All the fun of Blackpool – the long long promenade

Sunday 12th February 2023

The last two days had been about running, so it was back to coastal walking …. but, as it was all about promenade walking today we opted for the lighter footwear of trainers. Plus my walking boots were still caked in mud and I didn’t want to be looked down on again!!!!

What could be better than starting off the day with a full English? Our lovely friend Simon (a Sandgrown’un!) had informed us that his best friend Andrew owned a cafe just near to our today’s starting point – so it would have been rude not to!! Unfortunately his Andrew was out playing golf but we tucked into the most delicious of breakfasts with lashings of tea … and it was great service + reasonable prices. Recommend ‘The Dunes’ all round.

Then it was hot foot onto the promenade and we spent the next few hours enjoying the spectacle that is Blackpool. It’s quite a one-off with its illuminations, trams, splendid seafront hotels, the funfair that dominates the town, the magnificent Blackpool tower, the glitter ball, the miles of sand (no donkeys out today though), the pier, the amusement arcades, the roman design esplanade structures, the Victorian shelters etc. the list goes on and on … and, dare I say it, a hint of tackiness in places, but you’ve gotta love it.

After 5 miles at a good pace we had completed the Blackpool stretch … but the walk was far from over … the promenade continued through Anchorsholme, then Rossall Beach and into Fleetwood. Extremely easy walking but I’m ashamed to say it did get a bit monotonous – nothing much changed once we’d left the big town. And my energy levels were dropping. I was going to bring fruit but Steve assured me that there’d be plenty of coffee and donut stands along the way … and I just couldn’t get those hot sugary rings out of my mind! We missed our one opportunity to re-energise by walking past the one and only cafe on this stretch between Anchorsholme and Fleetwood … it being suggested that there’d be plenty of other opportunities ahead (I’m saying no more on that matter!!!!!) – but not one. Even when we reached Fleetwood after 12 miles of walking, the cafes, not surprisingly, all had queues.

If you’re ever walking this promenade, stop at the cafe near this …. there is nothing else for miles!!!

A golf course … and what looked like a leaning tower block but was actually a RNLI Coastguard station.

Arriving at our destination in Fleetwood

With empty tums and sugar-cravings we rode the tram back to Starr Gate – entertained by a jolly conductor. Dived into the nearest shop (Dunes cafe now closed) and as soon as the first bite of Snickers slipped down I felt my body rejuvenate. I’m not usually a sugar snack sort of person but today my body was just craving it … all was now well in my world.

And getting back to base to our two little charges – it’s no wonder dogs are used in therapy – they soothe all your woes away.

Billy – how can you resist that little face!?

Charlie – he’s like a cuddly teddy bear!

This may be the last walk for now. We’ll be back to finish the lovely Lancashire coastline another time!! We have some decorating to do in Lymm! Alice and Jon have moved into their new house which happens to be just an hour away from where we are … and guess what, it’s a project!!

Oh we do love a house project!!

Good luck and HAPPY NEW HOME Alice and Jon. xxxx

We’re off to Blackpool – to see the sea!

Thursday 8th February 2023

Leaving the pretty village of Freckleton

A beautiful blue sky day today, even though we’re still in the midst of a cold spell which today provided us with a chill wind … and it turns out we were walking headlong into it the whole route.

We managed to park up in the village of Freckleton, which seemed to be the appropriate place to pick up the coastal path to lead us to Blackpool. It was a beautiful place … and bonus, there was free parking in the car park! There was, however, a complete lack of coastal path signs plus we were struggling to get a proper signal on our trusty Ordnance Survey app. So, we had to rely on Steve’s built-in ‘I think it might be this way’ system and choose a direction. Luckily it was bang on and we reached the estuary path pretty soon … but it was at least another mile before we saw any ‘Coast Path’ signs … and we always doubt ourselves until we do.

Despite little rain over the last few days, we found ourselves slipping and sliding in mud once again, along the lanes and across the farm fields, particularly near the gates and stiles. But this was nothing compared to the marshland that the path led us to after a couple of miles. The path was literally at the side of the estuary and was extremely wet and swampy for most of the two mile stretch. Scenically it was stunning but walking through it took great effort. Every time you put your foot down you had no idea how far it would sink in. It was a mud bath.

Some thoughtful people had provided balancing props in the worst spots – logs, boulders, planks, stones and even tyres. It’s weird though – Steve can seem to balance on a twig but, if I have to hop along a series of logs or stones, my brain just doesn’t seem to engage and it all turns into one big wobble. Think it might be psychological. Suffice to say it was an extremely messy exercise … and exhausting.

