Back in Warton, I walk along a narrow path beside a ditch to regain the Lancashire Coastal Way. Through a gate I can see where the footpath ended yesterday. It’s only 50 yards away and, despite the crudely painted ‘PRIVATE’ signs on the gate, I can see others have ignored the warnings and simply walked straight across the gap.
I’m hoping today will be easier than yesterday, and I get off to a good start. The Lancashire Coastal Way follows the sea wall. (Well, it’s a marsh bank really, as the sea has retreated.) A beautiful day and a very pleasant walk.
To my right are farmer’s fields, where a herd of cows are lazing in the sunshine. I think they must be dairy cattle, as they have giant udders. But their ribs are showing and they lie as if exhausted. For a moment, I forget my fear of cows and feel sorry for them. Nothing but milk-producing machines. Poor things.
Ahead is a muddy river with moorings for sailing boats. Lytham Dock.
I cross the bridge over the river and walk up the opposite bank. Now I’m fenced in, with the marina on one side and an industrial site on the other. The notice saying ‘Danger Spiked Fence’ seems unnecessary – but this area seems to have a passion of sticking up notices, no matter how superfluous!
I try to take a shortcut across a piece of barren land, only to be thwarted by an impenetrable thicket of… uh-oh, Japanese Knotweed.
Continuing along the bank I realise I’m following another little river. Ahead is a modern housing estate. I hope the planning authority has insisted the developers create a riverside walk…
… except they haven’t. Or maybe they have? I cut through a children’s playground to investigate.
(A sign beside the children’s playground warns me this is NOT a play area. Confusing?! I think they mean you’re not allowed to play on the grass. How ridiculous.)
There is, indeed, a secret walkway along the river. It doesn’t last long, and I find myself in an industrial estate. I follow the road, hoping I can get through to the shore…
… but I can’t and have to turn back. I follow another road past a gated residential estate (I hate gated estates. Who would want to live in a place where the residents seem so scared of other people they want to keep them out?)
Beside the wall of the gated estate I find a sign for the ‘Lytham Coastal Estuary’. It warns me of sudden drops, incoming tides, deep water and strong currents. And I must not swim. What it doesn’t tell me is whether this is a public footpath or not, but I assume it is.
So many signs, and so little real information!
Anyway, I turn right and walk through a nice area of parkland, overlooked by some rather grand houses.
The river disappears into the marshland and, as I come over the brow of a low hill, I see a windmill ahead. That must be Lytham St Anne’s. Looks very attractive.
I follow the path as it winds across the edge of the marsh, towards the windmill. The building in front of the mill is a lifeboat station. (Rather confusingly, I discover another lifeboat station a little further along. This little place has two of them.)
I meet dog walkers and strollers. The marsh peters out and I’m pleased to walk close to the water’s edge again. There are boats drawn up on the shingle…
… and out to sea is a lone sailing ship. And plenty of birds. Grass pokes up through the water – the marsh hasn’t disappeared after all. It’s just hidden by the high tide.
The distant shoreline must be the Hesketh Marshes. I can remember walking there and looking across to the houses of Lytham St Anne’s.
Next to the boats on the shore is a motley collection of old tractors. I don’t know anything about tractors, but I do like them. They make great photographic subjects, the rustier the better. And these are certainly rusty!
Now I join a long stretch of tarmac promenade. Plenty of people about. Mothers with push chairs, old people in mobility scooters, cyclists, joggers, dog owners, and some speedy walkers. I’m overtaken by an elderly lady, older than me, who is marching vigorously. In fact, I’m overtaken by just about everything and everyone.
Ahead the curving bay is called Granny’s Bay, according to my map.
Beyond Granny’s Bay I see people in the water. They seem a long way out, but are only up to their ankles in water.
On my right is boating lake. Fairhaven Lake. I stop and buy a cold drink from an ice cream stall, valiantly resisting the temptation to have an ice cream. (Yes, I’m on another diet!)
On my right, the sea recedes and the marsh is back.
I leave the promenade and follow a wide track along the shore. It’s sandy, giving the illusion of a beach, although the water is miles away. A couple of children – tired of walking to find the sea – sit down on the path and begin to make sand castles.
But I do, eventually, reach a proper beach. And there’s the pier.
Everyone is congregated around the promenade, which has a strip of rather fine beach huts. But where’s the sea?
It’s miles away, across acres of gleaming sand. Some brave holiday makers are walking out in search of the water… must be at least a mile away. Maybe more.
It’s a fine August day and everybody is in a holiday mood, making the most of the sand despite the absence of the sea.
Near the pier are the donkeys. One rather solemn little girl is having a ride on her own, clinging on tightly. Two ’empty’ donkeys keep her company.
I walk on, past the pier, along the vast expanse of sand, and leave the promenade behind.
I’m tempted to head towards the water, but it seems a long way away… and there are diggers at work… so I stick close to the line of dunes at the top of the beach.
And, slowly, I swing around the curve of the shoreline. Now I can see Blackpool ahead. There’s the big dipper – the Big One – poking up above the dunes.
Yellow dumper trucks have been rumbling along the beach, throwing up sheets of sand from beneath their huge wheels. They seem to be carrying sand from the diggers working near the sea, and dumping it close to the dunes.
I wonder what they’re doing? Protecting the dunes? Or simply dredging a channel further out along the shore? I never do find out.
Onwards. The seafront of Blackpool is drawing nearer.
Blackpool. I’ve heard so much about it, but I’ve never visited the place. Looking forward to seeing what it’s like, but I’m worried it might be too loud, too brash and too tacky for my tastes. I’m about to find out.
[To be continued…]