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!!