Helpful balancing props – this is the size stepping stone I need

We hit a pretty stretch of woodland path after the marshy nightmare and, as we enjoyed the ease of walking, we met an elderly chap who was out on a jog. He had to be in his 70s if not 80s and he still had a great spring in his step. He was dressed from head to toe in black – wearing those elasticated black plimsolls that we used to wear in primary school. He was delighted to meet us and stood for 15 minutes animatedly chatting about the history of the area. He said he has run this route every day for the last 40 years! His family used to own land and property on this stretch but during WWII it was deemed necessary for an American Air Base to be built here … and all the properties were knocked down and families relocated. The airbase is still there today – now operated by BAE systems. He was so interesting and sweet … I could have listened to his stories all day.

And after this, the path eventually turned onto a sea defence wall – normally I dislike these as they seem endless … today I absolutely loved that wall.

Me and my shadow …. so happy on the Sea Defence Wall

And huge relief when we reached Lytham and walked our way to the promenade and the beautiful vision of the sea We sat, soaking in the views, enjoying a well-earned rest as we tucked into lunch. It was certainly a busy spot for walkers – we had moved from one extreme to the other. I naturally greet people as they walk by but one lady, walking with her partner, looked at me in horror as I said hello, as if to say “how dare you speak to me!” I was a bit put out but we just giggled … and then it dawned on me that perhaps she thought we were tramps – mud caked boots and trousers, windswept, little woolly hats on, huddled on a bench devouring our sandwiches … we’ll never know. BUT, we did take great delight as we energetically strolled past them about 10 minutes later …. we’ll never know!!

Admired this wonderful ‘Lady in Red’ … no wonder we looked out of place!!

The walk from Lytham to Blackpool was a fair old stretch I have to say, even though it was easy promenade. I think the first 5 miles of muddiness had taken a toll on the legs, so the last few miles of what turned out to be a 12 and a half mile walk brought on the odd grumble or two! It was delightful to see the Starr Gate tram as we reached our destination …. then all we had to do was jump on a bus and get back to our car.

And then get home to wash all the mud off …. and look respectable again!

The joys of rambling!!

Estuary walking … no sea to see!

Tuesday 7th February 2023

Nothing beats a cup of Rosie-Lee before a ramble especially on discovering a beautiful tea shop in the village of Walmer Bridge where we were starting today’s walk. ‘The Village Teapot’ is spectacularly pretty and so worth a visit if you’re in the area.

In ‘The Village Teapot’

Love a Tea Shop x

So we walked almost 9 miles today – all pretty straightforward. We’re never sure if we really need to walk along the estuaries but sometimes it just feels like we should, particularly when they’re accessible. But we miss our coastal views and sounds on these days. Saying that, it was still fabulous to be out there in the fresh air and take in the farmyard aroma – highly pungent in places. Lots of sheep activity today … we witnessed some competent sheep dog work as he herded the flock into their feeding troughs … and Lassie even came to say hello to us.

Bill and Ben … the flower pot men!

A stile to nowhere …

We walked through a park towards the end and found a bench to picnic, after which the city of Preston came into view. Ribble Estuary done!

Preston pops into view

Some excellent reflection photography today Mr. Rose xx

Running, tail walking …. and twitching our way from Southport to Hesketh Bank

Friday 3rd February 2023

A day off coastal walking … instead we met up with a local running group – Red Rose Runners – for their 10.00am club run. I’d only gone along to have a solo poodle round while Steve joined them but they were very persuasive in encouraging me to join in. And they couldn’t have been nicer – every one of them. We ran over 5 miles and they were so inclusive – I was never made to feel a burden as they looped back and stopped for breaks and so genuinely welcomed both of us to their group. And the most amazing thing … the two run leads – Pete and Marian O’Grady – were, and in fact still are, Redway Runners. They moved up from Milton Keynes to Preston 10 years ago but Pete was one of the early members of RR and still maintains membership. We discussed many of our mutual RR friends (including Martin and Karen Lawrence, Michelle and Lee George-Barnes, Adam Sharman, Tina McGreal, Katie and James Down + others) and exchanged stories. We’re so grateful to them and hope to join in some other runs with them before we leave the area.

After-run coffee and biscuits with the Red Rose running club

Pete O’Grady doing the selfie and Marian O’Grady with the other red bobble hat

Saturday 4th February 2023

Another day off coastal walking but being a Saturday of course meant parkrun at 9.00am. And this week it was Preston parkrun and we had volunteered to Tail Walk (such a relief when we found it had the most horrendous hill and it was a three lap course)!! Still a beautiful course and an extremely friendly bunch of volunteers and runners. We had also volunteered as photographer and report writer, so busy, busy, busy! So many people chatted to us and were genuinely interested in our coastal walking and house-sitting adventures. Another tourist parkrun ticked off … and I can recommend – if you like hills that is!!!

