Southport To Tarleton Lancashire
Saturday, February 8, 2020
It's Saturday 8th February 2020, myself, Dave Beech and Dave Evans are setting off on our walk from Southport to Tarleton. Having travelled up to Southport on Friday we are well rested and it's a beautiful sunny winters morning. Southport is a large seaside town in Merseyside which lies on the Irish Sea coast and is fringed to the north by the Ribble estuary. The rapid growth of Southport largely coincided with the Industrial Revolution and the later Victorian era, becoming a fashionable well-to-do spa town, visited to bathe in the salt sea waters. At that time, doctors recommended bathing in the sea to help cure all aches and pains. Southport also has the second longest seaside pleasure pier (the longest being Southend in Essex) and the wonderful Lord Street, an elegant tree lined shopping street where we met Dave Evans' Cousins Barbara and Brian for afternoon tea the day before. The towns expansion continued in the 19th century as it gained a reputation for being a more refined seaside resort than it's nearby neighbour up the coast in Blackpool. With far too many fabulous buildings lining Lord Street to mention here, I must comment on the stunning Southport War Memorial. Unveiled in 1923, it consists of an obelisk and is flanked by two colonnades in the form of Greek temples. It has memorial gardens, each containing a pool of remembrance and fountains.
After walking the length of the pier our path will now follow beside the busy Marine Drive Road, but despite this the sunlight's warmth is very pleasant and you almost forget the road is there, walking down on the soft saltings of Southport Sands. The sun is a welcome addition to our walk, but we know it's the calm before the Storm, because an extra-tropical cyclone Storm Ciara is expected to bring havoc and disruption across the British Isles over the next few days.
At Fiddlers Ferry near Banks, there's a small dogleg in the path, but once around this you head out onto the seawall built to reclaim land for agriculture. At Bank's Marsh, the walk becomes very rural and the countryside is very nice for walking. Here the rare saltmarsh habitat is part of the Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve and the perfect home for a variety of wonderful wildlife including big flocks of wading birds.
At Hesketh Out Marsh the wind has started to build and the temperature has dropped making the walk now unpleasant. Unsheltered, it's a relief that we eventually find the River Asland or River Douglas and turn toward Hesketh Bank. The river here is known by two names, sorry three, if you include Astland and this meandering river is our last stretch into Tarleton.
At Hesketh Bank we pass through a boat yard beside the Douglas, stopping to talk to a nice lady called Jill and one skipper who is "battening down his hatches" for the impending storm, by covering his newly restored boat with a tarpaulin.
However, typically just before we enter Tarleton our path is blocked by a quagmire of cow muck, mud and water. The path runs through a small farm and the feeding troughs have been placed right next to the path and I can not help wonder if it is deliberate, messing up the footpath. This has resulted in the most foul smelling liquid blocking our route. I look everywhere for a route around it, but the only way forward is to walk through parts of it, walk through the food trough's and then through Hawthorne bushes skirting the path. When I say "typically", this is a common occurrence with walking, whenever you want to stop for a bite to eat at a nice country pub or near the end of a days walk you will find the muddiest field of the day, meaning there's a need to clean or cover up before you can relax. Well, the whole experience here is one of the worse to date, poor Dave Evans even fell in and although funny, (sorry Dave), we all stank rotten. I had mud and cow faeces up to my knees and I had no idea how we were going to clean this all off. Dave looked terrible, covered from head to toe down one side, however by some miracle, at the old Douglas Navigation canal lock gates Tarleton Boatyard, there was a water hose beside the sheds. Looking around for permission to use it, but without joy, it was our best option to get cleaned up. Despite it not having much pressure it made a huge difference and it was lucky I always carry a long handled scrubbing brush due to such incidents in the past!
The Canal gates here were once part of the Douglas Navigation which was later superseded by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The brain child of Thomas Steers and William Squire was to make the Douglas navigable to small ships between Wigan and the river mouth.
Finally we arrive in Tarleton and although a little smelly and damp from our hose downs, we are as keen as a dog with two tails for a well earned pint and some food. 15.52 miles.
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