The Walk of April the 6th, 2015.
This is going to be a condensed version of the post as this is now my fourth time of completing the entire Coastal Road (once I gave in at Marshside, well the compensation was that it was Marshside: I love it there!).
I left the flat at 09:05, having published a text description of the route on Facebook – with a polite notice asking people not to beep at me as they sail on by at (least) thirty miles an hour, this always 1: Makes me jump and 2: Makes me wonder who on earth it was! The weather was odd on the day, not warm but not cold; with a mist gently rolling in from the sea (who else now has ‘Mull of Kintyre’ going through their head?). I had set off a strange way and ended up missing the turning from Grange Road onto Norwood Crescent, instead continuing down Grange Road to Marsden Road then up a set of concrete steps – twelve years in the making, I’m beginning to know the names of the roads a quarter of a mile away from my front door. In my defence, Bolton’s streets tended to stick with the same name throughout their physical length – Red Lane is about two miles long before it finally gives way to Bury Old Road, Withins Lane was very obviously Withins Lane until you could see that it had ended, and as for Deepdale Road…enough said!
So, back to the walk, I finally ended up on Norwood Road having set off at this strange route. Now the sun was out, mistily so, I made good progress down Norwood Road – well up until the notoriously slow lights at the junction of Sussex Road and Peel Street, where, it has to be said, the lights need re-syncing, as they are inefficient for Vehicles and Pedestrians. I made my way off the main road down the little stone and sand path which passes along side Fine Jane’s Brook with three footballs floating in it. I was hoping that the little kid’s park was empty as I always feel like a creep walking near these things when they are occupied! Thankfully, it was empty and I soon made my way across Scarisbrick Road – sometimes this can take a few minutes, today it was a few seconds and then it was just a matter of waking down the main road for a few yards then turning left and going through the rear of the hospital grounds. Admittedly, this is not the most attractive route – it’s God-awful, but it did shave something like a mile of walking past Tesco and the mess which has been left on Town Lane Kew. Next I crossed over Town Lane – no, seriously what is wrong with calling different streets, different names? Jeez Louise!!!
And relax, I then made my way through the oddly named Kew Woods, I don’t know whether there once were ‘woods’ here or if this is a project in the pipeline for some point in the future, but to me this is more like a common than any ‘woods’ to which I’ve been. All the same it’s nice and airy here and nothing like Aitken Wood or Fell Wood, near Pendle which in the wrong light can be utterly terrifying (having this vivid imagination doesn’t dispel this sensation, either!). Progress was fast and it was with almost astonishment that I deduced I had reached Dobbies on Bentham Way in 57 minutes – three and a half miles was quite good given that I had deliberately set off slowly and had to wait for a minute or two at the traffic lights, so I was just short of four miles an hour (my dream target for urban walking). For the next three miles there would be no more off-road antics as this is the trek along Guilford Road, Birkdale, Heathfield Road and finishing at Segars Lane (yes, I too, can’t help singing SEGA, as in the old games consoles, whenever I see Segars Lane written down!). I didn’t see the car with part of its’ registration plate FGW – so there was no omen for me to turn back, I didn’t want to anyway.
It was not long before I arrived at the turn-off for Coastal Road, I avoided taking the usual photograph of the sign – I have three versions already and all that’s changed was the light. Instead I thought I’d have some water, which just sat there in my throat trying to drown me, it eventually went down…and felt like I was being choked! I’m never buying ‘Smart’ water again! I also attempted to eat some of the flapjack that I’d bought from the little Off-Licence on Grantham Road (Way?) – this too, wanted to stay out in the sun and (Spoiler alert) it would be about five miles later, on the sea defence wall, near to Southport’s main beach, before I finally finished that expletive flapjack and murderous water.
I have tried walking along the path on Coastal Road, in fact, I’ve managed it four times previously, for its’ entirety, but, there is always a chance that you’ll get rammed by a cyclist who is too important to yell “shift”. It’s kind of alarming to have one fly by, but it’s even worse when you have to keep turning around to look over your shoulder (yeah, I know how much like a contortionist that makes me sound!), only to just miss head-butting some lycra-clad, bean-pole, zipping at you at twenty-something-miles-an-hour. So, for a change, I went off-piste. There is a lovely meandering, undulating, snake-like (okay enough adjectives!) path which can take you over some of the smaller sand-dunes and keeps you off the main path (and away from the lycra brigade). Actually, it’s really nice to walk on! Okay, so a week later and my calf muscles have still yet to relax, otherwise it’s a great way of avoiding the cyclists and making you feel like you’re really out doing some country walking, even if you are only twenty or so yards away from where you would have been anyway. A tip for the future would be to avoid veering off to the right, yes this could be an adventure, it could also be a dead end (and if you’re doing 20+ miles do you need to lengthen the route?).