And, before moving onto Sunday’s walk, I want to include two major milestones that happened this weekend.

On the eve of his 30th Birthday, whilst celebrating in Edinburgh, Tom proposed to Jess … and she said it was the easiest ‘Yes’ ever! We are bursting with happiness for them both and can’t wait to be back with them to celebrate. Are Engagement parties still a thing!?

Happy Engagement Tom and Jess xx

And today – 5/2/2023 – our beautiful boy turned 30. He’s an absolute legend, loved by all who know him … and it appears that he’s now ready to settle down!!

Happy 30th Birthday Tom xx

On a more sombre note, I also want to mention that Tom, since a child of 10, has always shared his birthday with such a sadness in our family – my beautiful niece Marsha was so tragically taken from us on this date. But we remember her today with so much love. It’s 20 years since you had to leave us Marshie but never a day goes by when you’re not in our hearts and thoughts. RIP sweet girl.

R.I.P sweet Marsha xx

Sunday 5th February 2023

Woke up to a covering of frost but the forecast was for higher temperatures and no rain. So, after walking the dogs we drove to Hesketh Bank where Steve had meticulously planned a place to leave the car, to catch a bus to Southport … and where the coastal path ended back in that area after our walk. The logistical planning of this whole project is a minefield!!

Easy bus journey into Southport and seeing different parts of the town today, we realised that it is possibly one of the smarter seaside resorts we’ve passed through. Spectacular hotels and department stores, trendy bars and cafes, tasteful amusement areas and an attractive marine lake. Sadly the only thing that lets it down is the beach – so not a resort to come to if you have a love of sandcastles and swimming. Still scenic but rather than sand, it is predominately covered in mud flats – so you’d get a bit messy making your way down to the sea and there’s certainly no convenient place to lay out your beach towel.

Glorious Southport

Red Rum is an icon in the town due to his success at the Grand National in nearby Aintree

Southport Pier

Southport Marine Lake

…. but this is the beach, not so glamorous!

Nesting on Southport Beach

Blackpool Tower and the ‘Big One’ ride in the distance
At the start of our walk – Southport Pier

We started our walk along the promenade but, as there was such heavy traffic, we opted for a path at the foot of the beach wall – obviously avoiding the mud. After Thursday’s shenanigans we weren’t going to risk that again. As we neared the RSPB Marine Nature Reserve, the path underfoot started to get softer so we made our way back up onto the safe promenade, which seemed to stretch ahead for miles. There was a large gathering of twitchers at the Ribble Estuary with their oversized zoom lenses, tripods and binoculars – all the gear! Their guide was ‘guiding’ them to something flying near Blackpool Tower – the magnification on their equipment must have been phenomenal. They were a very friendly bunch and seemed animated in their activities.

A ‘gaggle’ of twitchers.

And we came upon keen birdwatchers over the whole of today’s walk – it was obviously an important area for ornithologists. Steve tried to capture some of this in his fabulous photos.

Finally the coastal path veered off the promenade and onto a section of sea defence wall … an extremely long section – it stretched for miles, never-ending. But beautiful surroundings on what was a stunning day – farmland on one side, mud flats on the other, visions of Lytham St. Anne’s to the left and the spectacular Lake District mountains in the distance. After an hour or so of walking this stretch, we could see the turn off point ahead …. but it was like someone kept moving it – it took forever!

A bird hide … with a glimpse of the Lake District mountains in the distance

Never-ending sea defence wall

Brussel Sprouts in soggy mud

Some healthy looking cabbages

Nearing the end of the sea defence wall walking, reaching Hesketh Bank

Now, when we parked the car in the village of Hesketh Bank village, we imagined that it was just a small place … the thought process was that we would reach the end of the coastal path and there the car would be. Imagine our surprise then when we realised that we still had a couple of miles to walk to get back to our vehicle and take the weight of our legs! So that brought today’s walk up to 10 and a half miles – those final miles seemed to be the hardest for some reason.

Lots of farms along the route and we saw signs of early Spring – a flock of lambs (already), daffodils about to pop and snowdrops in full bloom.

But most importantly, Steve was overjoyed to soak up the smell of cut grass – we passed several newly mown lawns … now Steve is twitching to get back to mow stripes into his beloved lawn – any offers!!?

A muddy end to the day ….

Thursday 2nd February 2023

Formby – Southport

An early wake-up and breakfast, walking the dogs, half hour drive to Southport, followed by a train ride to Formby – today’s starting point. By this time we were more than ready for a coffee so were relieved to find a cafe as we walked to find the coastal path. As we walked in we got a few looks – was it the walking gear or the spectacle of Steve in shorts!? No, it was because we had entered the world of pottery painting (with drinks as a sideline) … they maybe thought that a couple of old bids were coming into paint a garden gnome!! Luckily they were happy for us to purchase beverages without getting arty … and super delicious cappuccinos they were.

