The hills were in low cloud late into the morning, including Hutton Roof which we explored a couple of days ago. But it didn’t matter – today was for cycling. I was hoping the lady would be in the Halton car park with her coffee wagon, but no sign of her. I hope she returns this summer, Last year I looked forward to her cheerful smile and cheep coffee as I drove up the motorway.
Think I’ll have an easy day and just go to Glasson Dock and back on the old railway. The fragrance of the hawthorn flowers hits me as I get out of the car. There are very few people about in the rather gloomy conditions. But the day brightens up by the time I reach Glasson. The usual collection of motorcycles and their ageing drivers around the fish and chip van. As always I choose to cross the bridge to the shop on the other side of the harbour. They normally have a good supply of freshly baked pasties and pies but alas today the van has broken down and none have arrived. I have to contend with a chocolate éclair which goes perfectly with my coffee.
There are usually some locals sitting outside and today was no exception. I catch up on the news.
The sunken boat that has been in the marina for years was lifted, but by some cowboys who kept lifting as it came out of the water rather than let it drain. Most of it then broke up under the force and went back down to the bottom in pieces.
The pub on the other side of the harbour, The Victoria, has been closed for years and is looking in a sad state, but there are plans to reopen it as a pub once more. We shall see. The locals don’t have a lot to say about The Dalton Arms tucked away around the corner.
Next to the shop The Smoke House people have built a retail outlet for their products but are having trouble installing the heavy-duty electricity need for the freezers. Once open I’m sure this will be a popular shop with the tourists who flock to Glasson in the summer.
I cannot vouch for the truth in these stories.
The new Smoke House shop.
The ride back is uneventful, it’s about a 20-mile round trip. The tide had come in whilst I’d been away. The Millennium Bridge over the Lune and Ashton Memorial were looking good in the afternoon sunshine.
I spend the rest of the afternoon drinking tea in the sunshine at Over Kellett with longstanding friends.
It’s peaceful on the Preston Guild Wheel today, there is no wind. Very few people out, not even many dog walkers. I cycle slowly round, not having been on the bike for nearly two months. I’m in no rush and have time to see what Spring is bringing to the route. The woods have greened up since my last visit and bird song is everywhere. It is in the woods, Red Scar in particular on the early part of my circuit, that the floral display has changed. The celandines are fading to be replaced by the spreading sea of bluebells. Wild garlic is looking fresh, and its white flowers are opening up. Patches of cowslips and cuckoo flowers light up more open spaces. The green hawthorn has started to flower, it’s probably time I cast a clout, but the fickle weather changes day by day.
The notoriously muddy section at the bottom of the hill as you enter Brockholes Reserve has been drained and a decent hardcore surface created. I call in at the first hide to see what’s happening on the water. I’m not carrying binoculars, but I make use of the shop selling binoculars and telescopes. Their equipment is so much better than my antiquated items. Maybe time for an upgrade, but the assistant baffles me with his enthusiastic technical sales talk. At least I checked out the lake with his powerful scope.
On alonside the Ribble, through the parks and then the docks. The long drag alongside Blackpool Road went on forever as I pass the nearly finished junction for the Western Link Road. The Guild Wheel now goes under the bridge carrying this road.
My favourite café, The Final Whistle on the University’s playing fields, is surprisingly closed. I have to make do with one of their benches for a sit down with some water and a banana. I find the ‘hilly’ sections through Fulwood a bit of a chore and have a few spells of walking. Just over 21 miles in Spring sunshine.
What a relief to find Sir Hugh at home, I needed a cup of tea and a sit down. I had just struggled to finish a 25mile bike ride. As I left Morecambe along the old railway line I seemed to be tiring fast despite having eaten well. Cyclists seemed to flash past me, I made the excuse they must have electric assistance. I had just travelled through what I consider a dodgy section of the cycleway. A haunt of drug addicts and other undesirables. One had just tried to punch me as I passed, try ducking and slipping on a bike. He just missed, probably because he was drunk.
After a few more hundred yards I was coming to a standstill. Only then did I look at my back wheel – the tyre appeared awfully flat. I suspect I had ridden over some glass in that dodgy area. Five miles back to my car at Halton, should I just battle on. I did have a spare inner tube on me, but it would take quite a while to fix in these cold conditions, so I peddled on becoming slower and slower. At a bench entering the city I stopped – A. for a rest and B. to try and pump up the tyre. The former helped, but the latter lasted about 50 yards before I was reduced to a crawl again. Only three miles to go, so I got off and walked for long stretches The afternoon’s rain was coming in fast, so I remounted and pedalled as best I could to reach the car just as the down pour started. I was knackered and hence the need for a visit to Sir Hugh. I can sort out the puncture tomorrow at my leisure, why is it always the back wheel with all its complicated derailleur gears?
