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Orrell Park to Fleetwood: 80.14 Miles.

Orrell Park to Fleetwood

16th -20th September 2020: 5 days.

Introduction

Introduction

Kym and I finished the North Wales/Merseyside jaunt in February at the inauspicious Orrell Park station, on account of flooding between it and Aintree station, where I had planned to finish. The intervening seven months had brought enormous disruption in the form of the worldwide Covid19 pandemic. Holiday plans were made and broken. Everything changed.

I spent time rethinking the next legs of my walk. I had planned to follow the Trans Pennine Trail, which I had cycled previously, to Southport. Instead, I plotted a route that ran along the coast and hoped that it wouldn’t be too crowded or built up.

The Journey

The Journey

We packed the car on 15th September and collected the caravan from storage before driving to Martin Donley’s ‘Certificated Location’ at Pinfold, Scarisbrick, near Southport. We found it ok and pitched up but found that the number plate had fallen off the back of the ‘van once again! I drove to Southport to pick up tickets that I had bought on the Trainline app. There was no ticket machine at the station and the staff there exploded with rage at ‘yet another’ case in which someone had been sold tickets by Trainline in their full knowledge that they couldn’t be collected from anywhere remotely close to there.

We drove around Southport, intending to park up and have a stroll, but it started raining so we bought supplies and headed back for dinner and to make lunch for tomorrow.

Day 62

16th September 2020 – Orrell Park to Freshfields: 13.9 miles

I slept well despite the fearsome traffic noise and woke to a very misty morning. We drove to Freshfields station, bought new tickets and took the yellow Merseyrail train to Sandhills. We changed at Sandhills for Orrell Park where we alighted.

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The 'off', Orrell Park

The walk started through what would once have been imposing, but which were now run down, suburbs. We passed Orrell’s large cemetery and lots of derelict land before reaching the busy A5036. Crossing under the main road we took the towpath of the Leeds-Liverpool canal. It was quite grotty but the wildlife battled the litter and there were a few interesting canal side properties.

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Leeds - Liverpool Canal, Litherland

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Responsible dog owners, Litherland

We passed through the fairly overgrown Primrose Valley Country Park and across the A565 at an old stone Gas Company building. We then passed Seaforth Container Terminal on the left. Several interesting information boards told us about the old wireless station and an enormous mural depicting the history of Liverpool on the side of an adjacent warehouse.

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The History of Liverpool, Seaforth

We walked along the banks of the Marine Lake, which was bounded on one side by fine merchant’s houses and the other by large sand dunes.

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Marine Lake, Crosby

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At the end of the lake we crossed the dunes onto Crosby Beach and the Anthony Gormley ‘Another Place’ statues.

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'Another Place', Crosby Beach

These are always stunning and didn’t disappoint as we walked down the beach watching a number of car ferries and other ships leave and enter Liverpool docks.

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We called at the Brighton le Sands leisure centre hoping to get a coffee but it was shut. We made do with a toilet stop in the ‘portaloo village’ in the adjacent car park. The views back across Crosby Beach to Seaforth Docks and the City of Liverpool were stunning in the light morning haze.

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Crosby Beach, Seaforth & Liverpool

We stopped for a sit on a bench at Blundellsands and as we walked on, became intrigued by the enormous amount of bricks and masonry that littered the foreshore. We got chatting to a chap on another bench who explained that this was rubble from WWII bomb damage in Liverpool. It had been brought out here on barges to clear the city and also to prevent coastal erosion. Much of what we could now see had been uncovered by the waves in a fierce storm a few years ago. Knowing that, we kept an eye out and saw lots of really interesting bits and pieces, including an old fireplace: still intact.

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Liverpool bomb damage, Blundellsands

The esplanade gave way to a rougher path with smaller trails along the crumbling edges. We tried to get ahead of a chap leaf blowing on the West Lancashire Golf Club, just inland of where we were and found a nice spot where we sat and ate our sandwiches.

