Tag Archives: The Fylde

FLAG WAVING IN BLACKPOOL.

 

 

I was confused by the rash of Bank Holidays and Jubilee Festivities and found myself in the midst of Blackpool’s celebrational party, and they know how to party here. The crowds were too thick to cycle through safely, I was returning from Lytham to Fleetwood on the promenade. This was my first time out on the bike since my collision here which resulted in torn knee ligaments. I was being extra careful. 

I had accomplished my mission to visit the Mussel Tank which I’ve passed so many times without realising it was there, thanks to Shazza for highlighting it. There is some purpose to blogging after all. The tanks, built in 1934, were used for cleaning the mussels harvested from the muddy Ribble Estuary. By the mid 1950s the beds closed down, mainly  because of changes in the Ribble channel affecting restocking. There were three tanks. A cleansing tank now the RNLI, a chlorination tank now the Ribble Cruising Club and the storage tank now the Mussel Tank which has been given a face lift as an open space for public enjoyment. There are interpretation plaques about the mussel trade, an art wall displaying ceramic tiles portraying local features produced by students at Lytham Sixth Form College. There’s also a large-scale mussel sculpture by a Martyn Bednarczuk which I thought resembled a smiling dolphin rather than a mussel.

 

One of the original tanks. Lytham St Annes Civic Society

I was glad to see that they had restored the sails on the iconic windmill.

Nearby was an installation by Tom Dagnall reflecting on the diversity of the SSSI Ribble Estuary.

It was time for an excellent coffee break in St. Annes.

There seemed to be an awful lot of people on the prom in the vicinity of the tower. I just assumed Jubilee celebrations but as I cycled on there were more and more camera clutching folk by the tram line.

I stopped to enquire and was informed of a parade of trams from the past. Nothing seemed to be happening, so I cycled on keeping to the higher way alongside the tramline. Eventually the parade arrived. A motley collection of Blackpool trams and an exquisite turn of the century Bolton tram. There was a lot of flag waving from the passengers, they must have thought me a misery. The photos may mean something to someone.

I made it back in one piece, quite pleased with the 30 odd miles I’d cycled.

THE FYLDE AGAIN.

I’m back again, this time on my cycle. There is a place I want to visit in Lytham, the historic mussel tanks, which were highlighted by shazza in a recent post. I knew nothing of them before. To make a day of it, I decided to park at Fleetwood and cycle down to Lytham and back along the promenades. Parking is easy in Fleetwood and the wind was coming from the south, so I would have it behind me on the return leg. Things didn’t go to plan.

I’ve not been on my bike for weeks due to problems too personal to mention.

I pedalled out of Fleetwood and immediately found the headwind stronger than I was expecting.  Never mind, head down and push harder.

The tide was going out and in these northern reaches I virtually had the promenade to myself. I’ve ridden this stretch several times, so I didn’t stop for photography, I only had my phone. (I have included a couple of the concrete murals at Cleveleys) One has to keep one’s wits about one as there are several layers of promenade and the drop-offs are not always obvious. Dog walkers are the major hazard with those long leads, but I share the space happily and patiently. Blackpool Tower came into view halfway to Lytham. The prom became busier with out-of-season visitors, although Blackpool looks even seedier in the winter months, when many businesses are boarded up. The fun starts at Easter.

Onwards past the Golden Mile and the Pleasure Beach’s empty rides. I cycled around the end of the tram terminus and found the way was discontinued. I was looking for a way through when I came into conversation with a lady resting on a bench. She warned me that the route into St. Annes was under major roadworks and the cycle way was closed. I could have found a way along the road, but she insisted it was unpleasant with heavy traffic. I didn’t need much persuading to turn around and have the wind behind me for a while.

What a difference, instead of struggling along trying to keep up 10mph, I was flying along effortlessly at 15+ mph. Maybe that was my downfall. As I approached South Pier, a large workers’ van was parked across the prom and as I swerved around it, I met at speed another cyclist swerving towards me. Next thing, I was over the handlebars, feeling shaken and a little foolish. His front wheel took the brunt of the collision and looked worse for wear. Introductions over, we sorted his bike, a ‘racing machine’ which was no match for my  ‘mountain bike’. All was well as we chatted about common causes, and then we pedalled off in opposite directions. Not the meeting I wanted.

