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.

 

21 thoughts on “A walk to Fleetwood wrecks

  1. Exactly! I’ve condensed this information from an in-depth article written just a few months ago which makes very interesting and sobering reading, and while I’ve tried not to make this post political it’s understandable why the majority of Fleetwood people are very much in favour of Brexit.

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  2. I hadn’t realised what an affect the EU had on our fishing industry. It makes the sight of those wrecks even sadder.
    In contrast, the reserve looks lovely. It’s great how the land has been reclaimed in this way. X

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    1. The wrecks are certainly a sad reminder of what was once Fleetwood’s great fishing industry 😦 The reserve is lovely though, it’s not very big but for anyone who likes a quiet place where there’s nothing only wildlife the pond is a nice place to spend some time πŸ™‚

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  3. It was wicked what happened to our fishing communities. The wrecks are a living reminder, although they make very interesting pictures. A fascinating post- loved it. The baby coot is so sweet.

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  4. I’m glad you liked the post, I found that doing the research for the wrecks was very interesting and more than a little enlightening. The baby coot looked really sweet and the squeaking noise made it even more adorable πŸ™‚

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    1. Boat wrecks always seem to have a sad air about them though they do make good photography subjects. Getting to the nature reserve was really odd, it’s down a long rough lane leading past the local recycling centre but once there it’s a really nice peaceful place to wander or just chill out for a while πŸ™‚

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  5. I love your photographs. The wrecks are very photogenic in all their rusty glory. When I have heard coots I have always thought they were incredibly loud little birds. πŸ™‚

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    1. I’m glad you like the photos, I think boats of any kind always make good photography subjects πŸ™‚ The call of an adult coot can be quite loud but presumably the babies just squeak until they get older. I’ve just watched a 5-minute video of a family of coots with their babies, it was lovely and the accompanying music is beautiful πŸ™‚

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  6. An interesting post, Eunice (for next week πŸ™‚ ) The fishing policies created havoc and these wrecks are a sad testimony to them, but the nature reserve is the good news. And the baby coot provides the happy ever after. πŸ™‚

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  7. I was under the impression that the wrecks were a lot older than they are and that they had been there for many years longer than they have until I researched them for this post – the information I found was very interesting, enlightening and thought provoking. The nature reserve is a lovely place and the baby coot just added the ‘aww’ factor to my walk πŸ™‚

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  8. What a lovely post & your photos are gorgeous. I’m rather fascinated by the deteriorating boats & wonder about the stories they could tell. I’m longing to get to the seaside, but by the sound of it, a long way off, possibly next year. Thanks for sharing & take care.

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    1. I’ve been trying to find the names for these wrecks but got some conflicting information so I didn’t want to include it in case it’s wrong. I’m sure the boats could tell some wonderful stories. I hope you get to the seaside sooner than you think – take care.

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  9. I’m glad you like the post Margaret. When I went to photograph the wrecks I never imagined the real reason why they are there until I researched them – so controversial and so sad but they do make good photos.

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