If you’ve read my Blackpool to Fleetwood blog you’ll know of my frustrations with “collecting” all the piers on mainland Britain – basically walking to the end of each of them. And if you’ve read my “About” page you’ll know how much that irks me, not having a complete collection of things. It’s something I can laugh at myself for, but it’s still a grain of grit in my shoe; annoying, but not quite bad enough to bother stopping to take my shoe off and empty it.
Well, I’ve come up with an easier collection… lighthouses. I’ll pass and photograph every lighthouse on mainland Britain. I did a quick internet search and came up with a few UK lighthouse collection websites, but many were not complete. The BBC’s Countryfile programme has a guide to the more interesting ones, Trinity House has their own site which is also worryingly not complete (have they lost some?), but Wikipedia has the complete list.
Then I encountered a problem. Not all lighthouses are on the mainland. Some are on rocks near the mainland, but some are miles out to sea, the Wyre Light for example. I’ve already passed this apparently, but since it’s on a sandbank 2.3 miles from land I hadn’t noticed it. Anyway, here are the two land-based lighthouses I’ve passed so far…
Fleetwood Upper (normally called the Pharos Lighthouse):
…and Fleetwood Lower:
These two lighthouses are designed to be used as a pair to guide shipping through the treacherous sandbanks of the Wyre estuary. I’ll get to see my third lighthouse later on this trip.
Looking at the weather this weekend, during Storm Jorge, there are only a couple of gaps in which it hopefully won’t rain. It seems there’s a 7 hour gap that will be mostly dry near Fleetwood from 9am until 4pm, but that means leaving Manchester at 6:40am on a Saturday morning to catch the bus from Glasson Dock to Knott End.
I get to Glasson Dock in just enough time, and have a few minutes to wander around. It’s a pretty little place, with a massive marina, and a huge car park. The car park is completely empty, but you have to pay to park there, so I leave my car just a hundred yards away at the side of the road. The No 89 arrives on time, and for almost all of the 47-minute journey, I’m the only passenger.
The bus drops me right at the ferry terminal in Knott End, and I can see the ferry on the opposite bank in Fleetwood. It doesn’t appear to be running yet – I need to do the crossing to make my circuit complete, so it looks like I’ll have to come back afterwards to catch the ferry. It’s going to tip down with rain at 4pm apparently, but I guess that doesn’t matter if I’m on the ferry.
The route starts off along the promenade, which is nice easy walking, but along the way I pop into the town centre to get some cash and provisions for the journey. I find a cashpoint, which charges me 95p which is annoying, because I then pop into the Co-Op over the road for shopping to find they have a free ATM inside. Walking back to the promenade I find another free one. Bugger. I could do with a leak as well, but all the toilets cost 30p and I haven’t got that in change. I’m hungry too, so look for a cafe to kill two birds with one stone, but everywhere apart from shops appears to be closed.
At the end of the first section of the promenade is a slipway which is free to use. A slipway near the ferry terminal charges £4 to launch a boat, which seems a bit expensive. It seems everywhere around here they’re trying to charge you for things which you can get for free if you just know where to go – car parks, cashpoints, toilets, slipways….
Far away in the distance, across the water, looms Heysham Nuclear Power Station. I’m actually doing this walk after the section which goes past the power station (for reasons explained in that blog entry), so I’m very familiar with its sinister hulk. It’s just a dot on the far coastline at the moment though.
The promenade becomes a path, as it passes the outer suburbs of Knott End. The housing estate gives way to a caravan park. I wonder if this coast is especially highly populated with caravan parks, or if all of Britain’s coast is like that now. When I grew up in Cornwall in the 1970s I don’t remember any. Maybe Cornwall is teeming with them as well now. I once stayed in a static caravan for a couple of days in Rhyl. With five adults and three children. It’s not an experience I really want to remember, let alone repeat. Maybe because it was in Rhyl, or perhaps because it involved an overweight male friend, inebriated and half asleep, trying to climb into my bed after going to the toilet in the middle of the night. Hmmm… maybe it wasn’t the caravan’s fault after all.
I spot this delightfully dilapidated barn, I love the curves on it…
…and then in the next field encounter quite a range of animals, from the ordinary – this friendly horse for a start…
…to more ordinary, but my favourite, the obligatory crow picture…
…a couple of rabbits, one black which I’ve not seen before in a wild rabbit. Maybe an escaped pet?