Pressing on, we elected to continue on the path by the sea rather than heading into Hightown Village. We were rewarded by a really interesting stretch of coastline, culminating at the beautiful mudflats where the River Alt meandered into the sea at Formby Bank.

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River Alt with Formby Point in background

We sat for a while at Hightown Sailing Club then fortuitously chose to stay by the sea again and found a very pretty secluded beach with great views of the many birds that had settled on the mudflats.

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Formby Bank Mudflats

A local couple told us all about how people get into serious difficulties trying to cross the Alt Estuary from Formby. They waxed lyrical about the great birdlife and beautiful sunsets they could see from their house. We then met a second couple who, having stumbled on this beach some years ago, often came to sit and relax in the dunes.

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The beach gave way to a path, which we followed up the river to a short stretch of road. This took us to a path that followed the MOD firing range. It was a long and boring stretch beside the Liverpool to Southport railway line. At the end of the track we crossed the River Alt and turned to the west but missed the path I had planned to take out to Cabin Hill Nature Reserve. Instead we followed the public footpath into the Formby suburbs and then the paths through the dunes and forest across the National Trust land.

Keeping an eye open for red squirrels, but seeing only a carving of one, we trudged wearily along the paths we had walked back in March, just as lockdown was about to start.

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Red squirrel spotting

We took a well earned rest on a bench set high on a sandy knoll and I ate my second sandwich. We then headed across to the National Trust car park, hoping to buy an ice cream but there was only a van, so we passed on (where does he go to the loo when standing in there all day?) and headed down Victoria Road. IT had the feel of Bowdon: lots of tasteless house redevelopments dwarfing the fine, old style, properties.

We were getting a little too familiar, we thought, with the Formby suburban streets, which seemed all to be very long. It was with relief, therefore, that we arrived back at Freshfields station and found the car hadn’t been ticketed. We drove back to the caravan, stopping for a well earned beer at a nice canal-side pub: The Saracen’s Head. On arrival back at the ‘van, Kym asked me to check if the water heater was on. I mistook the water pump switch, which was on, for the water heater switch, which was not and said “Yes”. It was only when Kym had covered her hair in shampoo that she squealed as the last of the tepid water finished and she was forced to wash herself in freezing cold water…ooops!

Day 63

17th September 2020 – Freshfields to Tarleton: 19.1 miles

After watching a beautiful sunrise through the back window of the ‘van we breakfasted then drove to Burscough Bridge.

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Sunrise, Scarisbrick

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From there we caught the Northern Rail train across fertile farmland and through local stations, festooned with flowers, to Southport. I had to buy tickets at Southport so we just missed the first train to Freshfields. There was only a fifteen minute wait for the next one. The train from Burscough Bridge had shown us the west-east distance we had to travel on the second half of today’s walk: the train to Freshfields further worried us as the south-north distance was even further!

Alighting at Freshfields we crossed the tracks then crossed back again to take the path on the eastern side of the line. Passing pleasant houses on the right and golfers on Formby Golf Course beyond the tracks on our left, we came to the pedestrian crossing of the railway line. It was then a pleasant walk on a well made path across the golf course and into stands of tall Corsican pines. At one point Kym saw a red squirrel but scared it away by shouting to me to let me know what she’d seen. We didn’t see the squirrel again despite scouring the tree tops for a further ten minutes.

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Red Squirrel drey, Ainsdale

We passed several people walking, jogging and cycling the excellent track that ran along the edge of Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve. We caught glimpses of Woodvale RAF base across the railway line as the track led to the coast road to Southport. Here we joined the TPT, which we followed alongside the road. It was a little boring except for the sight of a kestrel hunting above the grass covered dunes. After a mile we reached a roundabout in the middle of which was an American themed sculpture. It commemorated the first successful return flight to the USA, which took off from nearby Ainsdale Sands. The roundabout also boasted two pubs, both closed and the extensive grounds and buildings of the Pontins Holiday Camp, also closed. It was a very folorn area.