Following the guidelines, we find ourselves walking along ‘Freshfield Road,’ which had some of the most magnificent houses I’ve ever seen – all individual, large and beautifully kept … my house envy scale was overflowing. Shortly after reaching Freshfield we found ourselves crossing the railway line – always a childish excitement!!

From here we entered woodland for a couple of miles – it turned out to be an area known as Ainsdale Sand Dunes – a national nature reserve, home to some of Britain’s rarest plants and animals. It was a beautiful place to walk and provided some ups and downs in contrast to yesterday’s flat paths. It was also a popular cycle path and we had a precarious moment when an over ambitious cyclist overtook another rider in her group …. and almost took Steve out in the process.

After we left the nature reserve we seem to run out of Coastal Path signs but we picked up signs for the Trans Pennine Trail and our Ordnance Survey app indicated that we were going in the right direction. Unfortunately it was taking us along a really busy road – not so conducive to leisurely walking. After a mile and a bit we came to a roundabout that had signs to Ainsdale Beach – we thought we ‘d venture down for a look, if only to find a sheltered spot to have some picnic lunch. There was a Pontins Holiday Camp on the corner – not looking too glamorous. Recent news (and ignorant graffiti) seems to suggest that it is due to be used to accommodate illegal immigrants.

Walking down the road we spotted the Coastal Paths signs – goodness knows how they suddenly appeared. The path was to lead us through sand dunes – not always a great exercise! While enjoying our pate and tomato sandwiches, we got chatting to a chap who assured us that we could walk along the beach all the way to our destination – Southport Pier. So, decision made, a lovely firm sand and shoreline 4 miles it was to be, rather than the risk of soft sand in the dunes. I guess we’re not very good at doing what we’re told!!

The expanse of this wide beach was quite formidable and the tide was well and truly out. Whenever we get to a stretch like this, I can’t help but remember Alice saying when we first started walking the path, all those years ago, that she imagined we’d be walking along beaches all day, every day of the route – how wonderful that would be.

The sand was nice and firm underfoot though, albeit ridgy in places … we moved nearer the shoreline at times to avoid more uncomfortable walking. There was a selection of beautiful shells, including razor clams … my favourite for crunching (better than popping bubble wrap)! All going well.

Ridgy sand!!

A mile or two along we started to find some inlets of water – but with some jumping and wading we managed to splash our way through. Southport Pier still seemed so far in the distance and it was hard to see if there was going to be an easy way through. We opted to move away from the shoreline but it got wetter and wetter … then the slippery mud kicked in and we found ourselves skidding all over the place. After several skids, Steve finally toppled.

But things got even worse and there was no going back!! We found ourselves on a stretch of beach that can only be described as bog land – wet, muddy, clay, with high grass … no clear paths but we could see steps in the distance that would bring us back onto the promenade. It seems that not doing as we’re told has consequences … and boy did we discover that today. I’ve always said that I want to end my days by the seaside … but I didn’t mean being consumed into sinking sand on Southport Beach … and at times that felt quite likely. A lot of prayers were being said!!

But we did survive to tell the tale (and write the blog). After almost 9 miles of walking we rewarded ourselves and celebrated our survival with a luxury hot chocolate at McDonalds.

And we learnt our lesson – STICK TO THE PATH!!

Lancashire Coastline here we come ….

So we’re back for some more Coastline explorations. We’re doing a three week house-sit in Walton-Le-Dale, near Preston and hoping to walk a good chunk of the Lancashire coastal path while we’re here.

Today’s walk involved a drive and park up in Formby (free parking at the Train Station), then a short train ride to Seaforth (luckily no strikes today)!!… where we set off from the ‘Port of Liverpool.’ Not such a glamorous start with the heavily equipped docks and some main road walking, plus it was grey, windy and wet. Put it this way, it could only get better!

And before very long it did …. we were signposted to Crosby Beach and promenade – fabulous expanse of sand, easy walking promenade and best of all, the Anthony Gormley sculpture installation named ‘Another Place.’ I have wanted to visit this for years so very pleased that this featured in today’s walk.

Another Place consists of 100 cast-iron, life-size figures spread out along three kilometres of the foreshore, stretching almost one kilometre out to sea. It is such a spectacular sight.

The Another Place figures – each one weighing 650 kilos – are made from casts of the artist’s own body standing on the beach, all of them looking out to sea, staring at the horizon in silent expectation.

There is absolutely no doubt that these 100 figures are of the male variety – the artist leaves nothing to the imagination!!

