I parked at the Riverside Inn and took a walk under the bridge and along the riverside for a distance. Away from the bridge it was very quiet and the only people I saw were a father and son fishing; after fifteen minutes walking time was getting on so I headed back to the van but not before I got my last wildlife shot. Butterfly or moth? – it had the markings of a peacock butterfly but was brown rather than brightly coloured so I’m not sure which it was.
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Riverside Inn from the bridge
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Painted slogan under the bridge

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With my final shot of the day being the old riverside jetty I headed for home without stopping again. It had been quite an interesting afternoon and I’d enjoyed the walk along part of the Lancashire Coastal Way, but as for Knott End itself – even after ten years there’s still  nothing there!

 

Kip – a blind dog’s story

Kip was an adult liver and white English Springer Spaniel rescue dog, blind in both eyes from birth. I never really knew about his early years and why he came to be in rescue but after being transported from elsewhere in the country he had spent a couple of months in the care of NESSR (Northern English Springer Spaniel Rescue) in Northumberland before being rehomed to a lovely lady named Sylvia who also lived in Northumberland. Being blind didn’t seem to bother him and with his other senses being heightened he enjoyed life just as any other dog would, especially running along the beach at Druridge Bay and sniffing about in the nearby sand dunes with Sylvia close by. He was also a PAT dog (Pets As Therapy) and always enjoyed being fussed over by the people he went to visit.
Kip had been with Sylvia for two years when, completely out of the blue, he disappeared one day in June 2012 while on a walk along his favourite stretch of beach, and no matter how much Sylvia called there was no sign of him at all. In view of him being blind his details were immediately posted on the Doglost website and within a few hours a dozen volunteers from the local area and nearby were helping to look for him, a number which had increased to 30 searchers by 10pm that evening.
Concern for Kip’s safety quickly grew and via social media his details spread far and wide, with many more Doglost volunteers joining in the daily searches or canvassing various areas with posters featuring his photo. Those, like me, who were too far away to physically join the searches, did what they could from their computers, contacting newspapers and various tv and radio stations to ask if they would run a story on Kip in case he had somehow gone out of the area. Many dog loving celebrities were contacted via Twitter, to name a few – Coleen Nolan and Carol McGiffin from Loose Women, Ant & Dec, John Barrowman, Martin Clunes, Simon Cowell, Paul O’Grady, Jimmy Nail, Chris Packham, Chris Evans, Jonathon Ross and Cheryl Cole, and most of them re-tweeted, with Faye from Steps sending a personal message.
In the local area all vets within a radius of 30 miles were contacted, microlight pilots and the crew of the RAF Search and Rescue helicopter were asked to keep a lookout for Kip if they were ever airborne, and the Amble fishing fleet were also made aware of him. Doglost volunteers formed daily/nightly search parties and on one particular day a string of barbecues were lit at strategic places along a five mile stretch of beach between Amble and where Kip went missing in the hope that the smell of cooking sausages would bring him back.
One of the searchers belonged to the local fire crew and the fire service gave him ‘unofficial’ loan of a thermal imaging camera to use on his off-duty searches and someone else (I don’t know who) provided the services of a tracker dog and its handler when off duty. Kip’s Doglost page was inundated with hundreds and hundreds of messages of support and offers of help in various forms, and throughout it all Sylvia never gave up her search for him, often staying out all night in her car close to where he went missing. There were reports of a few possible sightings of a dog looking like Kip in various areas near to where he disappeared but unfortunately these all came to nothing.
I wish I could say that Kip was eventually found safe and well but sadly that wasn’t the case. Sixteen days after he went missing the continued searches for him were called off as his body had been found by two volunteers, washed up on the beach about two miles north of where he disappeared, and it seemed he must have been in the sea all that time. To say that this news was both tragic and devastating was an understatement – it hit everyone hard, especially those who had searched tirelessly for Kip, and the grief emanated through the messages on his Doglost page. It was news which no-one wanted but at least it gave Sylvia closure.
A few days later Sylvia posted a message to say that as a celebration of Kip’s life and a thank you to everyone who helped in the search for him she was arranging a get-together the following Saturday at the village hall close to where he was found and anyone who could get there was welcome – I had never been to Northumberland before but in memory of Kip I was determined to be there so I booked a pitch at a camp site a couple of miles from the hall and went up for the weekend.
There was quite a crowd, including various dogs, assembled at the village hall for Kip’s celebration and at 5pm we set off to walk a couple of miles to Kip’s favourite part of the beach where Sylvia would scatter his ashes before we all returned to the hall for a barbecue and buffet. One of the searchers was a member of the Blyth lifeboat crew and as we all walked along the beach the lifeboat sailed along parallel to the shore, stopping when we stopped – officially it was a training exercise but in reality they had turned out in memory of Kip.
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Although we had set out in bright sunshine it was also very windy and the clouds quickly gathered as we walked along the beach, with the sky growing darker by the minute and a couple of sudden heavy rain showers hitting us. By the time Sylvia and her other dog Belle walked out to the shoreline it had gone very dark indeed but as she scattered Kip’s ashes along the sand the brightest rainbow suddenly appeared over the sea. Maybe it was being over the sea which made it so bright but I’ve never seen a rainbow like that before or since; it was as if Kip was sending down a sign from somewhere and there were many eyes filled with tears at that moment.
Back at the village hall the barbecue and buffet was, in the circumstances, a very friendly and happy occasion and I got to meet many of the people who I’d only known previously through the messages on Kip’s Doglost page, fellow dog lovers who were united by two things – the love for a blind dog who most had never met and the wish to reunite him with Sylvia, his mum. Back home a couple of days later I wrote this poem, simply titled “In Memory Of Kip” –
The sun was shining brightly as you ran along the sand
Your mum was close behind you with your lead held in her hand,
But you were having too much fun playing your own game
And you went too far to hear your mum when she called out your name.
No-one knows what happened but you ran right out of sight,
Your mum was really worried and she called with all her might.
Hours and days she searched for you and every night would pray
That tomorrow she would find you and it would be a happy day.
Lots of others joined the search and kept their fingers crossed
That everything would be okay for this blind dog who was lost.
And then one day the news came that the search need be no more
For your poor bedraggled body had been found upon the shore.
It seems like you had lost your way and gone for a long swim
Then God reached down and took you up to Heaven to live with him.
Many tears were shed that day and many hearts were broken
For this blind dog who was loved so much, and words could not be spoken.
The sun was shining brightly as we walked along the shore,
Forty, fifty people there and maybe even more.
The lifeboat sailed along with us – its captain and the crew
And all the people on the beach had all turned out for you.
As your mum sprinkled your ashes in a line along the sand
A rainbow came across the sea, sent by God’s own hand,
And as she looked up to the sky your mum did softly say
“Sleep tight sweet Kip, you’re safe now, I know you’ll be okay”
Kip's rainbow
Kip’s story touched the hearts and lives of so many people and though no-one will ever know what really happened the day he went missing his passing wasn’t in vain. The search for him brought many Doglost helpers together and forged new friendships; it also brought Doglost to the attention of many people who didn’t know about it, resulting in many new members who also helped in whichever way they could in the search for him, and some of those members went on  to search for Archie, another Springer Spaniel who later went missing in the north east.
Kip may no longer be here but eight years ago, and in his own way, he left his own lasting legacy so he certainly earned his wings.

