Jul 28 2011

Carstramon Woods, near Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

There is nobody here. It is isolated perfection. There are glades where surely small folk dance widdershins, circles of trees centuries old but not being admired or photographed to admire at a future date. Here be magic. We are at the end of the world but also the beginning. Come visit but tread softly.

Jul 27 2011

A stone, Satan and finding mortality in graffiti

I am on open moorland, I am wearing a playsuit with leggings underneath and I need a wee. This is not good. This is really not good. I knew I should not have bought an all in one playsuit at the age of 32. To undertake the weeing process will render me startlingly naked so I perform clumsy hopping motions trying to remove leggings from underneath the legs of the playsuit and then fall onto spiky moor. I resolve not to ever wear a playsuit again.

This is proper moorland too, well if proper moorland consists of seeing the dried desiccated husk of a sheep adhered to the road. We are on a mission to see the Great Stone of Fourstones, a behemoth of a rock said to have been dropped by a clumsy satanic hand when the devil was somewhat somewhat helpfully for an entity of darkness building The Devils Bridge in Kirkby Lonsdale. The other somewhat more prosaic and rational explanation is that the monolith is a remnant from the ice age but I prefer to ignore cold hard science in favour of lubricous badly remembered anecdote, legend and lies (but no, I am not a fan of the Bible)

Upon the great stranded rock’s sides, centuries of graffiti have been carved. The more modern graffiti seems rubbish old vandalism-crude hearts with ‘Kevin 4 Sue’ ripped crudely into the rock but look closely and you can see the faint and beautiful swoop of calligraphy from others who have made the trek through the moorland to carve their name on this isolated rock, to proclaim their immortality. And now only a faint elegant swoop of a letter `J’ remains. Look for the name Metcalfe, admire the feathered elegance of the letters, elegy to a time when the precision and style of writing was as important as the content.  The Great Rock is a graveyard of names from the past and the future.

There are small carved steps leading to the top. I want to know who carved the steps and when but like the fact there is no information office telling you exactly what happened and with illustrated timelines because no one really knows, its past is not meticulously photographed, explained and sold in a glossy pamphlet format. Not all history is recorded, especially not here in this bleakly beautiful boundary between Lancashire and Yorkshire.

There are even smaller steps, mere rough grooves around the other side of the rock, steps you would not even know were steps if you were not to have read the small and light of information vandalised board so distant from the rock, it is almost invisible. The sign references enticingly and briefly the probability there were another three stones, hence the name but the other three stones have disappeared over the centuries or were never there to begin with. We will never ever know.

I like this and am yet frustrated by it. I like not being told but I still want to know. But the mystery of this rock, its surface slightly scarred but its bulk still reaming unlike the weak flesh and bone who over centuries attempt to reclaim it.  But they become mere dust whilst the rock remains, an Ozymandius looking out over moorland, fields and mountains immobile and desolate, the names of once living breathing humans slowly fading away over time to become nothing more than a faint and fluttering letter J.

Jul 25 2011

Furness Abbey, a circus and urban wilderness

It is pissing down and cold in the way that only an English July can be. I want to look at Furness Abbey but it is so cosy in the car and it costs £3.80 to go out in the rain and look at what we have already seen in-between the swipe of the windscreen wipers. It is a ruin, a very nice ruin but I fail to see what a closer and more expensive viewing can yield. But we have driven an hour, I would quite like to see a ghostly monk who are far more likely to pop up in inclement weather so I begrudgingly pay, run the gauntlet of the nice woman behind the till trying to upsell us Furness Abbey pamphlets and have a free sample of nettle wine which mollifies me somewhat.

And I do not resent my £3.80. We spend an hour there looking up at spiral staircases that stop at vanished floors, drenched sky-clad cloisters, soaring ambitious walls attached to nothing, malevolent gargoyles, 13th century knights graves who look like Darth Vader.

I do not see a ghost. I must have paid enough to see a ghost by now. Anyone would think they don’t exist. I try really hard; peeping through the gloom at arched windows but no sudden flit of black appears. I realize I am wearing my long black frock coat (from Next) and hope at least I have presented a quick glimpse of immortality to the few umbrella-covered stalwarts perusing the site. Until they see me pushing a shouty baby in a nylon pushchair.

Then the circus. Part of the Lakes Alive! events they are cheerily trying to be a brilliant circus despite being in the rain in Barrow on Furness, having no animals and being bellowed at to ‘Fall! Fall!’ when performing acrobatics by small Barrow youth. They are still excellent and so sanguine in the circumstances, could easily get a job for HMP prison services.

