A week in review – Ale, trains and Wales

Wednesday

We went to Poulton-le-Fylde. We didn’t do much there, first we popped in to the Old Town Hall pub for a beer. Shocking I know! 😉 The board outside promised many things; a friendly welcome and several interesting beers on tap. Rather disappointingly, the welcome was anything but friendly, in fact the batman was downright unwelcoming and grumpy, and the two beers we asked for were not available, although we did try a rather good one which I have written about in a separate blog post about the Old Town Hall pub.
When we arrived in Poulton-le-Fylde it was busy, there were quite a few people milling about by the pub. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, but the atmosphere was somber. We soon realised that the majority of people standing about chatting close to the pub were attending a funeral at the church opposite.

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As is often the form for us, we popped in to a second pub whilst in Poulton-le-Fylde, The Bull which was much friendlier, so we decided to eat lunch there. A couple of pints and a couple of chicken curry pies. Good stuff!
We had a little wander round the town and that was about it for our visit.

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“Poulton-le-Fylde is a market town in Lancashire, England, situated on the coastal plain called the Fylde.
There is evidence of human habitation in the area from 12,000 years ago, and several archaeological finds from Roman settlement in England have been found in the area. At the time of the Norman conquest of England Poulton was a small agricultural settlement in the hundred of Amounderness. The church of St Chad was recorded in 1094 when it was endowed to Lancaster Priory. By the post-Medieval period the town had become an important commercial centre for the region with weekly and triannual markets. Goods were imported and exported through two harbours on the River Wyre. In 1837, the town was described as the “metropolis of the Fylde”, but its commercial importance waned from the mid-19th century with the development of the nearby coastal resorts of Fleetwood and Blackpool.
Poulton is approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) from Blackpool town centre. Poulton has a farmers’ market once a month, and since October 2011 there has been a weekly market on Mondays in the centre of the town.”

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Thursday

After venturing away from Blackpool yesterday, to visit Poulton-le-Fylde, we decided to stay local on Thursday. We did our usual routine, in that we don’t have a particular routine, so we just did what we felt like, when we felt like it. This day it didn’t entail much, we went for a nice walk along the coast, took some photos, shot some video, drank some beer. So, all-in-all a pretty good day. 🙂

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Friday

We had a lazy day yesterday, so today we thought we’d leave the confines of central Blackpool and see what else the area had to offer. Lytham and St. Anne’s. We caught a bus to Lytham which is a lovely little town with a village atmosphere. We were hungry when we arrived so after a brief stroll we started looking for suitable eateries. We chose a cafe called Java, which is also a wine bar, and restaurant. I ordered the full English; it was good, not your typical greasy spoon fry-up, and Mrs.R chose eggs Benedict, which she said was nice.

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After breakfast we walked down to the seafront and strolled along the coast. It was very pleasant, there were people walking their dogs, cycling, playing with children on the green and a few taking photos of Lytham windmill, including us. Snap, snap, snap!

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Breakfast walked off, we caught a bus back towards Blackpool stopping off at St.Annes, where we stopped for a lovely pint at a Wetherspoon pub called, The Trawl Boat Inn, Mrs.R had a deliciously dark pint of Lytham Stout, I had….. cant remember. We sat outside the front of the pub soaking up the sun with all the other serious drinkers. 😉
Drinks drunk we walked to the pier, which was busy, there were a lot of people sitting eating fish and chips at the chippy at the entrance, and more people playing on the amusements on the pier itself. Mrs.R decided to go wild too, she put 2 pence in one of the coin drop pushy shovy thingies. She didn’t win. 😮
The excitement of the amusements was almost too much for us, and we’d built up quite a thirst, so we went to a pub for a drink. Unusual for us. 😉 We went to The Lord Derby, mainly because it’s right next to the bus stop where we’d be going back to Blackpool from. The Lord Derby was packed, mainly with families sitting outside sweating and burning in the sun. We decided to sit inside, although it wasn’t any cooler, in fact Mrs.R commented that the radiator in the tiny ladies loo was on full blast. Phew! Our drinks did little too cool us, that’s once we finally got them. Despite the bar itself not being busy with customers waiting to be served, I had to wait ages.
The Lord Derby is a horrible pub, it’s stuffy, grotty, grimy, the service is bad, and our glasses were dirty. Mrs.R took one look at her glass, and because it was so dirty she chose to drink her orange juice straight from the bottle.