According to Antony Gormley, Another Place harnesses the ebb and flow of the tide to explore man’s relationship with nature. He explains: The seaside is a good place to do this. Here time is tested by tide, architecture by the elements and the prevalence of sky seems to question the earth’s substance. In this work human life is tested against planetary time. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body. It is no hero, no ideal, just the industrially reproduced body of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe, facing a horizon busy with ships moving materials and manufactured things around the planet.

Whatever the reasons behind this piece of work, it is magnificent … and I highly recommend a visit.

Sometimes the ‘men’ are dressed up by visitors

Miles of golden sand

And some stunning beachside properties

As well as enjoying this beautiful stretch of beach and cultural interest, the sun came out to play too … albeit with a chilly wind.

After leaving the flat sands, the coastal path took us into some undulating sand dunes … not too bad though … pretty firm underfoot and pretty mild on the ascent/descent front – bliss in comparison to some horrific sand dunes we’ve encountered over the years.

The last stretch was a very long straight flat path, running between a military camp/firing range and the railway line. Occasional trains whizzing by and some loud activity from the firing range. We were certainly left in no doubt about the dangers … signs all along the path read “Do not touch any Military Debris. It may explode and kill you.” Message received loud and clear.

After 8 miles of walking we reached our destination in Formby. We hadn’t seen one cafe on the whole stretch so were parched and hungry. We’d only encountered one toilet block too and at 40p a pee (Steve edit ha ha!) we managed a little grumble!! So it was off to find a bite to eat.

So an easy first day. We’re here for 21 days but only intending to walk about 10 of those days. We had hoped to do Morecambe Bay but unfortunately it’s not accessible at this time of the year. We’ll be spending some days running, relaxing, National Trust visits … and there’s plenty of dog walking to do. We’re looking after two little dogs who are full of fun and character – Charlie and Billy – I have fallen madly in love with them. We have a cat called Ella to look after too but she is so low maintenance in comparison – she doesn’t get a look in with the lively boys!

Billy the whizz



Happy Tuesday evening everyone – so happy to be back out on that path!

The Purbeck Breezer

We’re heading down to Weymouth for a huge family get together at the weekend – so decided to have a couple of nights in Poole, en route, in order to fit in a day’s coastal walking .. and a ‘U’ for the parkrun alphabet!

Our original plan was to walk 14 miles today but at the last moment we replanned this to an 8 mile walk. To be honest, I am still feeling the after affects of the covid I had 4 weeks ago – can’t believe how long the general lack of energy lingers. This turned out to be a fabulous decision as we both said this had been one of our favourite walks to date. It had everything – hills, woodlands, cliffs, sun, sea and sand, blue skies, pleasant walking conditions, a gentle breeze … and a lovely boat to round it all off.

We left our airbnb at a reasonable time, rather than the crack of dawn, and caught the ‘Purbeck Breeze’ bus to Swanage. We sat upstairs to admire the amazing Dorset countryside views (there’s nothing like it) and we travelled through beautiful places like Wareham (my place of birth), Corfe Castle and Langton Matravers, finally reaching the beautiful seaside town of Swanage.

As we walked along the Swanage promenade we could see a vision of steepness ahead – oh goody! When we reached it there was an initial climbing of steps but after each phase of ascent there was an equal distance of flat. Turned out it was as the guide had suggested – ‘undulating’ … I love that word, I get great satisfaction out of saying it!! Having said that, the final uphill bit was a trifle gruelling but definitely mustn’t grumble as the rest of the day’s walk was a total breeze.

We followed the Purbeck Way along to the stunning spectacle of Old Harry Rocks – quite a crowd today, half-term walkers. One legend said that the devil (Old Harry) slept on these rocks! A bit dodgy getting near to the edge but we were oh so brave.

After a spot of picnic lunch we hit the Studland Woodland path which led us to the fabulous Studland Beach – a sheltered bay with golden sand and beach huts. We couldn’t believe it was the end of October – it could have been a summer’s day. Warm and sunny, so many children playing in the sand, plenty of swimmers – just generally busy. So wished I could have stopped for a swim.

On the way to the beach we had passed “The Pig at Studland” restaurant with rooms – looked fascinating. Would definitely like to try it out one day.

It was a long trek along Studland Beach, passing the notice which informed us of the Nudist section. Being a bit chilly it wasn’t heavily populated – but we did see amongst the sand dunes one chap in a cap, but nothing else, braving the elements.

And so we made it to South Haven Point where we caught the ferry over to Sandbanks which was, as usual, basking in its microclimate sunniness.

From there we hopped onto a ‘Purbeck Breezer’ back into the town of Poole, enjoying the luxury views of Sandbanks and Canford Cliffs on the way. Back to our humble Airbnb which has disco lighting, no heating and a list of rules as long as your arm!

We’ll be up early in the morning to tackle the Upton House parkrun – a ‘U’ for the collection – hopefully it’ll be a breeze.