Walney Island is nearby and Walney Island is terrifying. It is the worst bits of country and town enmeshed together in a windswept ferocious huddle. There is a big housing estate, some pubs that look like they have never seen a female, a vegetarian option or a hanging basket, a caravan park and then sudden marsh, sudden sucking slooping salt marsh from which pops out the top of a car. I open the car door and am nearly sucked away.

Rare birds and wildlife can be witnessed here against the faint outline of Barrow industry. In the sea can be seen the hulk of Peil Island, another monastic outcrop. I shall go there one day but now, right now, I am scared of both nature and man and wish to go home.

Jul 20 2011

Wicca, WKD and an absence of ghosts

I do not think I have ever been happier. It is not yet noon and I am knee high in grass and the half buried remnants of Hollinshead Hall, hidden and almost forgotten in this wooded copse on the west Pennine moors.

There are no other people here, there is no entrance fee, just an old sign, which wonderfully states that the well house is an ancient sacred site, and there are many ghosts (well, one man is stated to have somewhat extravagantly seen six before sunrise.)

Other people have been here before me. Some have made a fire pit and enjoyed some blue WKD, a surprising choice for those choosing to spend a night at an abandoned manor house in the middle of inhospitable moorland. I would plump for something with a far higher alcohol percentage.

There is a quite fresh very dead rat sprawled nearby. It is all very intriguing. There must be hidden treasure here in the shape of an 18th century sapphire ring in a crevice (I am nothing if not optimistic) but a search yields nothing until I find a small square rusted bolt which must be from an old mysterious thing from the past. My boyfriend thinks it might be from a JCB when the Liverpool Corporation Waterworks demolished most of the Hall but I prefer not to listen to him.

I am so, so happy here, in history reclaimed by nature. You are not told the details of everything that happened here. The sign optimistically and enigmatically states something along the lines of ‘What really happened here, no-one really knows, maybe someday we will find out the truth’

We won’t though but it is pleasing to not have the past of this manor house described in such detail that we know what they had for dinner. We are not looking at a roped off chair a famous bum once sat upon although we do know from an old quote on the sign, there was ‘much revelry here.’ I’m sure there also was when the blue WKD was drunk too.

The old well house remains intact and is the most terrifyingly gothic building ever. I peep through the barred windows at the gloomy interior that someone has clearly penetrated judging by the tea light husks within when my boyfriend suddenly does a ghostly noise behind me and despite the blazing July day I am suddenly cold. Then angry.

I walk around the Well house and discover a black gloomy slick of water. Then see something else. Against the black, the white. A note of paper carefully rolled up and tied with the delicate stem of a foxglove with the fresh head still unwilted. A dead tea light stands guard nearby, together on a rocky outcrop hazardously near the water. It is the most exciting thing I have ever seen. I want to lean over and uncurl the paper but I can’t.

It might be a 13 year old who has read A Beginners Guide To Wicca and thinks the letter might make Andy Moore fancy her, it might be a curse, a suicide note, a picture of a Lolcat. I want to know and I don’t want to know. I am now sitting here in my house writing this and still not knowing which makes it so much more exciting than the guilt of breaking that carefully weaved foxglove seal to look at the secret within which I suspect is not for my eyes.

Or is it?

Anyway, it’s all better than Christmas. This is a memory that will stay with me forever due to not being signposted, planned and researched and because I did not open the letter. But I will never ever sleep again.

Our original intention on this trip was Smithills Hall, a haunted historic place of repute near Bolton. Now I have found an abandoned manor house in the woods I am suddenly unimpressed by a place I have longed to go to and sneer condescendingly at a Bolton council van parked outside its bulging ancient exterior.

Things aren’t helped by a gift shop selling reduced Bounty bars and the merry hum and chatter by women in a conference room with a large amount of cakes and donuts beside them. Ghosts will not appear when there is a conference meeting of women with donuts. Everyone knows that.

Everything is roped off and despite me reading on the net about the rope occasionally suddenly moving of its own accord in these areas, I have a sudden chilly feeling that no ghost will appear on a bright bold July morning in a municipal building where women on plastic chairs say  ‘ooh, I mustn’t, go on, just the one then’.

