There's new life on the canal at Burscough Wharf
PUBLISHED: 16:26 17 August 2011 | UPDATED: 16:25 13 January 2018
Life has been brought back to Burscough Wharf providing locals and visitors with an special shopping experience. Amanda Griffiths visits Photography by John Cocks
Jane Bell is known as ‘the resident American’ in Burscough. Over the years she has volunteered for numerous projects and, as a member of the Arts and Crafts Guild of Lancashire, she is one of many people who wanted to see a gallery of members’ work established in the village.
Those wishes were granted in February when Burscough Wharf, a new retail, dining and leisure development opened on the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.
‘I moved to Burscough about 13 years ago,’ says Jane. ‘This place was virtually unused. It was owned by British Waterways who had an office here, but that was about it.
‘As soon as the development started taking place we put our name down. The developer and owners have been good to us - it wasn’t until Christmas that we knew we had the funding to open. We’d been turned down for an Arts Council grant twice before an anonymous benefactor came up with the money. Since then things have been going even better than the Guild could have hoped for.’
In spite of the economic climate, the gallery is selling art works every week – confirming Jane’s faith in the site. ‘We wanted to be here because it’s such a unique place,’ she adds. ‘I don’t know if we would have ever had a gallery anywhere else but here. There’s so much history to the place; there’s a uniqueness to it.’
Julie Mitchell is one of the owners of the site, along with her brother Nigel Guy. ‘The site was derelict for more than 20 years,’ says Julie. ‘My father had actually looked at it to develop himself years ago but decided against it. When it came up for sale we decided it was a great opportunity and, because our family’s from Burscough, we liked the idea of putting something back into the community.
‘We wanted to retain as much character as possible and I think the architect and builders did a good job. The buildings are all original, apart from one. We also wanted to keep the cobbles, each one had to be taken up, power washed and re-laid. It was a major job but worth it.’
The site was so popular that by the time it opened 75 per cent of the space had been let, some found by Julie and Nigel and the rest by Nick and Ray Eckersley, the day-to-day landlords of the site.
Ray sums up people’s feelings. ‘The tenants all seem very happy. We only have one studio and one shop left to lease now, which is great when you consider we’re in a recession. I think the tenants like the idea of being in a community like this and not just on the high street.
‘The restaurant is doing fantastic food and we’ve got an equally good tea room.
‘I’ve shown two ladies around who came down looking for somewhere to take their grandchildren in the summer holidays.
‘They wanted to make sure that there was plenty for them to do here. They’re still here so they must like it!’
When mum-of-two, Imogen Suffell visited for the first time she loved it but felt it was lacking an attraction for children and she did something about it.
‘I said to a friend it needed one of those ‘pot painting places’ and thought if I didn’t do something about it someone else would and I’d kick myself,’ she says.
‘I was open for the Easter holidays – it all happened extremely quickly! It’s early days but I had a good Easter, we have had school visits and I am now trying to encourage adult painting classes as well.
‘I just love the whole atmosphere of the wharf; there’s something for everyone here. As a parent I know it’s important to have something to occupy the kids on a day out. There’s plenty to do and see and also a lovely walk from here up to Top Locks which is also do-able with the kids.’
Jeannie Pritchard of Pritchard’s Ceramic Restoration and Dolls’ Hospital agrees. ‘There’s something for everyone here and normally something happening at the weekend, such as farmers’ markets in the courtyard.
‘It’s just such a lovely place with a great atmosphere and I love being on the water - that’s why I came here. Nine years ago I was diagnosed with lupus which affects your joints and causes tiredness and meant I couldn’t work in the NHS any more.
‘I got into ceramic and doll restoration when I decided I needed to go back to work. I’ve restored pieces for museums and people all over the county and across the UK.
‘I thought I might get the odd person wanting something restored but it’s passed my expectations really. I’ve got a four month waiting list now!’