We walked onto Ainsdale Sands and turned north east. A vast expanse laid out before us, with no sight of its end. The sand was firm and relatively easy to walk on. We could see Lytham and Blackpool away to the north but of Southport, our planned lunch stop, there was no sign.

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Ainsdale Sands looking south

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Ainsdale Sands looking north

After a couple of miles we came across a chap with monoculars who asked us if we would mind keeping to the dunes at the top of the beach as he and his team were trying to spot the flocks of Knot that were migrating down the coast. We obliged and walked past three more of his colleagues, in a group, controlling equipment linked with wires to nets across the sand by the water’s edge. A little further on a chap in large green waders was talking into a radio: he was the spotter!

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The Spotter!

Kym decided to ask him for more detail about what was happening. As she started across to him I thought I detected a slight inflation of his waders: then a millisecond later came the unmistakable sound of breaking wind. Kym pressed on toward him, undaunted and he repeated the information we had been given by the first chap. Further on still, after crossing a couple of small creeks, we spoke to an American lady, also part of the team, who said that the birds were all a few miles away on the other side of Southport!

We made our way gingerly across the maram grass and small rivulets, crossing one of which, Kym managed to get her feet wet. We aimed for the coast road that we met at the dilapidated pleasure beach. We chose a quiet old road past the Southport Caravan Club site that took us into town. Passing the depressing pleasure beach buildings we walked on past the beautiful gardens and into the town proper, passing a large piece of wall art dedicated to Red Rum, who used to train on the sand we had just walked.

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Red Rum mural, Southport

We made for the highly rated chip shop I had ‘Googled’, which was through the centre of town on a small side street. The unassuming shop was busy with local residents and workers: a good sign. We bought two portions of cod, chips and peas, which we took back to the promenade to eat.

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Chips on the Prom, Southport

We found a seat looking out over the Marine Lake, which was crowded with swans and seagulls. The Ranger’s patrol boat appeared to be doing high speed exercises across the lake. A chap with a paddle board made more sedate progress. We kept an eye open for hungry gulls as we tucked in to our excellent lunches and polished off our apples. I then set about fine tuning the next stage of our walk. I asked Kym to look after the page of the map we were about to follow but she got distracted and it blew off in the wind and landed on the steep wall of the lake below us: hilarious!

Walking along the promenade, we saw a very fast model boat being sailed on the far end of the lake. We turned left at the north of the lake and skirted the golf course to a roundabout, where we crossed over the coast road and descended to the grassy sands below. We followed the path that ran beneath the coast road. The sands had been reclaimed by grass across which we saw the Fylde Coast with Blackpool and Lytham prominent on the horizon.

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Southport Sands

We cut back across the road and walked between the golf course and the RSPB reserve. As we reached housing on the right we took a path to the left where a board informed us about the aircraft factory that once occupied the area now covered by the golf course.

The elevated path through the golf course was very attractive and gave onto a similarly elevated path between marsh land and some uninspiring houses. We stopped to admire two dragonflies mating.

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Dragonfly gymnastics

Kym chatted to a couple of twitchers but we didn’t see the Knot: just regular birds and cattle grazing around the waterlogged fields. Passing a pungent sewage works we followed the road (my mistake) rather than a footpath, towards Banks. We crossed ‘The Cut’ at Fiddlers Ferry and followed the interminable road to the very boring looking town of Banks. We rounded a corner by a closed down pub, debated stopping for a coffee at a reasonable looking café but decided against and pressed on.

Passing a small front garden filled with gnomes and other gaudy artifacts we took a left through a council estate and onto a single track, but nevertheless very busy road. This ran alongside a stream that had been used as a dump and a series of farms with ‘stables’ that looked suspiciously like Travellers’ Camps. We passed the first of many glasshouses, a turf farm and many fields of vegetables, all drained by steep sided cuts.

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Lancashire market gardening

By means of farm roads we criss-crossed the flat countryside until eventually reaching what we hoped was the road to Tarleton. It went on for ages and we had to step out of the way of the many farm vehicles and articulated trucks that careered down the road.