The day had started far more optimistically, cold but dry as I pedalled up onto the Lancaster Canal Aqueduct over the Lune. We have had some topsy-turvy weather this week. But now all was peace and quiet, even the dog walkers stopped and held their precious pouches until I had passed. Good progress was made along the towpath, here in reasonable repair – in contrast to that leaving Lancaster to the south, which can be a nightmare on a bike. My plan was to extend my usual route by cycling onwards to Carnforth. I love this elevated stretch above Hest Bank and Bolton-le-Sands with views down to the coast. Carnforth was busy with a market in progress. My route took me past the infamous station, the last time I visited it for a ‘brief encounter’ in June ’22 I ended up with Covid. I hesitated before repeating the process but the thought of coffee and cake was too much. I had awoken this morning to find I had no bread or little else to concoct a sandwich. All was cheery and friendly in the 1940s café – a good latte with a slice of iced flapjack did the trick.
Lancaster Canal Aqueduct over the Lune.
Sailing high above Hest Bank.
Woodland approaching Carnforth.
Refreshed I continued alongside the River Keer, under the threatening Main Quarry on Warton Fell. Deceptive bends and plastic icebergs re-emerge into my conscience, it was always a frightening place to climb. Onwards without destroying the peace.
Warton Crag and quarry across the marshes
Soon I was back on the canal, reversing my morning’s route. If only I had just ridden back along it to Lancaster. Bur no, I could not resist turning off at Hest Bank to cruise down to the promenade and follow the Bay into Morecambe. It’s becoming a habit. The tide was out and one could hardly make out the sea. It’s different every time I come along here, that’s the charm of Morecambe’s seafront. I sat on a bench looking out across the bay.
Bench on the bay.
Low tide walk about.
Then all my troubles started.
As a footnote I have to thank Sir Hugh for his hospitality at short notice. A few of you I know follow his blog and will be aware of is modelling skills. Well here is the professor in his modelling den.
You may wonder why I keep coming back to the Bay. My cycling is for leisure and pleasure these days, and there is no pleasure on the busy roads around Longridge. The old railways, cycleways and canal up here are ideal and one has the added benefit of the ocean breeze and those views across the bay. Oh, and it’s all relatively flat.
I suspect that sometimes I am bewitched by that view and neglect little details on the promenade. Well today I paid more attention to what was under my feet, I mean wheels, and I ended up walking stretches of the front so as not to miss things. I had arrived onto the front near Heysham via a new route, for me, which diverged off the old railway/cycleway and wound its way through the White Lund Industrial Estate, lovely.
From the start at Sandylands I notice several, about three dozen, round interpretative discs set into the promenade telling the story of Heysham, Morecambe and the Bay. A quirky addition to the front. For a more detailed history and lots of old photographs and archive material it is worth visiting the Maritime Museum on the quayside in Lancaster. Morecambe has certainly had a chequered history – but the future with The Eden Project hopefully under way should be more positive. It is frightening to realise that I am part of that recent history, bringing my family up to the amusement parks and aquarium still in existence 50 years ago and now no longer. I try to remember if the central pier, mentioned more than once in the discs, was still standing on our visits. It is suspicious that there were so many fires on the derelict piers.
Morecambe in the 1940s. The two piers highlighted.
So there you have it. On the way I passed this house painting, an old pier/breaker, a couple of turrets and these elegant Edwardian terraces. Fading glories.
As I approached the west end of Morecambe I was intrigued by a large building set back from the front. The building now known as The Battery once marked the boundary between Morecambe and Heysham. (in 1928 the two districts merged). In the nineteenth century the site was occupied by an old mill and the area was later used as a firing range, with an artillery battery stationed there because of fear of an invasion by the French. The mill, then known as The Roundhouse, was used for storing ammunition. The Battery Inn was built in 1863 and in 1900 it expanded to become The Battery Hotel, later acquired by Thwaites Brewery and functioned into the 1980s. It has recently been bought by a property developer for conversion into luxury flats. I’m not sure whether much progress has been made.
I don’t think the adjacent Beach Cafe is the best of architectural designs.
My informative circles had finished, but something on the road caught my eye – half a car to cut your motoring costs, an effective advertising gimmick.