I was soon back into Fleetwood and was glad to stop off at Dave’s Café  for toasted teacake and coffee. Then I was loading my bike back into the car for the return journey home. Mission unaccomplished, but a welcome diversion in the sunshine from all our present  problems.

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – A lazy Sunday Wyre Walk.

Sunday and I take the easy way out again as lunchtime comes around. I pick another walk from Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone Lancashire guide. Not wishing to drive far, I find a low level circuit from Great Eccleston in the Fylde. It turns out to be one of the flattest routes in the county, with only a few feet of ascent on the return leg. It was good to get this rural walk out of the way before the cattle are put out into the fields.

My plan when I revisited this book was to maybe do one walk a week as an incentive to get me walking farther, but somehow I’m up to number four in just over a week. So far I’m impressed with Mark’s style, he has chosen well, and his directions have been spot on – suitable for the casual walker. Today’s walk was complicated in places, and yet I didn’t put a foot wrong.

I find a place to park in the main street only to see it is an electric charging point. Having moved the car I walk out of the village past the old pinfold, on across the main road and down a well-used, dog walkers mostly, path to the river Wyre. Here is a fairly unique private toll bridge next to the Cartford Inn. The ‘cart – ford’ prior to the original C18th bridge. In the grounds of the inn are modern staycation ‘pods’. I recognise these from a walk I found for myself last winter, or was it the one before – the pandemic seems to have confused my recall.

Easy walking along the riverbank to a footbridge where I crossed to the road near the extensive and impressive, possibly haunted, grounds of White Hall. I often wonder who owns these multi-million pound properties – Russian oligarchs?

Using farm tracks, I joined The Wyre Way, linking farms in this flat rural landscape. This is the way I should have come on my disastrous attempt on this section when I almost drowned and then lost my map, leaving me with no alternative but to follow the road.

The guidebook said, “head for the grain silo” and it was correct, the silo stood out across the field, one of the tallest I have seen.  In the distance were the Bleasdale fells,  everywhere else was flat,  a strange landscape for one accustomed to the hills.

Turnover Hall was next. There were duck ponds with piles of grain to fatten the birds before they are shot. The Hall is surrounded by hundreds of caravans, whether for sale or in storage I couldn’t make out.  Oh, and just for good  measure, the obligatory junk waiting  to be recycled.

I rejoin the Wyre embankment and walk into St. Michael’s, arriving at the road bridge near the chocolate box cottages and the Medieval church across the way.

You know I like an interesting church when I see one, this one is Grade I listed. It is thought a church existed here, near a safe river crossing, from 640AD. The Domesday book mentions a church on the same site. The present structure dates from the C15th. When you enter the church, the most obvious and unusual sound is the loud ticking of a clock, the giant pendulum hanging on one side of the tower. There are two naves and a northern Chapel. This Butler chapel has older Medieval stained-glass fragments, seemingly randomly incorporated into the windows. In the same window is a C16th Flemish sheep shearing scene. In the west wall is a striking modern window depicting the parable of the ‘sower’. Outside is a ‘Norman’ door and an ancient mounting stone. In the graveyard are  three unusually shaped graves,  these are the ‘Soldiers Stones’ dating from 1643 when a Spanish ship was wrecked on the Wyre estuary and thought to be for Spanish sailors. 

 

Time to move on, and I take a lane heading towards a large modern house. Whoever built it had visions of grandeur now biting the dust, the house being an empty shell.     

The rest of the afternoon I follow drainage dykes across the landscape, eventually to rejoin the Wyre for the last time before re-entering Great Eccleston.  The two bulls face each other across the high-street, with a period Austin7 on show.                                               

  That’s quite a lot for a lazy Sunday walk in this quiet corner of west Lancashire.

*****  

A RURAL RIDE TO FIND A WITCH.

It was cold on the hands today.