Kym relieved the boredom by counting down the roadworks distance markers that had been sprayed in white at fifty metre intervals. We had a major celebration as we reached ‘0’. We finally reached the village but forwent the Village Inn as I wanted to find the bus stop. We thought we had done so but Google insisted that we carry on for another half a mile, which was ok as it took us to where we need to start the walk tomorrow.

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The bus came at 17:09 and took us on a pleasant scenic trip back to Burscough where I bought a paper and milk from Tesco. We drove back to the caravan to write up two days’ journal, have a cold beer and a hot shower.

Day 64

18th September 2020 – Tarleton to Preston: 12 miles

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We drove to and parked outside Burscough Junction, a derelict looking station on the Preston to Liverpool line. From there we walked into Burscough past some fine houses, including one with a plaque that said ‘We hope that this house will be as comfortable as our ancestral seat’. As we arrived at the Stanley Club we asked a lady who was passing with a child on the way to school, which stop we needed for Tarleton. As the bus wasn’t due just yet we decided to walk further into the centre of town, where I bought Ibuprofen tablets whilst we waited for the 2A bus.

The bus arrived on time. We donned our Covid masks and boarded. I requested two tickets to Tarleton and paid using my debit card. Kym and I took two seats on the lower deck. We were then approached by the ‘minder’ of the driver, who was learning on the job. He asked me to pay again, saying that the driver had cancelled my card transaction and implying that I hadn’t therefore actually paid. I repeated the process to the satisfaction of both parties.

It was then a pleasant trip back to Tarelton where we got off the bus at the traffic lights on the A565. I insisted on retracing our steps back round the corner to where we had caught the bus at the end of yesterday’s walk. This wasn’t a particularly good idea as it meant negotiating heavy traffic at the lights where the pavement all but disappeared.

I spotted a car number plate on the road and dashed in front of an oncoming juggernaut to retrieve it, thinking that I could use it to make a replacement for the one we had lost off the caravan. We were then passed by the bus that we had got off ten minutes earlier as it completed its round trip of Tarelton. We walked back to the main road and followed it past a large church graveyard on the right and some vicious dogs chained up in a ramshackle building on the left. The road descended to and crossed over the River Douglas.

We followed the busy main road for a mile or so to a roundabout after which we took a left turn onto a minor road. We past a snack van, patronized by a group from the Environment Agency who, ironically, had left the engine of their diesel pickup running as they waited for their breakfast to be cooked!

The road became smaller still as we bore left, but a very large tractor had us leaping onto the verge as we rounded a bend at a completely overgrown farmhouse. The lane then became quieter as we headed northwards and past notices warning against disturbing ground nesting birds. We reached the levee beside the River Douglas at Hesketh bank where several boats were moored in the low tide mud of the river.

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Hesketh Bank

Following the levee we saw birds, cattle and sheep before detouring around a large old refuse tip, now grassed over and dotted with signs warning against naked flames!

We rejoined the river levee and sat on a stile to enjoy a cereal bar and watch a model aircraft doing stunts over Hesketh bank. It was very loud at first but then completely silent as the wind changed direction. We followed the levee, which divided the riverside marsh, between us and the river to the left, from the maize fields to the right. At some stage along this section of path I spied the Lake District Fells, to the west of which lay St Bees and the end of my circumnavigation.

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First sight of the Lake District from River Douglas

The Dolphin Pub came into view but, as it appeared not to be open, we walked on past and joined the Ribble Way Path. The huge expanse of flood plain to the left was designated a wild fowl shooting area and there was a clay pigeon shooting area on a farm to the right.

We made our way towards the River Ribble and thought we were close when we saw the mast of a yacht gliding past beyond the levee. It was deceptive: we had yet to traverse a very long and recently cut field. We passed a couple with their dog and saw a tiny frog chancing its luck on the footpath. Crossing over the Old Grange farm track we walked along the levee for half a mile or so before we turned slight right to follow the Ribble.

