Blackpool’s pleasures

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An intake of cool air, exhalation of whispy breath, steel blades connecting with ice … … and you were either flat on your bum or gliding along with the crowd!

Memories of Blackpool Ice Rink.  Speed skating, disco and ice dance sessions. Tired little bodies plodding through the Pleasure Beach on their way home, ice boots laced together slung over a shoulder, sharing a bag of freshly popped buttery popcorn.

Childhood reminiscences were awakened by a visit to the Blackpool Arena, as it’s now called, to see the Hot Ice Show 2016, Obsession.  The show is spectacular – atmospheric lighting, stirring music, exotic costumes. Over thirty professional young ice dancers enjoy every moment of their performance. Showing off their balletic, athletic and technical expertise, they twizzle, turn, lift, and flip. Gliding seamlessly from one movement to another the cast performed with poise and grace. It was a compelling show.

Tickets for the Ice Show include access to the Pleasure Beach. Back in the day the Pleasure Beach had an open door. Free to roam; pay for your rides. Nowadays you have to pay just to walk around. A pity.

What a joy taking pleasure in watching others have pleasure
on Blackpool Pleasure Beach

The original rides are still there – The Derby, Wild Mouse, Big Dipper, Grand National, Ghost Train, and oldest on the Pleasure Beach, The Flying Machines. Many have gone – Fun House, Monster, Monorail, Reel, Log Flume.  Super scary rides have taken their place.  Oh, and remember Lucy the Llama? Led by her uniformed keeper, she used to pull a little wooden cart full of kiddies around the children’s arena.

I’m going again before the end of the run, not only to see the amazing ice show, but also to see what other childhood recollections come to light on another stroll through Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

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Ribble Wasteland Walk

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River Ribble wasteland

I’m in a scene from a Mad Max movie. A gang of motorbike delinquents rumble across a desolate wasteland of post-apocalyptic debris.  There’s enough wood to build a log cabin.

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River Ribble artwork

And then back to reality I’m on part of the Lancashire Coastal Way near Freckleton.

Even though it’s not one of prettiest, I like this short walk. It’s easy, fascinating and, as with all walks, you never know what might turn up.

The footpath starts just off Naze Lane in Freckleton, one of the oldest villages on the Fylde, and runs parallel with Freckleton Pool, a creek that drains into the River Ribble. Peeking through the treeline there are glimpses of Freckleton’s boat building and agricultural livelihood.

Oystercatchers, curlews and gulls make themselves known. Hedgerow birds play hide and seek. So frustrating when all I see through my binoculars are leaves! The path opens up, crosses a field and leads to a fabulous viewpoint where the River Ribble and River Douglas meet. This is the most perfect spot for a picnic, bird, and boat watching.

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Winter Hill masts

Shellducks squabble at the river’s edge; a heron flies down river. I’ve seen a kingfisher here before – but not today.

BOOM! A Typhoon lifts off from Warton Aerodrome interrupting the stillness and peace of the riverside.  What a spectacle. What a sound.

Natural beauty contrasting with state of the art technology. That’s why I love this walk.

 

Marton Mere, Blackpool

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Blackpool Tower watches over Marton Mere

You don’t expect to find a nature reserve just a stone’s throw from the buzz of bubbly Blackpool.

In a former life Marton Mere, a nationally recognised Site of Special Scientific Interest, was the council rubbish tip. It sits in weird place between the De Vere Hotel and Golf Course and popular Marton Mere Haven Caravan Holiday Park. Neither undermines the beauty of this enchanting nature reserve.

Mallards and moorhens paddle on the open water; warblers skulk and twitter from the reedbeds where giant dragonflies hover; sparrows, blackbirds, goldfinches, magpies gather in the grassland; rabbits run round the scrub; whitethroats sing their heart out; long-tailed tits perform acrobatics in the trees; a carpet of wildflowers and grasses entices butterflies and bees.

The reserve has well defined footpaths, strategically placed hides dotted around the mere, and a visitor centre staffed by friendly and knowledgeable volunteers. A very nice man told me where I would most likely see a Cetti’s Warbler. He explained behaviour pattern and even sang their song!

I found the spot, sat quietly, and waited … …

An explosive song burst and one russet brown bird flew out of the willow trees into the reedbed. Seconds later another followed. Two Cetti’s Warblers – a first for me – sadly no chance of a snapshot!

Marton Mere – what a discovery, what a special place.

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Go explore Marton Mere – there’s lots to discover

The weather’s variable …

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Wearing a fleece.

In JULY.

Brave souls huddle behind the sea wall slurping ice-creams. A hungry wind snatches a little boy’s chips. Shouldn’t smile, but what a face! Anorak hoods pulled tight, hands stuffed in pockets, toughies exposing bare arms and legs.

A man tell his friends,
“This is the cleanest beach in England.”   Blackpool South is proudly flying a Blue Flag.
He asks me to take a phone-photo with Blackpool Tower in the background.
“He’s a foreigner,” and points to his mate.
“Where from?”
“Loughborough.”
That’s foreign – it’s the Midlands!

It’s too windy for the Big One to snake it’s course, but the big bungee ride on South Pier is not afraid of the wind. It’s in full flight and my tum flips a turn just watching.

White horses cavort on the sea.  Gulls effortlessly ride the gusts. Kiteboarders show off their prowess.


The weather’s variable …. so sang Magazine back in 1981. A fitting number to hum on a stroll along the prom. Not just today, but every day. The joy of the challenges of unseasonal weather. What to wear? Should I stay or should I go? Thanks Clash, there’s another apt hum along.

I’ll go. Dig out those old LPs, enjoy a nice hot cuppa, and hope it’s summer tomorrow.