Thursday, August 16, 2012

Coastal Gem of Lancashire

That’s the slogan on the sign welcoming you to the lovely little town of Lytham. As we had a series of fine days last week, we took to the road again, this time with Blackpool as our objective. On the way, though, we found Lytham, and because our friend Margaret has spoken so fondly of her childhood holidays there, we decided to stop and see it on the way. We ended up spending a whole, delightful day there.

Lytham is full of quaint buildings, many Victorian, and some in the Tudor style, although I’m not sure they actually are Tudor. The town is full of flowers too; one banner downtown says it was a finalist in this year’s “Britain in Bloom” competition.

We arrived at lunchtime. The outdoor cafés were all full, so we had our light lunch in a tearoom on the second floor of a place at the back of an upscale little alley. They had outdoor seating, too, on a terrace. After lunch, we admired the wares in three tiny shops in the alley, and bought a trinket or two for ourselves and a gift for Kim and James, who are expecting a baby next month.

The beach in Lytham is much like other beaches in this part of the country: not very pretty. The water, of course is gorgeous, but it is very far away, with mudflats in between. Lytham used to have a pretty sand beach, but that was in the days when there was a dock for large shipping, when the shipping lanes were kept well dredged. Now the Ribble River, at whose mouth Lytham sits, has silted everything up, and except in spring tides, the water stays far away.

All along the waterfront is a paved promenade, flanked by “The Green”, spacious lawns. And at one end of The Green is an old windmill. We went to see it, noted the “Open” sign, and decided, however, to sit and admire the sea for a few minutes before going inside. When we arose for our tour of the windmill, the sign was gone and the doors were locked. Disappointment!

After having explored the high street quite thoroughly, and having had tea, we went to Lowther Gardens, because someone had told us they were lovely. Well, we never saw much of them, because we noticed a past-middle-age woman bowling. I had never seen outdoor bowling before, and it’s quite different from the kind we know in America. It isn’t tenpins. It’s one yellow ball, called the “jack”, which serves as the target. You bowl small dark balls (smaller than a grapefruit) at it, trying to hit it. The bowling balls come in sets of different weights. In competition, the winner is whoever puts his ball closest to the jack.

This woman was very good, the more so because this grassy square was a “crown green,” meaning not level, but highest in the center, sloping gently outward in all directions, its shape changing the course of the balls.

After several rounds, the woman said something deprecatory about her bowling, and we replied that she was obviously very practiced and very skilled. So that began a conversation that lasted half an hour, starting with answering all our questions about bowling.

And that’s how we met Marlene and her husband Ken and their friend, Shirley. We liked them all very much and hope they will make use of the card we gave them with our addresses and phone numbers.

As it was by now evening, we gave up on Blackpool and headed home.

We went back again the next day!  More to come.