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The Ribble Way towards Preston

The Ribble valley was wide but much of the watercourse was exposed grass as the tide was at its lowest and was only just starting to flow back in. We followed a path down off the levee towards the river and ate our lunch whilst sitting on one of the many large logs that had been washed down the river and deposited at low tide.

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Lunch by the Ribble at low tide

It was interesting to watch the birds flit between the river and the disappearing river bed and to see the river flow and tide work against each other.

We pressed on in a reasonably straight line towards Preston as the tide came in. One or two boats cruised in on the incoming tide but otherwise the river was very quiet. We tried to pick out a riverside path on the far bank that we could follow tomorrow but it didn’t look promising.

Wandering through the long, thin paddock that bounded the river we passed a large number of very fleecy sheep with red markings: all very docile. We stopped for another sit by the river before pressing on for journey’s end. I picked a couple of small pears from a fully laden tree that had probably grown from someone’s discarded core. They never got eaten. The long paddock ended at a fence made of vertically placed concrete railway sleepers and a kissing gate.

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Railway sleeper fence

The path then entered a more overgrown area, which eventually gave onto a track, then a minor road and parkland. An information board explained that this was the site, until the early 1980s, of a huge coal fired power station.

We continued on past carvings of a dragonfly, a trout, an otter, a tawny owl and a newt then passed beneath the A59. The tree lined path continued beside the river to the the B5254 bridge by which we crossed. This brought us to the bottom of a long and reasonably steep hill which we followed all the way to the top to arrive at Preston railway station. We walked down to the concourse where a young lady was being body searched by the police. I bought two tickets to Burscough Junction: this took for ever as the ticket clerk’s card reading machine was broken.

We retraced our steps into town and I bought a paper, then we had a tea and a coffee sitting outside Starbucks. A variety of very large and generally unpleasant Prestonians graced us with their presence. I was not sad to move on. My low expectations of Preston had not been exceeded: Kym’s high expectations certainly hadn’t!

We walked back to the station and down platform 4 en route platform 4c. I popped into the toilet which was in the station buildings between platforms 4 and 3. On exiting the Gents I emerged onto platform 5 instead of 4 and continued in what I thought was the direction I had been walking. I found myself hopelessly disorientated and unable to find any trace of platform 4c. I ran about frantically, asking one uniformed lady who was decidedly unhelpful. I phoned Kym who said “I can see you, can’t you see me?” “No!” I replied, hoping she would direct me to where she was on platform 4c. Instead of that Kym told me how stupid I was to have got lost just going to the toilet and then lost sight of me so the opportunity t0 help was gone. Eventually, after running the entire length of platforms 3 and 4 in both directions, I found her and the, soon to depart, 15:26 train. I was livid but Kym in fits of laughter as we boarded!

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We enjoyed the train ride back to Burscough Junction, where the car was still safe and well. I set the satnav for a local pub and we followed the country lanes to the Farmers Arms, another unassuming pub with a fantastic canal side location. Here we enjoyed pints of ‘Blond Witch’ (Kym) and ‘Nutty Slack’ (me) before driving back to our caravan site.

Day 65

19th September 2020 – Preston to Ansdell: 17 miles

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We drove to Preston station, parking in the multi-storey car park before a quick toilet stop on the platform. I insisted on this so as to try to work out what had gone wrong yesterday afternoon.

We left the station and I tried to cut across town to get to Preston Marina. This led us through some dingy streets and beneath and around the major road interchanges to a commercial area and service road running adjacent to the Ribble Valley railway. We crossed the line and found ourselves on the ‘Guild Wheel’ circular cycle and foot path.

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Ribble Valley Railway, Preston

We followed this pleasant and well kept path through trees, avoiding the many runners and cyclists, until we reached the ‘Bull Nose’ lock gates. These were huge gates to allow for the massive tidal range between the Ribble and Preston Docks.