Somewhere I have a book detailing interesting graves in Lancashire, Who Lies Beneath?  I can’t find it at the moment. But I remember visiting Woodplumpton a couple of years ago when I was taking my late friend with advanced Alzheimer Disease for a ride out and a lunch in the splendid Wheatsheaf Inn. After lunch of fish and chips, her favourite, we crossed the road to have a look at St. Anne’s Church. I always wanted to return to search for a curiosity in the graveyard. On a ride some weeks ago, the road to Woodplumpton was closed due to the substantial work on Preston’s Western Relief road. I intended to make amends today and cycle in from a different direction.

I’d come through Inglewhite, Bilsborrow and Cuddy Hill.  After the motorway and A6 it is all fairly flat with a maze of lanes, many seemingly going nowhere. A sort of no man’s land between the motorway and the Fylde. I crossed the Lancaster Canal a couple of times and passed the Plough At Eaves, a pub we used to visit when working in Preston, but that was years ago. The pub is one of the oldest in Lancashire, dating back to 1625. In former times it was variously known as the Plough at Cuddy Hill, the Cuddy Pub and more unusually the Cheadle Plough Inn. It has recently been refurbished, so I wonder what they have done to the cosy inside.

Once in the straggling village of Woodplumpton, I ignored The Wheatsheaf and headed straight to the Medieval church on the other side of the road. Outside the church’s Lychgate were the ancient stocks and mounting block. I found the squat sandstone church open, it was a Sunday, and was impressed with the stained-glass. Those well known Lancaster architects Austin and Paley were responsible for renovations at the beginning of the C20th.

But my main search was outside in the churchyard for the burial place of an alleged witch, a local 17th-century woman named Meg Shelton, also known as the Singleton Witch or the Fylde Hag.

According to legend, she was feared by the local community and tales grew up of her changing shape and form to steal food and create mischief. She died in 1705, crushed between a barrel and a wall. Apparently it was thought that she miraculously escaped from two graves and was then buried head first in a narrow slot, a boulder placed on top of her to prevent further escape. The disturbance of the first two graves could have been caused by vandalism towards her.

I soon found the boulder in the rows of conventional headstones. It was about a metre across and looked a hefty barrier even for a witch. A little brass plaque identified it and there were remains of some flowers placed alongside. I found it strange that she had been buried in consecrated ground, though there was a rumour that she was a mistress to the local lord, who might have arranged her burial.

She died a century after the infamous Pendle Witches, but her kind were still feared by the community. Did she practice the dark arts, using herbal remedies and so-called spells?  Thus earning herself a reputation and being blamed for calamities in the general run of life by the more suspicious locals. Had she been mentally ill, frightening others and becoming marginalised? Or was she just the area’s criminal?  It would be hoped that people’s illnesses or differences would not be victimised in the same manner four centuries later. Perhaps that bunch of flowers shows some understanding.

Whatever the truth in Woodplumpton, there was certainly a bewitching sunset back in Longridge.

KNOTT END AT LAST.

I didn’t have time to cross from Fleetwood on the ferry to Knott End last week, so today I’m cycling there from Garstang on hopefully quiet lanes. I was last at Knott  End in March 2019  when I walked along the shore to Pilling, that was just before lockdown, and as I remarked in the comments “I didn’t hug anybody”. There has been a lot of water under the bridges since then, but Covid still worries me with our high infectivity rates and deaths.

The lanes I choose were indeed very quiet, with only the occasional agricultural vehicle. I was supposed to be on a National Cycle route 5 or 7, but there was never a sign. Pedalling along in my own world until I reached Pilling, a spaced out village with no discernable centre. I pondered at the naming of the Elletson Arms and Smokehouse. I wasn’t sure if it was still trading, the Golden Ball around the corner certainly wasn’t.

I took the lane past Fluke Hall onto the sea wall, where I hoped to be able to continue to Knott End. A wide coastal vista opened up with views across the bay to Black Coombe and the inevitable Morecambe Power Stations. Somewhere in the sands, the Lune empties into the bay. I could see figures out there, and then I focused on quad bikes coming ashore. They were cocklers, intrepid scavengers of the bay. Some arrived looking muddy and weathered, they  weren’t the friendliest of people but explained how they rammed the sands and raked up the cockles. They had many kilograms of cockles to be cooked and exported through Europe.

