Thursday, May 09, 2013

Walk 321 -- Blackpool to Lytham St Anne's

Ages:  Colin was 71 years and 1 day.  Rosemary was 68 years and 143 days.
Weather:  Wet, windy and cold.
Location:  Blackpool to Lytham St Anne’s.
Distance:  13 miles.
Total distance:  3292 miles.
Terrain:  Nearly all concrete.  Flat.
Tide:  In, then going out.
Rivers: None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  No.29, Blackpool North Pier.  No.30, Blackpool Central Pier.  No.31, Blackpool South Pier.  No.32, St Anne’s Pier.  We didn’t walk on any of them because the weather was too wet and windy!
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  ‘Pump & Truncheon’ in Blackpool where Colin drank Clarks ‘Classic Blonde’ and I drank Jennings ‘Nuture Lakelander Ale’.  ‘Taps’ in Lytham St Anne’s where Colin drank Aldgates ‘All Black’ and 3 Castles ‘Wilder but Milder’ and I drank Aspall’s Suffolk Cider.
‘English Heritage’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  No.9 on Blackpool Central Pier — but it was not running because of the bad weather.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  Yesterday we towed our caravan from home to Blackpool.  We set up, but were unable to erect the awning because, once again, it was too windy.  This morning we drove to Lytham St Anne’s where we parked the car at the far end of the town.  We caught a bus to Blackpool Tower, and then a tram to Norbreck where we gave up on the last Walk.
At the end we drove back to the caravan site.

