Monday 27th October was the start of our next trip, our annual ‘cycle Blackpool Illuminations. Well I say annual, it was actually the third time we have done this. We again opted for a return visit to one of Tranquil Touring Parks member’s sites, the excellent Manor House Caravan Park at Marton Moss run by Jeremy and Sharon Haworth.
Manor House Caravan Park is a little over an hours towing from Manchester so Monday morning was busied with loading up the usual stuff and mounting the bike rack and bikes on to the back of the Freelander. Sue had been working all weekend so on top of the usual was a quick tidy up ready for the cat sitter who comes to look after the ‘boys’ while we are away.
Sharon had rung me on Sunday to let me know that Kitty Lane had a road closed sign on it, but to ignore it. It seems that there had been a water main leak just past the site and currently there was a bit of a hole that meant the lane was partly closed. As there might be lorries blocking the lane Sharon said she would update us on Monday. I asked if it would be easier if we gave her a call when we were about ten minutes away.
Being a Monday and half term and the fact the M60 has roadworks on it again, it was about ten to two just as we were passing junction 3 on the M55 when Sue rang… no problems, the lane was clear of work vehicles. Pulling in to the site you have to open a five bar gate using the access code and a smaller gate next to it to give yourself room to swing in. Don’t try to drive in towing without opening the smaller gate as well. Although we had only been once before, twelve months earlier, Jeremy recognised us (Is that a good thing or a bad thing!) and showed us to pitch one…
…. complete with our names. Manor House is a small site, only ten pitches, and the roadways are narrow, which means trying to reverse a caravan on to a pitch could mean completely ruining the grassed and landscaped areas by having to drive on them. However fear not… Jeremy will help you unhitch and manoeuvre your caravan perfectly into position. Watching him pirouette a caravan round a corner you can tell he’s done that more times than I’ve forgotten to turn the gas on!
Tuesday 28th October
The weather was unseasonably warm for October and a trip into Lytham was planned. First port of call was The Sweetie Shoppe – 17 Clifton St (Twitter: @TheSweetieShopp Facebook: The Sweety Shoppe ) for our usual supplies of Coltsfoot Rock, Cough Candy and Wine Gums for Sue. The next port of call was just across the road to Kevin Barry Baker’s (corner of Clifton St and Bath St) for probably the best steak pies and pork pies on the Fylde coast. Wandering back up Clifton St, the main shopping street, it was noticeable how vibrant the area was. No boarded up shops, all seemed brightly lit and clean and busy. Lytham seemed to be bucking the trend for the steady decline of traditional shops. We wandered back up towards Market Square and headed towards one of our favourite shops in Lytham… C.E Atkinson Cookware Specialist (5 Market Square, Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, FY8 5LW) for a browse round. It had been some 16 years earlier back in 1998 that I had first come across C. E Atkinson’s while I was working at British Aerospace at Warton. I wanted to get Sue a proper set of cooks knives and was told this was the best place to go. My wallet was nearly £400 lighter when I walked out with a complete set of German Wusthof professional knives complete with knife block… which we still use today…. and we have been going back to that shop ever since. (for our American friends C.E. Atkinson’s is similar to an independent version of ‘Crate & Barrel’)
Crossing back over Market Square the next stop was Zest (21 Market Sq) for lunch. Even though it was almost the end of October it was still warm enough to sit outside for lunch. I went for the Piri Piri Chicken grilled breast, chilli peppers & garlic, salad, fries & chilli mayonnaise and Sue ordered the ZEST Frittata of spinach, potato & cheese with a mixed salad bowl. I’ve still not got into this modern trend of taking photos on my phone of meals we have ordered… so you’ll just have to trust us, it was lovely. We’d recommend you give ZEST a try. We checked the weather for the evening and rain was forecast although it would become clear late in the evening and the temperature would drop. So the decision was made not to do our cycle ride that evening. Instead we retired back to the caravan and caught up on some reading and I answered a few emails. That evening we demolished the steak pie we had bought that morning.
Wednesday 29th October
A chilly start to the day….
It was a bit of a contrast to the previous day’s 18 degrees C… overnight it had dropped down enough for a light frost to form on the Freelander and inside the caravan it had dropped to 13 degrees and a chilly 3 degrees outside. However, turning the heating on soon had the inside warm and toasty again. The weather forecast said it was going to be clear, warming up, but rain was expected in the evening… bugger, it looks like we might put off the ride another day. However all was not lost, it had been years since we had been to the Freeport at Fleetwood and as it was blue skys a drive up the prom through Blackpool and Cleveleys to Fleetwood wouldn’t be that bad.
Even though it was Wednesday, the traffic north up the prom was quite heavy and I guess it being half term was one of the possible reasons. There seemed to be lots of families out walking up and down the prom.