I was able to cycle ‘illegally’ along the raised sea wall all the way into Knott End. Out there on the sands, as the tide came in, were hundreds of wading birds.

I couldn’t resist a drink in the café, which turned out to be a mini lunch, you get hungry cycling.

The ferry was running across to Fleetwood, but I kept to the tortuous lanes past Stalmine on this side. On my header photo the two lighthouses can be seen over there. I missed a junction near Out Rawcliffe and ended up at the Cartford Toll Bridge. I saved 20p by continuing on the north side of the Wyre. Eventually I came through Nateby back to my starting point by the Lancaster canal.

*****

ONWARDS TO FLEETWOOD.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, I was parking up near Blackpool Hospital. I’d missed the silence and the bugle calls. Let’s remember the dead, but not glorify the war. And let’s not make a commercial event out of the date.

I was here to continue cycling up the coastal promenade to Fleetwood that I had started last week.

I was soon back on the front under the tower. Mid-week is much quieter on the promenade, in fact there are very few people about. Those that are seemed to be left over from the night before.

  Off I pedal on the promenade northwards on multi layered promenades, some crumbling Victorian and others modern curving sea defences. The tide is out but coming in fast for the fishermen already setting up their stalls for an afternoon’s pastime. Past fading Norbreck Castle, lots of my photos show fading grandeurs on this stretch of coast.

On past Rossall School, past the drunken coast guards and onto the Fleetwood esplanade with its reminders of past disasters to the local fishing community. Fleetwood has two working lighthouses on shore. There is a third, now defunct, way out in the Wyre Channel. When they are lined up, a ship is on course to enter the River Wyre and the port of Fleetwood, when it was a port with a large trawler fleet. I’d intended catching the ferry across to Knott End, but the winter timetable was against me. I wasn’t prepared to wait an hour.

.

North Pier.

  I’d also had intended riding back on local roads, but looking at the speeding traffic, I decided to just retrace my route on the promenade. That involved cycling into a headwind, but I was feeling fit and was soon back at the tower landmark.

Another successful ride.

A RIDE TO THE SEASIDE.

  To reach places farther afield, I put my bike in the car and drive to Wrea Green for a cycle ride on the Fylde. For several years I have used the website bikehike  for planning walks using their OS mapping and measuring devices. The OS map was my main tool for walking and I ignored the other road map which I now realise highlights cycling routes from the National Cycle Network. The clue was in the site’s name. These routes try to use quiet lanes as well as some off-road sections. I find many roads frightening for cyclists, so keeping clear of heavy traffic is important for relaxed cycling. Out of interest for years  I have supported the charity Sustrans which has been instrumental in establishing these routes with mapping and signage. All those squiggles on the map come up with plenty of ideas for my present modest cycling trips.

  It rained most of the morning but was forecast to clear by lunchtime. I pedalled out of Wrea Green on the NCW90 but found it busy with traffic travelling fast and too close to me, so I was pleased when I turned off onto a minor narrow lane, the 62 signed to Lytham. This is the Fylde, flat fields and long vistas. Blue skies were pushing the grey clouds away. Ominously, the ditches on either side of the lane were full of water, and it didn’t take long before I came around a corner to be faced with a flooded road. I let a car go first and then pedalled through the 3 inches of water without getting my feet wet.

  My arrival on the coast at Lytham coincided with a sudden heavy storm coming from nowhere. I squeezed into a shelter where two bird watchers were sheltering. Fortunately we got on fine and were still chatting away when I realised the rain had eased and it was time to continue. The iconic windmill on the green was looking rather sorry with some recent storm damage to its sails. Compare the picture of the mill with the one I took in 2017 whilst walking this stretch.

Whilst I was trying to photograph it, and yet keep my camera dry at the same time, a stunning double rainbow appeared across the front.

Pot of gold?

