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Sunday, 23 October 2016

Walk 196 Fleetwood to Blackpool (Lancs)

Walk 196 Fleetwood to Blackpool (Lancs)

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 102
Distance: 12 miles or 18km approx
Difficulty: Easy overall – a few hills but nothing strenuous.
Terrain: coastal path and pavement.
Access: Parking in both places
Public transport: Very good tram service between the two towns

During the summer this walk could be extended northwards to Knott End on Sea and up to Pilling Lane. A summer ferry runs between Fleetwood and Knott End (over the River Wyre) providing the weather conditions are suitable. I had a stroll up here but, at the time, it did not look the most attractive of places with an outlook over muddy sand.

At Fleetwood, a ferry used to run to Larne in Northern Ireland. The service to the Isle of Man stopped over 50 years ago. Fleetwood has three lighthouses. The Upper Lighthouse is referred to as The Pharos after one of the seven wonders of the world (then in Alexandria, Egypt). It is an impressive structure. Further round from the town is the lifeboat station built in 1858. It has a long and proud record of rescues which are recorded on a nearby plaque. An 'n' shaped sculpture depicting equipment used on a trawler is also close to the sea and is dedicated to the fishermen who served the community for generations. Further along is a sculpture of a family on the spot where wives and children welcomed their menfolk back from the sea. The fish port has declined since the 1970s.

Look out for the Lower Lighthouse built in 1840. A couple of miles out to sea is the Wyre lighthouse which is no longer in use.

On the land-side of the coast is The North Euston Hotel originally built to serve guests to and from Euston in London. Most then departed on steamers to Scotland. One of the passengers was Queen Victoria in 1847. In the 1850s the journey became obsolete with the opening of a direct rail link between London and Scotland. Fleetwood rail station was eventually closed as part of the Beeching cuts in the early 1960s. It was still a popular holiday resort at this time and John Lennon spent his childhood holidays here.

The North Euston Hotel was the centre piece of the development of the town undertaken by Peter Hesketh Fleetwood in 1831. The town, which is named after him, was landscaped into a half wheel shape using a sandy dune called The Mount as a focal point. This can be clearly seen from the promenade.

Further along the sea front is the old radar station which is a listed building. It was built for practical training and is now owned by a local college for nautical studies. Soon after this are Fleetwood Lakes. One of them is used by Blackpool and Fylde College for nautical training. An interesting looking vessel like a submarine was suspended over the lake when I went. Another lake is used by a model yacht and power boat club which was established when the lakes were formed in 1929. Both lakes are filled from the sea. You won't miss the many ducks, geese and swans wandering around on the grass. A notice nearby gives information about the mute swans that live here.

A flat concrete path adjacent to the sea wall leads in to Cleveleys. When the tide goes out golden sands are revealed beyond the pebbles. Helpful information boards identify landmarks, birds, seaweed, pebbles and shells. A cable connecting wind turbines out at sea to the National Grid comes ashore here.

Cleveleys is about four miles north of Blackpool. The town dates back to the nineteenth century and was named after a Mr Cleveley who built a hotel here. At the start of World War 2 several government departments were temporarily housed in the town. Some were in the nearby Rossal School which is an independent school founded in 1844 as a sister school to Marlborough College. Originally it was set up for the sons of clergymen but is now co-educational. It houses a space science and astronomy centre which (at the time of visiting) was the only one of its type in the UK.

On the way into Blackpool look out for the large and impressive Norbeck Castle Hotel with its 400 rooms, 22 conference centres plus pool and cinema. It was built in the 1900s and was popular with royalty and celebrities. If you go in late summer/autumn you may well start to see some of the highly creative Blackpool illuminations which go all the way into Blackpool and out the other side. Well worth a visit if you can go at the right time. Other landmarks to look out for on the walk into the town include: the tower (obviously), the Baroque style Cliffs Hotel, the emergency services sculpture and the 1867 Imperial Hotel (Charles Dickens and the current Queen have stayed at this impressive building).

This walk finishes at The North Pier which was built in the 1860s. It is the longest and oldest of Blackpool's three piers. It originally catered for the 'better class' market with orchestral concerts and 'respectable' comedians. It is a listed building which has survived despite damage from ships and fires. The 1500 seat theatre, built in 1938, has attracted a number of famous acts including Morecambe and Wise.

More about Blackpool on the next walk.

Photos show: The Upper Lighthouse, Fleetwood; The fishermen's sculpture overlooking Fleetwood beach; Dalek illuminations north of Blackpool town centre; Imperial Hotel Blackpool.

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