And what’s more on the other side of the road a series of artistic panels brightening up an otherwise drab development hoarding at the former Frontier Land. I now remember Eunice from the Mouse House mentioning them here and here in far more detail than my pictures below. Local artists are highlighted. Several showing Eric the town’s celebrated son.
I hope the Midland Hotel is given anew coat of paint before Eden arrives.
By now my hands were frozen in the cold northerly wind whipping down the promenade. Time to get cycling again. On past the Midland, Happy Mount Park, Hest Bank and onto the Lancaster Canal back to Lancaster. I had just about warmed through by the time I reached my car at Halton. It’s only half an hour back down the motorway, but I have a sense of lingering guilt that I shouldn’t be driving farther than I’m cycling.
There was promise of sunshine – well there wasn’t any.
I’d hoped to spot some birds on the lakes in Brockholes Nature reserve, I even took my binoculars – I only saw a few coots and a couple of swans.
Maybe a few arty photographs – my camera had reset itself to the wrong setting, so most were out of focus.
I was intent on improving my fitness – just the opposite as you will see.
What else went wrong – well I didn’t get a puncture, thank God.
At the start of the Guild Wheel, I start at the Crematorium, I seemed to be going well yet the cyclists (amateur at best) seen in my photo kept passing me, and I struggled to keep up their pace. My breathing wasn’t right. After my brief unsuccessful stop off at one of the hides in Brockholes for a while along the flat rural section alongside the Ribble I gained a better rhythm. But on the two little rises into Preston I puffed and panted and just avoided dismounting. It was Half Term and there were families out in the parks. I was still just behind those two as we approached the docks, they stopped for a break and I peddled on. The long drag out alongside Blackpool Road was taken slowly, but I misjudged the turn-off for the steep bit onto the bridge and ended up walking. Under the new bridge for Preston’s Western Distributor road and I found myself flagging. A timely bench was too much of a temptation and I succumbed, maybe some food and a drink might help. The pair whizzed cheerily past.
Off again, Preston North End were on their training ground, but they have recently screened it off, so I could only hear their punishing work-out. I felt I was on my own punishing workout. Cottam came and went, and I knew the hilly section was coming up. My legs were the proverbial lead. I just about managed the slight rise over the railway before entering Broughton, new houses everywhere. I knew of the seat opposite the War Memorial and was glad of another sit down and some emergency chocolate. The inscription says “Rest awhile and think on their sacrifice” I sat and thought for quite a while.
Round the back of Asda I plodded on just wishing the next three miles away. I dismounted at all the little inclines and in fact towards the end after a steep hill I just kept pushing the bike for some distance and relief before cycling the last half mile. I’ve not felt so tired for ages, even after my bath I’m feeling stiff and achy.
Sorry to be so miserable, perhaps I should do a Covid test tomorrow.
Lunchtime today and I’m sat outside my favourite coffee spot on Glasson Dock. The little shop next to the café on the far side of the port, away from the motorbikes’ haunt – not that I have anything against motorcyclists. Here is where the dockworkers come for a takeaway bite to eat, a coffee and a chat. I get into conversation with a local, years past are shared, and I gain some interesting information about the previous workings of the port here. A bit of local scandal is thrown in and his views on the nearby pub couldn’t be repeated.
Once my delicious cheese and onion slice is finished I go off to find the little ‘smoke house’ on the docks, a family run business producing traditional smoked and cured fish and meats. The Port of Lancaster Smokehouse The sign suggested the staff were chain-smoking cigarettes around the back.
I come away with some smoked salmon for friends I visit later in the day and some potted Morecambe Bay Shrimps which I’ve just enjoyed with some toast. I can remember years ago a cottage in the old village of Heysham that sold potted shrimps in small pottery pots from their front doorstep. The husband did the shrimping with a push net at low tide and his wife boiled and peeled before potting them in her butter and spice recipe. A dying trade. Tonight mine, even if they came in a plastic pot, were delicious, I should have asked where they were caught.
I was glad to get through to Glasson on the Lancashire Cycleway after two recent failed attempts due to impassable flooding. Today the abandoned rail track was still damp and the ditches full either side, but I had cycled on with no problems to reach the port. Mission accomplished.
A calm sunny day out of the blue. A day that shouldn’t be wasted. Cycling will be better for me than all that weight-bearing walking on my dodgy knee. Yes it has officially become dodgy. Most people parked up on the front at Fleetwood are content to sit in their cars with the heater on, gazing out across the Wyre Estuary to Morecambe Bay. Somehow the statue of the waiting family took on a more poignant significance as the nation waits for news of Nicola Bulley who has vanished higher up the Wyre at St. Michaels.
