Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Dead Pool 2020

2019 may have seen the demise of democracy but from my list we lost only Doris Day. So my entry for 2020 (assuming no one else on the list expires in the next five and a half hours) will be as follows:

Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager (Pilot & Record-breaker)
Neil Percival Young (Musician)
Leslie Samuel Phillips (Actor & Author)
Gina Lollobrigida (Actress, Photojournalist, & Sculptor)
Kirk Douglas (Actor, Producer, Director, & Author)
James Earl Carter Jr. (39th POTUS)
Vera Lynn (Singer, Songwriter, & Actress)
Philip Mountbatten (HRH The Duke of Edinburgh)
Michael Caine (Actor)
Anthony Dominick Benedetto a.k.a Tony Bennett (Singer)

and may all the above have a happy and healthy 2020.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

An Urban Ramble, Art Deco Factories and Charles Holden stations.

Osterley Station to Acton Town Station

4.9 miles, about 1h 40m. Mostly level but with three flights of steps.

In theory urban walking means not getting muddy but that probably depends on the weather and time of year. My shoes will need to be cleaned.

This gentle urban ramble links five Piccadilly Line stations, three of which were designed by Charles Holden and two of which look like they were but in fact weren't. It also passes along part of the Brentford "Golden Mile" of Art Deco style factories.

Osterley station is the starting point for this walk.

Starting in the station car park, exit up the ramp and turn left. If you want a better photo you'll have to run across the Great West Road but in spite of the trees the concrete illuminated obelisk on top of Stanley Heaps' 1934 station building stands out. This is one of the not-Holden stations but in the same modern European style that Holden employed elsewhere.
Walk East along the A4 Great West Rd towards Thornbury Road. If you want to take a look at the former Osterley & Spring Grove station, which is now a book shop then head north up Thornbury Rd. and then come back to rejoin this walk.

Sticking up between the pre-war semis on the far side of the road is the St. Francis of Assisi church which opened in 1934 and was designed by Ernest C. Shearman, who also designed a number of similar churches in the London area.
More about its history can be found on the church's own web site.

Gillette Corner marks the western end of the Golden Mile beyond which the land belonged to the Church Commissioners, who would allow no factories to be built.

The Gillette Factory, designed by Sir Banister Flight Fletcher in 1936–1937. Gillette stopped using this factory in April 2006, moving production to Poland. The building was sold in 2013 for conversion into a mixed use complex with a hotel and residential apartments. It has also been used as a filming location.

The Coty Cosmetics Factory, 941 Gt. West Rd., designed by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners opened in 1932. The building now operates as BMI Syon Clinic. The factory was used for the manufacture of Coty soaps, lipsticks, scents and creams until 1979.

Only the boundary fences an gateways remain of the Firestone Tyre Company factory. Built 1928, designed by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners.The building frontage was demolished in an act of corporate vandalism by contractors working for Trafalgar House Plc. during a public holiday in August 1980, shortly before a preservation order was due to be served on it to retain the Art Deco architecture. What a bunch of bastards ☹️ The Art Deco gatehouse was demolished in 2004 to make way for increased parking facilities. The remaining gates, railings, and piers are in a Jazz Modern style and are Grade II listed.

The Pyrene Fire Extinguisher Company, 981 Gt. West Rd., built between 1929 and 1930, designed by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners. Pyrene established the concept of major fire demonstrations with the construction of a large demonstration ground alongside the Brentford factory, to simulate an oil storage depot. Now called Westlink House and available to let if you fancy it.

The Currys Factory and head office, 991 Gt. West Rd., built in 1936 as the distribution centre for Curry's chain of shops a wide variety of goods including bicycles, toys, radios and gramophones. Curry's started as a bicycle makers but are now much better known as an electrical retailer - Currys PC World. Now Grade II listed, the front office building was restored by Foster & Partners between 1997 and 2000 for JCDecaux.

Just before the A4 crosses the River Brent take the stairs on the left down to the Capital Ring walk and continue along the riverbank and over the river via the footbridge to enter Boston Manor Park.

