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.
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.
Just three weeks after my first visit of the year to Barrow Bridge I was back again, this time to combine another circular walk with some photos of various features of the village for another future blog post. In such a short space of time the trees, hedges, and flowers in various gardens seemed to have suddenly exploded into life and in the early afternoon sunshine everywhere looked exceptionally bright and colourful.
Beyond the edge of Moss Bank Park and just before the prettiest part of the village a bus turn around lies on the far side of Dean Brook, with a path running parallel to the stream; in spite of my many visits to the village over the years I’d never been along there so this time I was going to explore. The path took me first into a small meadow surrounded by trees then into a woodland area and through the trees, on the far side of the stream, I could see part of what I knew to be Victoria Lake.
The flow of the stream wasn’t too great at that point and I could see that someone at some time had made a crossing point from a few large stones placed in the very narrowest part so hoping that I wouldn’t slip and end up with wet feet I stepped down the bank and picked my way carefully across towards the lake – Poppie of course paddled across quite easily.
Another path ran close to the lakeside, with gaps in the trees and shrubs where I could see the lake itself; several geese and ducks seemed to be in residence and through the trees across the water I could see the top third of Barrow Bridge chimney. At the far end of the lake the path split into two and as I could hear what sounded like a waterfall ahead and to the left I went that way first.
After a few yards the path became narrower and ended in a moss-covered stone wall at ground level. A few feet below the wall the stream had left its natural river bed and was flowing down the centre of a wide cobbled channel into a tree shaded pool; the ground around the edge of the pool looked to be quite boggy so not wanting to get muddy I just took a couple of shots then retraced my steps back to the lake.
The path on the right took me round the end of Victoria lake to a much smaller lake, this was the one I could just see part of by looking over the garden wall of one of the houses on the road past the park. Floating in the water was a cute little duck house and a few Canada geese were gathered by the waterside. Wild garlic grew along both sides of the path and a notice fastened to a tree told me I could go no farther as this was a wildlife area; I was almost in someone’s back garden anyway so with a couple of shots taken I made my way back round the lakes, across the stream and back towards the village.
Walking past the first cottages on the right of the village road I was struck again by how quickly things had come into life and how pretty these particular gardens looked compared to when I took my photo of them three weeks before. These must be my favourite cottages and gardens in the village and I can never resist taking a shot of them whenever I walk past.
At the end of the road I walked a short distance along by the stream and took the steep climb up ’63 steps’. At the top of the steps a tree shaded path led to a more open area which in turn took me into open countryside where I had a choice of left or right. Knowing where I would get to if I went left I chose right and eventually came to a gate where the path narrowed and ran between a fence on one side and trees on the other, with another gate at the far end which took me into the little cul-de-sac of cottages where I’d photographed the bright tulips three weeks before.
Out on the road, round the double bend and up the long incline I came to the cottages of Old Colliers Row; it was the day after the 75th anniversary of VE Day and the wall alongside the road was still sporting a celebratory long string of flags and bunting. Close to the cottages was Brownstones Quarry, somewhere I didn’t know about until it was mentioned in a comment on a previous blog post, so taking a look round the place was really the main purpose of my walk.
Trying to get into the quarry was easier said than done though; the path which had been suggested to me was so overgrown it was difficult to even see it so not wanting to risk possibly falling down a hidden steep drop I needed to find another way in. Up the lane behind the cottages I did find another path and though that was also quite overgrown in places it wasn’t as bad as the first path and eventually I saw part of a quarry face ahead of me. As far as quarries go it wasn’t a bad place; nowhere near as big as Wilton Quarry closer to home but quite pleasant and there was even a small rather overgrown pond at one end.
It didn’t take me long to get a few photos and once I’d seen all there was to see I made my way back towards the lane, though it wasn’t without incident – with the weather being very warm I was wearing cycling shorts and at one point I was attacked by a strand from a low growing bramble which left two vicious scratches across the back of my leg.