However the entrance fee of three pounds is a bargain compared to similar but non-council owned buildings of antiquity smattered across the landscape of this country. It has a fascinatingly bloody pedigree and there are acres of historic woodland and parkland to walk in. It is a gateway through centuries – the wooden shell of the medieval kitchen remains along with the clear diamond in the servants frosted window panel for them to spy upon their lord’s comings and goings. The history is too much for a blog, could fill a thousand pages of intrigue, death and betrayal. I will leave it to you to look it up rather than badly recite it. People who lived here were burned for their beliefs. I would betray everyone I know should I be threatened with a paper cut.

I do not see a ghost. But I see history. Although it is hard to feel you are in the past when modern signs about the past repeatedly remind you that you are in the present.  So much is recorded, fenced off, dusted, rebuilt. I talk to a lovely man at the desk who doesn’t openly mock my opening gambit of ‘Have you seen any ghosts here?’ He is a prosaic friendly man who states his disbelief and then mentions he saw a door open and close by itself. He talks about the second storey abandoned, spooky and derelict since it was an old nursing home and I nearly wet myself. But we can’t go up there and I am glad in a way because like Hollinshead Hall I want the mystery.  And I want to imagine.

And I am so glad I never opened that letter. Because now mystery still remains.



Jul 18 2011

Rawtenstall, Ramsbottom and Leigh

I am sitting in a temperance bar. This is not my usual habitat. My usual habitats offer to double up for a pound extra rather than give a free scoop of ice cream with each cream soda. Fitzpatrick’s in Rawtenstall is the only temperance bar left in Britain and is kept exactly how it would have been a hundred years ago even down to the clientele. There are old tiles, jarred sweets and a clanging till with the friendliest young man in the north behind it. An old woman shuffles in for a honey and ginger. She lacks enough money to buy some one-pound ice cream after she carefully counts her change and I wish to offer her the difference but do not wish to insult. I wish I had now.

Rawtenstall is like a big tourist information advert for The North. It is friendly, bedecked with strings of terraced houses like bunting, full of butchers and little independent shops, a bit scuff marked at the edges but where isn’t?

I am forced to go in front of people at the queue in the enormous spaceship Asda because I have less than them, women in charity shops cheerily grab my babies legs and a woman behind a meat counter in the market says his crying (not connected with the leg grabbing, he is a hardy five month year old) is because he needs a meat pie. I do not mention we are vegetarian but do notice he instantly stops crying. This bodes ill for the future.

I do that annoying thing of walking around every little independent shop declaring everything marvellous and then walking out without buying anything. If I were a struggling small business I would want to scalp people like me. At least I didn’t loudly decide to look for it cheaper on Amazon. Rawtenstall is friendly but there are limits.

Diehard fans of Unicycle Emptiness will already have noted my love of south Indian food and during some bored perusing of food websites in Lancashire, I noted there was one in Ramsbottom, a mere four miles up the road. This excites me a great deal, the menu states somewhat paradoxically that it is open from 6.30pm and then somewhere else that is open for lunch so as an eternal optimist with a song in my heart and some excellent butter pie from the market in my stomach, we enter Ramsbottom (no pun intended) to walk around the very closed south Indian restaurant with a sign saying closed and the opening times firmly saying it is open.

But Ramsbottom itself, a place dimly thought of to be a fictional place on a northern soap opera is a revelation. It is pretty much everything desirable in a small town having local charity shops, licensed cafes boasting ‘award winning bitter chocolate torte’, a printmakers selling utterly wonderful frighteningly expensive prints, cafes selling meat and veg four quid dinners and all the other periphery of small town commerce, not yet crushed by chains or boarded up forever.

We go into The First Chop, a trendy yet laid back bar on the high street with good strong welsh cider and the most complicated array of special offers on the menu ever. I am still working out whether the two tapas for the price of three work out better than having a ‘larger plate’ but with half the price of my cider taken off. It was excellent-halloumi and veg kebabs with salad, the biggest crispiest chips in the world, beans with maple syrup and Lancashire cheese, sourdough bread and salad, spicy tomato ketchup, garlic mayo and something amazing with coriander in it, one of those posh expensive Fentimans ginger beers and the afore mentioned welsh cider come to under fifteen quid. We did not eat for the rest of the day; it was friendly, relaxed and effortlessly cool. I decide I want to live in Ramsbottom-it is Hebden Bridge without the hippies, the cool part of a city without the hipsters and the city, a country town without the misery, isolation and lack of award winning bitter chocolate tortes. And near enough to Manchester to escape to upon a picturesque railway. And the delight of finding somewhere unknown, unexpected and delightful is even better than the chips. And I do like chips.

