5495 miles already walked

‘Resorting’ to Lancashire

As the country continued its Brexit deliberations, my last day in Cumbria proved to be extremely grey, muddy, wet and miserable. I’d trudged up and around the long Kent estuary and neither side provided any memorable views of Milnthorpe Sands – just a wet skyline merging into acres of grey mud and sand.

Crossing into Lancashire brought further and equally bleak views.  On the cliffs above Bolton-le-Sands I stumbled across the Praying Shell sculpture overlooking the place where at least 21 illegal Chinese immigrants lost their lives to an incoming tide in 2004. Perhaps it was the dreadful weather, but I found this spot very depressing and was glad to move on.

By now I’d joined the Lancashire Coastal Way, a 66-mile route that incorporates three large rivers: the Lune, Wyre and Ribble. Of these, two had to be walked – the Lune to Lancaster and the Ribble to Preston.  Thankfully at its sea mouth, the Wyre provided me with a convenient ferry from Knott End-on-Sea across to Fleetwood.

Before beginning my river journeys I headed into Morecambe.  I don’t think I’d ever been so wet, so there was a certain irony in seeing the wonderfully life-like Eric Morecambe statue, which  reminded me of the duo’s song ‘Bring me Sunshine’.  Why was it that Morecambe’s classic railway posters all depicted perpetual sunshine? It wasn’t true that day. I huddled in a bus shelter, trying to make my flask balance on a tilting seat as I ate soggy sandwiches.

I’d first seen the unmistakable shape of Heysham’s vast nuclear power station when at Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria.  The station is a distinctive coastal landmark and on the day I walked past it, I thought it would never disappear from view.  Whilst walking through one of Lancashire’s many static caravan parks it seemed to tower above everything. 

I’ve been surprised to find how low-lying and flat Lancashire is.  More than once I’ve thought myself back in Essex (thank goodness I’m not!) because grassy sea banks and concrete walls are also regular sights in Lancashire. Recent heavy rainfalls have made many of the fields and huge wetland areas extremely waterlogged, slowing my progress considerably.  In addition, strong winds have created very high tides causing the coffee coloured sea to churn in even further over the mud flats and marshy areas. 

On another day I saw the tide speed working in reverse at Sunderland Point’s tidal road.  The small community there is at the mercy of tides and winds, spending many hours cut off from neighbouring villages.  I arrived when its tidal road and road markers were both completely submerged.  Sitting on a wall I watched the tide race outwards, wondering if I’d know when it was safe to set off.  Suddenly cars came into view ‘wading’ along the road with water either side of them. It was quite simply ‘the parting of the waves’. Heaving my rucksack on, I began my walk into the watery desert towards Overton and onwards to Lancaster.

Glasson, with its canal basin and marina, came after I’d walked down from Lancaster. That night it again blew 60mph winds, making me wonder if I’d be able to stand next morning.  Luckily the winds had eased but the rain hadn’t.  Next day on my rain-lashed walk I came across a big notice that read: “No Trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again”. I decided that I wouldn’t mind if someone took a pot-shot at me; I was past caring.  My soggy map began to disintegrate and my over-trousers weren’t waterproof anymore! 

Suddenly things changed.

I left Fleetwood in very strong winds accompanied by bright sunshine.  Anglers were out in force, strung out along a beach being pounded by thundering breakers. Glancing up into a curiously designed leaning Watchtower, I could see its watchkeeper regularly scanning the shoreline and sea walls for people in trouble.  Simultaneously, squinting into the sun I could see Blackpool’s famous tower teasing me as I walked along Fleetwood’s promenade, past Rossall Point, through Cleveleys, on to Bispham and then to Blackpool’s North Shore.

There followed a string of Blackpool’s famous sights: its three piers, trams, sea shelters, the Tower, rock shops, the Pleasure Beach with its amusement park and the more recent addition of the ‘Comedy Carpet’ by the Tower.  Created by artist Gordon Young, this incredible work of art features over 850 writers and comedians and uses over 160,000 granite letters set into a paved area.  It contains numerous jokes and catchphrases made famous by British comedians through the ages.  I could have spent all afternoon reading and chuckling at the words beneath my feet!

My Wet Week ended on a sunny note when I met up with some former Wrens from the Lytham St Anne’s Group.  Stopping in a local hotel, we enjoyed coffee and biscuits with them before I headed off again into sunshine.  Their generous donations to the Victory Walk pot have been complemented by other help received this week from Morecambe’s Royal Naval Association, the local Royal British Legion, and Sea Cadet units at Fleetwood, Blackpool and Preston.  This has lifted my morale during a tough week of weather. 

Crossing into Wales before Christmas is still in my sights!

See Photo Album No 58 – Resorting to Lancashire