Not far from the end of the path a pheasant suddenly shot out of the long grass, ran ahead of me and disappeared; ignoring the scratches I’d just sustained, and with Poppie in ‘sniffer dog’ mode, we tracked it to a field across the lane and I managed to snatch a quick photo of it before it flew off and disappeared completely. Also in the field were several horses with a grey one being the nearest to me, but no matter how much I called it didn’t seem interested and kept its back to me although one of its companions ambled over and obligingly posed for a photo.
Back on the road I walked along to the next row of cottages and just like three weeks previously I took the lane leading back down to Barrow Bridge village. In spite of the clouds which had appeared during my walk it was a very clear afternoon and from the top of the lane I had a great view across the fields, past Barrow Bridge chimney and right over and beyond Manchester city centre.
Down in the village I took another couple of photos for the blog post I was thinking of writing then made my way back home by the shortest route. It had been another good walk and I’d discovered two more places I hadn’t been to before but now, with the scratches on my leg finally treated and Poppie curled up in her bed, it was time to relax while I thought about where I was going to go next time.
Following on from my post recounting the occasion when I mistakenly sent atext message to Michael instead of someone I work with, it’s taken me 18 months to make near enough the same mistake again but this time I’ve surpassed myself.
On Tuesday evening Michael came in from work and presented me with a pack of strawberries which he’d picked up in Asda on his way home; I didn’t want any straight away so I sliced them into a bowl with a bit of sugar and left them in the fridge overnight with the intention of having some with cream on Wednesday after I got back from my dog walk. With plenty for two of us I sent Michael a text while I was out on my long walk at lunch time that day – “Do you want me to save you some strawberries, there’s enough for both of us”.
Now the very nature of Michael’s job means that he can’t have or use his phone while he’s working so I didn’t expect a reply straight away as he wouldn’t see the message until he was on a break, however I’d had no reply by 5pm so I decided to check my own phone to make sure I’d actually sent the message and not deleted it by accident. Yes, I’d definitely sent the text at 12.58pm – to the boss at my evening job who is also called Michael. No wonder I hadn’t had a reply from my son! Cue a fit of giggles, made worse by the thought that the boss’s wife could possibly be wondering why a strange woman was asking him if he wanted some strawberries. Of course it made Michael laugh when he came home later and I told him what I’d done – and as it turned out, he didn’t want any strawberries anyway.
So yesterday I was at my evening job when I needed to ring Neil, the works manager, to check on a security issue. His phone was answered by a woman who I assumed was his wife, and the conversation went like this – “Hi, can I speak to Neil please?” “Sorry, who is this?” “It’s Eunice, cleaner at xxxx” “Oh, hello Eunice, it’s nice to hear from you, how are you?” Coming from a woman who I’d never met or spoken to and who probably didn’t even know who I am this seemed very strange indeed, though the voice seemed familiar and I instantly realised – I hadn’t phoned Neil at all, I’d phoned Nellie, Michael’s aunt over in Ireland! Cue another fit of giggles, during which I managed to apologise to Nellie and tell her I’d phone her back later on, then once I’d stopped laughing I phoned Neil and dealt with the security issue.
I really can’t believe that I could make almost the same silly mistake twice in 24 hours and I’m sure Michael must think I’ve lost the plot, but before the men in white coats come to carry me off to the nearest padded cell I can only say in my defence that in both cases I was outside and the bright sunshine obviously made my phone screen hard to read. So note to self – in future, make sure you’re in the shade before you text or ring someone!
Sitting here at the pc last night and thinking about the post I intended writing for today I just happened to glance out of the window and notice the moon partially covered by an attractive cloud formation. It was worth a couple of photos but by the time I’d grabbed the camera and changed the setting the moment had gone, however with the clouds constantly changing I decided to take a series of shots over the space of an hour just to see if the camera could produce anything reasonable.
It clouded over properly after that and stayed cloudy for a while so I couldn’t see the moon at all, however the clouds eventually started to disperse and I managed to get a few more shots before my self-allotted hour was up.