We go through Leigh on the way back and it is a reminder of what really is. I do not like Leigh. It feels like shooting fish in a barrel to not like Leigh, snobbish, southern and unnecessary to bray about an ex mining town on hard times not being darling enough and not selling foccacia by the hand-woven bucket load. But it is everywhere town. Places where the chains have fled to the malls and the mall is given a name to show the heritage and history of the town it has plundered (in this case Spinning Jenny Arcade) and ailing independents selling cheap pastry, cheap shoes and hazardous looking maxi dresses with sale signs in the windows.  I am startled by the amount of kebab shops open at 4pm. I clearly startle only too easily.

The library however has manga, goldfish,  Bollywood and art and also offers book and baby sessions to get babies used to enjoying books not orally but visually and a book at bedtime session where you take your pyjamas clad kid to listen to a story then be given a biscuit and a glass of milk before being sleepily dragged off home past the aroma of kebabs.

The red brick is remnants of an industrial heritage and the tall chimneys are still being demolished. But new soulless estates are given names about what used to be there, like when ‘Orchard Close’s smother what used to be orchards in mock Tudor and overly large conservatories. I wonder what the factory workers of yore would think of Spinning Jenny Arcade and think they would probably love it because their equivalent job in this day and age would be unlikely to treat digit fingers as a luxury. One has to be careful not to romanticise the past but then again looking around Leigh it is hard not to.



Jul 13 2011

Gisburn Forest

I do not like Gisburn forest. We have traveled through undulating wildness-the vast windswept expanse of The Trough of Bowland to arrive at somewhere with a range of differently named carparks and colour coded walks. There is dog poo in the carpark as a small child calls joyously out about but no toilet for humans, just extravagant family saloons with mountain bikes strapped on the top and a small girl weeing against a tree. I want a wee too but here there is all the inconvenience of humanity without the good bit of municipal toilets.

We follow the ‘blue trail’ around the reservoir along a track wide enough to get vehicles down and with the forest tucked politely away along the side like an embarrassing afterthought. The forest looks a bit rubbish but I am only looking at it in terms of a suitable quiet weeing experience rather than looking at its history, flora and fauna. I like ancient snarled woodland, not tall immaculate conifers, factory farmed and non-life giving. Forests are dead on the inside where evergreens flourish and you hear little birdsong. No rabbits bob ahead and you know you will not come across a ruined hermits hut or ancient burial mound. It is the Ikea experience of a day with nature. We follow the blue markers, do not veer off the beaten track, have a nice time and natter but it is a strangely sterile way to commune with nature when we are surrounded by mile upon mile of moorland, wild, cold and desolate. I do not know what the rest of Gisburn forest is like. It may be stunningly diverse, humming with wildlife and dripping in history but I shall judge it from my hour spent poncing about its periphery with people who want to escape the beaten track but don’t want the inconvenience of the unbeaten.

To Slaidburn and The Hark To Bounty, http://www.harktobounty.co.uk/ an olde olde pub and former court room dating back to the 1300’s in a rambling grey village where little seems to have changed for hundreds of years although peoples teeth are probably better. The Hark To Bounty is comfortable, friendly and quaint without making a big song and dance about it. There is free homemade bread and butter, which makes me more excited than it should. As a vegetarian obsessed with bargains it upsets me more than it should that there is roast dinner offer –two Sunday dinners including two soups for fifteen quid but with no vegetarian option. But an artery-clogging dish of two baked eggs with cheese, cream, leeks and spinach for a fiver is the ultimate in comfort food and my boyfriend has a slab of cheese and leek pie the size of a sharks fin.

We drive back trying not to pulverize bunnies whose tiny pathetic corpses litter the winding road through valleys and mountains, past streams and copses and just the vast vast majesty of nature that makes Dartmoor look like a children’s play park. Maybe the immense emptiness of it all scares people. There are few walkers or tourists here in the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It is almost claustrophobic in its intensity and we feel very very small, fragile and temporary as those tiny furry scraps bleeding onto the road.

And maybe this is why people stick to colour coded trails and look at nature from a safe distance.

Jul 12 2011

Beetham, Fairy Steps, corpses and cheesy chips

10.45am- It is all a little bit too nice. I am suspicious and jealous of anything a little bit too nice. All the gardens here abound with a neatly joyous cacophony of flowers, the majority of houses are warm grey stone, slanted immaculate antiquity and I suspect very expensive. People smile and say hello and I narrow my eyes. There is a village shop and tearoom, which has a studded door with a bell that rings every time it is opened. It is opened a lot and the bell irritates me.

