Easter in North Wales – The final day

A gloriously sunny morning greeted me on the final day of my break and with the other handful of campers having left the previous day and no-one occupying the white campervan parked near the entrance I’d had the site all to myself since getting back from the zoo the day before. Eventually though it was time for me to leave too and as living and sleeping in the van meant that things had been kept to a minimum it didn’t take long to pack up and get on the road.
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First was a stop at Asda where I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Less than a hundred yards away was the beach and a long promenade/cycleway which I hadn’t been along before so leaving the van in Asda’s car park I set out to see what I could find. At the far side of a pay-and-display car park four kiosks were set back off the promenade and on the back walls of two of them were a couple of bright and colourful artworks.
On the beach four anglers were fishing near the water’s edge and further along at Horton’s Nose nature reserve I came across a couple of washed up tree stumps – the second one was huge and its shape and position reminded me of the bow of a ship. Across the harbour bridge and two main roads I came to Marine Lake, another place I’d not yet managed to get to, so the next part of the day was the one mile circuit all the way round it. 
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Opened on May 24th 1895, the day of Queen Victoria’s 76th birthday, and built on land adjacent to the River Clwyd estuary Marine Lake is North Wales’ only saltwater lake. The land had previously been known locally as the ‘mud hole’ as it would be flooded by the river at high tide then turn into a muddy bog when the tide receded. The local council bought the land for £1,050 from the Commissioners of Woods and Forests and the design and construction of the lake, the island, and its surrounding grounds cost a further £10,200. Designed by Baldwin Latham and constructed by contractor George Law of Kidderminster the whole lot was completed in less than six months.
On the day of the lake’s official opening the culvert close to the nearby railway bridge was opened in the morning to start the flow of water into the lake then in the evening the culvert near the road bridge was also opened. A regatta, aquatic fete and gala were held on July 6th and described in the local press as one of the most successful days in the town’s history. At 4ft deep and covering an area of 40 acres the lake became home to Rhyl Swimming Club in 1896 and was also used for sailing, rowing and yachting.
In 1908 a showman set up a high water chute in an enclosed part of the lake and this was supplemented by various fairgound attractions including a roller coaster. In 1910 The Rhyl Amusement Company took over Marine Lake, with the company’s main owners being the Butler family whose steel foundry in Leeds had supplied the water chute. In June 1914 Alfred John Nightingale, a visitor from Bala, was killed in an accident on the water chute – the mechanism which raised the boats malfunctioned and 27-year old Alfred fell to his death.
The miniature railway around the lake opened on May 1st 1911 and was acquired by Rhyl Amusements in 1912; the original steam engine was a ‘Little Giant’ built at the Bassett-Lowke works in Northampton but during the 1920s engineer Albert Barnes, the amusement park’s manager, built a series of new bigger locomotives for the railway at the Albion Works in Rhyl.
During the 1930s Rhyl became a popular destination for holidaymakers from all over the North West, especially during the summer factory closure weeks. Families would arrive by train to stay at the holiday camps along the coast and visit the Marine Lake attractions, with the area enjoying annual visitor numbers on a scale which is difficult to imagine now.
The fairground left the Marine Lake site in 1969 when Rhyl Amusements decided to concentrate on their larger Ocean Beach site nearby, which also led to the closure of the miniature railway and the removal of the track. Ownership of Marine Lake reverted to Rhyl Urban District Council who did introduce some amusements of their own including boat rides and a huge childrens’ slide. In 1978 the railway track was re-laid and the railway runs to this day; owned and operated by a charitable trust and still using the locomotives and stock from 100 years ago it’s now Britain’s oldest such railway.
In 1998 the land around Marine Lake was changed drastically by a huge construction scheme which included burying a storm water tank underneath the car park area as part of the local flood defences. A new railway building, Central Station, was opened in 2007 and the nearby Ocean Beach funfair closed that same year. Plans to build a retail, leisure and housing complex on the site, with construction due to start in May 2009, were delayed and ultimately scrapped, leading to the site becoming a derelict eyesore, then in 2015 plans for a smaller retail-only park called Marina Quay were approved. Stores began to open there in stages from 2017 and now include an Aldi, Farm Foods and The Range while the lake itself continues to host activities for local groups and visitors, including water skiing, wake-boarding and non-powered sailing.
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With my circuit of the lake completed I crossed back over the road and the harbour bridge and with a few more snaps taken I retraced my steps along the promenade and back to the Asda car park, then it was only a few minutes drive from there to Eileen’s for my second visit before I set off for home.
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It was another enjoyable couple of hours spent in the company of Eileen, her hubby and Tilly and though I could quite happily have stayed chatting all day if they let me I did have to get home and go to work. The sunshine stayed with me all the way back and with no delays on the motorways I was home in good time. It had been a great long weekend and needless to say I’ve already been planning my next North Wales break, which hopefully won’t be too far away.

12 thoughts on “Easter in North Wales – The final day

  1. That is a great deal nicer than most retail park settings 🙂 I had a look at it on Google Streetview and had to smile at a sign by some off-road parking which says “danger, trains cross here”.

    So glad you had kind weather and such a lovely visit to Eileen over the weekend. xx


    1. If you’re going to build a retail park anywhere then across from a lake is a pretty good location 🙂 Apart from the sky being dull on zoo day the weather was excellent and with two visits to Eileen it was a great weekend all round.


  2. You’ve brought back some memories for me of the fair at the Marine Lake, I worked a couple of days on the bingo and coconut shy while I was still a schoolgirl but I will tell you confidentially the tale of why I never returned. I don’t think I could walk all the way round the lake now and the only way I can do it is on the miniature railway and I sometimes do, I took Tilly on it last year 🙂 To Jayne, yes you do have to watch out for trains crossing but they do hoot their horns 🙂 It was a shame when they knocked down the Victorian funfair and it became a disused site for all those years and an eye sore with hoardings around it. Far better now that stores are opening on the retail park. You could have stayed chatting with me all day and such a shame having to get back to work after having had such a nice Easter break. Until we meet again xx


  3. It’s a good job we don’t live close to each other, I’d be round every night for a brew and a natter 🙂 🙂 I’m looking forward to your tale of the funfair – you’ve got me intrigued.


  4. I’ve only ever been through this area Eunice, and don’t know it all at all well – but I feel as though I do now. You’ve certainly covered some ground, both in your blogs and on your feet – and I hope your four-legged friends enjoyed it as much as you did 😊


  5. Another piece of the jigsaw slotted into place for you Malc 🙂 The dogs always enjoy it wherever we go – they don’t have much choice really, they get taken there anyway 🙂 🙂


  6. If we parked at our local Asda we would be hard pressed to find somewhere lovely to walk! I wonder if in the height of summer the car park fills with folk who use the beach?
    Another lovely post – thank you for sharing 🙂


    1. Asda is on a dead-end road, between the end of the road and the beach is the pay-and-display car park literally just a few yards from the Asda car park so yes, I can imagine a lot of people will park at Asda as it’s free and quite extensive, although they would have to use the pay-and-display if they want more than a couple of hours.

      Incidentally, I went to Overton on Sunday and walked round Bazil Point – a nice walk but would have looked better with the tide in 🙂


  7. Another enjoyable visit, and yes, that stump does look like the bow of a ship.
    I’ll be thinking of you while I’m away camping this weekend, and I am looking forward to your next trip already. X


  8. The next trip has already been booked, a 10-day one this time so it’ll be a tent job. That tree stump was huge, heaven knows where it came from. I’m looking forward to seeing some pics of your weekend camping adventures now – I hope you have a great time 🙂


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