Admittedly the quality of some of these shots isn’t the greatest but unfortunately I’m not lucky enough to possess an expensive state-of-the-art DSLR with a huge powerful lens. Anyway, I’m not in the least bit interested in astronomy in any way, shape or form, these shots were really just an experiment and a way of passing some time while I got my head round the post I was going to write – which no longer applies as these shots have now become that very post.
My Monday walk this week is split into two halves, visiting two different parts of the same area but on two separate days two weeks apart. First was St. Annes, a place I go to quite often; Michael had a day off from work so he came with me and once I’d parked up near our favourite cafe we went our separate ways, arranging to meet back there for a meal later on. Walking through the promenade gardens, where I discovered that the water in the waterfall was now blue, I made my way to Ashton Gardens just a couple of streets back from the sea front.
When I got to the side entrance to the park I was surprised to see that since my visit there last July the flowering shrubs and bushes near the pavilion café had all been drastically cut down. It really opened up the whole area but to me it was too open; lined by flowering shrubs the pathways had looked really attractive before, now the whole place just looked bare.
Past the sunken garden and through the rose garden I came to where the meandering waterway was crossed at various points by stepping stones and a bridge, and set back just off the path I found a large clump of daffodils and some other yellow flowers – not being a gardener I don’t know what they were but they looked pretty.
Now while I much prefer wandering round parks and gardens when the leaves are on the trees there’s something to be said for the trees in Ashton Gardens currently being bare. The various features of the waterway are completely visible instead of some of them being obscured by overhanging branches and that part of the gardens looks just as attractive now as it does later in the year.
Leaving Ashton Gardens by the main entrance I made my way back to the sea front, this time walking along the promenade instead of through the gardens. The earlier high tide had retreated and far beyond the end of the pier a lone man and his dog walked out to the ruined landing jetty. In spite of the glorious sunshine there was a very chilly wind blowing so it was good to finally meet Michael back in the welcome warmth of the café for a good meal and a hot milky coffee before driving back home.
The second part of my walk was done just yesterday in a part of Lytham I’ve often thought of exploring but up to now, for whatever reason, I never have. A few years ago I’d found out that on the southern outskirts, and obscured from the main road by a high bank, was a creek where various yachts and other pleasure craft were moored so being on my own this time it was a good opportunity to take a look.
Leaving the van in a nearby Macdonald’s car park I crossed the main road to a footpath which would take me along the side of the creek however I soon realised I was on the wrong side; the creek itself was separated from the path by a large fenced off boatyard and storage area which extended for quite a distance and there was no way I could get through. The grassy path eventually took me through a pleasant sparsely wooded area to another creek, narrow and very muddy, with just a couple of fishing boats moored at the end of a wooden jetty and a yacht tipped over on its side, presumably the result of the recent storms. To be honest this place wasn’t particularly attractive but maybe it would look better with more water in it.
I’d climbed down the bank to get closer shots of the boats and as I climbed back up again I saw something which amused me enough to take a photo; sticking up out of the grass was the top of a green welly. The boot itself was firmly wedged several inches down so I can only assume that someone had put their foot into what had once been very soft ground and couldn’t get it out again, meaning they had to leave the welly behind.
The path turned inland and took me along the bank of the creek, which narrowed to little more than a muddy channel with a dead end, to a quiet lane which eventually emerged onto the main road a good quarter of a mile from where I started. I still hadn’t found the creek I was originally looking for so I walked all the way back along the road, past the start of the path I’d followed and one of the boatyard buildings to where I found a stile leading to a second path – this was more like it, I was now on the right side of the creek. Just like the first creek it was very muddy at low tide but it was a much more attractive place so I had a very pleasant walk along the bank before retracing my steps back to the van.
Knowing that my favourite café at St. Annes would now be closed I’d brought my own supplies but a Macdonald’s car park wasn’t the best of places for a picnic so I drove round to the quiet lane I’d walked along earlier and parked up by the high bank of the first creek. With coffee brewed on my camping stove, a sandwich, a couple of slices of cherry pie and a view of some lovely daffodils on the bank in front of me I had a lovely half hour in the van before my next bit of exploration.