Continue diagonally across the open area following the worn and at the time I was there rather muddy path that passes under the M4 motorway.
There is a rather unsettling rattling from the motorway bridge above as vehicles pass overhead.
The park was created in 1924 from part of the historic estate of the 17th-century stately home Boston Manor.

 The manor house itself was swathed in scaffolding and plastic sheeting but the lake was busy with gulls, and the gullible feeding them.

Exit the park at the other side of the lake onto Boston Manor Road and turn left. Continue past the suburban semis, some of which have heavy iron chains that appear to hold up their porches but are almost certainly only decorative. Eventually you reach Boston Manor Station.

Originally opened in 1883 by the District Railway, Boston Manor station was reconstructed in 1932 to a design by by architect Charles Holden, the Art Deco styled structure features a tall tower which acts as a landmark of the area and is Grade II listed. If you cross the road in front of the booking hall and (if you're tall enough) look over the bridge parapet you get a good view of Northfields Train Depot, the other side of which is our next destination, Northfields station. Head back down Boston Manor Rd. on the opposite side to the station and turn left through the iron gates into Blondin Park.

 Continue past the allotments on your left and into the open space of the park. The land was acquired by the Municipal Borough of Ealing in 1928 and opened as a public park called Northfields Recreation Ground. In 1957 it was renamed Blondin Park after Charles Blondin the famous French tightrope walker, who lived locally in Niagara House. Exit the park into Blondin Avenue and at the end of the street turn left and walk up the road to Northfields Station.

The current Northfields station opened in 1932 replacing that of around 1911. Located on the east side of Northfields Avenue, the new station was designed by Charles Holden in a modern European style using brick, reinforced concrete and glass. Like the stations at Sudbury Town, Sudbury Hill, Acton Town and Oakwood that Holden also designed, Northfields station features a tall block-like ticket hall rising above a low horizontal structure that contains station offices and shops. The brick walls of the ticket hall are punctuated with panels of clerestory windows and the structure is capped with a flat concrete slab roof. Our next stop is not far away. Turn left out of Northfields station and left into Bramley road. Continue straight ahead into Airedale Road and at the end of the street turn left. Soon you will come to South Ealing Station.

The platforms of Northfields and South Ealing are only 300m apart. For the story of why they're so close see here.
South Ealing isn't a Charles Holden design but does have a little tower in his style even though the building only dates from 1988. Since our next stop is a bit further away this is a good place to stop for a coffee in one of the cafes in the parade of shops either side of the station. Once refreshed cross the road and walk south, turning left into Sunderland Road. Continue into Maple Grove and when you come to the open grass area of Village Park Recreation Ground take the path diagonally across it and walk up Almond Ave. Turn right into Elderberry Rd. passing the huge Ealing Electricity Substation on your left and being glad you don't live in one of the houses opposite. At the end of the road turn left onto Popes Lane and cross the road.

Follow Popes Lane for about half a mile. It's not the most interesting road to walk along being mostly semi detached houses on the right and sports grounds on the left. I've not been able to determine which Pope gave it its name either.
Eventually however it will bring you to Gunnersbury Park.

I've covered Gunnersbury Park in more detail in a previous posting. It's worth diverting into the park for a look around before continuing this walk, and both refreshment and relief may be obtained therein subject to opening hours. If you've more time to linger then a visit to the museum in the large mansion will well repay your time spent inside.

Onward to the final leg. Turn right out of Gunnersbury Park onto Pope's Lane (or if you didn't go in, then carry on along Pope's Lane) and cross over the A406 Gunnersbury Avenue dual-carriageway into Gunnersbury Lane.

