Situated on the hillside high above the A55 Expressway at Llanddulas, to the north of Colwyn Bay in North Wales, is the limestone-producing Raynes Quarry. Stone from the quarry is transported by conveyor belts crossing above the nearby railway line and under the A55 to Raynes Jetty where it’s loaded into coastal freighters for taking to other parts of the British Isles.
On the evening of Tuesday April 3rd 2012 the Bahamas registered 269ft long cargo ship MV Carrier, having collected about 1,700 tons of limestone from the quarry, was hit by force-9 winds and five-metre swells and ran aground on the rocks and concrete sea defences near the jetty, breaching its hull in three places. In an operation involving two helicopters and two lifeboats launched into a full gale and rough seas all seven uninjured Polish crew were rescued, with police closing a section of the A55 for public safety and to allow the helicopters to land and take off.
A few days later it was the Easter weekend and while camping at a lovely site less than three miles north of Llanddulas I drove down the A55 on a day out from the site. I could see the tops of the ship’s masts as I went past its location but that’s all I could see so I decided that on the way back I would try to find it and get some photos. It wasn’t an easy task as I had to park up and walk quite a distance along the coastal cycle path, also a 100-metre exclusion zone had been placed round the ship’s immediate area and police and officials were everywhere, but by walking up to the top of a steep grassy outcrop and down the far side I managed to bypass the barriers and the blue-and-white ‘Police Crime Scene’ tape and get to a spot where I had a good view of the ship.
After an inspection of the ship and a structural assessment revealed severe damage the German shipping company who owned and managed it declared it ‘a constructive total loss’. Salvage crews were called in to remove 24,000 litres of fuel, work which had already started when I shot my photos, then the Carrier was to be cut up on site into manageable sections which would be taken by road to a designated scrap yard.
Keeping off the A55 I headed back to the camp site along a road which took me past Raynes Quarry on the hillside and on the spur of the moment I decided to try and see the Carrier from up above. Unfortunately the roadside wall was too high for me to see over but a short walk through a nearby small housing estate led me to a spot on the hillside almost directly above the ship. My view was partially obscured by the branches of various shrubs and bushes but I was still able to take a reasonable photo.
The fuel removal operation was completed on April 9th and demolition of the ship started immediately afterwards with the work expected to take about six weeks depending on various safety and weather conditions. Unfortunately I was unable to revisit the area for any more photo opportunities so I’ve pinched a couple of superb shots of the Carrier during demolition from https://geotopoi.wordpress.com/ another blog I read.
Twelve months after the ship’s grounding a critical report by the Marine Accident Investigation Board raised questions about the experience and guidance of the quarry’s jetty operators, adding that staff allowed the Carrier to continue loading in spite of the bad weather conditions. The ship’s owners also criticised the quarry operators for not giving the crew appropriate advice, and following the report the company no longer sends ships to Raynes Jetty.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Coat of arms above the pub’s porch
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
My Monday walk this week was done just five days ago – June 24th – on what must have been one of the hottest days of the year so far. I don’t usually watch weather forecasts but I’d heard that the weekend was probably going to be very wet so I decided to take advantage of the midweek sunshine and explore a couple of places I hadn’t been to before.
Driving up the M6 I took the turn-off for Lancaster and headed along the A683 which bypassed the city itself and led straight to Heysham port, though on the spur of the moment I took a minor road down to the River Lune to check out a particular spot which – I’d been told by someone ages ago – was quite nice and had good views over the river. I didn’t have to go far before I came to a pleasant looking static caravan site and next to it The Golden Ball Hotel set several feet higher than the road.
According to local history there’s been an inn on that site since the mid 1600s; the main part of the existing inn, known locally as Snatchems, was built in 1710 and an extension was added in 1790. Fast forward to the early 20th century and in 1910 William Mitchell bought the inn and it became a tenanted pub with Mitchells of Lancaster being the landlords. In early 2010 the last tenants left and with no-one to run it the pub was closed and put up for sale by Mitchells, eventually being bought in 2011 by the current owner and further extended.
There are a few stories of how the pub’s nickname Snatchems originated though the most interesting and widely accepted explanation stems from when the River Lune was used as a shipping channel. When any tall ship was about to sail out on the high tide the captain would check how many men were on board and if the numbers were short a boat would be sent over to the inn, where the crew would ‘snatch’ any men who were intoxicated – and by the time they sobered up they would be well on the way to a foreign country!
Parking at the roadside near the pub I had a very short walk in each direction and other than a handful of passing cars I had the place to myself. Round a bend just west of the pub the road went over a deep drainage ditch while a hundred yards or so to the east the grass riverbank widened out to quite a pleasant area. The Golden Ball itself was temporarily closed up, with its entrances at road level surrounded by high steel barriers, and coupled with obviously overgrown gardens the place had a distinct air of abandonment about it.
