Back in mid September an unforseen and sudden change in circumstances meant that Michael’s planned five days over in Ireland didn’t happen so he swapped three of his days off work for days another time and on one of his two remaining days we went to Southport. Now to be honest I’ve been there so many times over the last few years that I felt there was nothing different for me to see or photograph but I wanted Michael to have a nice day out to make up for not going to Ireland and Southport was his choice so off we went.
Parking by the Marine Lake we went our separate ways, agreeing to meet up again at 4pm, and I headed into town to find the Go Outdoors store – I wanted to look for some blue plates and bowls for when I next go camping but the Blackburn and Preston stores didn’t have any, neither could I get them from their online store so I thought I’d try the Southport one. On my way to the town centre I passed The Bold Hotel, originally built by Thomas Mawdsley in 1832 but now a Grade ll luxury boutique place; I remember Michael staying there on a particular occasion several years ago and though I wouldn’t normally photograph the front of a hotel it was the strange looking horse above the main door which attracted me.
When I finally found the Go Outdoors store it came up trumps and I got just what I wanted, four plates and four bowls in blue for just £1 each; of course having a large carrier bag with its contents in one hand and holding Poppie’s lead in the other hand meant it was impossible to use the camera for any further photos so I took my purchases back to the van then set out again.
At the beginning of the pier I decided to do something I’ve thought about for ages, walk right to the far end of it, however I changed my mind on the spur of the moment and did something else I’ve never ever done – I got a return ticket to ride along on the land train just for the experience. There was nothing much at the end of the pier when I got there, just a pavilion with a cafe, an amusement arcade with vintage machines and a modern sculpture supposed to represent the movement of wind and water, but at least I could say I’d been there.
Dotted at various points near the pier were several modern sculptures on tall steel poles and walking through the main promenade gardens I came to something I’ve never really noticed before, a drinking fountain surrounded by attractive iron railings. About 1 metre square and standing 3 metres high it was a gift from one John Fernley in 1861 for the use of Southport’s lifeboat crew and fishermen and was sculpted from sandstone, with polished pink granite, coloured mosaic and a white marble bowl.
Farther along the promenade and across the road I found something that’s very hard to miss – on a gable end wall was a huge mural of the iconic 3-times Grand National winner Red Rum in training on Southport beach. Commissioned as part of Sefton’s Borough of Culture celebrations for 2020 it was painted by Liverpool-based street artist Paul Curtis in March this year, and covering an area of more than 270 square metres it took over a week to complete.
Heading through King’s Gardens towards Marine Lake I came to a flower bed built up on a corner. It looked rather unkempt but the flowers were quite pretty so were worth one or two snaps. At the far end of the lake was the start (or end depending on direction of travel) of the Lakeside Miniature Railway although being mid week it wasn’t running, and just a few yards away was a carousel with its brightly coloured horses and designs providing several photo opportunities.
Southport Miniature Railway was built in 1911 and operated by Dr. Ladmore, a local dentist; it opened on May 11th that year with the first steam train, King George V, running at 3pm. After being taken over by Mr Griffith Vaughn Llewellyn it was renamed Llewellyn’s Miniature Railway, then in 1945 it was sold to Harry Barlow who owned a local engineering company famous for building miniature locomotives. It was renamed Lakeside Miniature Railway and the first petrol driven trains started running that year.
In 1968 the railway was sold on again to John Spencer, a stallholder at the nearby Pleasureland fairgound, and he did much to improve it and tidy it up. In 2001 the line was sold yet again to Don Clark and Graham Leeming then in 2016 it was purchased by Norman Wallis, current owner of Pleasureland. The railway is one of the earliest of its type still running on its original route and is said to be the oldest continuously running 15-inch gauge railway in the world.
From the carousel I made my way along the seaward side of the lake to the wide bridge across the centre. It was getting on for 4pm and I just had time to take a handful of photos as I crossed the bridge then it was time to meet up with Michael at our prearranged spot near the beginning of the pier.
Not far from the pier was the Waterfront pub/restaurant, we had been in there a couple of times before and we knew the food was pretty good, plus dogs were allowed in the bar area, so that was our choice for a meal before setting off for home. Michael had made a couple of purchases of his own while in the town centre so with my own success in getting the plates and bowls I wanted plus the photos I took we agreed that it had been a good day out for both of us.