About five minutes further walking brings you to our last stop, Acton Town Station, on your right.
Acton Town station was opened as Mill Hill Park on 1 July 1879 by the District Railway (now the District line).It remained as a terminus until on 1 May 1883 and 23 June 1903 the DR opened two branches from Acton Town to Hounslow Town and Park Royal & Twyford Abbey respectively. On 4 July 1932 the Piccadilly line was extended to Acton Town and now it serves both Piccadilly Line and District Line trains. The original brick-built station was built in 1879 and in February 1910 the station building was reconstructed. In 1931 and 1932 the station was rebuilt again in preparation for transferring the Uxbridge branch service from the District line to the Piccadilly line. The new station was designed by Charles Holden in a modern European geometric style using brick, reinforced concrete and glass. Similar to other Holden designed stations, Acton Town features a tall block-like ticket hall rising above a low horizontal structure housing the station offices and shops. The ticket hall has a projecting London Underground roundel sign over a canopy, the brick walls of the ticket hall are punctuated with panels of clerestory windows and the structure is capped with a flat concrete slab roof. It was given Grade II listing in 1994.

From Acton Town you can either get the tube back to Osterley or... well the world's your lobster really ☺️

More photos, a Flickr Album:

Urban Ramble. Osterley to Acton Town

Monday, 9 December 2019

London - Portrait Of A City

Monday 9th December 2019

The latest exhibition at Clerkenwell's London Metropolitan Archives deals with images of the capital from the 11th century to the present day.

From wax seals to digital photographs, images of London and Londoners are displayed on the walls and in glass cases of the small exhibition space and the stairs.

There are drawings, paintings, and prints, along with film and sound from the LMA's extensive archives. They are displayed by image-making technique with explanations of how the different technologies work. That's something that you don't usually get at an art gallery and it makes this an informative exhibition well worth visiting.

The LMA is a slightly odd place to visit. It's very low-key, the entrance in Northampton Road opposite Spa Fields is an unobtrusive doorway into what looks like just another office block save for a couple of vertical banners o the wall above and discreet "City of London" and "London Metropolitan Archives" signs over the door. On entry there's just a small reception/security desk where people coming in to access original material from the archives sign in but visitors to the exhibition are allowed through unmolested. I was asked if I'd visited before, which I had, once, and that was it. If you've not been before it might not be obvious where to go next - there's no big "To the exhibition" sign that you might expect. Take the stairs (or lift if you can't do stairs although some of the exhibits are on the walls in the stairwell). There's a Visitor Lounge n the mezzanine floor where you are able to leave coats and bags in free lockers. The rules say you must do this if going into the study areas but it's not clear if that applies to the exhibition as well. Do it anyway, it doesn't cost anything and you'll be more comfortable.

Most of the exhibition is on the first floor outside the doors to the information area and is well laid out if not particularly well lit. There are paper exhibition guides in standard and large print varieties which replicate the information in the displays but also contain a little map of the exhibition area. The toilets are adjacent to the exhibition area, should you need them.

I reckon you should allow an hour to study the pictures and read the words, and there is a short film to watch and some audio too. This is I have to point out not the sort of exhibition which is going to excite small children. As a somewhat older child I found it interesting and informative. If you're interested in London's history in pictorial form go and take a look. You've got until July the 8th when no doubt it will be replaced by something new and probably equally excellent. You'll be too late to get your name on the first line of the visitor comments book though cos' I've already done that 😀

London - Portrait Of A City
London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Rd, Farringdon, London EC1R 0HB
9th December 2019 to 8th July 2020
020 7332 3820

Sunday, 1 December 2019

The lights, the lights!

Sunday 24th November

It is that time of year again. You can barely move it the supermarkets for piles of tat that no one needs to buy (the war against single-use plastic seems to have been temporarily suspended) and the shelves are full of festive fayre much of which will have passed its use by date before the big day.

On the plus side however it's also the time of year that the lights go on. Town centres - or their modern replacement, Shopping Centres - across the land put up their best seasonal illuminations in an effort to draw as many spenders as possible in competition with other local towns. So far, so standard.

As well as your usual Christmas Lights from Bromyard to Oxford Street there are more ambitious, or maybe more artistic displays. Canary Wharf has "spectacular light installations and interactive art"  but you'll have to wait until January to see that. In the meantime you can already see some spectacular light installations and interactive art by heading up the Metropolitan or Jubilee lines to Wembley Park. (Other transport choices are available if not coming from central London.)