 

A wander by the Wyre

My Monday walk this week was done just yesterday and was actually Plan B when Plan A didn’t work out. I started off mid morning at the big car boot sale near the village of St Michael’s on Wyre; normally held every weekend from May bank holiday until the end of September it was the first time this year that it was on and I’d been looking forward to it.
My original intention, once I’d looked round all the stalls twice, was to drive over to Garstang and walk along a section of the Lancaster canal but when I came to take the first couple of photos at the car boot my camera told me that all images would be stored on the internal memory, which I thought was rather odd until I found the media card was missing – I’d transferred it to my card reader a few days previously and forgotten to put it back in the camera.

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View from the car boot field
Not knowing how many photos I could take using the camera’s internal memory – I suspected not very many – and with a lot of grey clouds around anyway there was no point going all the way to Garstang so I decided to have a short walk along a section of the River Wyre instead. Driving into the village I parked near the primary school then walked the hundred yards or so along the main road and over the bridge to the riverside path and the start of the walk; it’s a walk I’m familiar with as I camped a few times at a lovely little site nearby several years ago.
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River Wyre from the bridge

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While the river meandered round and doubled back on itself the path carried straight on, first through a tree shaded area close to a small field of sheep then along the high bank of the river itself with a couple of pleasant meadows on my left below the bank. At the next bend there was just one lone person sitting fishing; the river wound back on itself again there, skirting the edge of another meadow and effectively making it a dead end so I knew I would end up retracing my steps.
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Continuing to follow the river round the edge of the meadow I came to the junction of a narrow brook and I remembered that on the next bend there should be a small sandy beach. I was right, the beach was still there, so I went down off the bank and let Poppie have a few minutes paddle before I continued round the edge of the meadow. Eventually I could go no farther as my way was blocked by a fence and gate leading to a small development of waterside holiday lodges so I cut diagonally back across the meadow and rejoined the main riverside path along the top of the bank.
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The Bowland fells in the distance

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Heading back to the road I almost stood on a toad in the middle of the stony path. At first I thought it may be injured but it hopped a couple of paces when I touched it; up ahead I could see a couple coming towards me with a big dog so to save the possibility of the toad being snapped at I picked it up and put it gently in the foliage off the path.
Back at the bridge I crossed the road to the riverbank at the other side with the intention of walking along for a mile or so – another route I’ve done before – but there was a small herd of cows up ahead with a couple of mean looking ones right in the middle of the path. I had no intention of getting into an argument with those two so I gave up on that idea and decided to call it a day and make tracks for home.
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Passing St. Michael’s Church I found it was open to visitors for ‘private prayer’ – not that I’m religious – so finding somewhere suitable to leave Poppie for a few minutes I went to take a look and found I was the only person in there. A church has occupied that site from at least the 13th century; the present church was probably built in the 15th century with alterations being made in the 17th century. The chapel at the north of the church dates from 1480, it was repaired in 1797 and restored in 1854. The tower is said to date from 1549 and houses a ring of three bells hung in a timber frame. Inscribed with Gothic script the treble bell was originally cast in 1458 and was given to the church by a French lady; the second bell was cast in 1663 by Geoffrey Scott of Wigan while the third bell dates from 1742 and was cast by Abel Rudhall of Gloucestershire.
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The colourful corner in the angle of the church wall was my final shot, the camera’s internal memory was full, so there was nothing else I could do other than return to the van and head for home. My day hadn’t worked out as I’d originally planned but I’d made the best of it, Poppie had a paddle and I actually got more photos than I thought I would so I suppose it was still a success even though it was a minor one.