The weather and Colin’s incontinence dominated this Walk.  It was so windy we were quite unable to put up our caravan awning when we arrived at the Blackpool South site yesterday, despite the fact that it is situated nearly three miles inland.  The rain fell in sheets all of today, so we took very few photos even though it was quite a long Walk.  It is difficult to believe that only three days ago the whole country was enjoying a heatwave — we obviously came the wrong week!  Colin always fares badly in wet weather, the rain seems to set him off.  The lack of public toilets in Blackpool is an absolute disgrace!
We donned our wet-weather gear as soon as we got off the tram at Norbreck, and we never took it off.  The wind was in our faces as we began to walk, it was quite strong but not quite as bad as it was in April.  The rain made it seem worse though.  The tide was in, and the sea was so rough it was splashing up and over the prom in places.  There was no beach.  We kept to the cliff side of the prom, but it afforded little shelter.  However, we were determined not to give up again!
Colin needed a toilet, and we couldn’t find one.  We were down at the bottom of the cliffs and the toilets were at the top in the wind.  We didn’t know where to go up because there were no notices down there telling us where the toilets were at the top.  We guessed there may be one at “The Cabin”, a cliff lift, so we climbed up the steep paths in hope and found one.  Relief!  And “Hooray!” for our Radar keys because it was a paying one.
We sat in a tram-stop shelter to eat our pasties because we didn’t find any seafront shelters anywhere.  We think we were at the northern extent of the famous illuminations — which we missed last autumn because we didn’t get there in time due to me putting my back out.
We went back down to the lower level, and trudged along feeling much better now that we were fed and toileted!
We came to North Pier.  We decided, before we got there, that we were not going to walk on it because of the weather, but much to our surprise a lot of people were!  The wind was quite strong and the rain unrelenting — it must have been slippery and dangerous out there.  We walked inside to the far end of the shore-end building and looked through the door at those foolish people, but that was as far as we were going.  Colin decided to use the toilets in the amusement arcade ‘in case’ but they were out of order and locked, so he couldn’t.
We walked on past Blackpool’s famous Tower to Central Pier with its Ferris Wheel.  No hope of that running today with the wind.  We walked up the side of the building, but soon came to a notice telling us the pier was closed.  We turned round, and in the shelter of the building we took a photo of the tower, and some lamp-posts which reminded us of triffids!  We tried to find toilets in the amusement arcade of this pier, but they were also locked, and with no explanation.
Also, in the shelter of the Central Pier shore building we came across a plaque devoted to the famous TV puppet, Sooty.  I didn’t think much of him, even as a child, and could never make out why people raved about him.  He couldn’t talk, and always seemed to be hitting people over the head.  I much preferred Muffin the Mule and Andy Pandy — at least they sang songs.  My favourite, though, was Hank, a tiny cartoon cowboy who always outsmarted his huge and evil opponent, Mexican Pete.  I think the BBC must have lost all those films because they never put them on nostalgia shows.  I’d love to see them again.
We passed a number of pavement slabs with the names of famous people along with some of their jokes/sayings.  Colin was reminiscing about the shows he used to attend as a child when holidaying in Blackpool.  (His great-aunt ran a seafront hotel, she was one of the Blackpool landladies.)  He saw people like Arthur Askey, Tommy Trinder and the like — he really was a very lucky child!
It was getting towards time to stop for sandwiches, but there were no seafront shelters as Colin remembered them when he was young.  I said we would have to use one of the tram-stop shelters again — though vastly inadequate, that was all there was.  The weather was really foul, BUT Colin was now desperate to change his incontinence pad because we hadn’t been able to find a toilet for a couple of hours.  He didn’t feel he could sit down until he had changed it, he was really very uncomfortable.  We thought every building we came to must be a public toilet, looking through the rain, wind and gloom.  But none of them were!  We even crossed the tramlines and road to check out a building, but it was no-go.
We came to South Pier, which was mainly blocked off with building works and cranes.  A notice told us a bar down the pier was open, but we couldn’t get past the building stuff so we didn’t think it was.  No toilets, and it was still raining and blowing fit to bust.  We saw a building further on which looked hopeful, but it turned out to be an electricity sub-station.  Rain — wind — rain — wind.  On past the Pleasure Beach.  Colin, quite desperate now, asked if there would be toilets in the entrance he could use, but only if we paid £6 each to enter the Pleasure Beach!  Rain — wind — rain — wind. 
I suggested we caught a tram back to Central Pier where we knew there was a ‘real ale’ pub (with toilets) where we could have a drink and a toastie, use the toilets (by now I wanted one too), dry out and get warm.  Then we could catch a tram back to where we were, and continue our Walk.  So that is what we did, Colin standing on the tram because he daren’t sit down — fortunately we could use our free bus passes.
It was still raining and blowing fit to bust as we got off the tram.  The pub had good beer but no food.  So we ate our own sarnies indoors — the landlord was OK about this because he wasn’t selling food today.  Half an hour later and much more comfortable, we discovered that it had actually stopped raining when we came out of the pub.  We caught a tram back to Burlington Gate and resumed our Walk from the exact spot where we had left it earlier.  It started raining again as we stepped off the tram!  So we trudged along in the wind and rain to Starr Gate, where both the trams and the prom come to an end.
We decided against walking along the sands next to the dunes — which would have been lovely on a fine sunny day — because the sand would blow in our faces.  We yomped along next to constant traffic which was noisy, but at least we had a pavement.
We were surprised to see dozens of snails on the sand next to us, I think they were revelling in the wet weather which was making our lives a misery.  On the opposite side of the road were a number of derelict holiday chalets with broken windows and boarded up doors.  They were terraced, sixties-style square boxes, and people don’t want that type of cheap and cheerful holiday accommodation anymore, they are much more discerning these days.
We passed a nature reserve and more dunes — it was still raining and blowing fit to bust.  We tried a grassy path next to us in the dunes — but it soon turned into loose sand and was overgrown with bushes so we returned to the pavement.  We tried again later, and managed to cut off a corner.  At the start of some houses we went out to the beach.  We crossed over dry blowing sand on to wet sand, but the wind was so strong we couldn’t walk against it.  So we retreated to the buildings, crossed a car park and returned to the road.
After about a hundred yards we turned right on to a quieter road called ‘The Promenade’.  We walked through some gardens, then came to St Anne’s Pier, our fourth pier of the day.  It looked like a nice covered pier, but we couldn’t walk on it because it was about to close.  It was only 3.30 in the afternoon, but the weather was so bad it felt like the depths of winter.  Nobody was about (except us) and I think the local businesses had given up.  Everything was closed.  The pier has a detached end, just like Bognor used to have when we first moved there in 1968.  But at least the main part of the pier looked as if it had been restored.  It was a shame we couldn’t walk on it.
We came to some toilets at last.  Unlike Blackpool, Lytham St Anne’s is well furnished with public toilets — but they were all paying ones.  Hooray for our Radar keys!  We stood in the lee of the wall to eat our chocolate.  There was a slight break in the rain for the next bit of our Walk, but no let-up in the wind.  We walked through lovely gardens — we really liked Lytham St Anne’s which neither of us had visited before.  Pity about the weather.
Somehow we got diverted out to the ‘promenade’ road again, we didn’t know quite how this happened.  Then the rain came on even more intensely than before, and the wind remained just as strong.  We battled on until we came to a car park.  We should have explored the further end of it for a more coastal path, but we could hardly see through the rain.  So we carried straight on, which led us down into some gardens.  As a result, we found ourselves walking the ‘wrong’ side of a small lake on which the water was quite choppy.  We found a shelter at the far end, so stood in there to take a photo of this small artificial lake.  Unlike Blackpool seafront, Lytham St Anne’s is well furnished with shelters.
The rain stopped again momentarily, but soon came on with a vengeance as we proceeded.  The wind never let up.  We followed a cyclepath along the seafront with a wide greensward to our left, which reminded me of Littlehampton which I knew so well as a child.  We passed a rather ornate restored windmill, then everything came to an end and we were out on the road again.
We’d both had enough by then and were only too glad to walk along the pavement the last quarter of a mile.  At least we knew we couldn’t go wrong, and the buildings (mostly offices) we passed afforded us a little shelter from that dreadful wind.  We soon came to our car, parked in the entrance to a track.

That ended Walk no.321, we shall pick up Walk no.322 at the entrance to a track to the east of Lytham St Anne’s.   It was five past seven, so the Walk had taken us seven hours, fifty minutes.  We drove straight back to our caravan so we could change into dry clothes and warm up before we had our tea & biscuits.
Neither of us have any desire to visit Blackpool again in our lives!  It was not just the weather, which we believe is not unusual on this coast.  It was the fact that the Tower is now an expensive theme park — you can’t just pay a small fee to go up the tower.  The Pleasure Beach is also a theme park, and would have cost us £6 each just to get inside and look around, all rides being extra to that.  You used to be able to wander round free and at will if you only wanted to look.  The Fun House, where Colin spent many a happy hour as a child, was burned down some years back — and we can’t get it out of our minds that this wasn’t some kind of insurance scam.  Then there was the lack of shelters and toilets along the miles of seafront which led to a very uncomfortable visit.  Yes, we are both very disillusioned with the town.  It’s tatty and unwelcoming.  Now that Colin has no relatives living there, (his last cousin, Barbara, died on Christmas Day 2001) we probably will never go there again.  But we’d like to discover Lytham St Anne’s in more clement weather — that was a completely different kind of place.

No comments: