I’ve reached the southern end of Blackpool. Well, I hadn’t expected so much empty sand! Where’s the sea?
The wall of Blackpool promenade is high, a massive stretch of concrete. It looks like the Great Wall of China, or a prison wall without the barbed wire. Or like the wall of a giant dam. In fact, the wall is pretty unfriendly looking, and the sand in front is empty of people. Again, it’s not what I expected.
The wall does have a certain architectural bleakness that is quite attractive, but not on a human scale.
I stay far out on the sands, away from The Wall, and walk northwards until my progress is interrupted by a wide stream of water. It’s deep and I don’t feel like wading.
So I turn inwards towards the forbidding wall. And discover a problem with the beach. Between the sand and the foot of the wall is a stream, quite a fast-flowing stream. And the sand on its bank is more like mud than sand, while on the other side is a strip of sharp stones and slimy seaweed.
I find a place where I can jump across the stream and make my way up a flight of concrete steps set into The Wall. At the top a chain is fixed across the steps – with another ‘Danger, Keep Out’ sign! Too late. Well, I’m ‘out’ now.
The promenade is surprisingly empty, considering it’s mid August, a nice day, and the height of the summer season. Again, not what I was expecting.
To my right is a road and beyond a strip of hotels and houses. I notice a fair proportion of the properties are in a dilapidated state. The Palm Beach Hotel, for example, is boarded up and burned out.
More boarded up buildings follow, interspersed with functioning hotels and B&B houses. And quite a few have been converted into nursing or residential homes.
But there are plenty of interesting things to see along the promenade.
For example, there is a wind shelter with an impressive swivelling seat, designed to rotate when the wind blows so that the visitor is always on the leeward side of the shelter. I have no idea if it works.
While the view ahead is dominated by the roller coaster – the one I could see from miles away along the beach.
As I get nearer, I realise how truly enormous the coaster is. I can hear the rumble as the cars climb the steep slope, and the screams as the riders plummet over the crest and down.
Looks terrifying. When I was younger I would have loved to go on such a ride. Now I feel sick just watching it!
There are a number of art works and installations along the promenade.
Perhaps the saddest thing I see is the clear evidence of theft of one of the art pieces. Two plinths stand close to each other. One holds a rider (a circus performer?) standing on a horse. The other one… well, it’s disappeared. The metal statue has been cut off.
I sit down on a bench and have a drink and a snack. And watch the roller coaster rolling. It comes as something of a surprise to see the signs and realised THIS is Blackpool Pleasure Beach. It’s a theme park. Silly me. I always imagined it was an actual beach.
Onwards. Ahead is South Pier. (Blackpool is greedy. It has three piers!) A sloping path gives access to the beach, but yet again a strip of water makes getting onto the sand somewhat difficult to navigate unless you don’t mind getting your feet wet.
So I stick to the promenade and continue walking towards the pier. I do love piers. They are usually somewhat faded and full of character. This one is in better condition than most, but still has some shabby points.
Beyond the pier… ah, here is where all the action is. The promenade is crowded and the beach is busy. Clearly, this is the heart of Blackpool and I’m reassured to see the buzz of visitors. I’ve walked through a great many sad and deserted seaside resorts on my coastal walk, and I’m pleased to see Blackpool is still thriving.
Ahead is the second pier (prosaically called Central Pier) and in the distance is Blackpool Tower.
The stretch of beach from here northwards – from South Pier, past Central Pier, and up to North Pier – is called The Golden Mile. (Actually, it’s a little longer than a mile, but who’s measuring?)
The rest of Blackpool will have to wait until tomorrow. It’s time to stop walking for the day, but first I pop into a nearby Wetherspoon’s for a quick drink. My daughters are horrified I love these pubs, but they are cheap, serve food all day and every day, and are perfect stopping places for a tired walker.
Then it’s time to backtrack and find my hotel, situated near the far end of South Beach. Next to my hotel is a care home with an intriguing name. Feng Shui House.
Does that mean it’s arranged internally along Feng Shui lines? I would like to take a look, but don’t feel cheeky enough to go inside.
Miles walked today = 11 miles
Total distance around coast = 2,698 miles
From the safety of your armchair, you can take a ride on The Big One: via YouTube