And perhaps rarer – is this an egret maybe?
…to the entirely unexpected…
A single white emu in a farm field in northern Lancashire…. strange. Looking the other way, out to sea, is another bird, maybe a redshank according to RSBP bird identifier, but I really don’t have a clue.
and a pair of pretty oyster-catchers which I do recognise.
The tide is starting to come in now, and the channels through the marsh are filling up.
On the inland side of the raised bank I’m following is a fenced-off area with what looks like dead reeds being cultivated in it. There’s even a static caravan situated in the middle of the site. There’s clearly something important going on here, but none of my maps gives any clue. I can’t find anything on the internet either.
Shortly after, the path comes to an end where Fluke Hall Lane starts.
My plan on Komoot directs me down the lane on the right in the picture, but there appears to be a route along next to the coast, and so I clamber down the boulders which make up the sea defence and onto a grassy path. Just at this point a hail shower starts, and the wind launches the hailstones against my thin trousers like airgun pellets. This is the first time I’m wearing my new walking trousers rather than jeans. I don’t really like walking trousers very much, but they dry out very quickly apparently, and since the weather for today was a bit dodgy I thought I’d try them out. Jeans would have kept these hailstones at bay, but the walking trousers are doing very little to protect me from the stingy little things!
As quickly as it came, the hailstorm stops and the sun comes out. After a few hundred yards I encounter the reason why Komoot sent me down the lane instead of this way…
I double back and wander along Fluke Hall Lane, past Fluke Hall itself, and meet another friendly horse, who comes running up to the fence as I approach. There are tufts of luscious grass on my side of his fence, but on his side the grass is quite short, so I grab a few handfuls and offer them to him, which he greatly enjoys.
I spend a few minutes with him, then say my goodbyes and carry on down the lane. The sun is quite strong now, and with the reflections in the wet road surface is quite glaring. I never expected to need sunglasses today of all days!
I can see the embankment continuing along next to the coast across the fields. It’s a shame I’m not allowed to walk along it.
I then find the most pointless bench. It’s on a particularly unspectacular section of this road, nowhere near any houses, bus stops, or anything of any note whatsoever. There’s no inscription on it either. Very strange.
The path shortly arrives in the village of Pilling, and passes a quaint little Victorian primary school.
Round the corner from the school, the route takes School Lane, past the Golden Ball pub. I notice on the side of the pub there’s an air raid siren mounted to the wall. Why would a village pub have an air raid siren? I’m intrigued, is this some hangover from the cold war? Or perhaps the landlord just liked it and decided to fit it to his pub – I can’t imagine his neighbours are as keen on it though.
Next to the road is a pretty little garden, presumably built for the North West Britain in Bloom competition that Pilling won a silver medal in last year.
The road passes over a river which seems to be called Pilling Water according to the OS map, and flows down past the landmarks of Fanny Bridge, under Ladies Hill. Ooh-err. That’s what the OS map says anyway.
Just over the bridge is a picture-postcard windmill, minus its sails, next to the river.
At this point, I would have liked to follow a raised bank on the left which other coastal walkers before me took, but this path is closed between Boxing Day and Good Friday.
Apparently, this is to prevent disturbing overwintering birds, and so I have to carry on along Backsands Lane, which eventually brings me to a copse of trees and Lane End Amenity Area. Here the route comes to the main A588 and I have to make a choice. The road doesn’t have a pavement, just a grassy verge, which could be quite hair-raising with fast traffic, but it doesn’t look very busy at the moment.
Or I could take the Lancashire Coastal Way, which goes inland at this point, and was the route chosen by Ruth Livingstone when she came this way, but that didn’t turn out too well for her. A comment on her blog by another coastal walker said he took the A588 and it wasn’t so bad, so I decide to do the same. A group of nosey sheep think I made the wrong decision…
After only a few hundred yards Komoot tells me to turn left down a track towards the sea. I check the OS map and this doesn’t appear to be a public footpath, but it does take me off the road and onto the embankment next to the sea. I’m a bit uncertain what to do, but decide what the hell, if I get stopped by a farmer I’ll bullshit my way out of it with my extraordinary charm! It might work…
From the top of the embankment I can see right over across the marsh all the way to Heysham Power Station.