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Preston and the River Ribble

The path continued past a shunting yard before turning right to emerge at a collection of car showrooms and the A583. Walking along beside the road was easy, save for the cyclists, few of whom signaled their approach from behind. We walked on, checking over our shoulders every so often until we got to the first major road junction and a sign for a service station and refreshments. This establishment turned out to be long closed down. The Guild Wheel veered off north here so the next roadside section was less impacted by speeding cyclists.

We saw construction works for the new ‘West Lancs Distributor Road’…bringing jobs and development to the ‘fastest growing economy in the UK’. The A-roads split and we took the A584 towards Freckleton. This section of dual carriageway had a cycle lane cut into the gutter-side but the footpath had long since been overgrown. We had to pick our way through the long grass, nettles and litter for the next couple of miles. We decided not to stop at an inviting sounding farm coffee shop off to the left but to press on in the hope that The Ship at Freckleton was (a) open and (b) serving food.

The footpath improved as we approached Freckleton, presumably to allow the residents of the nearby caravan parks to walk into the village.

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We entered Freckleton past a fine floral display, turned left past some new houses and quickly found The Ship on the left of the road.

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It looked very nice. We entered and asked for an outside table: we had a choice of all but one that was occupied. The views across the marshes to the Ribble Valley and the Lancashire Hills beyond were simply stunning.

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Ribble Valley from The Ship, Freckleton

Kym had sea bass and I went for a beef wellington, washed down with good beer: great! We followed that with sticky toffee pudding for me and cheesecake and banana for Kym. It was our best meal so far.

We left The Ship and followed the path south out of the village. There was some light industry of the right and a sign warning against various things!

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The path south from Freckleton

To the left we saw a collection of interesting and slightly ramshackle waterside houses. The path skirted a farm and a new build home with huge windows looking down to the Ribble. A trig point in the field between the house and the river must, at 14 meters, have been one of the lowest in the country.

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Naze Point trig point, 14 meters

We sat on a bench there and watched a yacht making good progress, with following wind, against the incoming tide.

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Ribble estuary

We descended to the riverside marsh where two other walkers were turning back on account of the mud. We had no option other than to press on. It was hard going as we picked our way across the marsh: the way was waterlogged and dotted with cattle hoof marks. At the end of the first stretch we passed a man with a large wet dog and a caravan site in which was another dog that barked incessantly.

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A welcome relief from the mud, Naze

There then followed another marshy section that finished at a footbridge that took us to Warton Aerodrome.

The airfield seemed deserted and the wind whistled in the high perimeter fence as we walked past. We caught sight of a fighter jet on the apron, but little else until we saw a ‘Western Atlantic’ Boeing 737 cargo plane, also on the apron.

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Not the kind of signs you want to see at an airfield

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We continued on around the airfield and were passing a large blue extraction vent when a series of sirens sounded: these lasted several minutes. We were about to head away from the airfield so turned for one last look when the most deafening roar came from the building by the blue tube as a jet engine was tested. Kym, thinking the facility was about to explode, nearly ran a mile!

I remained by the airfield trying to catch the test and noise on video. Kym had moved away and as the noise stopped shouted “I’ve seen a kingfisher!” I joined her at the pond where she’d seen it but, like the red squirrel in Formby woods, it had been scared away by the exclamation of its spotter.

We spent a few minutes waiting for a reappearance of the bird but in vain, so walked on through heavily laden blackberry bushes to Warton Bank. Here there was another static caravan site with yet another constantly barking mutt: how do these people stand it? They certainly need telling what to do, judging by a nearby gate through which we passed.

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The gate of dos and donts, Warton bank

Another levee, with terrific views across to Southport, led us to a detour around a small tributary of Wrea Brook where someone had erected, on the site of an old farmhouse, a new house with great picture windows looking out over the estuary.

Regaining the levee we passed between Holstein cattle just before the farmer rode amongst them on her quad bike. Another walker strolled by: one of the few we had seen all day. We made another detour inland to cross another part of Wrea Brook: bigger this time and with lots of boats moored up and beached in the glistening grey mud.

