My hometown of Blackpool is a caricature of the traditional Lancashire seaside resort; sticks of rock, garbage covered, crowded beaches at the merest hint of sun, booze fuelled parties and miles of amusement arcades. Families used to traipse around from one attraction to the other in the height of summer, these are in decline now however. The drunken stag and hen parties have driven the families to mid-week only excursions, possibly daytrips during the illuminations, the annual festival of light which excites every child, even those way past their best before date.
Returning with a friend for the first time in over 18 months on a cold, dank Sunday in January did not at first appear to offer too much to get excited about. Unsurprisingly for a resort which relies on summer holiday makers for it’s economy almost all the attractions and shops were closed. It was not even possible to take a long stroll on one of the town’s three famous short piers.
The resort has cleaned up it’s act, the beaches are much cleaner, swimming in the sea doesn’t require a public health warning, many of the traders selling the tacky souvenirs have been moved on and the ‘kiss me quick’ image is diminishing. Blackpool is attempting to reinvent itself whilst still wishing to appeal to the families which once arrived in hordes during the heyday of the resort.
There has been some development along the seafront in particular. the sea defences have been improved in an attractive manner. |The promenade has been extended, a new festival centre opened, grassed verges incorporated and huge plastic vanes like giant punchbags tower over those braving the winter elements. I like what the architects have produced, it has been modernised but retains it’s original appeal, bringing back happy memories of my childhood.
Most surprising for me as a local, was the difficulty we had finding a pub serving a Sunday roast dinner; after trying three separate boozers unsuccessfully we had to settle for a cafe in Bispham. Maybe this is due to a lack of customers but possibly the offer of a roast dinner might tempt more customers, is this the demise of the Sunday pub lunch? Damn, I hope not!
Even in winter it is possible to ride one of the frequent trams which patrol the Fylde Coast seafront from Starr Gate all the way to the Fleetwood ferry. The old slightly tired and weather worn trams have disappeared, replaced by a plush new fleet of ultra modern trams. Comfortable, yes but I miss the old ‘chuggers’, not all modernisation is for the better.
We purchased a great value day ticket in advance for just £3.50 each which allowed us to ride the trams all day and travelled up to Cleveleys. The seafront here has also undergone a bit of a transformation but it still retains its appeal, I love the coast here. It is a mix of sand, pebbles and breakwaters, there isn’t the miles of clear sand of Blackpool but the walk up to Rossall Beach is a particular favourite.
There are plenty of little stop off points, pubs and cafes to enjoy a swift pint or coffee in the cold weather. It seemed busier in Cleveleys, most of the shops here were open and people were bustling between the stores, is this proof of my earlier Sunday lunch theory?
Dusk was now settling in, the night sky beginning to take a grip on the Fylde Coast and the shoreline was becoming more attractive. It was not about hiding any flaws, just that the dimmed light softened the brash appearance of the resort adding to it’s appeal.
North Pier in it’s sunset hue was especially attractive and there was the added surprise of a large flock of birds moving in unison, almost as a single entity. A dancing, ever changing pattern in the evening sky, as if choreographed to perfection. It only lasted several moments, but it is a lasting memory of this daytrip and reason enough to be already planning a return trip from Manchester to my hometown.