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We didn’t linger, we knocked our drinks back and left.
We didn’t have to wait long for the bus back to Blackpool, which was good as we were keen to leave the experience of The Lord Derby behind us as soon as possible.

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“Lytham St Annes is a conurbation in the Fylde district of Lancashire, England. The neighbouring towns of Lytham and St-Anne’s-on-the-Sea (nearly always abbreviated to St Annes) have grown together and now form a seaside resort. The towns are situated on the Fylde coast, south of Blackpool at the point where the coastline turns east to form the estuary of the River Ribble leading inland to Preston. St Annes is situated on the northern side of the turning and, like Blackpool, overlooks the Irish Sea, whereas Lytham is on the eastern side and overlooks the Ribble Estuary.
Lytham St Annes is internationally renowned for golf and has four courses and links, the most notable being the Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club, one of the host courses for the Open Championship, also known as the “British Open”, which has been a competition course since first hosting the Open in 1926. Approximately once every ten years, the coming of The Open—a major sporting event—brings a major influx of visitors, including the world’s media, into a fairly peaceful community. Lytham St Annes is considered to be a wealthy area with residents’ earnings among the highest in Lancashire. It is popular with engineers and scientists from the nearby BAE Systems site in Warton, which provides some highly paid jobs that underpin the local economy.
Lytham was founded around 600 BC. For many centuries the economy of Lytham was dependent on fishing and shrimping, until the advent of tourism and seaside health cures. After the start of the Industrial Revolution, wealthy industrialists moved from the east of the county. Lytham’s tree-lined streets are flanked by small shops, of which many are still family businesses.
Notable Lytham landmarks include the Green, a strip of grass running between the shore and the main road; the recently restored Windmill and Old Lifeboat House Museum are to be found here. One of the sails of the Windmill was replaced in 2012. The Green overlooks the estuary of the River Ribble and the Welsh mountains. The centre of Lytham contains many notable buildings including Lytham public library, railway station, market hall and “The Clifton Arms” Hotel. Also located there are “The County” and “The Ship and Royal” public houses. Some of the oldest buildings are found in Henry Street and Dicconson Terrace. Henry Street is also the location of the Taps public house, which is one of the most popuar real ale establishments on the Fylde and which has won an award every year since the present proprietors arrived in 1991.
Until the middle of the 20th century the Clifton family was the leading family in Lytham and two of the town’s main thoroughfares are named in their honour. Their estate on the outskirts of Lytham and Ansdell originally occupied a huge area. Lytham Hall, the family seat, remained in the family’s ownership until 1979, after which ownership passed to a number of corporate bodies. The grounds of the Hall are occasionally opened to the public for open-air concerts and plays. Several of the ornate gates to the estate and much of the distinctive pebble bricked boundary wall survive. The parish church for Lytham is St Cuthbert’s Church located on Church Road overlooking the Lytham YMCA Football ground and the Ribble Estuary. The town has its own brewery.
St Anne’s-on-the-Sea (also known as St Annes-on-Sea or St Annes) was a 19th-century planned town, officially founded on 31 March 1875 when the cornerstone of the St Anne’s Hotel was laid. The town was mostly laid out according to a plan drawn up by businessman Elijah Hargreaves, who saw the economic benefits of attracting large numbers of visitors from the mill towns to the east. It retains much of its original character today, and is fighting hard to become a stylish town to rival Lytham, its nearby neighbour. It is a traditional quiet Victorian/Edwardian seaside resort with up-market hotels, a sandy beach, donkeys, a small pier and ice cream stalls. Sand dunes fringe the beach and the town has an excellent, but little-known sand dune nature reserve and very good floral displays.
St Annes is the original home of Premium Bonds and their prize-selecting computer ERNIE, which were situated on a site between Shepherd Road and Heyhouses Lane. Premium Bonds operated from there for more than 40 years and then moved to Blackpool. The shopping area declined towards the end of the 20th century and was redeveloped in an attempt to attract more retailers and shoppers. As part of this project a restaurant quarter was established, centred around Wood Street. Work began on a £2m restoration project in Ashton Gardens, a park situated near the town centre. As this is where many of the activities for St Annes Carnival are held, the 2009 carnival was cancelled and the 2009 carnival queen’s title was extended by one year.