Passing Bispham (the northern end of the illuminations) the traffic had thinned out resulting in a pleasant last few miles through Cleveleys to Fleetwood. Not having programmed the GPS for the Freeport we ended up stopping on the Esplanade outside the North Euston Hotel while we checked the map. The view across to Heysham was clear in the winter sunshine…
… with the square building of the nuclear power station standing out on the horizon and the hills of the Lake District just visible in the background. I have an old school friend, Belinda, that lives in Fleetwood who I’ve not seen since leaving school… I really should have made an effort to go and say “Hi”.
We soon found our way to the Freeport and the shopping frenzy began!. Well not really. We found a shop selling cookware and I’d always wanted a set of Japanese kitchen knives… and they were on offer… so was a stove top espresso coffee pot. A couple of lined outdoor shirts later in another outlet and a quick trip to M & S completed our spending madness.
After stopping for a coffee and ‘squishy’ (that’s a piece of cake to the uninitiated) at ‘Costa Coffee’ we headed back to the car for the drive back to the caravan. We waited for the rain to arrive that evening… it never did. That evening we made a wonderful chicken and chorizo soup which we ate with some delicious bread picked up on the way home from Fleetwood.
Thursday 30th October
It wasn’t anywhere as cold this morning, in fact the weather at the end of the morning news said it might be a record high of 18 degrees for Halloween on Friday. Today would be our last day at Manor Park so tonight would be the last chance to get the bikes out and burn off some calories. It was another clear day. I took some photos, Sue caught up on some reading, and we just generally pottered about the caravan being busy not doing much. There was a slight chance of rain mid afternoon but that was about it. We had decided to set off around 4:30, so a late lunch finishing off the soup and bread from the previous evening would see us through until we got back. Just as I was going to go and unload the bikes, the rain came. Thankfully it only lasted for twenty minutes or so and didn’t really delay us. Bikes unloaded, lights checked, tyres checked, we got changed and set off at just gone 4:40. Manor House is ideally located for cycling around Blackpool. For us, it takes about twenty minutes to cycle from the site to Squires Gate and the start of the prom that stretched along Blackpool’s front. Cycling along the prom is relatively easy going, you just have to watch out for ‘dogs on string’, those extendable dog leads, as the dog can be twenty feet away from it’s owner. It took us about an hour to cycle along the prom to Redbank Road at Bispham, the other end of the illuminations. We stopped at a small cafe for a cheese and ham toastie (now becoming a ‘tradition’ of our ride) and rested up before setting off about 6:30 to cycle the 11 or so miles back. The only tricky bit you have to watch out for is at the end of each of the three piers. As the prom narrows you have a bottleneck of people who are busy wandering with a phone in one hand, a hot dog/burger/stick of rock/candyfloss/small child in the other. We had to get off and walk… even then someone walked straight into Sue’s bike.
“DANGER WILL ROBINSON!”
It was unseasonably warm for the time of year… it was 18 degrees and I’d made a bad choice of top layer. Even cycling into a head wind I was too warm but I didn’t want to take the top off as I’d worked up a sweat and didn’t want to get cold. We stopped just in front of the pleasure beach for a drink of water from Sue’s backpack and watched the big ride for a while. We set off again along the last section of the prom, which isn’t as well-lit.
Now most of the ride passed off uneventfully, that is until we got to the big glitter ball. Sue was in the lead and just as we reached the glitter ball the lights shining on it went off, plunging the area into blackness. Sue narrowly missed the handrail at the top of the steps… and just as the lights came back on I saw it… and didn’t miss it. The head of the hand rail sticks out about a foot just about handlebar height and I hit it, swinging my handlebars to the left and stopping me dead. I fell off on to my right side. Sue hearing the commotion a few feet behind stopped and as she went to put her feet down the lights reflecting off the glitter ball on the floor made it look like the floor was moving so she over compensated and fell too. A woman walking past rushed over to us, but thankfully it was more our egos that were bruised rather than any body parts… I was lucky that I didn’t put my hand out otherwise it would probably have been a scaphoid fracture.
The glitter ball and the offending hand rail on the steps….
Now which idiot designed handrails that have sections sticking out so far ?!. I wonder how many small children have received a bang on the head from these or people who have been looking at the glitter ball caught their hip on them?. These hand rails are different to the original ones as an earlier photo shows more conventional handrails…
(Photos not mine by the way)
Anyhoo… Sue has a grazed knee, I have a few bruises and the bikes, apart from a scratch or two, are undamaged.
Setting off again, more cautiously this time, we arrived back at the caravan about 8:10pm. 22.8 miles cycled in 3 hours 25 min. Blackpool illuminations 2014… DONE!
Friday 31st October
Friday was warm.. I was back in shorts again while packing up and braking camp. We said good-by to Jeremy and Sharon. We will definitely be back for next years ‘annual’ cycle ride of the illuminations. Maybe even a spring visit for some more cycling practice in the daylight!. Heading back, the traffic wasn’t too bad until we hit the M60 car park, thankfully we had the option of avoiding going round the western side of the M60 and chose the at least still moving eastern side.
So, where next… well Cheltenham in a few weeks for the Christmas markets and then straight on to Oxford for the Christmas market and festival. Might see you there!
PS…. As usual I’ll leave you with a few photos of the site…