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Wrea Brook, Lytham

Walking back out along the far side, having crossed this inlet via the road bridge, we followed Liggard Brook inland again, past some housing, to cross it on the A584 road bridge.

We then followed the road itself onto the esplanade at Lytham and sat down to rest just after we had passed the white windmill.

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Lytham windmill

We had terrific views all the way to the Welsh mountains and the Great Orme. We walked on, our feet very tired, along the front which was very busy. A sign scrawled in the wet sand brought us back from the distraction of our walk and reminded us what a strange time this was.

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Banks Sands, Lytham

The new esplanade leading to and around Fairhaven Lake had been completed since our last visit and looked very good. At the lake we crossed the coast road, avoiding the lengthy queues for ice creams and aimed for Ansdell Station. My aim was a little off and we overshot so had to walk back on ourselves a few hundred yards more.

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When finally we arrived at the station we had a long wait for the 17:49 train to Preston. When it arrived, two minutes late, we duly donned our compulsory masks, unlike many other travellers and boarded the train. After a pleasant trip through the countryside we arrived back at Preston station, collected the car and drove back to our site via Tesco and Booths. We were both tired and sore!

Day 66

20th September 2020 – Ansdell to Fleetwood: 18.14 miles

I was rather anxious about travel arrangements for today and not sufficiently compus mentis last night to finalise them. We plumped for a drive to Preston station where we caught the 08:34 train to Ansdell. Exiting the station I read an information board that explained that we were overlooking the 9th hole at Royal Lytham Golf Course! We retraced our steps of yesterday to the main road then cut through to the north end of Fairhaven Lake, which was a lot less busy than it had been last evening.

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We followed the road and then the esplanade, passing council owned beach huts that were being cleaned and sanitized. By the time we arrived at St Anne’s pier more cars and people were arriving every minute. A large number of campervans used the car parks for overnight stays. We stopped to view the statue of Les Dawson in the Peace Garden.

Les Dawson, Lytham

We continued on past a large care home set in the dunes under the Squires Gate Airport flight path seeing a few light aircraft on final approach. Before long we arrived at Starr Gate, the southern tram terminus where a sign bade us ‘Welcome to Blackpool’. The ‘Big One’ rollercoaster and Blackpool Tower came into view. Crossing the tram tracks we walked along the esplanade with its strange, large, unexplained sculptures. The Tower loomed closer. The sea was way out and we overheard one of many miserable sods complain into his mobile phone that he “wasn’t walking that far for a paddle”.

The sky was crystal clear and we could see as far as the Great Orme to the south and Barrow-in-Furness to the north. We looked in vain for the Isle of Man but saw only the IOM Steam Packet Ferry and countless wind turbines on the horizon out to sea. We passed many sea anglers, all set up and ready to fish, despite the sea being still over half a mile away across the sand.

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Glitter Ball and 'The Big One', Blackpool

We walked along the South Shore Promenade, past the big silver ball and stopped to take photos of the screaming punters at the top of the rollercoaster big drop.

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The Big One, Blackpool

The esplanade beyond the ‘Big One’ was the first part of an enormous new development that stretched all the way to Rossal Point. It was a masterpiece of design and engineering and transformed the front into a clean, welcoming, multi track space on which to walk, cycle and sit.

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New promenade, Blackpool

The ‘Golden Mile’ was still as tacky as ever, with some dreadful looking hotels, shops and bars and not a few uninspiring looking people. They fell into a few main categories....enough said!

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Blackpool Tower

We stopped opposite The Tower to look at the street art comprising quotes from the various acts that had played there: it was quite interesting.

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Pressing on we saw a strange chap riding a bike accompanied with a large black bird that sat on his shoulder.

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Pause for thought, Bispham

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Kym was in need of the loo so we chose a restaurant in Bispham that had an outside table in the sun and ordered two haddock and chips. I had a coffee: the first of the trip, yeah! The food was very nice despite the sound of a burglar alarm that persisted through the meal and the lady at the adjacent table who was feeding her dog cake and allowing it to drink coffee from her cup. She then let the paper tableware blow off in the wind to join the other rubbish people had carelessly thrown away.

