3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

Bolton-le-Sands - a place of beauty between coast and canal

PUBLISHED: 23:55 15 September 2012 | UPDATED: 16:32 13 January 2018

Bolton-le-Sands  -  a place of beauty between coast and canal

Bolton-le-Sands - a place of beauty between coast and canal

This lovely community wedged between coast and canal is a box of delights. Roger Borrell reports Photography: John Cocks

Sharon Atkinson and Sue Barge with some temping offerings at Potts Pies shop...Sharon Atkinson and Sue Barge with some temping offerings at Potts Pies shop...

There can’t be many beauty queens who end up running a blacksmith’s business. But for Sheila Modley, a Miss Morecambe in the 1950s and a one-time proud possessor of the title Miss Betting Shop, it was in the blood.

Her grandfather came across the Irish Sea to Bolton-le-Sands almost a century ago and set up a small forge in the pretty north Lancashire village. From there, they developed as wheelwrights and makers of farm machinery and today McGaffigan’s constructs golf trolleys, beautiful ornamental gates as well as selling quad bikes, lawn mowers and a vast array of general hardware.

It’s one of those fine old businesses that you often find off the beaten track. ‘We still have the original old forge,’ says Sheila, whose father-in-law was the popular musical hall comedian Arthur Modley.

‘We still have the bellows and the rope my grandmother pulled to make them work. The forge gets used and we have the tools my grandfather made – you couldn’t go to the shops and buy them in those days. Parties of schoolchildren come around and we fire up the forge so they can see how it used to be done.’

Lancaster Canal, Bolton-le-SandsLancaster Canal, Bolton-le-Sands

Sheila quit the catwalk for the family business when her father retired. ‘I travelled a lot as a beauty queen – it was my job,’ she says. She appeared on television in the USA in a ‘What’s My Line’ type programme.

‘I was Miss Betting Shop and the Americans didn’t know what a betting shop was!’

Sheila still plays her part but her son, Peter, runs the business and his son is now getting involved, making it the fifth generation at McGaffigan’s. Strolling around the village, you can see the influence the wrought iron makers have had over the years. Sheila, born and bred there, describes it as a ‘wonderful place.’

It’s hard to disagree. On a sunny day it’s a jewellery box full of nooks and crannies with surprises around many a corner. In fact, one of the back lanes is called The Nook and it is the location of a stunning old manor house from the 1660s, very similar to a property down the road at Slyne where Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed.

Packet BoatPacket Boat

The village was Bodeltone in the Domesday Book but it has probably had a dozen or more incarnations over the years and the addition of ‘le-Sands’ is likely to have been imposed by the railway company rather than any affectation.

The A6 and the rail line bisect the village, not that you would notice either from the quiet centre, the original part of Bolton. Cross to the western edge and you arrive at a beautiful, broad area of marshland that has wonderful old buildings with names like Wild Duck Hall and exceptional views across the Bay.

This is popular with walkers, horse riders and bird-watchers and its beauty has, ironically, led to caravans for people who want to stop over.

It was this coastal location that earned the people of Bolton-le-Sands a living and cockling continues to this day. The arrival of the railway brought the fish markets much closer and it created a boom in trade.

The village centre has plenty of buzz for a small place. It still has a Post Office, a general dealers, clubs for tennis and bowls, a school and a branch of the famous Potts’ Pies empire, run by some ladies dispenseing delicacies from a tiny shop.

Bowls club secretary Geoff Forrest and butcher Colin BowkerBowls club secretary Geoff Forrest and butcher Colin Bowker

A chap called Tom Dickinson wrote a book after eating a pie at all 92 Football League grounds and he concluded: ‘The best pie, the overwhelming victor, the Tiger Woods of football pastries, was whisked up by Potts’ Pies.’

Like all good investigative reporters, we felt duty bound to sample this for ourselves and while not possessing Tom’s depth of knowledge, we bow to his judgment. There is also a fine church, Holy Trinity, which dates back to the 1500s. It was shut on the day we visited and the church porch had four signs instructing people not to put up signs. On the plus side, someone connected with the church is a very keen gardener.

There are some great views of Morecambe Bay – one of the finest from the bowls club. Member Colin Bowker, whose family has run the village butcher’s shop for almost 60 years, said: ‘The view is so good that sometimes you’re playing a match and everyone has their back to you looking out to the coast!’


More from Out & About

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Keswick really is a gem of a town – just ask anyone from jeweller Brian Fulton to mountaineering legend Sir Chris Bonington

Read more

Behind the ancient sandstone facade of Browsholme Hall is a remarkable ethos of 21st century sustainability and care for the environment.

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A circular walk which skirts the Lune estuary and takes in the Lancaster Canal and the railway line.

Read more
Tuesday, August 14, 2018

From cyclists to star-gazers, Bowland is attracting more visitors. It’s Hetty Byrne’s job to ensure they have fun without harming the environment

Read more

The town has shown a lot of bottle to bounce back from a national mocking. Now, its football team and its high street are on the up

Read more
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

People of all ages are doing their bit to ensure Croston retains its place as one of our favourite villages

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Get away from it all and hit the heights with these great (but challenging) Lakeland rounds

Read more
Lake District
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Pete Tasker has celebrated 30 years with the National Trust.

Read more
Beatrix Potter
Monday, August 6, 2018

A newly launched loyalty card means supporting local businesses is all the rage

Read more
Thursday, August 2, 2018

After years of damaging peat extraction Lancashire’s mosslands are being restored. The Wildlife Trust campaigns manager Alan Wright visits two – Cadishead Moss and Little Woolden Moss in Salford

Read more
Monday, July 30, 2018

Ramsbottom may have become a property hotspot and a foodie destination in recent years, but thing that remains a constant is the wonderful walking landscape right on its doorstep.

Read more
Monday, July 23, 2018

Huge swathes of Lancashire countryside have been destroyed by fires which have wiped out whole ecosystems

Read more
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Handmade and homegrown are the key to success at these Burscough businesses, writes Rebekka O’Grady

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

Water vole numbers have plummeted in the last 10 years caused mainly by a 30 per cent decline in their habitats. The Carbon Landscape’s Katie Chambers goes on a search for these rare mammals.

Read more
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Property Search