There is St Michael and Arkangels, a 12th century church of historical importance. In its musty interior a woman is meticulously polishing a bronze eagle. Outside generations of families are buried, their histories, tragedies and early deaths quaintly marked by stone slabs shining in the sunlight. There is a rose bedecked corridor leading to the church door. People have bollards and signs to protect their parking spaces. I suspect the car parking issue is very controversial here. That and immigrants. I keep waiting for a shout to go up that a body has been found in the vicarage.

I hanker to enter the looming grand looking pub and hotel, the Wheatsheaf with its rare Tudor overhang. But it is not yet 11am, which is probably a bad sign.

11.00am- We begin to follow the walk to Fairy Steps as described in Curious Cumbrian Walks by Graham Dugdale- a pleasing book of walks in that the author accurately surmises that one does not want to go on a walk through verdant countryside merely to revel in nature but instead to hark at where a horrific 18th century murder once occurred or someone once said they saw a headless cavalier. We walk up through lovely old woodland, none of your boring identikit conifers and pass an abandoned cottage. More walks should have abandoned cottages.

11.45am-The Fairy Steps-not only is there the old legend about if one should go down the fairy steps embedded deep within the limestone cliff without touching the sides that one will see a fairy but above the Fairy Steps lies The Corpse Road. This is the old route that coffins used to take from the lonely outreaches of the Lake District to consecrated ground at the aforementioned church.

11.46am-I try to go down the Fairy Steps without touching the sides.

11.47am- I decide to eschew cheesy chips forever more. Mind you I had already decided that upon seeing a microwave frozen ready meal of said meal for £1.09 for sale in my local McColls and being filled with both revulsion and a strong compulsion to purchase.

11. 50am- I decide the crevices around The Fairy Steps are positively crammed with valuable 18th century trinkets left there by star crossed lovers doomed to never return there to reclaim their treasure.

11.53am- I give up after only finding a colour drained Hula Hoops crisps bag.

11.55am- I decide I am hungry and demand cheesy chips with a mini tantrum.

12.12pm- We go down the second flight of fairy steps as ordered to by the author of Curious Cumbrian Walks and make our way past all the stencilled Keep Out signs that are more prevalent a feature of English countryside than robins and dry stone walling. The instructions don’t seem to make much sense anymore but I confidently lead the way until we are lost and in a farmyard.

1pm- A further tantrum. I wake the baby who also has a tantrum but not nearly as good.

1.10pm- We retrace our steps. Retracing steps is the most agonising arduous frustrating boring thing in the world.

1.30pm- We realise that Curious Cumbrian Walks is wrong and can only surmise it is because the author of the Keep Out signs has had the footpath rerouted because what could be worse than being rich enough to own great swathes of countryside but occasionally seeing someone in waterproof clothing quietly enjoying it and saying ‘good morning’ to you?

My revolutionary mood is not helped by seeing farmed grouse running in front of us. Grouse and pheasant shooting as a ‘sport’ have to be as sporting and as risky as popping pins in the plastic bags of fairground goldfish. Or maybe stamping on the fingers of babies.

2pm-A walk through a deer park with herds of deer flittering elegantly ahead. I really really hope they are not doomed with the same fate.

2.01pm- I realise I am not the chirpiest of walk companions.

2.12pm- Back at the car and I am so so hungry I look at the beautiful historic landscape all around me and can only see microwaved ready meals of flaccid white chips congealed together by a cheap cheesy oil slick. The countryside is possibly wasted on me.

Jul 4 2011

Unloved Britain shouts back

It is easy to be blasé about Britain. There is the south, which is mostly nice, but we can laugh at Slough. The North is poor, friendly and used to have factories. Scotland is pretty but has Glasgow, alkies and things fried which shouldn’t be fried. Why go on holiday here and shop for the same produce in the same supermarket, be unimpressed by a ruin of unimportance and get drizzled upon when for the same price or less you could be munching oozing cheese in a pleasingly crumbling château or getting extravagantly drunk and sunburnt on a Spanish beach?

I find Britain fascinating. I have to because I can’t afford to get my passport renewed.

I like to be surprised by an unexpected place-tourist thronged perfection bores me because you cannot see, or write about anything that has not already been said, seen or photographed a million times. I used to live in Bath. This ruined me-I became saturated by beauty, unimpressed by forced history.

