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.
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!
My Monday walk this week was done just yesterday and was actually Plan B when Plan A didn’t work out. I started off mid morning at the big car boot sale near the village of St Michael’s on Wyre; normally held every weekend from May bank holiday until the end of September it was the first time this year that it was on and I’d been looking forward to it.
My original intention, once I’d looked round all the stalls twice, was to drive over to Garstang and walk along a section of the Lancaster canal but when I came to take the first couple of photos at the car boot my camera told me that all images would be stored on the internal memory, which I thought was rather odd until I found the media card was missing – I’d transferred it to my card reader a few days previously and forgotten to put it back in the camera.
Not knowing how many photos I could take using the camera’s internal memory – I suspected not very many – and with a lot of grey clouds around anyway there was no point going all the way to Garstang so I decided to have a short walk along a section of the River Wyre instead. Driving into the village I parked near the primary school then walked the hundred yards or so along the main road and over the bridge to the riverside path and the start of the walk; it’s a walk I’m familiar with as I camped a few times at a lovely little site nearby several years ago.
While the river meandered round and doubled back on itself the path carried straight on, first through a tree shaded area close to a small field of sheep then along the high bank of the river itself with a couple of pleasant meadows on my left below the bank. At the next bend there was just one lone person sitting fishing; the river wound back on itself again there, skirting the edge of another meadow and effectively making it a dead end so I knew I would end up retracing my steps.
Continuing to follow the river round the edge of the meadow I came to the junction of a narrow brook and I remembered that on the next bend there should be a small sandy beach. I was right, the beach was still there, so I went down off the bank and let Poppie have a few minutes paddle before I continued round the edge of the meadow. Eventually I could go no farther as my way was blocked by a fence and gate leading to a small development of waterside holiday lodges so I cut diagonally back across the meadow and rejoined the main riverside path along the top of the bank.
Heading back to the road I almost stood on a toad in the middle of the stony path. At first I thought it may be injured but it hopped a couple of paces when I touched it; up ahead I could see a couple coming towards me with a big dog so to save the possibility of the toad being snapped at I picked it up and put it gently in the foliage off the path.
Back at the bridge I crossed the road to the riverbank at the other side with the intention of walking along for a mile or so – another route I’ve done before – but there was a small herd of cows up ahead with a couple of mean looking ones right in the middle of the path. I had no intention of getting into an argument with those two so I gave up on that idea and decided to call it a day and make tracks for home.
Passing St. Michael’s Church I found it was open to visitors for ‘private prayer’ – not that I’m religious – so finding somewhere suitable to leave Poppie for a few minutes I went to take a look and found I was the only person in there. A church has occupied that site from at least the 13th century; the present church was probably built in the 15th century with alterations being made in the 17th century. The chapel at the north of the church dates from 1480, it was repaired in 1797 and restored in 1854. The tower is said to date from 1549 and houses a ring of three bells hung in a timber frame. Inscribed with Gothic script the treble bell was originally cast in 1458 and was given to the church by a French lady; the second bell was cast in 1663 by Geoffrey Scott of Wigan while the third bell dates from 1742 and was cast by Abel Rudhall of Gloucestershire.
The colourful corner in the angle of the church wall was my final shot, the camera’s internal memory was full, so there was nothing else I could do other than return to the van and head for home. My day hadn’t worked out as I’d originally planned but I’d made the best of it, Poppie had a paddle and I actually got more photos than I thought I would so I suppose it was still a success even though it was a minor one.
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.
With the continuing very warm and sunny weather being too good to miss, mid morning on the Bank Holiday Monday towards the end of May saw me setting off for somewhere I hadn’t been to for almost ten years, a place where Poppie and I could have a good walk and I could get some decent photos.
Skippool Creek, a historic docks area, is situated on the western bank of the River Wyre about three miles south of Fleetwood and Knott End on the coast. In constant use from the end of the Middle Ages it was a major trading port for hundreds of years, with goods arriving from all over the world. Flax was brought in from Ireland and the Baltic, timber came from North America and tallow from Russia, while closer to home limestone and oats were transported from Cumbria and coal from Preston. Eventually though, the popularity of the port waned with the opening of Fleetwood’s port in the 1840s, trading dwindled and the docks gradually fell into disrepair; nowadays the creek is owned by Wyre Council and provides moorings and jetties for a variety of private sailing craft although much of the area is more of a boat graveyard than anything else.
A narrow minor road off the main road to Thornton took me down to the creek. Half a dozen very pleasant large detached and semi detached houses were situated along one side of the road which ended at the premises and slipway of Blackpool & Fleetwood Yacht Club; halfway along was a free car park so my walk started from there. The creek itself ran parallel to the road and quite close to it for a distance before curving round to join the main river, and many of the wooden jetties had boats moored up at the ends.