In a sombre mood I pedal off along the seafront, Rossall, Cleveleys, Bispham, North Shore, The Golden Mile, the Pleasure Beach and South Shore. All familiar landmarks of the Fylde Coast at Blackpool. There are few people about, despite the sun it is still chilly. Mainly dog walkers. I eat my sandwich at Squires Gate, I’ve come far enough and turn around to do it all again in reverse. This is a favourite ride of mine, flat all the way with lots of interest and all that good ozone and vitamin D producing light.
The peaceful winter promenade.
Mary’s Shell in the tide. The Ogre was under water – more of them and the Mythic Coast another time.
The tower silently watching.
A Ringed Plover? posing. Not a grouse in sight.
I stop briefly to chat to a fisherman casting into the sea from the shingle beach, it’s high tide. Dabs and cod could be on the menu tonight but the only catches I witness are seaweed. A patient sport angling.
What’s for supper?
That was it really. All quiet on the western front.
Following on from the conversation I had a couple of days ago with that gent up at Otter Geer I eventually dragged myself out of bed, breakfasted, loaded the bike and drove to my usual spot at Halton station on the Lune. Make the most of each day was my intention even though it was by now afternoon. A quick whizz along the canal and I was on the bay. The tide is out, and I can hear but can’t see the birdlife out on the edge. This vast expanse of marine environment has been highlighted by the Lancs Wildlife Trust as being under threat if important EU regulations are disbanded by our reckless government. In fact my visit here prompted me to post their letter yesterday.
I find a viewing toposcope on the promenade but have to be content with imagining the Lakeland Hills across the bay, some say the best view in Lancashire. I head for the Festival Market for a bite from the baker there – but alas they are closed on a Friday. No matter pedal back, and I find myself in Sir Hugh’s kitchen watching him expertly spray paint his latest model, a Westland Sea King Helicopter, in Search and Rescue yellow. (I missed a photo opportunity there) My coffee only vaguely tastes of thinner.
Henry II granted Preston the right to have a Guild Merchant controlling trade in the town. That was back in 1179. Holding the Guild every 20 years probably started in 1542, membership would only change every other generation. Bringing together the town’s merchants, craftsmen and traders led to pageantry, feasting and processions. Six centuries later Preston still celebrates the Guild (though there has been free trade since 1790) every 20 years.
There is a local saying “once in a Preston Guild” due to the 20 years gap – the equivalent of “once in a blue moon”. We like to be different up here.
The last Guild was 2012 and to celebrate it Preston and Lancashire County Councils devised this 21mile ‘green route’ circling the city nearly all off-road. It was opened in August 2012, and though not as green as it used to be is a lasting legacy to the city and its Guild celebrations. LCC has devised an auditory commentary by scanning the QR codes attached to the mile markers. I must get round to trying them.
Known locally simply as The Guild Wheel, GW, it also has a Sustrans cycling route number – 622.
I haven’t been on the Guild Wheel since last September’s aborted ride. Let’s see what today brings.
I get off to walk the steep track down Red Scar into Brockholes Nature Reserve. I’ve had enough mishaps recently, I don’t want to tempt fate, who is on strike today? Maybe the Nurses or the Ambulances. Better safe than sorry or worse.
Without binoculars, it is pointless to stop off at the bird hides, though I do recognise some swans from a distance.
The ride alongside the Ribble is the greenest section of the GW and whilst the sun was shining the river took on a liquid silver appearance.
The route brings you right into the heart of the city where the Old Tram Bridge linked Penwortham to Avenham Park. It was built originally by the Lancaster Canal Company in 1802 to link the Leeds Liverpool canal system to the isolated Lancaster Canal using carts to transport the commodities. The arrival of the railways led to the closure of the tramway in 1858. Recent inspections of the bridge have shown it to be on the verge of collapse, and it was closed for good in 2019. There has been a strong local campaign for some sort of restoration, both from a historical view and more importantly as a leisure facility, it being a popular pedestrian crossing of the Ribble in the city. Costings were proving prohibitive but then along comes ‘levelling up’ and Preston has received a £20 million grant from the government. Good news, going hand in hand with Eden Project I mentioned in my last post.
Avenham and Miller Parks are looking splendid. Proud Preston.
It’s 21 miles whichever way you choose to go.
Alongside the GW they are raising the river defences in Broadgate, the work is taking two years and already is causing traffic chaos at that end of the city.
‘Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?
Once I’m past the city of cars I’m on a new piece of tarmac alongside the junction with the Western Distributor Road system, it will soon be open. The GW then goes under the new bridge spanning the Ribble Link Canal.