For here near the home of English football (that will probably be disputed by those in the north) and the London Designer Outlet, is Winterfest 2019. Or Christmas in technicolour as it says on their website. The website also says that you can, "Experience Wembley Park’s first-ever immersive winter lights trail. Artists from all over the world have curated light and sound artworks that will transform Wembley Park into an immersive playground of unique art installations, combining light, sound and touch into a truly multi-sensory experience. From the acclaimed Sonic Runway, making its European debut in Wembley Park via Nevada’s Burning Man festival, to London’s tallest-ever LED light Christmas Tree, get ready to be enveloped by a technicolour trail of lights and interactive sounds."

And that's a pretty good description, as I discovered on a Sunday evening with nothing better to do. Here's a flavour (with cheesy music but no sleigh bells I promise) of what I found:

Winterfest is on until January 3rd so they'll be hoping you'll come and see it and spend money on Christmas presents and in the Boxing day sales. Or you could just go and see the lights - there is no admission charge. I succumbed to the lure of a Pret filter coffee as it was a chilly night so I suppose they acheived their aim of attracting more trade to the tune of £1 😀

Season's Greetings.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Things I didn't blog about recently.

Five things I forgot to write about since my last post:

Saturday October 26th

Walked from Gloucester Road tube down to the Thames and along the south bank to Waterloo. It was wet, very wet. Got the tube to St.Paul's to see "Where Light Falls".

"Experience St Paul’s in a different light across three evenings this October. In partnership with Historic England cutting-edge projections inspired by original poetry illuminate this iconic landmark in honour of the men and women who risked their lives to save the Cathedral during the Second World War"

It was quite good actually.

Sunday October 27th

Went for a walk locally as it was a nice day and it's been a while since I explored around here.

The pedestrian level crossing near Ambarrow Court was closed so had to make a detour which was disappointing.

Despite living around here since 1990 this was the first time I'd ever been to Horseshoe Lake.

Saturday November 2nd

Regent street closed to vehicles in order to hold a car show. Lots of interesting vehicles from the earliest - the show is on the day prior to the London to Brighton Veteran Car run - to the latest electric vehicles.

Also popped into the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden to see the new Hidden London exhibition. They've done a really good job of evoking a sense of the actual subterranean visits, of which I've done several.

Monday November 4th

Beside the seaside, beside the sea.
An afternoon at Bognor Regis walking along the prom. Quietly bracing and the rain held off for most of the time. There's something about seaside towns out of season that I like. Fewer people about. Better photo opportunities. On the minus side no whelks though as the stalls were shut.

I see the shiny new seafront toilets were so badly constructed by the contractors that they need to be knocked down only months after they were finished. Such is the way in 21st century Britain.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Engines and ironwork, Crossness.

20th October 2019

I took a drive around the M25 to Bexley on Sunday, not the nicest road trip but rail replacement buses made going by train a bit impractical on this occasion, to visit the Victorian sewage pumping station at Crossness on the banks of the River Thames.

 The Crossness Pumping Station is a former sewage pumping station designed by the Metropolitan Board of Works's chief engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette and architect Charles Henry Driver at the eastern end of the Southern Outfall Sewer.

It was built between 1859 and 1865 by William Webster, as part of Bazalgette's redevelopment of the London sewerage system, it features spectacular ornamental cast ironwork, and still contains four large beam engines. one of these has been restored to working condition. On Sunday this engine, named Prince Consort, was in steam. Interestingly the reason the four engines are still there is because the cost of dismantling them when they were no longer required in the 1950s was considered too high. Which was lucky for us six decades later.

 If you want to know the history of the works I suggest having a read of the Wikipedia Article which gives far more detail than I have space for here, however since 1987 the Crossness Engines Trust, a registered charity, has been overseeing the restoration of the site. They have a huge job on their hands frankly.

