Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 24, Blackpool to Hexham

Tuesday, one week to go, but I wasn't counting.

The Hilton buffet breakfast was so so good. They even had Scottish muck, like black pudding and haggis. A tall and handsome Indian boy kept our orange juice and coffee topped up.

Time to do some tramming. Here comes one. It was of the newer variety and the trip to Fleetwood was not too bad. The tram actually got up to a bit of speed when travelling through a paddock. It was interesting to see locals going about their lives, and the long long strip of Blackpool accommodation. The line travels fairly close to the coast but does get into the burbs a bit too. We were kind of told that it was the last stop for the tram, but then it went around a corner and we could have stayed on. I expect the crew wanted to light up.

We had a bit of look around Fleetwood and came back to where trams were being stored on road, and bought some coffee from a cafe with outdoor seating. Fleetwood is a ferry terminal to Ireland (I think that is right) but the area was also under heavy reconstruction. We watched the trams come and go for a bit.

Brian wasn't there to meet us......well, we didn't tell him we were coming. Of course it would have been nice to meet him, but we were struggling. I have to think of R always. Had I said so, R would have been agreeable, but I know not to load too much stuff onto him. I am hard work at times and I did ok to get him to go on the tram in the first place. I was very much feeling like I would like to be home in Australia too, but we must go on. There, blame for not meeting Brian was not my fault but allocated to someone else.

I hadn't quite finished my coffee when a double deck tram arrived. Come on, R urged me. He wanted to travel back on a double decker and hey, we got the front seat. Pity about the really dirty window. It must be a constant battle against salt spray.

Now, while this long tram route is used by locals, it is principally for tourists. As public transport, it is dismally slow. Both tram drivers and motorists seem to have no idea how to deal with each other, and that goes for pedestrians too, who look up at the approaching tram and then step out in front of it. The tram intersects many quiet and busier streets, especially at the Fleetwood end. The tram stops at an intersection, loads its passengers, starts, then stops because a car had started off that had stopped to give way to the tram. This goes on back and forth for a few seconds. There is no priority for the tram and I would just love to rip into the system and make it travel the trip in 2/3 the time. It is symptomatic of English driving. It is good to be a polite driver, but you can be too polite. The last thing I expect tram drivers to be is polite to motorists. They should be like Sydney bus drivers.

We had bought a day ticket each, at around $12, and we were ahead by using the tram four times for the day, but only just. Later when we used it, just from our hotel to the centre of Blackpool, we could have walked more quickly. Timetables are posted, but there is no connection between them and how the system actually runs.

Back in Blackpool, we checked out of the hotel and they had not deducted the deposit we had paid to the tourist information centre, much botheration before it was sorted. We had some lovely tea cakes and coffee on the beach promenade. We took a walk out on the Centre Pier, full of entertainments and pretty hideous looking bars. There were lots of Indians, or Asians as they call them there, on the pier. If you have ever seen the great movie Bhaji on the Beach......

We tried again for Blackpool Tower, but we did not want to spend a huge amount of pounds on seeing a circus as well. It would be cheaper if we came back mid afternoon. No, sorry, we need to be back in Newcastle by tomorrow afternoon. We are orf.

I had got into Blackpool without a map. I had only a stylised one to get out. But I had a good sense of direction by then and we wove around streets and found our way out. I can't even recall the rest of the drive back to Hexham or what we did that night. I was feeling fragile and I wanted to be home. Instead we are off to a farm to stay the next day.

Blackpool Tower
Blackpool's Centre Pier
The sea was a little rough the day we arrived in Blackpool but not as rough as the day when this photo was taken. A lot of work is being carried out on the seafront, which I assume will stop the sea flooding over the walls.
An old double decker tram alongside a newer single level model. The double decker is north bound for the Fleetwood terminus. The south bound one appears to be only going to an intermediate destination.
A double decker on its way to Star Gate, the southern tram terminus.
For a short section of road in Blackpool, cars mixed it in with the trams. The set up looked dangerous to me, but as the trams are ponderously slow, I guess accidents are rare.
A ship had come to grief along the way to Fleetwood.The tower of Lord Hughes of Fleetwood.
A flotilla of trams? A congestion of trams?
I took this tram photo as we were drinking a cup of Nescafe's finest
Later it ventured to Blackpool under the control of a trainee driver.
At Fleetwood, the tram does not have dead end terminus, but what is known as a balloon loop.
The tram window was very dirty but down this street is who knows what.