Western Distributor links, that’s Longridge Fell in the background.
I call in as usual at my favourite café on the GW, the Final Whistle, in the grounds of the university sports fields. Toasted teacake and a coffee £2.95. Whenever I have a toasted tea cake I’m reminded of my sadly departed mate, big Tony, who couldn’t start a day’s climbing without his toasted tea cake and a pot of tea. We had a list of cafés throughout the north-west serving this delicacy. Great times.
A robin is always on hand to help clear up the crumbs.
Nothing much else to report, the housing estates are still proliferating on every space i the Cottam area eating up the green spaces, but what about these catkins in the sunshine – a harbinger of better days to come.
Here I am looking into a flood on the cycle track to Glasson. Did it all happen two weeks ago? What am I doing here again? I ask myself, I curse myself. I’ve been impatient and obviously unrealistic. I’m not thinking straight. The water has not had a chance to recede. We’ve had snow melt loading the Lune. This time I don’t put a wheel into the water but just turn around and pedal back with my tail well and truly tucked.
I’d only come out on this fairly grim day for some exercise to build up the knee muscles. There is a limit to what you achieve on the static bike in front of the telly. And my limit is almost zero. There is nobody about, I long for the Spring when the friendly tea van will be once again parked up at Halton Station.
Loneliness of the long distance cyclist…
Let’s make the best of it, cross the Millennium Bridge and head back to Morecambe. I come in at the west end, considered the most run down part of town, for a good reason. But last week the government has given £50 million towards the Eden Project, levelling up. Planning permission has been granted, so now it is a matter of securing all the finances and starting the scheme on site. Our Prime Minister has been up here, controversially by plane, to try and spin the occasion. Unfortunately a simple seat belt error has put him into deeper waters. I try to envisage the site but think I am on the wrong side of the Stone Jetty. The Midland Hotel will be close by and benefit from the investment as I am sure the rest of Morecambe will. Shame about the present rail non-station. Wouldn’t it have been great if they could have reused the Victorian Station and have visitors arriving in style. Car parking will become a problem.
Change of plan, the other side of the Lune.
West End of Morecambe.
Will I ever see it like this?
I’ve a splitting headache developing and go in search of painkillers. I’ve had problems since my blackout and injury a few weeks ago and don’t feel with it. Morrisons Petrol outlet serves me well. I enjoy another tasty cheese and onion slice from Kennedy’s bakery in the Festival Market. A combination of Brufen and pastry get me going again. But the pain gets worse and worse on the right side of my scalp. Glad to be back at the car, bike packed into the boot , I cancel my planned visit to Sir Hugh, fasten my seat belt and head home. It is only then that I realise since removing my cycle helmet that the pain has gone. Must have been localised pressure on my skull all along. Numbskull!
“The sea ran mountains high, and the breaking water was fearful”. Coxswain William Clarkson Lytham, Lytham Lifeboat Charles Biggs.
The tracks and lanes are still icy up here in Longridge. I want to get out on my bike, so opt for the hopefully snow free and safer Fylde Coast, there have been more than enough ‘accidents’ in my posts of late.
Has everybody had the same idea? The roadside car parks are all full and a mass of mainly dog walkers throng the promenade. And bracing is the word that comes to mind. The bracing was in the arctic breeze from the south, and it was in a southerly direction that I started. It will be easier on the return is once more my reasoning.
I’m always focused when pursuing a mission, and I’m on a mission today. I’ve been reading about the wreck of the sailing ship Mexico on the sands of the Ribble Estuary on the 9th December 1886. Worth a read here.
Basically the Mexico out of Liverpool became stranded on Ainsdale sands in a violent storm. Lifeboats from Southport, Lytham and St. Annes were launched. Those from Southport, Eliza Fernley, and St. Annes, Laura Janet. were both wrecked in the storm with the loss of 27 local men, (2 had survived from the Southport boat) . The Lytham boat, Charles Biggs, however rescued the 12 crew of the Mexico and rowed them to safety. An heroic effort but the single biggest loss of life in the whole history of the RNLI.
There are a series of related monuments and memorials scattered around the Ribble Estuary towns, Lytham, St. Annes and Southport. I’m only concerned with the first two today. Despite all my cycling exploits on this stretch of coast I have previously been unaware of this important history. How often must we go about with our eyes closed?