Along the way I come across the bodies of two sheep, decomposed so much there are only bones, skin, and fleece left. It seems strange to me that a farmer would just leave the carcasses here, but then what else could he do with them I suppose?
I come across several shotgun cartridges just chucked on the ground. This area is used for wildfowl shooting.
I recently read an article that said Britain is importing 57 million wildfowl from various European countries just so people can shoot them. That brings all sorts of other problems for our native species as well. While everyone is up in arms about grey squirrels driving out the red, we’re importing 57 million foreign species that’ll eat the food of our native species. Just so the aristocracy and their hangers-on can get a thrill by blowing them away. So I’m not allowed to walk along the previous embankment because I’ll scare the birds, but my “betters” are allowed to blast them out of the sky.
I was going to type “this country’s gone mad”, but of course this has been going on for centuries – the aristocracy gallivanting around the countryside on land that their ancestors stole, or anybody else’s land they feel like for that matter, killing things whenever they get the opportunity. They call it “sport”. Football is sport, rugby, tennis and cricket are sports. In sport, both sides are deliberately given equal chances. How is killing things sport? Come the revolution!
Just as I’m contemplating all this, I spot a guy with a quad bike working his way along the embankment towards me. It must be the farmer… I prepare for a showdown!
When I reach him he stops to talk to me. I start off trying to disarm him with comments about the weather and how his farm is in such a lovely location. It works a little bit, but he quickly tells me that this is private property, and how would I like it if he walked through my garden. Actually I wouldn’t mind at all because I live in a 6th floor apartment, but I don’t think mentioning that would help my cause too much right now.
While moaning about people walking on his land, he tells me that Natural England is planning on running the English Coastal Path through it, and how he won’t get any compensation for this, and I spot my way in. “That’s terrible” I sympathise with him. “That’s so out of order that they can bully you like that, just take your land off you without so much as a by your leave”.
He’s warming to me. He turns off the engine to his buggy, and we discover we’re both pissed off by dog walkers too, the ones who don’t pick up their dog poo. I tell him about Toxicara worms that can blind children, and he tells me about Neospora that can cause cattle to abort their calves.
By the time we’re done we’ve shaken hands, he’s told me all about his family, and also told me how to cross all his land to get to the end of the embankment, and that I’m welcome here. Sorted.
The embankment continues a mile or so, then eventually turns a sharp right-hand bend and heads south to the A588.
The wind is so strong along this section that I try dropping down the embankment a bit to the left-hand side in an attempt to make walking easier, but the grass is longer here and is frequently boggy, so I climb back up, put my hood up and get on with it. Where the embankment finally reaches the road, I spot a depressing sign attached to the other side of the gate. “Sporting Rights”? WTF?
The main road crosses a river, and a public footpath just the other side takes me north towards Cockerham Sands.
Again, the lower path is too boggy to walk along easily, so I pick my way along the slope, which is difficult but keeps my feet dry. The path shortly comes to a gate, beyond which the path is tarmacked. A sign tells me there is an active airfield here. I’m intrigued, so I climb up a few steps, and find a parachuting club.
I’ve always wanted to go parachuting, it must be the most incredible feeling of freedom just falling like that. I think I’ll give it a go sometime soon.
The track becomes a road which makes for easier walking. To my left is still marsh through which numerous channels and brooks snake their way. One large brook ends in a “tidal flap”, with a special pass for eels!
The path leads to an impressive farmhouse, which is now the office of yet another caravan park.
The path skirts around the coastal side of the farmhouse and caravan park. Beyond the marshy foreshore I’ve now finally got to the sea proper, rather than estuary. That’s always nice! Estuaries are great for bird watchers, but it’s the sea that I’m doing this walk to be next to.
The path drops down onto a little lane where a postman sits having his lunch in his van.
Around the corner, the marsh gives way to a shingle beach with a little patch of red sand. I’ve never seen red sand before, maybe some macabre killing has recently occurred here, or a satanic sacrifice? No, later on, I find patches of red sandstone, a more logical but less beguiling explanation.
I climb back up onto the path, and over the fence spot what looks like a lookout post – a relic from the Second World War perhaps?
The concrete sea wall is collapsing in places along here, perhaps due to the recent series of storms.