What was the boiler house now contains a museum with displays of information about the subject of London's sewage problems and solutions. Also quite a lot of "toilet exhibits". And a cafe and gift shop obviously, which always helps when trying to restore what is really a huge money pit!

Surrounded by toilets it took me a minute to spot the signs for the actual conveniences, which are tucked away behind the cafe and rather disappointingly modern 🙂

Off the boiler house is the engine hall. This is a mandatory hard-hat area and volunteers are on hand to issue suitably sized titfers to visitors. (It was nice to see that they were cleaning and sanitizing them when they were handed back before reissue too.)
The engine hall is where the real action takes place. Nikolaus Pevsner described Crossness Pumping Station as "a masterpiece of engineering – a Victorian cathedral of ironwork".

He wasn't wrong. As well as getting Prince Consort running a lot of work has gone into restoring the decorative ironwork. The Victorians didn't do plain and functional engineering. A nice humourous touch is that the capitals of the iron columns are decorated with fruit and leaves - figs and senna plants 😀

Even had the space not been busy with hard-hatted visitors and volunteers the scale of the steam engines (strictly speaking, steam pumps) means that it's impossible to adequately photograph them. From basement to upper deck they're three-storey behemoths of 19th century engineering. And yet when Prince Consort is running it's actually quieter than the crowd watching it.

Outside the main building there are machine workshops and in the former Valve House a collection of smaller engines and pumps, some of which were also running albeit on compressed air as the works now only has a small boiler producing enough steam to run Prince Consort.

Once you've visited that you can take a scenic (depending on your definition of scenic) walk along the Thames Path. I wandered down as far as the pier that was used to bring in coal for the boilers and later to take away sludge for disposal at sea before that was outlawed in 1998. Oh and there's also the RANG Railway.

For a flavour of visiting Crossness watch:

And there are more photos too:


Saturday, 28 September 2019

Foragers of the Foreshore

 Foragers of the Foreshore

Wed 25 - Sun 29 Sep, 11am - 6pm 

Bargehouse, Barge House Street, SE1 9PH (behind the Oxo Tower)

Free Entry 


Friday 27th September 2019

From the website: "Foragers of the Foreshore is the most expansive exhibition on Mudlarking that has ever taken place; it unearths the history of London through items recovered from the Thames. Discover the weird and wonderful world of mudlarking, from its origins in the Victorian era, to its popularity today. Meet the mudlarkers who have dedicated themselves to finding London’s lost treasures, and marvel at the fascinating collections that have shaped their lives."

Bargehouse is easy to find, just walk along the South Bank until you get to the Oxo Tower and it's the (deliberately I suspect) scruffy looking building just behind the river front building with all the fancy galleries in. It's a multi-storey space which inside feels a bit like a building site has been taken over as a temporary art gallery, which it is in a sense as it is used as an event space rather than a permanent home for a collection. 

Mudlarking in it's modern sense, as opposed to in the 19th century when it was an occupation of the most poverty stricken, involves searching the Thames foreshore for historical artefacts or anything else of interest that the receding tide exposes. People have been dropping or chucking things in the river for centuries making this one of the largest archaeological sites there is. So everything from pottery and glass, through metal buttons, coins, and wartime ordnance, to modern plastic objects and messages in bottles comes out of the thick anaerobic Thames mud. Also clay tobacco pipes. Lots of them!

Before you go rushing off with a bucket and spade though note that there are strict rules about where you can search and you need a permit from the Port of London Authority Also the Thames has a huge tidal range. This will kill you if you don't take tide times into account.

This exhibition isn't just about the objects that come out of the river though, it's also about the mudlarkers themselves, how they got into mudlarking, and what they do with what they find. In many cases they create art.

One of those artists is Nicola White  who had recreated her workshop at Bargehouse as "Mudlark In Residence".  A space crammed with all sorts of finds (that's a selection of her clay pipes above) both ancient and modern and examples of her artworks. Dominating the space was a huge sinister-looking bird made from discarded plastic items retrieved from the river.