With my curiosity satisfied I drove back to the main road and headed to my first ‘official’ destination, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Heysham Nature Reserve. At the point where the road led into the docks and the power station a lane on the left took me to the track leading to the reserve; unfortunately there was a barrier across the track with a ‘car park closed’ notice on it but I was able to squeeze the van into a suitable space just off the lane and I set off to see what I could find. The first disappointment came when I got to the far side of the car park and found a notice on the gate saying dogs weren’t allowed in that part of the reserve, however there was no way I could leave Poppie in the van on such a hot day and there was no-one around anyway so I took a chance and went through.
The second disappointment came just a few yards farther on when I found a large part of the reserve completely closed off by a high steel fence and a locked gate with a ‘No Entry’ sign attached to it. That was one area I definitely couldn’t get into so I followed the path down a series of steps and found myself on the road to the power station – this couldn’t be right, there had to be more to the reserve than that. Across the road was a grassy area at the entrance to the large EDF Energy place and at the far side I spotted a rabbit so I snatched a quick long distance photo before it moved then went back up the steps into the reserve.
Not far from the top of the steps I found another path which meandered between hedgerows alive with birdsong, and past a quiet little tree shaded pond I came to a large meadow which, ignoring the constant hum and crackle from the power lines above, was quite a pleasant place in the sunshine. The path eventually brought me out not far from where I’d left the van and across the track was another path with a notice on the gate saying this area was where dogs could be walked and could also be allowed off lead, not that Poppie ever is.
In the shade just inside the gate was a metal box with a lid and a dog bowl at the side – a notice on the fence said ‘Dog water – please refill’ and in the box were several 2-litre milk containers full of fresh water, with a couple of empty ones left at the side. Quite a handy provision for thirsty dogs, presumably supplied by a local member of the Trust, and once Poppie had a quick drink we set off on some further exploration. The path was long and straight, bordered by trees on one side and open grassy areas on the other, and a distance along was a pond with hundreds of fish, possibly chub, swarming about close to the edge.
Eventually the path crossed an access lane to part of the power station and I came to an open picnic area with benches here and there; it was overlooked by the huge Heysham 2 nuclear reactor but plenty of surrounding trees did help to screen the building from view. Heysham 2 seems to dominate the horizon from miles away and from a distance looks quite ugly but close up, with its red, blue and green colours, I thought it looked strangely attractive. At the end of the picnic area the path ran for a short distance past the power station’s perimeter fence with its ‘keep out’ notices at intervals; with the continuous loops of razor wire on top of the fence I felt almost like I was passing the grounds of a prison and I certainly couldn’t imagine anyone trying to get in there.
I finally emerged onto a very rocky shore at Red Nab rocks, an area of Permo-triassic rocks of red and white sandstone. A long concrete promenade ran past the power station perimeter towards the port entrance and halfway along was a closed off short pier with the surface of the sea in a turmoil underneath it, which was presumably something to do with the power station; according to the notice on the fence this was the Heysham Sea Bass Nursery Area managed by the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and public fishing wasn’t allowed.
A bit farther along were the remains of an old wooden pier and at the end of the promenade was the old south pier lighthouse at the port entrance. Built from cast iron in 1904 and almost 30ft high the base had originally been red and the lantern gallery white, though it now looks sorely in need of a coat of paint. Information tells me that in spite of its derelict looks it’s still active with a 6-second on/1.5-second off green light, though I’m not sure how correct that information is.
The old light house was the one thing I’d wanted to see so once I’d taken a couple of photos I retraced my steps along the promenade. By then the tide had come in and the turmoil of water under the sea bass nursery pier had levelled out, with dozens of seagulls in the channel – presumably at some point there would be a lot of fish in evidence just there. Walking back along the path through the nature reserve I was momentarily surprised when a bird flew out of a tree and landed right in front of me; it could possibly have been a thrush but without seeing the front of it I couldn’t be sure.
Back at the van I gave Poppie a drink even though she had some from her travel bottle while we were walking, then I drove the short distance to the next place on my itinerary, Half Moon Bay which was just at the other side of the port and another place I’d never been to. There was nothing there really, just a large rough-surfaced car park, a beach and a small café, closed of course; ignoring the ever-present power station building it wasn’t a bad little place but I wasn’t sure about the crooked sign attached to a crooked pole.