Time flies … it’s time to fly home ✈️

Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th October 2022

Our final swim at the Butterfly Beach hotel

We woke up on our last full day to find torrential rain and the loudest thunderstorm you’ve ever heard. Any thoughts of a boat trip today went out the window – the sea was unbelievably choppy. We met a hotel guest returning from a fishing trip – soaked to the skin – he didn’t recommend it. By late morning the rain still hadn’t cleared so we were delighted when Mark and Karen messaged to say that they had hired a car – did we want to have a drive around the island with them? Yes please was the answer – beats mooching round a hotel room.

The hire car didn’t have a GPS so we did the best we could with the old fashioned method of ‘map.’ We thought we were heading to Bottom Bay on the East Coast but somehow found ourselves going round in circles inland. Great to see some local Bajun life – plenty of rum bars but not a coffee or snack bar in sight. Finally came across a Chefette and so settled for chicken roti and chicken wings. And then we found a route up to a place called Bathsheba, on the Atlantic coast. The weather was still wild but the views were stunning. We enjoyed watching the young surfers in the huge waves and also a pair of pelicans. (On a recent tour in Bridgetown, we were told that there were no more pelicans in Barbados, even though it’s their National Bird … happy to say we found some)!

The elusive pelicans

Drove on up to a local bar with fabulous views over Bathsheba – would be a perfect spot for a holiday home.

The hours drifted by and so we found we just about had enough time to get back to the SOCO hotel as Ben Waters was going to play at 5.30pm. I had my last night outfit ironed and ready but ended up going straight there in my walking clothes! When we arrived the guys were on the beach watching the baby turtles making their way to the sea. A conservationist lady rescued some to take to the turtle sanctuary as there is such a low rate of survival.

Ben did a fabulous set followed by Mike D’Abo – there was lots of dancing, cocktails, beer and chats with the lovely Rock and Roll crowd. Then it was time for goodbyes (again) and Steve and I caught a ‘packed to the rafters’ reggae bus back to our hotel.

Ben Waters playing at the SOCO Hotel

Barbara and John getting a jive on!

Mark having a boogie!!

And before we knew it, after two months of being away it was time to fly home. So bye-bye beach, bye-bye Barbados, bye-bye Caribbean – we’ve had the most magical time. I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll be back.

Our last glimpse of the Caribbean Sea – you’ve been a dream

Rock and Roll in Barbados …

Thursday 6th – Monday 10th October 2022

We spent the first few days in Barbados exploring our local area of Oistins Bay. The climate here is much more manageable for walking … and there’s the bonus of pavements. Having a kitchenette in our hotel room has meant that we can continue to self-cater for breakfast and lunch – so a trip to the local Massey Store was one of the first things on our agenda … this brought back wonderful memories of our supermarket shopping days in Choiseul, Saint Lucia (prices unfortunately still crazily high). Apparently Massey is a Trinidadian chain.

We’re only a short walk away from Oistins Bay Fish market with all the wonderful fish cafes and so many pretty beach areas to enjoy too – quite spoilt for choice.

The fish market was closing up … but thought this sign was great!

Anyone want to make an offer or it’s going on ebay!?

The size of the avocados is quite incredible … and SO tasty

The houses are so pretty

Steve took this photo while out running at warm o’clock!

The rocks are alive with these little chaps

A fellow walker found this in the shallows – we presumed it was a Flying Fish as seen on all the local menus

On Thursday we got to meet up with our lovely friends Mark and Karen. Steve has known Mark for over 30 years, through business and they live not far from us in Turweston. We don’t get to meet up often as they run a hugely successful outside catering business and are the hardest workers we know. So it’s a brilliant coincidence that we’re getting to spend some time together in Barbados and hopefully they’ll be able to switch off and relax.

We met up in Bridgetown where we’d booked up to go on a walking tour with Kirsten. So after big hugs and ‘hellos’ (not Kirsten) we were taken on an extremely interesting and informative tour of the old city. We learnt so much about its history, about colonisation, plantations and slavery, various invasions, the Jewish settlers introducing the sugar plantations, British rule, their modern politics and new Republic status and right up to the fact that they have their first female Prime Minister, plus their first President is female too. Yes, come on ladies!! Would thoroughly recommend the tour and our guide, a young history and politics student, was a pure delight. We loved it despite the fact that there were frequent downpours of rain. Mark even had to nip into a shop to buy a dry T-shirt.

Independence Square, Bridgetown. Their independence means so much to them.

The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow. The first Prime Minister of Barbados and known as the “Father of Independence”

Heading out on our Bridgetown walking tour … with Kirsten and our lovely pals Mark and Karen

Bridgetown harbour

Government buildings (disguised as a church)!