Leaving the van in the lane I went up onto the main road and walked right along to East Beach and the start of Lytham Green before turning onto the coastal path and heading back in the opposite direction. Looking out to sea I could just see the mast of a sunken yacht in one of the estuary channels; I’ve seen a photo of this on another blog and at high tide it’s almost completely covered in water.
The path took me down a few steps onto the beach, skirting the rear car park of a large modern office building, then a few more steps took me up onto another very pleasant green backed by large, and probably expensive, balconied houses on a recently built estate. Here was another casualty of February’s storms, a boat stuck in a tiny creek with its stern well and truly buried in the mud and its cabin roof partially smashed by a large tree trunk washed up on top of it.
At the end of the green I came to the beginning of the first muddy creek I’d seen, actually looking a bit more attractive than it was further along, and across the salt marsh was the ‘golf ball’ radar tower and buildings of the BAE Systems aerodrome at Warton. The path turned inland there and took me round the edge of the housing estate, bringing me out close to the main road and not far from the lane where I’d left the van. Although the sun had earlier been warm enough for me to dispense with my usual jacket and just wear my lightweight tracksuit zip top a chilly breeze was now starting to blow – I’d satisfied my curiosity about the creeks and the boats and had a picnic in the van, now it was time to go back home.
As I got to within just a few miles from home the sun was getting lower in the sky, casting its late afternoon glow across the moorland so I couldn’t resist pulling into a lay-by and getting my final shot of the day. With very little traffic on what can usually be quite a busy road it was fairly quiet just then so I spent several minutes just sitting in the van and gazing at the view in front of me.
Back home, and with a coffee at hand, I made a start on downloading my photos and choosing which ones to put on here. I may have been on my own for Mother’s Day but I’d had a lovely afternoon out, and the very nature of where I walked meant that I saw hardly anyone which, even without the current crisis, suits me just fine.
All through February I was hoping to go to Lytham Hall to see the snowdrops – I went last year and was well impressed – but the continually wet and windy weather has made sure I didn’t get there, however the forecast for that area yesterday promised some sunshine in the afternoon so at lunchtime I took a chance and set off with Poppie for the Fylde coast. It was indeed sunny when I got there, in fact it had been sunny all the way from home, but sadly the snowdrops were all but over. The vast carpets of pretty little white flowers which had so impressed me last year were decidedly threadbare and dull but the grounds are so nice it was still worth having a walk round.
Since my visit there last year I’d found out that somewhere in the woodland was a small lake with the remains of an old ruined boathouse which was worth a photo so I went in search of it, only to find what had been the boathouse was looking rather less than photogenic. It seemed to be undergoing some restoration as it was cordoned off from the footpath – although I didn’t let that stop me, I just walked round the open end of the barrier to get the shots I wanted.
Next came a walk round the fishing lake known as Curtains Pond; no boathouse there but more open and attractive than the first lake. From there I went to the courtyard where there was an attractive corner with plants for sale; I was hoping to buy some snowdrops but there were none in evidence and the only person I could ask was deep in a long conversation with two other ladies. I hung around for a while but there was no sign of an end to their conversation and I didn’t want to interrupt so I photographed some very colourful flowers then took myself off elsewhere.
It was nice to see that since my visit a year ago the scaffolding which had surrounded a large part of the Hall at the time had gone so I was able to take a photo of the entire front of the building, then after a short wander round the grounds closest to the Hall I retired to the dog friendly cafe for coffee and cake which, incidentally, was very nice.
Without venturing deeper into the woodland and risking getting muddy wet feet I decided to call it a day and make tracks for home once I came out of the café. Walking back to the car park my eye was caught by a flash of colour just visible among the trees and when I went to check it out I found a large rhododendron, more of a tree than a bush, in the early stages of blooming. The first day of March seems to be very early for something like that, especially with all the recent bad weather – maybe the Fylde coast and the Lytham Hall woodland has a milder climate than here at home.
