So the area of the country where I was raised in the NW corner of the UK between the rivers Ribble and the Lune with the river Wyre bisecting the land, is in the news today. It’s the area known as the Fylde and my home town is Poulton-le-Fylde sitting slap bang in the middle of this flat agricultural area. It’s a Doomsday Book-referenced village meaning, I believe, the town by the pool (river) in the field. We ended up with a lovely Norman-based name but it could have been something mundanely Anglo-Saxon like Wyrhampton, which sounds like the place where Sam Allardyce spent his youth.
Now apart from P-l-F the area has some lovely towns and villages like Hardhorn, Wrea Green, both Lytham and St Annes, St Michael’s on Wyre, Knott End, Glasson Dock and the 3 icks – Esprick, Inskip and Elswick. Imagine living in a place called Esprick. Anyway the area is most famous for one place, of course, Blackpool. Oh I used to love the place, the extraordinary Tower, the 3 piers, the Pleasure Beach, the tacky amusements along the Golden Mile, the dozens of summer shows with top acts (like Little and Large), the fearsome landladies in the 1000’s of B&B’s, the fabulous illuminations, the 7 mile beach and the even better sand dunes down South Shore, the promenade itself of course, the crystal clear water, ha!, the Winter Gardens, the elegant Grand Theatre, the awesome Derby baths and the ABC cinema (both sadly no longer there), the Tussaud’s waxworks (which were rubbish), the Tower Circus where the finale was always a water spectacular with the ring filled with million of gallons of seawater, the incomparable Tower Ballroom, the unique trams, the zoo and the town’s dinky art gallery. Then there was Bloomfield Rd where I went every week as a kid to watch my beloved Blackpool FC, the club where I saw Stanley Mathews (just once), Stan Mortensen (later great manager), gentleman Jim Armfield, big-eared Ray Charnley, Alan Ball, Mickies Walsh and Burns, Emlyn Hughes, John Craven (before he left for Countryfile), Tommy Hutchinson, the simply brilliant Tony Green and the king of Bloomfield Rd, Alan Suddick. Ah happy memories.
Blackpool was the greatest seasisde resort of them all attracting over 10 million visitors each year largely from the industrial towns of Lancashire and West Yorkshire and Scotland. I used to be so fond and even proud of the place because although it was tacky it was vibrant and full of life and it was never boring. Also what a place to go out at night. But before I left home at 18 the place was already becoming run-down and that process has accelerated over the years. I rarely go there now because it really has some squalid parts and there’s not much I find redeeming. The town seems to be summed up by the football club run by the reviled Oyston family which has become the ultimate basket case. Raped of all its resources, the club’s fans take greatest pleasure these days not in watching their favourite footballers, like I did, but in staying away as a protest against the owners. It’s that sad.
But as that old Chinese proverb goes, one Chairman’s prison sentence is another man’s opportunity. And a few years ago a local businessman with a proper old Lancashire name, David Hawthornthwaite, (believe it or not I used to go to school with lads called Thistlethwaite and Postlethwaite) tried to buy Blackpool FC from the Oystons but they rejected his offer. Presumably because there was still some cash in the bank to ‘borrow’. Anyway that’s what my P-l-F based brother Dave told me last night when he called to remind me that AFC Fylde were on Match of the Day playing the mighty Wigan in the FA Cup and achieving a creditable draw. Now after being spurned by the oily Oystons Dave (Hawthornthwaite not my brother) only went and bought another local football club, Kirkham and Wesham, who were playing in the Shitbox league, rebranded them as AFC Fylde with the cheeky strapline ‘The football team of the Fylde Coast’ invested his cash in building a new ground and facilities, brought in some heavyweight partners, appointed a decent management team and the club have risen up the football ladder till they are now playing in the National League. Next stop full League football. And in a couple of years time if all goes well, the first ever League match with Blackpool FC. Oh you can picture the scene in the home team’s boardroom can’t you? Dave welcoming Karl and convicted rapist dad Owen with one hand pointing to the strapline in big bold lettering on the boardroom wall and the middle finger of his other hand pointing in the air as he says ‘greetings gentlemen, before I offer you a sausage roll would you care to swivel on this ?’. Delicious. And quite a few of those thousands of fans who turned up to watch the match last night are disenchanted former Blackpool FC fans who have found a club which welcomes and respects them and, with ongoing investment, rewards them with good football and continuing success. It’s a simple formula really.
So you might think that’s the end of my little posting but hold on to your hats because there’s another reason the town was in the news yesterday. You see one of the places I always enjoyed visiting whether it was taking a girl on the lovely boating lake or attending an athletics meeting in the rather decent stadium or admiring the very pretty art deco cafe was the jewel that is Blackpool’s Stanley Park. Opened in 1926 it’s a 260 acre area of pleasant gardens, with a host of nice features which is often overlooked by visitors. Bordered by a decent golf course, the zoo and Blackpool cricket club’s ground it’s a slither of green separating grim urban Blackpool from the rest of the Fylde. Stan Mathews used to have a house overlooking the Park. It’s still the town’s most desirable place to live. So what’s the news? Well after all these years SP was named yesterday as Britain’s Best Park. What about that! The little-known gem scooped first prize at the Fields in Trust awards ahead of 360 nominated parks throughout the UK. I’m quite amazed given how wonderful places like Bushey and Richmond Park are but fair do’s it’s a lovely facility and deserves its accolade. Enjoy the pics below.