The storm passed as quickly as it had come and my attention was drawn to the views across the bay to Southport and beyond.  Parbold Hill and Ashurst Beacon seemed to compete with Winter Hill for prominence. The tide was out but I didn’t have binoculars to identify all the wading birds on the edge.  The promenade has been improved over the years and now provides a wide passage for pedestrians and cyclists. Only on a short stretch after St. Anne’s pier did I have to cycle on the road to bypass the extensive sand dunes. Once past the tram stop at Squire’s Gate the promenade is even more extensive with several ways and levels. This is where the FUN begins, and It started to become busier as Blackpool’s attractions loomed up.

St Anne’s genteel pier.

 I weaved my way through the crowds and turned away from the prom just before the Tower to negotiate side streets of guest houses and flats. Police cars were flying around and there was an edgy feeling. The seedier side of Blackpool and I know, having worked here in the past.  All was green again through Stanley Park and on past the Zoo. This was a branch of the 62 cycleway and wandered around fields on the edge of town. I was brought up short at this stretch of flooded path. How deep was it? I found out as I slowly pedalled deeper and deeper, with the water well above my bottom bracket. There was no stopping and I emerged thankfully 50 yards farther on with very wet feet.  After I had reached a road at Staining the 62 rejoined the NCW 90 and it was all easy riding back to Wrea Green before the next band of rain blew in. My new bike computer said 24 miles, but you can’t always trust your computer.

Staining Mill

Wrea Green.

*****

OUT WEST – QUIET LANES TO KIRKHAM

I had noticed a sign off the Guild Wheel pointing to Kirkham, so today I set off to investigate. Everything is new around here. Holly Close, Bartle Meadows, Deer View, Waterside. etc. etc. I’m always intrigued by the names the developers come up with to try and create a feel for rural living while at the same time destroying the countryside alluded to.

I decided to park in Broughton to create a circular route using parts of cycle ways 62 and 90 out to Kirkham and back. Setting off on the familiar Guild Wheel I was confident of not getting lost in the maze of Cottam. A fisherman was sitting by the little pool somewhere in the complex, he was chatty and content to be out in the lovely sunny Autumn weather. As I pedalled off I pondered on the thought of retiring from vigorous exercise and taking up the rod. I soon came to the sign pointing to Kirkham. It didn’t lead me down a leafy track but along a new avenue, Cottam Way.

Along the way were a series of ‘sculptures’ which didn’t have any obvious relevance to their surroundings and for which I can find no information. There were two stone cairns, some stone heads and brick arches either side of the road. Anyone any ideas? There was also a cross which was inscribed with the relevant information.

The parish council has this to say about it…

Thomas Harrison Myres (1842-1926) was an English railway architect who designed stations and ancillary buildings, he and his wife had various residences including one at Cottam. Thomas was greatly interested in the restoration of road side crosses and succeeded in restoring sixteen throughout Lancashire. After his death, a fitting monument was erected to him and his wife Catherine at nearby Lea bearing the inscription.

“To the glory of God and in the memory of the pioneer of the restoration of roadside crosses, Thomas Harrison Myres of Lea Lodge and Catherine Mary his wife. The base of this cross originally stood 20yds from this spot and was removed here and dedicated July 28th 1929”.

The parish council also notes…

“ a sad event of 25th March 1952 when a test flight of a Canberra Mark2 was being made between Salmesbury and Warton by 29 year old Thomas Evans a very experienced and highly rated pilot. The aircraft was observed flying fast and low over north Preston when it suddenly went into a steep dive and hit the ground in what was at that time open farmland. The pilot was tragically killed, but no other casualties resulted”.

At the end of Cottam Way I had my first brush with the developments for Preston’s Western Distributor road which is being built to provide a link from the M55 to all the new housing on this side of Preston.

Cycles were allowed down Sidgreaves Lane. The Quaker Bridge carries the lane over the Lancaster Canal, for which the engineer John Rennie was responsible for in the 1790s. As was so often the railway followed close to the canals and the next larger bridge took me over the rails to Blackpool. The new road crosses here, I took the underpass and escaped into Lea a rather nondescript place.

Under the new road.

I cycled alongside the Springfields site still producing nuclear fuels. On the corner was an C18th windmill {now a pub} — a different source of power.