On the grass just off the end of the short promenade was a sculpture commissioned by the Morecambe Bay Partnership in 2019. It was just called ‘Ship’ and is supposed to reflect the importance of Morecambe Bay’s maritime heritage, with one figure facing ‘the new’ of Heysham’s nuclear power station and the other facing ‘the old’ of the ancient ruins of St. Patrick’s chapel on the cliffs farther along, and though I quite liked it I failed to see the significance of the holes through the figures’ upper bodies.
With nothing else to see at Half Moon Bay I returned to the van and took the road leading into Heysham village; I hadn’t intended going there but I wanted to find a cold drink from somewhere. Across from the village car park the side window of the Curiosity Corner cafe was open for takeaway drinks and snacks so I went to get something from there and was charged £1.20 for a can of Tango – sheesh, these places certainly know how to charge over the odds for something! I was glad that at least I’d taken my own slab of fruit cake as to buy some cake from there would probably have cost an arm and several legs.
Suitably refreshed I took a walk along to the end of the village’s main street and was delighted to find that the church was open to visitors. I’d wanted to go in there when I visited the village last year but it was closed then so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity this time as I wanted to photograph the carved Viking hogback tombstone which dates from the 10th century. Unfortunately I couldn’t get proper shots of the stained glass windows as much of the church was blocked off but photographing the tombstone was no problem as it was close to the open side door.
Back outside I took a wander round Glebe Garden as due to the palaver ofrescuing an injured hedgehog last year I hadn’t seen much of the place at the time. It wasn’t a big garden but it was very pretty and as I walked round I discovered many delightful miniature houses and tiny animals set among the foliage and on cut down tree stumps.
Walking back through the village I shot my last couple of photos and returned to the van; it was still only mid afternoon but I had to go to work later on and it was an hour’s drive back home, plus I wanted to make a brief stop on the way back.
Driving back through Half Moon Bay I reversed the route from there back to the Golden Ball on the River Lune as I wanted to see if the area looked any different now that the tide was in. It certainly did, and far from there being no-one around when I was there earlier there were several cars and trailers parked along the road and a few people out on jet skis, with a couple of families sitting on the grass while their kids and dogs played at the water’s edge.
With my day out finishing exactly where it began I did the journey home with no problems and arrived back with just enough time to get changed before going to work. All in all it had been a good day out, and though I had no wish to return to the nature reserve or Half Moon Bay it had been good to visit them both just to see what they were like – and with the healthy dose of sea air for myself and Poppie we both slept well that night.
My Monday walk this week was done on the last day of May and started from Bull Beck picnic site/car park just to the east of Caton village on the A683. Across from the car park and away from the road was a long tarmac footpath/cycle path, originally part of the long-disused ‘Little’ North Western Railway which once ran between Lancaster and Leeds. The path ran through a tree shaded area for quite a distance first before opening out to fields then passing the back gardens of several Caton village houses before arriving at the pedestrian bridge over the River Lune.
The bridge was very wide with seats on each side and the cycle path, which would once have been the old railway line, running through the centre. On one side, and only a hundred yards or so away, was the road bridge to Crook O’ Lune picnic site and beyond, and on the other side were extensive views over the river and surrounding countryside.
Deciding to check out the picnic site first I crossed the bridge and followed another path uphill to the nearby car park. There wasn’t much to the picnic site itself, just a few benches set on a grassy area overlooking the river but the views were good with the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales in the distance, and there was another stone carving, this time depicting the view from that particular spot.
Back down the hill from the car park I took the path heading east along the riverside; I knew that somewhere up ahead was a shallow weir so that was to be my turn round point. With no rain for several weeks the river was quite low, very shallow in places, and there were several stony beaches at intervals just below the riverbank.
Retracing my steps and passing the picnic site I crossed back over the pedestrian bridge and found a path which took me to a gate where I could cross the road and get down to the river at the far side of the road bridge, then with a couple of shots taken from there I headed back to the gate.
Taking a slightly different path from the gate I headed back towards the pedestrian bridge and on the grass nearby were two wooden otter sculptures. I wasn’t too keen on the first one, its tail was too long, but the second one was cute – I thought it looked rather like a little dog begging for a treat.
Away from the wooded area by the bridge the path followed the riverside through open grazing land dotted with occasional trees and various flocks of sheep. Walking eastwards I eventually came to the weir and set back off the path was an odd looking square building set on top of a round concrete pillar and with steps up one side; according to the sign attached to the door this was the Caton Flow Measurement Station.
A bit farther on I came to Artle Beck which flowed into the Lune from somewhere beyond Caton Village; it wasn’t as wide as the river but it was wide enough to need a decent wooden bridge to cross it. Farther on still was the waterworks bridge which carries four huge pipes taking water from Cumbria down to the Manchester area, and high up on the wall at the end of the bridge was a carved fresco with a Latin inscription. It looked rather worse for wear and the lettering was indistinct but I liked it enough to take a photo.
