I traverse the longest promenade in Britain, surely it must be? This section of the walk should have chalked off three piers and a ferry, but I was to be disappointed!
Right, I’ve just looked it up and according to Wikipedia, New Brighton has the longest promenade at 2 miles. That can’t be right, because I started on Blackpool’s promenade a mile or so before the end of the last walk, and it was promenade all the way to Fleetwood today – at least 11 miles. I guess it depends where you decide that one promenade ends and the next begins. Sorry, this is getting boring….
Just for a change, instead of starting with a bus stop picture, today it’s a tram stop. London Street stop, in Fleetwood. I know you love these pics!
I park up nearby the tram stop, and the tram takes me back to Blackpool South Pier, where I finished last time. At £2.90 for a 10 mile trip, that’s probably the cheapest public transport I’ve used so far. I like trams. In Blackpool you get on the tram without a ticket – you’d get a £25 fine for doing that in Manchester. Blackpool trams have conductors. Cool.
So, here’s Blackpool South Pier again. We saw the garish amusement arcade frontage at the end of the last walk. This morning I’m allowed onto the pier and walk to the end of it. The views from the end are quite nice.
I originally planned to visit St Anne’s pier at 11am this morning, just to tick it off my list, and then drive up to Fleetwood, but that would have meant I probably would have missed the last Fleetwood ferry, so I’ll do that another day. I now have two piers ticked off (Southport and Blackpool South).
Coming off the pier I notice a guy just in front of me with rucksack, walking boots, wooly hat and gloves – a clone of me it seems. I ask him how far he’s going – he’s only walking a bit of the promenade. He used to be a serious photographer – even sold some of his work – and he takes an interest in my camera and what I’m doing. He’s called Johnny, here he is…
We chat for quite a while, all the way from the South Pier to the Central Pier in fact, where I intend to walk to its end…. but my plan is foiled. The pier is closed due to the weather. That’s two piers I’m going to have to catch up on. This is becoming a bit of a logistical minefield. Oh well, Johnny and I continue north up the promenade towards the North Pier. We pass the Tower…
One nice thing about walking on your own is that it’s very easy to talk to other people you meet. I chat with as many people as I can on my walks. It’s great to meet new people.
The wind is really strong today, the day after Storm Dennis. The forecast says 34mph gusting to over 50! The wind is playing sand devils, delighting the people on the beach.
Looking back at the closed Central Pier, the sunlight reflects in the pools and rivulets scattered across the sand.
A golden-tiled building glints in the low winter midday sunshine.
We eventually get to the North Pier, only to find that it’s closed too, this time for winter maintenance. I think it’s probably time to give up my idea of walking to the end of every pier around the country. I’m going to find half of them closed for one reason or another. Oh well. Here’s the North Pier anyway, as viewed from the prom.
I take to the lower promenade, closest to the sea, and follow it for mile upon mile. It seems the Blackpool Half Marathon is on today – and there’s a stall selling bacon barms above me on the upper promenade – that’s worth a climb up, can’t resist that!
Below me on the lower promenade, one contestant is bringing up the rear, hardly running at all, but don’t take the piss – she was still going faster than I was!
Now the lower promenade and upper merge together, and I realise I’ve missed a lot of the sights of Blackpool along the road. I’ve been to Blackpool loads of times, and I know I haven’t actually missed anything at all! Now the paths have merged I get to see some of the delights, such as the repulsive Norbreck Castle Hotel.
The route of the half marathon is clearly 6½ miles north along the lower promenade, then 6½ miles back south, into the 50mph headwind…. this pink dog has got a frighteningly arduous second half to go. Do I feel sorry for her? A bit, but my walk is 11 miles with a tailwind all the way, so I’m not devastated!
As the tide comes in, the wind whips the waves up, throwing them against the sea wall.
I reach Cleveleys and encounter a monument to all the ships that have foundered along these shores over the centuries.
Next along the beach is Mary’s Shell, an artwork which is now semi-submerged.
The seagulls are certainly enjoying the wind, barely having to flap their wings, just soaring around, circling above my head. Sorry mate, I’ve got no chips…
The wind seems to be getting stronger the further north I go. Flecks of foam are being ripped out of the sea and thrown against me by the angry wind, but I can also hear the patter of sand thrown at the back of my coat hood. A gale of furies seemingly targeted against me.
This promenade is endless! It just goes on and on and on and on….. surely I must be near the northern tip of the peninsula soon?
A mile later I finally reach the northern tip, but it’s hard to tell when, as it has no distinguishing features – the path just gradually curves to the right until I’m walking along the northern shore, past the coastguard building, with attendant guards.
Far across the water I can make out the hulk of Heysham Nuclear Power Station – it’ll be a few weeks yet before I get there.
It is along here that I find an information board that solves a mystery I’ve puzzles over since I started this walk. I’ve found loads of these along the beaches over the last few weeks…
I’d guessed they may be some kind of sponge, or perhaps a type of seaweed. Anyway, the information board tells me that they’re the egg cases of the common whelk. Whelk baby homes. There, now I know!
I walk along the beach for a little bit, just for a change. It’s mostly shingle, with sand interspersed, and occasional grassy patches, quite nice. I pass a small row of beach huts, and the prom then ends and becomes a pavement.
A beautiful sculpture by Anita Lafford sits on the pavement, a tribute to the families of Fleetwood fishermen who have, down the years, shared the dangers and uncertainties of the industry.
It’s a reflective place along this coast, with memorials to many ships and crew who have perished in the sea. This one to the fishermen who lost their lives in the course of their work…
… and this one to the victims of a helicopter which crashed in 2006…
…and even just the simple laying of flowers on Valentine’s day to a lost husband, somehow feels the most poignant of the three…
Just around the corner is the ferry terminal, and the end of today’s walk. I intend to catch the ferry over to Knott End, then immediately catch it back again. That will fill the gap between this walk and the next. However, my plans are dashed again, when the ferryman shouts up to me that they’ve given up for the day, despite there being two more scheduled sailings. Oh great. I’ll just have to do the ferry journey at the start of the next section instead.
This walk was completed on 16th Feb 2020. It was about 11 miles long. Here’s the real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around…