Another windmill was passed on the way into Kirkham, this one converted to living accommodation. Windmills were very common at one time in the windy Fylde. Kirkham has a long history from Roman times and developed as a weaving town from the 1600s using flax and then cotton. Today it is a bustling shopping venue with lots of independent businesses. Lowry painted Church Street on more than one occasion. I found the Queen Victoria’s Jubilee lamp and the fish slabs in the cobbled marketplace.

I wasn’t convinced as to the authenticity of the police phone box. St Michael’s Church looked resplendent in the Autumn sunshine, There was a hidden cycleway out of town, passing a simple art installation reflecting the town’s market status and the flax weaving trade. Back onto the open roads, I made good time through Treales and onto Bartle Hall where my route to Woodplumpton was closed completely by the Western Distributor works. I ended up back in Cottam on the Guild Wheel to Broughton.

Is this the last green space in the area, I hope it has protected status?

*****

THE FYLDE AROUND GREAT ECCLESTON.

Wednesday 2nd December.  6.5 miles.  Great Eccleston.

Great Eccleston is a village in the Fylde, that often gloomy and flat area of Lancashire not known for its walking. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book so has ancestry. It is known locally for its traditional shops, good pubs, a weekly market and its annual agricultural show which incorporates tractor pulling competitions, a niche motor sport. I parked up at noon on a sunny day, one needs the bright sun on these featureless landscapes. There was a bit of a market in the main street. I noticed one of the pubs has closed. There is an old pinfold down the street.

I left by Leckonby House, named after a wealthy local who bankrupted himself and ended up In Lancaster Prison. There was a C18th dovecote strangely isolated in the next field.

The St. Annes church at Copp was a prominent landmark up the road. It was established here in 1723 halfway between Gt. Eccleston and Elswick as a chapel of ease for St. Michaels. Nearby is a local primary school and opposite the old schoolhouse. It seems odd that the school is so isolated but I suppose it followed the church originally.

Elswick down the road is another small village on the road to Blackpool famous for its ice cream parlour. Also tucked next to the United Reformed church is an old chapel with a date stone of 1671 when this area was a centre for Nonconformity. The chapel is rather plain and has a house built onto it, it is now used as a hall for the adjacent church.

It was time to take to the boggy fields just as a hail storm blew through giving rainbows over the distant Bowland Fells.

Another stretch of lanes led towards drainage and flood defences. Here I got tangled up in barbed wire fences obstructing the right of way, later contacting the local authority they already knew of the problem. Surely the fencing contractors should be made aware of the need for stiles in the appropriate places. At last, I was on the embankment and following the Wyre downstream, a popular route for dog walkers. Walking around the loop was fast and easy which was needed as the sun was beginning to set. I had time to look at the Cartford toll bridge and the adjacent pub which has been modernised since I used to drink here 40 years ago. More rainbows appeared with the passing showers.

Being back here reminded me of a rather disastrous day walking the start of the Wyre Way.

The lights were on when I arrived back in Great Eccleston’s marketplace.

*****

THE WYRE WAY – ROUND THE HORN AND UP THE CREEK.

“Do you think we should abort?”  was Sir Hugh’s opening gambit when we met to walk the remaining section of The Wyre Way. I must admit the morning was foul with mist and rain.  Fleetwood looked bleak. No-one was patronising the promenade snack kiosks. Somehow the sight of the familiar statues greeting the imaginary returning fishermen, they would have endured far worse than us, galvanised me into action.  “Lets just set off and see” was my usual optimistic response. Within 100 yds the rain had stopped and there was a glimpse of brightness, the rest of the day was warm and almost sunny.

When I was walking The Wyre Way a couple of years ago I deemed I had completed the length of the river without this curious add on loop in the Fylde but when Sir Hugh suggested it I couldn’t miss out and risk shame. So here we were striding along the prom.What did we see? We saw the sea. But not at close quarters as the tide was out revealing vast mysterious sand banks. The famous distant views to the Lakeland Hills was denied us today. Leaving the Victorian esplanade area, with its two lighthouses and prominent North Euston Hotel, we wandered past run down beach huts, a yachting pond and on to a leaning coastwatch station. This latter was completed in 2012 and is of startling construction. The promenade/sea wall was closed further on for major works so we used a higher path adjacent to the golf course. In the distance Blackpool Tower.Turning inland we passed Rossall School and followed a few streets to meet up with the Wyre again. Good paths took us between the muddy river and the ICI [now AkzoNobel] plant, still functioning but greatly diminished. A car park appeared along with a multitude of dogwalkers. A fascinating area of boat jetties came next and led into Skipool Creek a centre for sailing but today with the tide still low everywhere looked distinctly muddy. There was a fascinating dereliction to the place, a  mixture of allotment and scrap metal.