After some time and quite a big distance, the lovely, undulating path…runs out. So it’s back to the occasional glance over the shoulder for psycho-lists, but fortunately, it was not long before I was more-or-less on the central stretch of the Coastal Road, just after the Weld Road roundabout and heading north. There’s always a bit of adrenalin here; as I have to get across what is still essentially a national-speed-limit road. Job done, I next decided to sit on the sea defence wall and look outwards…at the nothing which had stolen the coast of the Irish Sea. In spite of the fact that I was sat behind a high-speed road, this was probably the most relaxed that I’ve felt all year (and it hasn’t been a particularly stressful year). There’s something about looking out to sea that is somewhat pacifying…I could have quite easily fallen asleep, had I not been constructing plots for my various novels! It was great to walk along the beech and encounter more and more people enjoying the day at the coast. You couldn’t see the Sea, you couldn’t see the Sun, yet people were perfectly happy just to be here. Again, I didn’t want to get the camera out and be thought of as ‘that weirdo with the camera’ so I’ll just settle for an organic photo..or remembering as some might call it.
Finally there comes a point when you just have to get off the beech as it gets a bit grassy, (thanks to whoever, in their infinite wisdom, messed around with the Ribble’s silt line in the 1950′s). This is just a few yards away from my favourite location in all of Southport – Marshside, sorry to knock you down to second place Ainsdalers, but there are some parts of Guilford Road that just remind me too much of Breightmet (oh way to go, insult two sets of readers, nice!). Marshside is my haven. Yes, trying to cross the Coast Road here is an extreme sport, but it’s just so expansive here. The sky actually felt bigger than it did on Cross Fell last year!
Despite my plea on Facebook, someone driving a white Audi went hurtling by at 50 and beeped twice. Given there was nobody else in the vicinity, not even Twitchers (or whatever they’re called), the car park had one empty car in it…I think they were beeping at me! If they weren’t then oh well. Later on and further north another car on the opposite side of the road – a White Seat Ibiza, also beeped, I did think that I recognised the driver, later discussions have revealed that it wasn’t him. So, two more beepings from people of whom I have no knowledge…it gets a bit pointless…all the same it does break up the walk. As much as I love the Coast Road, there are points on it – from Marshside to Crossens, that if it’s one of the 330 days of the year when you can’t see the Lake District Mountains, Snowdonia, Winter Hill and Pendle Hill, then there is not much of anything else to see. I’d already taken the decision not to take the turn off onto Marshside Road and to not go along the north Marshside path – I wanted the mileage (why did I shave a mile off at Kew then?), the remainder of the route up to the Plough roundabout was a little bit of a trudge, but then you are inspired to keep on going by the busying traffic and the prospect of being ‘almost there’.
I crossed the road and made my way onto Rufford Road – which then becomes Botanic Road – after some distance. I then followed Botanic Road all the way to the Roe Lane roundabout – thankfully Lathams Pie Bakery was closed, so I wouldn’t be getting a pie (or two) and putting any weight back on (by this time in the route, after something like seventeen and a half miles I would have probably burned off about three thousand calories (in software life, about 1,800 if worked out with real science). Roe Lane is always an easy street to walk along, this must be Hesketh-area’s only level-pavement road, unlike Queens Road which is as bumpy as the surface of the moon! So progress down to Hesketh Drive was quick and unhindered. Hesketh Drive used to be part of my ‘I’ll just go for a quick walk’, route…it still is, but I now extend the route down to the coast road. Thus, there are no surprises, I can guestimate where will be the safest to cross and most times will throw in the odd flight of steps purely for variety. At the end of the road, turn left, I did consider extending the route once more and making a b-line towards Hesketh Park for a loop of the Park, taking in the two highest spots (none above twenty feet so not worth getting excited about!), but my feet informed me that enough was enough and to just go home…I duly obliged.
And so, after leaving home at 09:05 I got back to the living room at 15:34 = six hours and twenty nine minutes of walking (including about ten minutes in two shops). There is a discrepancy with regards to the mileage, my Garmin GPS which I had in my bag with me, reported a total mileage of 19.6 miles, when paired with my Bluetooth bracelet thing, Dynamo software had the mileage down as 21 miles. The Garmin would probably be the more accurate of the two, but then that’s not a given. I shall therefore take the mean average of 20.3 miles as the full distance. I won’t lie, I wanted it to be slightly more – about another mile would take me equal to the distance of the Sefton Coastal Path – DOH! Why did I shave that mile off at Kew??? Never mind…I have to say that I enjoyed this crossing of Coastal Road more than all of the previous transits, was this down to ideal walking conditions? Lack of irritating Psycho-lists? Hmm? I do know that it’s now time to get more serious walks in, in preparation of not only next year’s Amble but I’ve also decided to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks with an old acquaintance from Bolton in June (argh!), this route is good, the off-road sections have made it better and the next time that I do this I will factor in at least a part of Chrchtown Moss -but it’s just not hilly enough…
Total Mileage: 20.3 miles
Song of the Walk: The Doppler Effect – Beauty Hides in the Deep (again)