Where the creek joined the river the marshy land became much wider with wooden walkways leading across it from the roadside to the jetties and moored up boats. Here the area became a hotch-potch of timber structures, seaworthy fishing and sailing boats, and serviceable trailers mixed in with many abandoned and unloved small wrecks beached on the grass, and there was even a sunken boat fastened by several long ropes to the end of a jetty.
The most well known wreck just there was the MV Good Hope, a fishing trawler thought to have been built in the 1830s, though other information says it was more than likely built in Scotland just after WW2 as there was a boat of that name registered in Wick at that time. It was launched in 1948 and stayed in Scotland for over twenty years; in 1975 it was recorded as fishing from Fleetwood and owned by a local man, then in 1984 it was decommissioned and subsequently dry-land moored at Skippool Creek. With rotting timbers on what had once been the upper deck, a collapsed wheelhouse and the bow propped up to stop the whole thing from tipping over it was a mess, though strangely there was a pretty little wrought iron gate across the adjacent walkway.
Crossing the slipway in front of the yacht club premises I could see that a few people were taking advantage of the high tide and indulging in a spot of sailing, with several boats out on the water. I’d left the creek behind and was now alongside the main river with a wide and pleasant tree lined path leading from the slipway and past the many wooden walkways across the marshy grass to the water.
After a while the path opened out to fields on my left and the farther I got from the sailing club the scruffier everything on the right became. The well kept jetties near the club were replaced by a long row of walkways built just above the grass, many with rotten and missing boards, jetties which were anything but straight, and a mish-mash of wooden sheds and small workshops cobbled together from whatever timber the various owners could get their hands on. Many of the jetties had small sheds built on them and one in particular was so crooked it looked like the slightest breeze would blow the whole thing over.
Abandoned and derelict boats were everywhere, some of them so far up on the grass it looked like they hadn’t seen water for a long time. The saddest sight for me though was towards the end of the row – an old wooden fishing trawler which had been used as a permanent live-aboard houseboat.
At one time the grass in front of it had been sectioned off into a small well kept private garden with fences and a neat little shed, and on my previous visit to Skippool nine years ago the boat itself had looked quite attractive with its bright paintwork. Now though it was just a broken down wreck with rotten timbers, a collapsed wheelhouse and a huge hole in the side of the hull – such a shame when it had once looked so nice.
Beyond the row of walkways the path made a U-turn over a narrow drainage channel and continued to follow the river, with more open fields on the left where the fences were interspersed with sections of hedgerow. A gate led to a pleasant looking tree lined lane and the sweet scent of hawthorn was everywhere; I even found something which doesn’t seem to be too common in my local area – pink hawthorn.
Round the next bend I came across something I didn’t expect to see – a boat sitting slap bang in the middle of the path. There was another one several yards farther along, sitting on the grass just off the path, and though the first one looked like it needed a bit of attention the second one seemed to be in good condition. Assuming that no-one would just dump a couple of boats right there I could only think that maybe they had been washed up in February’s heavy storms, which made me wonder if the storms had also been responsible for the extensive damage to the old houseboat.
Just past the boats and set back off the path were a couple of benches; the first one was plain but the second was a memorial bench with a lovely carving at each end of the backrest. Past more fields and the path split into three with the lower one continuing along the riverside, the middle one going through a woodland area and the upper one leading up a few steps into a sloping well mown meadow. Just for curiosity I went a little way up the slope; a couple of picnic benches were set to one side and looking back I got a good view of the river.
Back on the lower path it was another twenty minutes before I reached my goal – a car park, cafe and picnic area close to a slipway used by people with jet skis and speedboats. It was a shame the cafe was closed as it would have been nice to indulge in some cake and a can of Coke but I found a vacant bench overlooking the river and watched for a while as various jet skis zoomed up and down. Sitting in the sun with a great view in front of me was lovely but eventually Poppie started to get restless so it was time to reverse the walk and head back to the van.
By the time I got back to the creek the tide had gone down far enough to expose part of the mud banks along the side and the farther along the creek I got the less water was in there; it wouldn’t be long until the boats moored near the end would be settled on the mud until the next high tide.
Leaving the creek I drove round to Hambleton village on the other side of the river and found a Spar shop where I got a chocolate bar and something I’ve not had for many many years – a can of Barrs American Cream Soda. In fact it’s so long since I last had some that I thought it had gone out of production a long while ago. Behind the shop was a small car park with a pleasant view over some nearby fields so I parked up there and whiled away twenty minutes or so with my drink and snack before heading for home.
Thinking about my walk along Skippool Creek and the Wyre nothing much had changed in the nine years since my last visit – the scruffy parts were possibly a bit scruffier but to me that scruffiness gave the place a certain quirky charm. With perfect weather I’d really enjoyed the walk and made a mental note not to leave it so long before I make another visit – and maybe by then the cafe will be open and I can enjoy a drink and some cake.