Beyond the bridge the land got narrower, turning into a peninsula where the river doubled back on itself. Sheep were all over the place with some sheltering from the heat of the sun under a tree while others wandered about on one of the riverside beaches. A wide rocky beach extended right round the bend in the river and I had a wander down to the water’s edge there so Poppie could have a cooling paddle, in fact as it was such a hot day I was very tempted to do the same.
Still following the river I headed back west and yet more beaches appeared down below both banks, though with the sun now in my eyes the best shots were taken looking back to the east. Soon the river curved round another wide bend, heading in the direction of Caton village, and it wasn’t too long before the noise of traffic told me that the main road wasn’t too far away.
After a while the path became a rough track which left the riverside and became a lane running past meadows bordered by sweet smelling hawthorn hedges. Towards the end of the lane was an attractive looking white walled house set on its own in a surrounding garden and just past there I was back on the cycle path not far from the car park at Bull Beck.
Back at the van I decided to go in search of a cold can of something to quench my thirst as I’d used up my water supply on my walk. Unfortunately the Co-op shop in Caton village had a long queue outside it and joining it would have meant leaving Poppie in the hot van so I drove on to Halton village which didn’t seem to have a shop at all. There was however a road signposted to Lancaster so I took that, ending up on the northern outskirts of the city and not far from Morecambe.
It was still only mid afternoon so I took the next turn off for Morecambe itself and just before I arrived at the south end of the promenade I found a corner shop where I was able to get a drink and a snack. Heading north along the promenade I had to go as far as Happy Mount Park before I could find a roadside parking space; I did have a quick walk round the park as I hadn’t been there for many years but with various parts of it closed up and very unkempt it didn’t look particularly attractive so without taking any photos I returned to the van and had my drink and snack with far reaching views across to the hills of south Cumbria.
I did, for one mad moment, consider walking back along the promenade as far as the clock tower but it was quite a distance and I’d gone far enough on my walk by the Lune, so with one final shot overlooking the bay I turned the van round and headed for home – I could do the promenade walk another time.
My Monday walk this week features Peasholm Park in Scarborough’s North Bay area, a place I visited while camping near there at Easter a few years ago. The park is situated on what were once the extensive grounds of the medieval Northstead Manor which had been part of the Crown Estate from the 14th century. By the beginning of the 20th century the area had become open farming land but in 1911 Scarborough Corporation bought some of the land from the Duchy of Lancaster and created the public park which was opened in 1912, then following the purchase of more land the natural ravine of Peasholm Glen was added to the park in 1924.
The park’s main attraction is its large boating lake with a central island; accessed by a Japanese-style bridge the island has a peaceful wooded area and Japanese-themed gardens said to be based on the Willow Pattern pottery design with a pagoda and a waterfall flowing down to the lake. Three times a week during the summer season the lake plays host to the Naval Warfare event the Battle of Peasholm, a recreation of the Battle of the River Plate using man powered model boats steered by council employees and known as ‘the smallest manned Navy in the world’.
My walk started not far from the lakeside cafe and circuited the lake in a clockwise direction. In late April the trees were resplendent in their fresh green foliage, the cherry trees were full of pink blossom, the flower beds were a profusion of bright red tulips and yellow bedding plants and with the brightly coloured dragon boats on the lake the whole area looked really pretty.
At the far side of the lake I crossed the Half Moon Bridge onto the island, stopping momentarily to watch the progress of three dragon boats on the water below, then at the end of the bridge I turned left and walked past the waterfall and round to the other side of the island where the grass beneath the trees was covered in a carpet of daisies and half a dozen geese were chilling out in a patch of sunlight.
Ignoring the geese I climbed the steps up to the top of the island; never having been there before I didn’t know what to expect so I was pleasantly surprised to find a pretty and very peaceful Japanese garden surrounded by trees and shrubs and dotted here and there with stone ornaments. A path ran all the way round the garden and a pond in the centre was crossed by a couple of oriental bridges.
Having walked round the gardens twice I made my way back down the steps, round the base of the island and back across the Half Moon Bridge to continue my clockwise walk round the lake. By the time I reached the café I was feeling quite peckish – it was time for coffee and cake, and though the café was very busy I managed to get a table on the outside terrace where I could sit for a while and watch the world go by.
My lakeside walk ended where it had started, not far from the café. My previous visit to Peasholm Park had been during a holiday thirty years before so it had been nice to wander along the lakeside and discover the gardens on the island – and hopefully it won’t be another thirty years before I make a return visit.