  1. Andrew,

    They're rebuilding the dock in Fleetwood, where you disembarked from the tram. That building site used to be where the ships from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company offloaded their passengers, but they stopped running a few years ago. Now they're extending the docks for the P & O boats to and from Ireland. (Intriguing boats them...specially designed to spin on their axis. It's the only way they can turn round in the river.)

    Fleetwood's Ash Street (or the arse end of town as we like to think of it)is named after the ash trees growing down it or something. Nothing to do with soot.

    Lord Hughes's Tower (if you pardon the expression) is Pharos Lighthouse (named after one of the seven ancient wonders, of course). There's a smaller lighthouse just down the road from it. The ships coming into the town have to line the two of them up in order to safely navigate the channel.

    "Now, while this long tram route is used by locals, it is principally for tourists."

    Tragically not true, I'm afraid. It's actually principally for the locals, just incredibly anachronistic and useless. During the winter we don't suffer from grockles -- or tourists as they prefer to call themselves -- but the trams are every bit as slow and ancient. Having said that, so are most of the locals...average age 92. Speed is not usually a requirement.

    Oh...and that upturned ship is the Riverdance which ran aground a few months ago and hasn't been out of the news since.

    I can't believe you travelled right around the world -- about as far as it's possible to travel without going into space -- reached the cafe about 200 yards from my front door, and then went home again without dropping in for a brew.

    P.S. You're right. The chips in the Ferry Boat Cafe in Fleetwood are possibly the mankiest chips in existence. Trust me, I've tried a great many chip butties around Britain, and none come close for mankiness.

  2. LOL love the trams, especially the boat shaped one.
    FB had a sticky beak and loved the pics, too.
    Looks a bit dried than the earlier tram pic lol ;)

  3. A very smart looking ferry was in port. Short of asking a local, no one knew much about the area.

    Interesting about the light house and the ships spinning on the spot.

    Not sure if the Fleetwood Market operates every weekday, but the trams were packed with grockles for the market. I just remembered it was Veterans Week when we were there. Incapacitated ex service men and women everywhere, in chairs, on crutches, with zimmer frames.

    Gee, so close, ah well, next time. Actually I am continuing the fine but unintentional tradition of never meeting a blogger I did not already know, Before Blogging. I think that might fall in a heap soon.

    Apart from me whinging about them Jayne, they are great fun and some of the conductors have good senses of humour.

  4. "Interesting about the light house and the ships spinning on the spot."

    The lighthouse doesn't spin, Andrew...only the casement round the lightbulb.

    "Not sure if the Fleetwood Market operates every weekday..."

    Three days a week this time of year...I think.

    "Incapacitated ex service men and women everywhere, in chairs, on crutches, with zimmer frames."

    Veterans Week was just a coincidence. It's like that round here 365 per annum.

  5. Anonymous7:26 pm

    Again, I am bereft of an explanation as to why Britain's tourist towns (least of all!) are endemically treeless. Do the local council receive bribes from the dendrophobia instutite?

    Slow trams? Nothing beats a nice Swanston street ride at 5pm on a Friday night.

  6. Brian, then would be quite justified in elbowing or kicking them out of the way.

    Reuben, plenty of trees in London and Newcastle, but you are right about Blackpool, but then with the heavy salt spray, it would pretty hard to grow a tree on the seafront.

  7. Actually there are a lot of trees in Fleetwood...just not many immediately in front of the lighthouse where all of Andrew's photographs appear to have been taken. As for Blackpool...the only use for a tree in Blackpool is for the drunkards to piddle against. They blame it on the wind. I blame it on the fact that the local council can't be arsed paying for tree surgeons to take care of them.