Driving along the long private road from the Hall I stopped briefly to get a shot of the waterlogged parkland on the other side of the fence then continued past the station and through the town centre to the promenade where I decided to do something I’ve meant to do for a long while but haven’t done.
Finding a free roadside parking space I left the van and went for a walk along Lytham green to the windmill, first passing the church of St. John the Divine. The church was built in 1848/49 and was paid for by public subscription, with the land having been donated by the Clifton family of Lytham Hall. The windmill was built in 1805 and was designed for grinding wheat and oats to make flour or bran; it was gutted by fire in 1919 but two years later the owner donated it to the town and it was restored, then in 1951 it was given a Grade ll listing.
Next to the windmill is the old lifeboat house, originally built in 1852. It’s now a museum and on display at the top of the nearby slipway are two anchors which were caught off the Southport coast in the trawl net of a Fleetwood fishing boat in the 1980s; they were restored in 2013 by Fylde Borough Council and various volunteer groups.
Those were to be my last shots of the afternoon. The grounds of Lytham Hall had been quite sheltered but on the green there was a bitterly cold gale force wind blowing; time to head home and stay in the warm indoors for the rest of the day.
After most of December being damp, grey and miserable the day before New Year’s Eve turned out to be fine and sunny with plenty of blue sky and as I’d been unable to take Laura anywhere decent since she came to stay with us we decided to make the most of the nice day and go to Southport. The drive out there was very pleasant and the sun was still shining when we got there, however it wasn’t to last long.
Parking up in the car park just off the main esplanade and overlooking Marine Lake we realised that none of us had any change for the ticket machine so Michael said he would pay by card. Now we had never paid by card before so weren’t familiar with the procedure, however he put his card in the machine and tapped in the amount he wanted to pay but other than the screen saying ‘please remove card’ nothing else happened – no printed ticket, nothing. So he tried it again and got the same result, which then had us thinking that the machine was faulty and it had taken the payment twice without giving us a ticket – and we were even more puzzled when the guy behind us put cash in and it printed him a ticket.
Not knowing whether we had actually paid or not, and not wanting to leave the van if we hadn’t, I rang the number on the side of the machine and after pressing 1 for this and 2 for that etc I spoke to a very helpful guy who said that if the machine hadn’t printed a ticket then we hadn’t paid, and if we paid by card or on the app we wouldn’t get a ticket anyway. He took the details of the van and our payment over the phone and assured us that we had up to four hours in the car park – and after almost half an hour of messing about we were finally sorted.
Leaving Michael and Laura to their own devices I took Sophie and Poppie and went for a walk along the lakeside, though I only managed to take one photo before the sun went in and the sky clouded over big style. Very disappointing but I made the best of it and continued my walk round the lake, through the gardens, down to the beach and back onto the pier, and the sun did come out again briefly a couple of times though the clouds were very grey.
Although there hadn’t been many people down at the lakeside the pier was very busy, and when I got down to Lord Street it was even more so there – I would never have expected to see so many people on a winter’s day but presumably most of them had been attracted by whatever sales were on in the shops. Across the road from the shops and outside The Atkinson theatre and arts venue was a tall ‘Christmas tree’ type structure with lights which constantly changed colour ; I watched it for a while and took several photos but even though it wasn’t yet 2.30pm the grey sky meant that the light was already fading – time to give up, meet Michael and Laura and find something to eat.
I met Michael and Laura near the beginning of the pier and we went to the nearby Waterfront, a Hungry Horse pub/restaurant, for our meal. By the time we came out of there the daylight had almost disappeared and as there was nowhere else to really go to we returned to the van and drove home. Thinking back it had been a bit of a disappointing day really – this holiday for Laura was the first time she had come over to England and so far she had experienced nothing but damp days and grey skies ; with the morning sunshine and blue sky I’d really wanted to give her a nice day out but the change in the weather put the kibosh on that. Hopefully though, the next time she comes to stay the weather will be much better and I’ll be able to show her how nice Southport can be.