Echoes of ICI.

Echoes of ICI.

A final section across low lying muddy fields, which would be flooded at high tide in an hour or so, brought Shard Bridge into view. I remember the old metal toll bridge from my time working in Blackpool when an evening’s drive for a pint in the pub seemed to be crossing into another world. Today the pub is unrecognisable in its reincarnation as a Hotel/Restaurant. I peeped over the terrace to view the ‘path’ I had tried to follow at high tide a couple of years ago. Even today it looked uninviting.The thin winters light was upon us as we reflected on a day well spent.

THE WYRE WAY. A QUIET INTERLUDE, ST. MICHAEL’S – SCORTON.

Dull and misty this morning, so I was in no rush to get out. Enjoyed a lazy breakfast with one of my sons who is staying over. He intended a  cycle ride over Longridge Fell and round the local lanes, I didn’t feel I could keep up with him so I set off for more of the Wyre Way.

This time I had a decent scaled map showing the route and I was determined not to proceed without a WW sign. Things went well out of St. Michael’s on a good path by the River, well-used by dog walkers. For some reason the signs soon had me back on the main road for a noisy stretch, motorbikes ++, before rejoining the river bank. Surely a better way could be negotiated nearer the river. Himalayan Balsam has taken over on the river banks on this stretch. I was glad I hadn’t stripped down to shorts yet as the path vegetation was quite aggressive, though at one point near Land House farm someone had done a good stretch of strimming, thank you. The village of Churchtown provided  a pleasant diversion with its church and old houses. Between here and Garstang I felt I was in ‘no man’s land’, quiet country lanes and field paths either side of the A6. Glad to see one farmer clearing up the usual junk into at least one pile. Nothing much moved, not even the gigantic wind turbine at the cheese factory which is a prominent sight whilst driving the A6 north of Preston.  The way creeps up on Garstang and you suddenly find yourself on the Lancaster Canal by a small basin. Here there is a tempting pub, on this hot day, unfortunately on the wrong side of the water. The Wyre is rejoined by climbing down steps from the canal  at an interesting Aqueduct. Soon, one is in Garstang’s [advertised as the World’s first free trade town??] main street. A small diversion would take you round the interesting parts of this attractive market town, but as I have done precisely that many times I took the early turn off to the riverside path again. This path is a favourite of the residents and visitors alike, and today was busy with families enjoying the weather. Ice creams were being consumed, a cricket match was in progress, kids were in the shallow waters and lots of dogs were being exercised. As one leaves the town a newish flood barrier has been developed. To prevent flooding further downstream in Churchtown and St. Michael’s, this can be closed and the excess water fills the flood plain above. On a day like today this area is open fields with pedestrian access providing good leisure facilities and a sculpture trail. The Wyre is by now reduced to stream size. The railway and M6 are crossed quickly ….….and then leaving the river, an old cobbled path leads through woods to the outskirts of Forton with its prominent Church Steeple. I was last here a few weeks ago whilst climbing Nicky Nook to Dolphinholme and returning by the WW – http://bowlandclimber.com/2014/05/31/nicky-nook-and-wyre-way/

ON THE WATERFRONT – THE WYRE WAY, KNOTT END TO ST. MICHAEL’S.

This turned out to be a bad day for myself,  whom I took to be an experienced walker. No one else has that assumption. Having become interested in the Wyre Way, which I had encountered further up near its source I ‘planned’ a few days walking its 41 miles. Today I intended to explore upstream from the river mouth at Knott End/Fleetwood. Buses were taken from St. Michaels via Poulton to deliver me at Knott End on a beautiful sunny day. What better relaxing way to start the day than with tea and toasted teacakes in Knott End Cafe. This building was originally part of the station at the end of the Garstang-Knott End Line and has many interesting old related photos on the walls. Eventually I set off as the ferry was coming across the Wyre from Fleetwood with the Lakeland Hills in the background.