The beach to the north of St Anne’s Pier was an internationally renowned sand yachting location for many years, but sand yachting has been suspended since 2002, when a visitor to the beach died after being hit by a sand yacht. St Annes Beach also hosts a number of kite flying events each year. In 2006 kite enthusiasts raised concerns about the future of these activities following a decision by Fylde Borough Council in 2006 to ban the flying of kites with two or more lines anywhere in the Fylde. Following representations from kite-fliers and completion of a risk assessment, the council rescinded the ban on condition that kite fliers remain at least 50m from the sand dunes. A memorial statue of a lifeboatman looking out to sea was placed on the promenade at St Annes after the Mexico Disaster of 1886. The original lifeboat station was established in 1881 but closed in 1925 due to silting of the channel (a secondary channel of the Ribble that ran past the pier). A lifeboat continued to operate from Lytham, but the main channel of the River Ribble also became silted up, so the lifeboat was moved to a new all-weather RNLI base a few hundred metres south of St Annes pier which opened in 2000. St Annes Library and Information Service is situated just outside of the town centre in an Edwardian, Carnegie-funded building.
There is some confusion, even among residents of the town, about whether the correct name is “St Annes” or “St Anne’s”. The apostrophe has been dropped from the name by many of the residents of the town and has long been absent in many formal uses, such as local newspaper the Lytham St Annes Express, St Annes Parish Church, and Lytham St. Annes High Technology College, although the spelling St. Anne’s is still sometimes used.
On 23 October 2008 a bronze statue by sculptor Graham Ibbeson of comedian Les Dawson, who lived in the town, was unveiled by Dawson’s widow and daughter in the ornamental gardens next to St Annes Pier. Comedian George Formby, Jr. also lived in the town.
The area is known to have been populated during the Bronze Age, and scattered hamlets have existed there ever since, including a village called Kilgrimol or Kilgrimhow, which is believed to have been founded in around 900 AD by Vikings expelled from Dublin. The area including the Fylde was known in Anglo-Saxon and medieval times as Amounderness. Lytham is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Lidun. In 1199 Richard Fitzroger gave his Lytham estates (then known as Lethun) to the Benedictine monks of Durham. The monks established a priory (although it was really too small to be called that as it comprised three or four monks only) on the site of the present Lytham Hall. The Priory existed until 1539; in 1540 the monastery at Durham was dissolved and the Crown became Lord of the Manor.
The manor of Lytham passed through several owners until in 1606 it was sold to Cuthbert Clifton for £4300. Clifton enlarged the manor house and made it the family seat. The house was replaced in 1757 with the present Lytham Hall, designed by architect John Carr of York.At this time St Annes did not exist, but Lytham was large enough to be called a town, with its own promenade and a reputation as a resort.
Northwards along the coast from Lytham, within the Clifton estates, were mostly sand dunes. The only habitations were the tiny hamlet of Heyhouses and the rural Trawl Boat Inn (a name resurrected in recent times for a public house in Wood Street in St Annes, opened by Wetherspoons). In 1873 the Cliftons built a chapel of ease dedicated to St Anne in this area, to encourage better religious observance, as most inhabitants found the long journey to St Cuthbert’s in Lytham too onerous. This became the parish church of St. Anne’s. At the time it was built the church had no tower. On 14 October 1874 the St Anne’s-on-the-Sea Land and Building Company Ltd was registered, mainly at the instigation of Elijah Hargreaves, a wealthy Lancashire mill owner from Rawtenstall whose intention was to develop the area as a resort. The land of St Annes was leased from the Clifton estate for 999 years, although the lease still gave the Cliftons the right to kill game on the land for this period. Building rapidly commenced with the St Anne’s Hotel (built in 1875, since demolished), the Hydro Terrace, which later became St Annes Square, and the railway station being among the first buildings. A separate company was formed to finance the construction of the pier, which was opened on 15 June 1885. At that time the main channel of the River Ribble ran by the end of the pier, and boats would bring people in from Lytham and Southport. The Ribble Navigation Act of 1883, which came into force in 1889, was intended to stabilise the often silted River Ribble to allow a steady trade into Preston docks. However, this work moved the main channel much further out and left St Annes Pier on flat sandbanks, where no ships could dock. In June 1910 the Floral Hall was opened at the end of the pier. It was a popular attraction and stars including Gracie Fields, Leslie Henson and Claude Hulbert all performed there. In 1974 a major fire seriously damaged the hall. It was restored to some extent, but another fire in July 1982 destroyed it. About half the pier was then demolished to make the beach safe to use.”