First up is probably the most prominent, the St Annes lifeboat monument, depicting a lifeboatman, on the South Promenade, It is almost hidden behind walls in the ornamental St. Annes Promenade Park, next to the public conveniences, no wonder I’ve passed it by in the past. A William Birnie Rhind designed it in 1887. A colossal statue carved in sandstone with the names of the 13 lost from the St. Annes lifeboat, Laura Janet, The attached notice encapsulates the story.
Up a main road, and I was at St. Annes Parish Church. Commissioned by Lady Clifton in the early 1870s, one of Paley and Austin’s, and named in memory of her aunt who was called Anne. (the Clifton family from Lytham Hall were prominent in the area for centuries) It was built as a chapel of ease to the then parish church of St Cuthbert in Lytham. Here are buried five from the Laura Janet boat. It is heartening that the Laura Janet Memorial has had a recent refurbishment funded by the local Civic Society. I found it in a forest of elaborate memorials, a sandstone Celtic Cross inscribed with the names of the men. The Church, Lychgate and Memorial are all grade II listed. Notice the pebble detail in the walls, a common architectural feature in St. Annes and Lytham.
Winding back through side streets I find the original St. Annes Lifeboat House, on East Bank Road, now a funeral parlour but with a blue plaque to commemorate the disaster, and an unusual weather vane. It seems odd that this boathouse was so far inland whilst the new one is on the shore.
After a pleasant cycle down the promenade I was at the site of the original Lytham Lifeboat House on the edge of the estuary. In the summer months it is open as a museum to the lifeboatmen. It was from here that on that fateful day in 1886 that the Lytham boat, Charles Biggs, rescued the 12 crew members of the Mexico.
On the marsh shore are a couple of anchors caught up in a trawl net by a fishing boat in the 1980s. The larger one is of the type lost from the Mexico. The other dates back to the late C18th used by warships from the time of Admiral Nelson.
Time to find the memorial in the graveyard of St. Cuthbert’s Church a few blocks inland. From the promenade I made my way through Lowther Park (more of that another time). The church dating from 1835 stands alongside a busy road, but the graveyard is peace and quiet. The Laura JanetMemorial was easy to spot, being the tallest around. A Gothic pinnacled tabernacle. Plaques told of the crew and where they are buried.
Whilst I was hereabouts I discovered the Witch Wood – but again I will leave that for another time. All that remained was to cycle back up the promenade, thankfully with the wind behind me, to where I had parked on North Promenade.
The RNLI is a charity saving lives at sea and deserving our support. How much of the infrastructure of Britain now relies on dedicated volunteers and funding raised by the public?
THE CREW OF THE ST. ANNES LIFEBOAT LAURA JANET.
William Johnson, 35 (Coxswain)
Charles Tims, 43 (2nd Coxswain)
Oliver Hodson, 39 (Bowman)
James Bonney, 21
Nicholas Parkinson, 22
Richard Fisher, 45
James Johnson, 45
John P Wignall 22
Reuben Tims, 30
Thomas Parkinson 28,
Thomas Bonney, 35
James Dobson, 23
James Harrison, 19
THE CREW OF THE SOUTHPORT LIFEBOAT ELIZA FERNLEY.
Charles Hodge (Coxswain)
Ralph Peters (2nd Coxswain)
The Southport crew have their own memorial and burials in Southport across those treacherous sands. Next time I visit there I will be on the lookout.
1. St. Annes Lifeboat Monument. 2. Laura Janet Memorial, St. Annes Church. 3. Old St. Annes Lifeboat House. 4. Old Lytham Lifeboat House. 5. Laura Janet Memorial, St. Cuthbert’s Church. W. Witch Wood.
Not all my outings go to plan. Is it the bang to my head that has affected my judgement?
Despite the forecast for rain most of the day my judgement was to get some exercise anyhow and hope the skies would clear. Some hope. I set off cycling from the usual Halton on Lune parking. Full waterproofs from the word go. The only respite was when I could shelter from the worst downpours under the many bridges in Lancaster. There weren’t many people about and once out of the city there was suspiciously nobody coming the other way on the usually busy cycle track. After a mile or so there was flooding across the path, my judgement told me it wouldn’t be very deep. Only after about 50 yards as the water came well above my bottom bracket ( a cycling term not connected to my anatomy) and my feet were soaked did I stop to ponder. Would it become deeper, what if I fall off into the icy water, and do I have to return the same way? That ditch on my left looked awfully deep. Yes I did the only sensible thing and turned gingerly round. Glasson, its coffee and pastries, can wait for another day.
End of the line.
I tried to rescue the day by cycling another way on the northern side of the Lune through Skerton to Halton. I was unimpressed. Even the ride out to the Crook of Lune lacked enthusiasm, though the river at the Halton weir was in good form, (header photo) I suspect that the flood I encountered was due to the heavy rain combined with a high tide.