I've followed Nicola's muddy adventures for a long time on her YouTube Channel so this was a chance to be a massive fan boy and chat to her in person. 

Elsewhere in the building there were many more displays of artefacts, art pieces and audio and video installations and Hannah Smiles portraits of mudlarkers. There were experts on hand to give advice and to help identify your own found objects and though it wasn't in use while I was there a "virtual mudlarking experience".

I recommend getting down to Bargehouse before Foragers of the Foreshore ends on Sunday if you can. I found when I emerged (from the building not the mud) that over two hours had passed, usually I get itchy feet in art galleries before then. I also came out wishing I lived a bit nearer the tidal Thames as well.

While you're there find the display case in this picture and see if you think that's what I think it is, which amused me rather more than it really should 😄

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Power Points

Saturday 21st September 2019

Between two houses in a suburban street in Woking, Surrey behind a metal gate is a low Art Deco building. Normally off-limits to the public except for two weekends in September (so you've missed it this year) this is the British Railways Electrical Control Room.

The Woking Electrical Control Room was built in 1936 as a control centre for the electrification of the Southern Railways lines, the room was taken out of operational use in 1997, although parts of the building remain occupied.

The building has many art deco features both outside and inside, and retains many original fittings including three copper and iron uplighters, track diagrams with working lights and switches, and the original control desk.

The building is Grade II listed so has escaped the usual fate of redundant railway buildings.

Inside you first see the backs of the track diagram panels, complete with exposed electrical  wiring and Do Not Touch signs, in the outer corridor. Passing through a double door you enter the control room proper which is is much the same state as it was when retired in 1997.

It's an impressive space. The high domed ceiling means that a person speaking normally at one end of the room can be clearly heard at the other (making it quite noisy with a group of visitors split into two tour groups).

The tours are conducted by retired BR power engineers so they know about the building, its
history, and how it all works. They explained clearly how power for the trains and signalling was distributed, how it could be switched on or off, and how the control system could be used to locate faults. Obviously they also have a stock of interesting and amusing anecdotes from their time working on the network.

The track diagram and some other control equipment is powered up for demonstration purposes too which is much better than just a static display. Flashing lights and things that go round are always good 😃

Also on the control desk were some old log books including that covering the great storm of 1987  when trees blown onto the line and onto the line side power equipment kept the control room operators and engineers very busy indeed.

Once the tour was done there was no hurry to move visitors out, it wasn't very busy and I understand visitor numbers per day over the two weekends were in dozens rather than hundreds. 

That meant there was plenty of time to talk with the volunteer guides and I had a long and wide-ranging discussion covering the similarities and differences between the world of railway electrical supply and that of public telecommunications, amongst other things. 
I really enjoyed this visit and if you can get to Woking next year when it's open again it's definitely worth it whether you're interested in architecture, railways, or engineering. Or even if you're just curious - it doesn't cost anything to go in and you don't need to book ahead.

Woking BR Electrical Control Room

In an Air Raid, Don't Stand and Stare at the Sky

Sunday 8th September 2019

Take cover at once!

In Stockport near Manchester you could take cover in the public Air Raid Shelter carved out of the sandstone cliffs.

Now the Luftwaffe aren't (at least for now) making nightly visits to Greater Manchester but you can still take cover in the Stockport Air Raid Shelters because the council have opened them up as a museum. Also £5 per adult and accompanied U16s go free is more than reasonable.

In the reception area you get a short talk from a guide and then issued with a little audio guide. I must say this is one of the best, clearest, and easiest of these that I've come across at any visitor attraction. Eltham Palace take note. When you see a "target" on the wall present the device to it and off it goes with a brief talk related to that location.
First off though there's a short sound and light show in a darkened room about the building (or rather digging) of the shelter, followed by a brief air raid simulation.

Then you're off on your self-guided tour aided by the audio device.

I'm not sure that the group I was with were paying much attention mind you as they soon disappeared ahead leaving me in peace to explore.

The shelter has displays in  various rooms, medical post, canteen, office, and of course the communal khazis.