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Saturday

First thing in the morning we headed to Blackpool North train station to collect all of the tickets for our future travels. We had tried to get them at several other train stations in the area, but none had ticket machines. Blackpool North only had one machine. It seems a strange way to run a train network, when you are encouraging travellers to purchase their tickets online, and yet making it difficult for them to be able to retrieve their train tickets.
Once we’d collected our many many train tickets we caught the tram to Fleetwood for a look round. The looking started with looking at beer pumps in The Thomas Drummond (Wetherpoon). Wobbly Bob from the Phoenix Brewery was the beer of the day for the both of us.
All was going well, until I stepped into the beer garden for a cigarette. It seemed I’d stepped into a local meeting of the EDL/BNP/National Front. Four guys were sitting at a table spouting racist nonsense. They tried to involve me in their racist rants, but I was not taking the invite or bait. The lead racist moron was a Londoner, his mates were Liverpudlian. It would seem even racist scum go on holiday.
After the pub we took a walk along the Esplanade, before catching the tram back to Blackpool town centre and a beer in The Layton Rakes, another Wetherspoon pub. This time is was a pint of Abbot Reserve for me, and an orange juice for Mrs.R.

Sunday

We dossed round town, popping in to the Pump and Truncheon with the idea of having lunch, but we gave up on that idea because no one else was eating, and the beer was rubbish.
We escaped to a cafe just down the road for lunch. We both had a 3 course meal. To start was a tiny glass of orange juice, followed by roast lamb, followed by double chocolate fudge cake for Mrs.R, and apple pie for me. No frills, basic, good grub, and friendly service.

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Monday

Training days. We departed Blackpool by train at 6.40am. First stop was Manchester Piccadilly, where we had enough time between trains for me to up my nicotine with a couple of fags outside, while Mrs.R went shopping. She bought a sandwich, a couple of smoothies, and a packet of minstrels for us to share on the next leg of our journey southwards.

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Cigarettes smoked, food and drink purchased it was then time for the 8.30am train to Bridgend.
The journey wasn’t too bad, we were both very tired, having hardly slept the night before and having an early start. We tried to sleep, but we couldn’t because there were a couple of very unhappy young children sitting a few seats away, crying and calling mummy every few minutes, for the whole journey. Oh well, such is life, as least we rested our eyes in between looking out of the window as we moved past the lunch green fields full of cows, sheep, horses, and rape seed.
Then the fun started when we reached Bridgend because we headed to the Wyndham Arms for a couple of beers and lunch. The Wyndham Arms is an interesting boozer full of ‘real characters’. The guys at the table next to us were pouring lager down their throats like their stomachs were on fire.
We supped a couple of beers with our lunch, while enjoying the free entertainment. While the clientele may have been a little ‘rough and ready’, they were friendly enough, and we even got chatting to one old chap who recommended a few nice local pubs.

Bullmastiff, Strong Cask Ale

We’d been waiting in The Wyndham Arms for our friend to meet us after work. Drinks, food, and entertainment meant the time went quickly, and before we knew it, it was time to meet our friend. We went supermarket shopping to pick up some grub and booze, before going back to our friends home. The home which is our latest temporary home until we outstay our welcome.
We were in Wales!

Tuesday

Our first proper day in Wales saw us doing what we prefer to do every day – not much. We were both still knackered from a sleepless week in Blackpool and the train journey from there to Wales, so we just mooched about, happy to be still for a while after two years of travelling.