This area is soon to be condemned in order to build new hotels, even though they already know that there are hundreds of bodies buried underneath the ground here, the bodies of the slaves that didn’t survive the journey from Africa.

This was the first Rum bar in Barbados – the country where Rum was invented.

Bridgetown Synagogue

We got asked to do a video review of the tour … as the rest of us shied away you can guess who stepped up to the mark – Steve in full speech mode!

And then we tackled the bus station to get a bus back to our hotels. Took a fair bit of working out and waiting – but lots of chatting and banter with the local people helps. Have since got the hang of the transit van buses (or reggae buses) – amazing value, even though a little overcrowded and noisy at times)!!!!

Bridgetown bus station

Waiting patiently at the bus station … at this point anyway!

Friday night in these parts means only one thing – the Oistins Bay Garden Fish Fry. Tourists and locals alike gather to feast on amazing fish dishes, listen to music and dance. Mark and Karen joined us as we mixed into the chaotic atmosphere, finally picking a place to eat (so much choice) and enjoying the food, atmosphere and plenty of beer. I had the marlin which was absolutely mouth watering, Steve and Mark had shrimps and Karen enjoyed a fabulous dish of lobster. There were some dance performances on the main stage and we sort of shuffled and swayed at the side .. but I still didn’t get to have a full on boogie (I’d put my sports bra on and everything, thinking I’d be jumping up and down)! I guess being oldies and leaving at 10.00pm it was probably just hotting up!

Arriving at Oistins Friday night Fish Fry

Lots of lobster on offer

My Marlin, macaroni and coleslaw

Anyone for a fillet of Dolphin!!!!?

Dance performers – outstanding

On Saturday we got to meet up with Ben Waters and his entourage. Ben is a friend from back home, Dorset born and bred – I met him through my brother Phil … and Steve and I are big fans of his music – he played at Steve’s 60th Birthday Party. Ben is one of Europe’s top Rock and Roll pianists and has worked with the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Rod Steward and Jeff Beck. He is also a top bloke and the best of company. As well as performing Ben runs where he organises amazing holidays at home and abroad – his followers get to spend time with each other, and him, and he performs gigs with other musicians throughout the time they’re away. So we have been lucky enough to meet up with the gang over the last couple of days and listen to some fabulous performances from Jack Daniels and Micky Biggs and we’ve had the best of times in their beautiful hotel setting. We’ve also met Ben’s lovely wife Ruth for the first time. Mark and Karen are part of this group too – it is so funny that we both know Ben from different paths.

Ben and Ruth, with me and Karen in the background

Jack Daniels

But a true highlight was listening to a session by Mike D’Abo who is out here with Ben. Mike was the lead singer for Manfred Mann in its latter format. He had a number one with Bob Dylan’s ‘Mighty Quinn.’ He also wrote ‘Build me up Buttercup’ and “Handbags and Glad Rags’ for Rod Stewart. As soon as he started he was absolutely captivating – a true professional – producing so much emotion in all of us. And we were literally sat on sun beds around the pool with the sun setting – pure magic. We were all up dancing at the end … and as we looked around we saw the kitchen and restaurant staff dancing away in their areas – that will be a very special memory. And he still has the Rocker twinkle in his eye – a lovely man and a real charmer.

Mike D’Abo – magical memories

On Sunday, we met up with them all for a fabulous lunch at ‘Jake’s’ followed by some beach bar drinks, including Tequila shots, before sensibly managing the beach walk back to their hotel (the SOCO Hotel) before the tide came in – got just a little wet! After a few rounds of cocktails and a set by Mickey Biggs, Steve and I headed off for a reggae bus ride back to our very pink Butterfly Beach Hotel.

Waiting for the others to join us at Jake’s

Beach bar drinks
Ben in party swing

Making our way back to the SOCO hotel, avoiding incoming tide

Karen and I having enjoyed a cocktail or 5!!

Such a fun night

So another fabulous few days. Time is running out now but we’ll make the most of every minute that’s left. Had planned to do boat trips and island tours but the weather and ‘rock and roll’ gigs have sort of nicely interfered. Still we’re happy with the great company we’ve had, the relaxation of walking, swimming and simply looking up at blue sky and palm trees. What more could you possibly want. And something tells me we’ll definitely be back – so it’s good to leave things for the next time.

It’s our last night tomorrow and Ben’s going to be doing a gig at the hotel which will be such a fabulous way to end off our Caribbean travels. (For our MK friends, Ben Waters will be performing at The Stables on 1st November) – think you’d enjoy it.

Until next time – a sunny pina colada cheers!