I called it a day and went for a welcome coffee and biscuits with Sir Hugh in Arnside, thank you. The sun was shining when I set off for home.
I can’t believe it but on a cold winter’s morning I get mixed up again with a half-marathon run along the cycleway from Halton into Lancaster. Back in the summer I was in the mixt of a larger run, and it proved frustrating on the narrow paths.
So today I took an early opportunity to seek escape up the ramp onto the Lancaster Canal Aqueduct, over the Lune and into quiet countryside. Only the odd dog walkers were met before I disembarked onto the promenade leading around the Bay to Morecambe.
The Lakeland hills were in greyness, but there was an attractive brightness over towards Arnside Knott and Grange on the far side of the Kent estuary. The tide was well out with a lot more sand exposed than I’ve seen before. Wading birds followed the water’s edge but too far away to identify with the naked eye. I couldn’t work out if the scenes with the exposed sands appeared better or gloomier than usual, certainly they were in Winter mode.
The few promenaders with their dogs were well wrapped up in the cold weather. I was soon into town and past Eric’s statue. I was on a mission to have a closer look at the Winter Gardens building, temptingly described in one of Eunice’s recent posts.
Alas, it was all closed up as she had warned us, but I was hoping the café would be operating, but no. I was tempted by Brucciani’s next door, but I had no bike lock. I certainly wasn’t tempted by the noisy amusement arcade on the other side. Adversely this seemed to be the busiest place of the few open on the prom.
I was now wheeling by cycle along the pavements. The old station with its impressive frontage was next. Peeping inside there was a rather lacklustre Xmas fayre in progress. The room was presumably the old spacious waiting hall, in its heyday this station would have been extremely busy bringing tourists to the heart of Morecambe. ‘Bradford-by-the-Sea’. The new station is a bleak platform in an industrial waste – so much for thoughtful planning.
I wandered around the corner to the Festival Market, busier than the station, selling all things cheap and cheerfully. I knew a café inside where I could safely sit with my bike and watch the world go by. Most of the world in here seems to be obese, a sad reflection on deprived Northern areas? Levelling up is never going to catchup (brought up in PMQ today). The Eden project, if the government gives their share of finances, (brought up in PMQ today) would certainly help Morecambe to throw off its undeserved downtrodden reputation. It could have a lot to offer.
I was aware of that reputation as I cycled a particularly dingy rubbish strewn route out of town. There have been knife attacks here recently, and I have often observed druggy characters in the shadows. Nobody is immune from the social deprivations in our modern society. One can’t blame the immigrants, legal or otherwise for everything. We have too much home-grown crime already. There was an interesting article on Byline Times this week on how it felt to be an Albanian in the UK at the moment. I have tried to be objective, I like Morecambe, but there is an underbelly of seediness in the winter air.
Needless to say I was soon into Lancaster, over the Millennium Bridge and racing back to Halton passing the finish line of the half-marathon on the way. It felt good to be out on the bike again.
We are on the cusp, one day distinctly chilly the next balmy sunshine. I’m confused, already having titled posts the ‘End of Summer’ and ‘Autumn Calling’. But Summer is putting up a good fight with Autumn this year. Today was certainly on the side of Summer.
The bike is in the back of the car so why not go up to the Lune Valley, yet again you may say, but I do discover a few more gems.
Halton old station. Alas, the tea van is no longer here, probably finished for the season, hopefully she will return next year with that life giving coffee. The slipway is busy with university oarsmen and women out on the river for morning training. The old Station is now the center for the boat crews from the University.
I pedal a short distance to the magnificent Lune Aqueduct carrying the Lancaster Canal over the river. A steep ramp takes me up to it, and immediately I’m in a different environment. Interpretation boards detail the history of the aqueduct. Find it on Google. There is a metal plaque commemorating the building of the aqueduct, designed in collaboration between Central Lancaster High School and the artist, Rachel Midgley which I hadn’t spotted before. All the hustle and bustle below has disappeared, and I’m off along the towpath into quiet Lancashire countryside. A few miles of riding to where I know there is a link to the Coastal Bay Way.
I’ve not done this ride in this direction before despite scores in the opposite way. It all looks different, and it gives me different perspectives of the canal and then of the Bay. I should have looked behind me on previous trips. The views across the bay to the Midland Hotel and pier and the distant Lakeland Hills are always quality.