The shelter is much bigger than the area that's currently open and lit for the public to visit.

The unlit, fenced off bits, I believe are sometimes accessible on special tours.

This picture was  taken using the "night sight" mode on my Pixel 3a smartphone through the fencing and shows more than I could actually see as it was as my Mum would have said "as black as your Grandfather's" in there.

There are lots of information display panels to read if you want to, some of which you'll have to wipe the condensation off first, it's a good job they're made of something waterproof. Imagine how damp it would be down here with several thousand people sheltering from the bombing above. Here's some more pictures:


After the shelter I had a look around Stockport town centre. There was a big street market going on which was mostly selling street food of the sugary and/or fatty variety and having failed to find a fruit 'n' veg stall I resorted to lunch from Sainsbury's and a coffee from a cafe in a mostly shut down shopping mall.

Stockport town centre is otherwise nice with plenty of old buildings and on multiple levels. Most of the populace however, even those without their faces buried in smartphones, seem incapable of looking where they're going making it something of a cross between an obstacle course and the dodgems. There's an impressive market hall, holding some sort of craft fair but since charging to enter what is essentially a shop is taking the piss I didn't.

Back to the station and one of the frequent fast trains (it's on the main line} back to Manchester for one last night and a pint in a very empty Lass O' Gowrie.


Saturday 7th September 2019

Blackpool is to Manchester as Brighton is to London.

Never having sampled the delights of Blackpool and being just a train ride away in Manchester it seemed rude not to grab an Off-Peak Return and have a day out at the seaside, especially as the weather forecast was for day-long sunshine.

Up, breakfasted, and at Manchester Piccadilly for 0930 to catch one of Northern's finest Class 319s, Which was not as busy as I'd expected for a Saturday though by no means empty. It was about an hour and a quarter's journey via Preston to Blackpool North station, which is about a 10 minute walk from the North Pier. Which is as good a place as any to start the experience that is Blackpool seafront.

One pier out of three done. 

I walked south along the prom. There's no getting away from that tower is there? Though I baulked at the £25 they wanted in order to stand at the only point in town where you can't see it.

Or from the great expanse of sandy beach, something that Brighton cannot boast, being like so many south east England beaches, all shingle).

They still have donkeys on the beach too, I'm surprised that the animal rights campaigners haven't had them done away with by now.

Pier two, Central Pier, dominated by its ferris wheel and funfair.

Central Pier contrasts from the more genteel North Pier, the emphasis being on family fun. And it would appear drinking given the big "Family Bar" sign painted on the roof of the building on the pier's seaward end. I'll give that a miss.

Onward south past and being passed by Blackpool's famous trams and the pleasure beach to pier three.

South pier is the newest and shortest of the three, originally called Victoria Pier.

It's now largely a funfair and another family bar.
Outside were parked horse-drawn carriages designed solely to extract the contents of the wallets of fathers with small daughters.

It's also on a part of the sea front devoid of any public toilets as attested to by the graffiti on the council information signs and I was desperate for a piss so headed back towards the pleasure beach where there are conveniences hidden away at the back and unsignposted. Head for the car park behind the round building which contains Costa.
I walked back up the beach to Central Pier, then had a mooch around the town and bought sticks of Blackpool Rock because you have to really don't you?

I couldn't come to Blackpool without going on a tram either so took a ride all the way south to Starr Gate, next to the tram depot and at the quieter end of the seafront - if you discount a few fast military jets operating out of the nearby airport. The beach here is dotted with warning signs about the danger of being cut off by the incoming tide but I still saw a dog walker and two anglers leaving it a bit late and being surrounded by the slow advance of the water.

Blackpool was everything that I expected it to be and having returned to the north end of the prom I bought a fish supper and headed back to the station to get the train back to Manchester. A train that was rather noisy with parents who'd been knocking back the lager and the gin all afternoon and their small charges who by this time were over-tired and fractious. The joys of public transport.

Here's a Flickr Album from the day which contains rather a lot of photographs of that tower.