The path now opens out onto a lawn-like field, in the middle of which sits the remains of Cockersands Abbey. It feels quite out of place here.
Just a few hundred yards out to sea is Plover Scar lighthouse, my third lighthouse so far. This used to be manually maintained by people who walked out to it at low tide, but currently the tide is in and it’s hard to imagine how you could walk to it. It was built in 1847, as the lower light of a pair of leading lights. In March 2016, the lighthouse was badly damaged when it was struck by a passing ship, which was navigating its way at night to Glasson Docks. The upper section of stone wall was nudged a foot off-centre and metal strengthening bands around the lighthouse snapped.
The fact that a lighthouse got rammed by a ship in the night perhaps suggests it wasn’t doing its job particularly well, but it was decided to stick with it anyway, and repairs were made, which involved partially dismantling the stone tower. Over 200 stone blocks were taken to a worksite on the beach and numbered so that they could be reassembled in place.
A battalion of oystercatchers guards the promontory of land that leads to the lighthouse. A recording about the lighthouse keeper from 1948 can be found online here.
I guess the lighthouse is named after the birds who nest here – plovers. I think I can see a flock of Golden Plovers, well they look like the picture on the poster anyway! They’re a bit far away to tell for certain.
The path passes a cottage for sale, right next to the sea wall. The fact that the windows facing the sea are designed to be boarded up shows just how vulnerable this cottage is to storms!
The path reaches Crook Farm, and turns inland for a bit. The track past the farm is particularly muddy, and I have to hang onto the hawthorn bushes by the side in places to get through with dry feet.
At the end of this short track is a little old red tractor. I like little old red tractors.
Around the corner, the path follows the edge of a field, and I have even more difficulty keeping my feet dry. This is starting to get challenging.
But I manage it, again by holding onto the hawthorn branches while leaning out over the mud with my feet under the hedge. I’ve still got dry feet. That’s two obstacles conquered. I round another corner and realise I’ve definitely met my match this time….
The path goes through that gate! I look around, perhaps there’s a route to my left, but the field gets very boggy that way. I look on the OS map – the path definitely goes through that gate. There is an alternative path a way back, but that would mean tackling those two difficult muddy sections again. I think about wading through the water – if it’s only grass below the water it might be OK. I’ve got spare socks and my racing shoes in my rucksack, so that could be a solution. And of course these walking trousers dry quickly so I’m told. Or I could take them off… perhaps not. The water doesn’t look that deep, three feet maybe, but I’ve got a camera, phone, and other stuff that wouldn’t appreciate a dunking.
Clearly if I wade through, or swim through, my feet are going to get wet, so I might as well try to find another route past it. On the OS map there appears to be an embankment on my left on the other side of the boggy field. I’ll get my feet wet crossing the field but what the hell. A few minutes later I’ve reached the embankment with only slightly wet feet, not too bad. I’m pleased to see that the embankment will allow me to pass the flood.
The ducks are certainly enjoying the flood anyway! It reminds me when I lived near Fletcher Moss park in South Manchester, which is deliberately flooded when the River Mersey gets too high. Within hours of it being flooded ducks would turn up just to be able to swim where normally they couldn’t.
The sun shining on the waters, surrounded by the green pasture, makes for a pretty photo now my feet are well above it.
A quick movement to my left attracts my attention, and I spin to see three hares. I’ve never seen a hare before so I’m quite excited. I can’t believe how big they are – at least twice as big as a rabbit, and so fast! Sorry the photo is a bit fuzzy but the hare was quite far away and running quickly.
I feel quite privileged! There are so many native animals in Britain I haven’t ever seen – red squirrels (didn’t see any in Formby), adders, grass snakes, water voles. But now I can say I’ve seen a hare.
The embankment drops down to join the lane that the public footpath also joins, and I’m now back on route. The lane joins a main road, which then curves round and down into Glasson Dock village, and I’m at the end of this section.
I intended to drive back to Knott End to catch the ferry over to Fleetwood and back to complete that section properly, but just as I got in the car I got a phone call about a family issue so had to return to Manchester. I’ll just have to do that ferry journey another time.
I’ll leave you with some pictures of Glasson docks and marina.
This walk was completed on 29th Feb 2020, and was about 14.9 miles long.
Here’s the real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around…