Au revoir Martinique …. hello Barbados

Friday 30th September – Wednesday 5th October 2022

Pretty Martinique

Our last few days in Martinique passed by in relaxation and continued partial confinement (just in case). The weather had taken quite a downward turn – more wind and rain than we’ve had up to now but it has meant that we’ve been able to walk without feeling so drained and scorched. And our spoken French is picking up – it takes a few days to get into the swing. So plenty of ‘bonjours’ as we’re out walking and a few short conversations with staff and other visitors. We are definitely the only English speaking guests here – as there are no direct flights from the UK it would seem that it’s not a popular destination for the Brits. It’s a shame as it’s very pretty, lovely people, fabulous clothes shops and delicious French foods available (still at a price however, although the wine’s more reasonable).

On Friday afternoon we decided to venture into the village for early beers and early dinner (outside only of course). Since our first wander into the fishing village we’ve discovered a whole new beauty about it and it seems a shame that we weren’t able to make full use of it (darned Covid)! But at least we didn’t leave not having appreciated it.

Our pretty fishing village in Sainte-Luce. The sea laps up to the restaurants

A touch of Art Deco in the village

Over a few ‘Lorraine’ beers we got chatting to a German chap who is travelling to all the UN registered countries in the world. He has done 147 already and next on his list is Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan! Strangely enough he was a huge cricket fan, even though cricket is not played in his country, Steve and he naturally conversed on the subject in utter bliss!!

Turned out that the restaurants didn’t open till 7.00pm which meant drinking beer for 3 hours – such punishment. When we did finally eat we seemed to make an unlucky choice as the tuna was tough, bland and generally inedible. Luckily we had a little kitten with us all evening – he ate very well.

At least someone enjoyed the overcooked tuna !

Although quiet during the week, at the weekends the beaches become party land for families and friends. Huge tables (posh with white tablecloths) are set up with food and drink and the locals gather to chill or ‘lime,’ On the Saturday we managed to find an uninhabited little stretch of beach and spent a couple of hours on what felt like our own little desert island, swimming, reading, snoozing … that was until a nearby house went into full reggae and 70s disco mode, at unbelievably loud volume, with some fabulous dancing in the garden (Steve edit: The music was loud enough that I was able to Shazam a couple of songs on the beach for future use in the kitchen!). We bobbed along to the rhythm but still didn’t get an invite! They had no idea what they were missing!

On Sunday we fancied some exercise so plumped for an early morning 6 mile walk – out and back on the coast trail. There was shade in parts but jolly hot where there wasn’t … felt so good to be up and out though and good to explore this part of the island that’s been home for the last week.

After the disappointment of the tuna, we enjoyed dining in the last couple of nights – sitting outside on the verandah to enjoy our amazing views and the night skies. It has been such a blessing to have the kitchen this week while I’ve been poorly, as well as my wonderful Chief Cook and bottle washer Steve (lucky I packed him)!

And then it was time to leave Martinique on Monday morning, so we said our ‘au revoirs.’

Leaving Brise Marine Hotel

Woah, we’re going to Barbados, … Woah back to the palm trees

Flying high on Coconut Airways ….. Climbing high, Barbados Sky

Charlie drove us to the airport which turned out to be a more sophisticated operation than we’d imagined. In fact the whole journey from beginning to end was absolutely trouble-free. There were just 8 of us boarding the ‘Air Antilles’ flight to Barbados – thought we might be sitting with the pilot. Took off and landed 20 minutes early and then there was a slick taxi booking service in Barbados, unlike so many countries where you’re bombarded with drivers waiting to rip you off. Before we knew it we were completely unstressed in our Butterfly Beach Hotel in Oistins Bay – a very pink and heavily butterflied hotel on the beach – just as it says on the tin!

Martinique Airport

Walking out to our little plane

The Butterfly Beach Hotel

lots of butterfly artwork

Barbados looks like it’s going to be fun. Within an hour of arriving, we’d had a terrific lunch with wine, got to know the restaurant staff, checked out the facilities, lost the hotel key in the sea (fell out of Steve’s pocket) and I got nipped on the ankle by a crab – scared the Bejesus out of Steve with my blood curdling scream! I think they knew we’d arrived.

Our lovely hotel in Barbados

Our hotel beach

I keep going to speak in French now so need to adapt back (just so cosmopolitan)! And just about all the guests are English including a touring Cricket Team from Bicester and Oxford. Our hotel is a small family run establishment renowned for its repeat customers – everyone seems so happy and friendly. Steve’s been out running, we’ve walked a fair bit and loads of swimming, both pool and sea. But largely chilling (our new way of life it seems).

Having a really bad weather day today – huge winds and rain, massive waves – so it’s a perfect time to blog.

We have some friends from England due out this week so it could get busy – we’re not bored with each other (honest) but looking forward to some company! Seven days to go before heading back to Blighty – let’s see what Bajun life is all about.