I yearn to travel but I have no passport, money or even a driving licence. So I write about what my boyfriend can drive to with a fractious baby in the back. My wings have been clipped so far back they are mere stubs but still I yearn. So I seek to be intrigued by the unknown that is known. I am bored and I want to be surprised.

So dear reader, surprise me. Tell me about somewhere, anywhere but it has to be in Britain. I am angrily envious of those who write in the travel supplements of broadsheets regaling us with their tales of Cambodia-of course that is interesting but many of us can’t sodding afford it. Where have you been in this country, this fascinating country that is pockmarked with industrial estates, Morrisons and suburbia but where true fascination, beauty and history still exists?

It does not have to be pretty. It has to be a memory that stays with you. I went to Nelson, Lancashire on a Northern day ranger train ticket. It was awful but I am happy with the memory of it. It seems cruel and obvious to go to a northern poverty struck town then hark at the horror of it all but it was the only town in the North I have been to and been horrified by.

It was a Wednesday morning, we arrived at ten am. As a recent economic migrant from Bath and having spent the previous five years living in an unfashionable poor area of London, I was used to poverty. But not with such pleasing house prices. The estate agents had houses for thirty grand. Pendle hill, a source of utter fascination for me, being inaccessible on a rail card loomed overhead. There was a swastika spray painted on the train platform. By 11am a riot van had shot up the high street. This was impressive for a Wednesday morning by anywhere’s standards. My boyfriend went to purchase a cheese and onion pie and there was a furious argument about who should serve him by two girls in the shop. Women in saris swept elegantly by. It was the strangest place I have ever been to.

Now dear reader, please tell me about somewhere, anywhere, that you find interesting, it does not have to be obvious, I would prefer it not to be-just write and maybe, just maybe when you look at the familiar through unfamiliar eyes, you will see the utter utter wonder in the everyday.

Jul 2 2011

Morecambe in Summer

As the rest of the country slithers deeper and deeper into recession, Morecambe smiles. Because now gap toothed high streets snaggle every town, those who used to sneer at the crumbling ‘four for a pound’ decay here find the pox has spread to their own towns. Morecambe smiles, for now everywhere has the desperate failing small businesses and boarded up shops of Morecambe but no-where else has the view. Morecambe has won. Again.

It’s a tenacious old place. Like a zombie, it repeatedly rises from the dead – in winter it is desolate yet strangely compelling as its snapping sandy wind howls around post-apocalyptic urban bleakness contrasting with the clichéd perfection of the Lake District mountains across the churning sucking bay.

Now it is summer and the desperation has been sellotaped over with shops open again selling buckets and spades for the gritty sand and unflattering nylon clothes in lurid patterns.

People have tried to make Morecambe posh again, how it used to be back in the day when consumptives and grey factory workers came to ‘take in the air’  in a futile  swipe against sickness and mortality. The Midland Hotel, an art deco beacon resurrected from decay throngs with people gawping at the retro futuristic poshness, its optimistic pricing and elegantly uncomfortably seating but those who have chosen to spend a few hundred pounds on a night here are stranded on a windswept island of indulgence. Should they choose to leave their king-size bed and go for an expensive meal out, they would be faced with eateries that advertise the price as the main recommendation or with ‘meals of the day’ written on cardboard stars.

The Kings Arms goes one better and it is not the price, not the food but the sheer amount of it that is boasted about-‘King Size’ portions of pie and chips! Monstrous lashings of puddings! Buckets, troughs, mountains of fried delights-drown under a roast dinner tsunami and have change from a fiver. There is no jus here.

But should that shell-shocked couple peruse the streets of Morecambe a bit more, they would find cafes selling smoothies, beetroot and feta soup, croque monsieur’s, all for more than a fried 10 item breakfast on the prom but less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee and sandwich somewhere else. There are shops selling vintage fabric and handmade jewellery, real ale pubs with newspapers and leather sofas overlooking the bay, nice things, things that people like but presume Morecambe, the butt of every loud Southern joke would never have.

Delis, pound shops, restaurants come and go but the essence of Morecambe remains. In a giant Polo mint highlighted by blue sky. In a Guinness and white chocolate cake in a glass fronted café, in the sound of a hacking cough outside Festival market, in shops selling bags of Thorntons misshapes and cheap unpopular flavours of celebrity endorsed pasta sauce, in beautiful boarded up Victorian terraces, in its pure potentiality that never quite comes to fruitation and in its view, that glorious view that cannot be sold, sullied or changed.

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Walk to Heysham