The foreshore north of Bispham was of specific interest due to its shingle and the informative boards that had been installed by local beach support groups. What a juxtaposition of civic minded folk and moronic café punters. The views towards The Lakes and the Furness Peninsula were terrific and exceptionally clear.

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Rossall Point with Coniston Fells beyond

We had a couple of stops for nuts and cereal bars and to take in the panorama through Kym’s binoculars. An unusual iron sculpture commemorated the many ships that had been lost on this treacherous stretch of coast that looked so benign today. An angling contest was in progress, with competitors at randomly drawn positions all the way up the coast. One chap was taking social distancing a little too seriously with his three ‘2 metres’ warning signs.

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Social distancing

We stopped to talk to a lovely lady in a motorised wheelchair. She had moved to the area from Blackburn and absolutely loved it. She was absolutely thrilled with the new promenade that allowed her much easier access to the sea front where she spent many a happy hour.

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There was a gap in the new promenade in front of Rossall School, which we understood to be due to land ownership issues.

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Approaching Rossall Point

The newly built promenade re-started after the school and ran for a few hundred yards to Rossall Point where it became a sea wall: still with a good path along the top. We turned north east at Rossall Point for the final stretch of walk. This opened up views across to the Lake District Fells, Arnside Knott and Heysham Power Station across the wide expanse of Morecambe Bay.

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Lake District Fells across Morecambe Bay

We stopped at the Rossall marine Observatory, a strange tilted white structure, which was shut. Then it was on between a golf course on the right and pebble beach with groynes of the left. The run in to Fleetwood was between small dunes on the right and an increasingly sandy beach on the left. As we approached the town our ears were assailed by the noise of four or five jet skiers zipping about the water off the main beach. I hoped in vain that they would hit a sandbank or submerged log.

We passed by another pleasant marine lake of the type we had seen often since leaving Liverpool. We then passed some, less than pleasant, brick buildings that brought us to the lighthouse, North Euston Hotel, the ferry terminal and the end of this leg of the walk.

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We had a brief read of the history of Fleetwood on the information boards but, fearing that we might miss our bus to Poulton, decided to read them in more detail another day.

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The Wyre Ferry, Fleetwood

The new esplanade leading to and around Fairhaven Lake had been completed since our last visit and looked very good. At the lake we crossed the coast road, avoiding the lengthy queues for ice creams and aimed for Ansdell Station. My aim was a little off and we overshot so had to walk back on ourselves a few hundred yards more.

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Fleetwood from Knott End on Sea

We disembarked, walked up the concrete ramp and took photos of the L S Lowry statue and then a ‘selfie’ to mark the end of our walk.

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Knott End on Sea...Made it!

I spotted a double decker bus and on closer inspection saw that it was bound for Poulton. We jumped on, paid (cash only) and took our seats at the front of the top deck. We stopped our Strava recorders and congratulated ourselves on completing a great section of the walk: eighty miles ticked off!

The bus ride to Poulton was scenic and delivered us there in time to catch the 17:38 Liverpool train that got us to Preston before 18:00. We drove back to the caravan, calling at the shops in Burscough for supplies.

Afterward

Afterward

We extended our stay at the campsite so we could relax and have a more leisurely look around a part of the world that, despite being so near to home, we hadn’t really explored much.

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Dawn on our rest day, Pinfold, Scarisbrook

We visited Ormskirk and Burscough then found an interesting farm shop and craft village that was unfortunately shut.

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The tower and steeple of St Peter & St Paul, Ormskirk

We returned to the caravan where I made a replacement number plate from the one I had found on day three of the walk and yellow and black electrical tape I had bought in Ormskirk.

When we did return home on 22nd September we found, on dropping the caravan off at its storage site, that the number plate had fallen off there and was lying in its vacant storage space on the farm.

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