Bracing is the term for Morecambe promenade today. There are white horses in the bay. But the sun is shining and the wind, though fresh, not a great hindrance to cycling. Hardy souls, mostly elderly and well wrapped, are out with their dogs.
I take a trip down the old stone jetty with its Cormorant motifs, but decide against a coffee there as the café is in the shade. Fortuitously I have come at the right tide as the Tidal Bell is tolling its mournful note. I have not heard this before. See here for more information.
Past the Midland yet again without visiting! Heading inland I venture into the wonders of the covered Festival Market and amidst the varied stalls, full of cost of living bargains, I find a bakery – time for my favourite – a cheese and onion slice. This one was top class, hence I will give them a plug.
I pedalled back to Lancaster, not in the panic mode of last time when I feared I had lost my phone and money. Over the Millennium Bridge and back to Halton. A lone canoeist is braving his way through the centre of town.
To lengthen the ride and enjoy the weather I continued to the Crook of Lune where the river does a U turn spanned by the two bridges of the old railway. Here is the lovely view up the Lune towards Hornby Castle and Ingleborough, immortalised by Turner who painted the scene from higher up.
I’m home early in time for a bit of bouldering up at Craig Y Longridge whilst the sun was keeping the rock warm. An invigorating day amongst those of lassitude and hospital appointments.
Lastly here is one more statue installation on the Bay that took my eye, I’ve not noticed before, and I can’t find anything about it.
I wouldn’t normally dream of coming to Blackpool on a Bank Holiday Monday. Perhaps Sir Hugh’s recent mouth watering post on ‘fish and chips’ has subliminally decided for me.
There is very little traffic on the motorway, and I am able to park easily at Lytham which means I can start my ride in the opposite direction compared to my choosing the more usual plentiful parking at Fleetwood. I don’t actually reach Fleetwood today, content to turn around at Cleveleys to give a round trip of 30 miles.
There is always a breeze on the coast, and today it was north-westerly, meaning I cycled into it for the first part. No matter how gentle the wind is if you are facing it on a bike you are slowed down. Maybe I should shave my legs and beard to reduce wind resistance. The advantage was on the return leg when I sailed along at a much faster pace.
I didn’t expect really to feast on fish and chips today as I knew the cafés would be closed along with everything else. The Golden Mile – no blaring pop music, no loud bingo calls, no flashing lights to entice you into some dive or other, no ‘Kiss me quick’ hats. No ice cream and definitely no fish and chips. Not a queue in sight. The promenade was virtually empty of people, making cycling a lot less hazardous. Although it is amazing how much space a couple with dogs on long leads can occupy on a wide shared way. I remember a phrase my parents used if they came across an empty or quiet situation where bustle was normally expected. “Someone must have died”
Of course this Bank Holiday wasn’t on my calendar in the first place. Someone must have died.
As I returned to Lytham more people were promenading and visiting the beach (the tide has been out all day) Families enjoying the late summer sunshine. Even the occasional ice cream appeared. You can’t watch TV all day.
[I stop to pick some Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) stems, not to eat though all parts of the plant are edible, but to collect some seeds. I would dearly love to have this bright yellow late flowering plant popping up in my borders as others die away. Once or more likely if, I have germinated some they should self perpetuate. Easy gardening.]
Tomorrow all will be back to normal, and we can start worrying about the state of our Great Britain under a new King and Parliament.
It is that sort of day; no wind, sun shining, rural Lancashire, the bike cruising effortlessly, no traffic, virtually no sounds. What more could you want. I’m on a linear canal ride where time has stood still, almost a parallel universe. The canal takes you along without you realising where you are in relation to familiar roads and settlements. I could be in Rotterdam or anywhere – sorry that is a link to a recent post. But I meet people, interesting people in this parallel universe.
At the start I chat to an elderly cyclist who is setting off on his electric bike admitting it is heavy, and you can’t pedal it if the battery dies on you. He suggests that if you are over eighty then this is for you – well I have a few years of proper pedalling ahead of me. He speeds off and I never catch up.
There was the lady by the swans, they are here every year she says, using the canal towpath as a route to and from her shops. How lucky she is and I think she knew. There were seven cygnets, all strengthening their wings ready for a first flight, enchanting.
I pass, incognito, through Lancaster City at times elevated above the streets and housing. I have a picture in my mind of what would happen if the banks broke. That must be linked to my childhood stories of the little Dutch guy with his thumb in the leaking dam. Lots of the converted canal warehouses are now student accommodations, how lucky are they. There are some iconic canal features along here where the horses could cross from one side of the towpath to the other side without unhitching. I’ll leave that to your imagination.