Knott End Ferry.

I had hit upon low tide and as this exposes lots of mudbanks the river did not look at it’s best. Flocks of waders were feeding at the edges, mainly Dunlins and Oyster Catchers I thought.  Crossing a golf course I arrived in seaside bungalow suburbia which I found difficult to navigate out of. No signs for the WW which I thought would be in abundance,  I only had with me the old 1:50000 map and I had not marked on it the line of the route.   Big mistake no.1.  Soon I was out into the fields on a good path which eventually deposited me off route in Preesall on the main road I had just travelled.  No problem I connected via paths back to the coast and onto the sea ‘wall’ A minor Burrows Lane, never met a car, was followed to the yacht mooring’s at Wardley’s Pool.

Mud births at Wardley’s.

From here I had a run-in with another holiday park which I felt lucky to escape from to the river again. The path now seemed to follow the marshy waters edge towards the new Shard Bridge. Sea-lavender was very profuse and colourful on this stretch. After all my delays the day was passing and the tide was coming in once more – had never given that a thought.  Big mistake no. 2.   Reached the Shard Bridge pub with dry feet just! The last time I was here there was still the old toll bridge and it always seemed a bit of an adventure to visit this pub. Was glad to find they were serving Bowland Brewery ‘Hen Harrier’ on draught so I relaxed over a pint in the sunshine on their patio overlooking the river. The route was signed straight from the pub along the water’s edge and  I stepped straight onto the, by now waterlogged, path.  Big mistake no. 3.

Things became quickly worse as the tide rose further and I was fighting my way through sea grasses in a foot of water. By now there was no sign of a path and survival became uppermost on my mind [but strangely not to turn back]. When my floundering in the water became dangerous/comical I managed with difficulty to scale the brier and nettle covered embankment and threw myself across the barbed wire fence into the sanctuary of the higher field. Trespassing along the first field boundary was no problem but having yet again climbed over barbed wire I now found myself in a head high maize crop – jungle warfare. This repeated itself for many a field with only crop rotation providing easy or difficult progress. Nothing fit on my map [without field boundaries] and the afternoon became hot and sticky. Salvation seemed to be close as I reached a recognisable farm on the marsh edge. Stopping to ask for advice I was immediately attacked by two overgrown  ‘pit bulls’, a mastiff and the usual terrier. The farmer came to my rescue, of course saying they wouldn’t bite me. We ended up having a pleasant chat about the area, the river and the fact that the tides had been at their highest. He reassured me that as now the tide was retreating there would be no problem following the path through the marshes. So on I went, now with the occasional WW waymark there had been none before as I was mostly off route. Stopping to check my position I realised I had lost my fairly useless map but I thought I could manage without it now the going was easier with occasional way markings.   Big mistake no. 4.   The walking across the marsh was indeed easier for awhile. Jellyfish were a common sight either high and dry or isolated in saltwater pools. Before long the path became overgrown and I was once again fighting through reeds, tripping over and generally lacerating my legs and pride. The occasional tantalising waymark drew me into worse territory. It was with relief that I staggered onto a road. By now my sodden boots and socks seemed to have dried out! The lack of a map meant I couldn’t pick up any WW footpaths and none were signed so I trudged along the riverside lanes. The last mile I was able to take to the river defences for a pleasant walk into St. Michael’s,  the river now contained between the fields.

I finished battered and bruised at the bridge over the Wyre next to the church and close to the Grapes Inn where I enjoyed a Timothy Taylor  ‘Landlord’ as payment for my parking all day in their carpark.

Cottages and pub St. Michaels.

I’m sure I made even more mistakes than highlighted above but the day has turned out to be quite an adventure and once I’ve bought another better map I will continue on the Wyre Way.  One bonus of today I have not mentioned were excellent views of the Bowland Hills across the Fylde. It is in these hills River Wyre originates and where I will be heading towards next.

As a postscript, I do have to comment that the route is not well waymarked and apparently little walked.