This is no sleepy coastal resort – there's plenty going on in Lytham
PUBLISHED: 15:03 08 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:01 20 February 2013
This is no sleepy coastal resort – there's plenty going on in Lytham, as Paul Mackenzie reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson and John Cocks
Sailing on the Green
The iconic mile-and-a-bit long green where the windmill stands is a popular, if sometimes blustery, venue for promenading and the focal point of many community events such as the Lytham Proms where Alfie Boe performed this year.
The mill itself has been a landmark for visitors and sailors negotiating the Ribbles notorious sand banks since 1805. It has survived devastating fires and calls for its demolition it is said that when the large sea-front houses which now overlook the Green were being built, their would-be owners called for the mill to be demolished so they wouldnt have industrial activity spoiling their views.
Since it was gutted by fire during a storm in 1919, the building now one of the most photographed in Lancashire has been put to use as meeting rooms, tea rooms and an electricity sub station and is now a heritage centre which tells some of the history of the town and explains why there once were dozens of windmills across the Fylde coast.
Take a walk
Explore on foot with this easy route which includes some great views
Park close to Lytham Green and walk along Bath Street by the Queens Hotel. Then turn left onto Clifton Street, the main shopping street. At the square turn right into Park Street and at the junction with Westby Street head diagonally left to enter Sparrow Park.
Leave Sparrow Park and go over the bridge over the railway. Just over the bridge is the opening to Witch Wood. Follow the path through the wood.
At a gate turn left over a bridge across the railway to emerge onto a private road, Church Drive. Keep ahead and cross Church Road to Fairlawn Road which in turn crosses Clifton Drive to reach the promenade.
Turn right along the sea front and follow the prom to Fairhaven Lake, a pleasant recreation area with boats for hire, bowls, an RSPB information centre and a nice caf for a cup of tea. After a lap of the lake return to Lytham along the prom.
Lytham is one of Lancashires most popular resorts and has been for over 100 years. And thats in spite of the fact that it doesnt have many of the key features youll find in many other coastal tourist hotspots theres no beach, no amusement arcades and no white knuckle rides.
Theres not a pier here either, although there was for almost 100 years. It was 914 feet long with a lounge and waiting room at the pier head for passengers riding on the pleasure steamers which used to ply their trade along the coast. In the first half of last century the pier was damaged in a storm then wrecked by fire and it was demolished in 1959.
Lytham grew from a small fishing village and throughout the 19th century it developed a reputation as a fashionable residential town and a popular seaside resort. Many of the large Edwardian and Victorian houses that line the leafy lanes today were originally built for wealthy industrialists to escape the pollution they had created elsewhere. Today, the town is packed with interesting shops and fashionable salons. The famous old department store Stringers and a large Booths bookend the majority of the shops which line the main street and the roads which lead off it.
Although Lytham and St Annes are often spoken of in the same breath, the two are separate towns, divided by Fairhaven, with its famous White Church, and Ansdell, the only place in the UK named after an artist former resident Richard Ansdell RA.
The tourist industry in Lytham and St Annes may have been hit by the wettest summer on record, but the two towns were showed off to millions when the Open Championship was played here over one of the few warm and dry weeks.
Museum plan takes off
A new landmark roared into Lytham this summer and it could be followed by a whole squadron of reasons to visit the town. The Spitfire memorial stands beside Fairhaven Lake, a mile or along the coast from Lytham town centre, and was installed after a fundraising drive in the town. The memorial commemorates the Mark 5B Spitfire No W3664 which was partly paid for by Lytham residents who raised money to help the war effort 70 years ag. It was the brainchild of former Fylde Council leader John Coombes.
He said: I was in the basement at the Town Hall when I picked a file at random from a cabinet. It was tied with red ribbon and as I undid it something fell out. It was a photograph of a Spitfire with Lytham St Annes written on the side. I did some research and found out how the people of Lytham and St Annes had raised the money for the plane about 6,500, which paid for the fuselage and the Air Ministry gave the rest.
John also found out that while on a Ramrod bomber protection mission to France on June 23rd 1942, the plane was lost, barely a year after she had entered active service, along with her young pilot, Sergeant Allan Ridings, who was only 20.
John has since met Sgt Ridings sister who had no idea her brother had been flying the Lytham St Annes Spitfire and told him that as children they had spent holidays with grandparents in Lytham. Sadly, she died before the memorial was installed but John added: Im sure would be delighted and very proud.
Fairhaven Lake is a fitting site and it is a fitting tribute to the people who flew these planes, built these planes and who donated the money to have them built.
John and the team of volunteers who have worked to bring the Spitfire memorial to Lytham are now planning to create a museum on the outskirts of the town dedicated to Lancashires aviation history. A site has been identified at a World War Two air base where some wartime original features remain.
There is a huge heritage in aviation, stretching back before World War Two, right up to the present day and assuming we dont run into any hitches with planning permission I would hope to have something open for people to visit within 12 months.
This wouldnt be a stuffy museum full of shiny planes you cant touch, it would be a living, breathing educational resource where planes and vehicles and engines would be running youd get a real feel of the scale and the noise and the smell of the machinery.
The team, who have been raising the money for the memorial, still require funds for information panels and to ensure the plane can be maintained in the years ahead.
To donate, or volunteer your services to the team, go to www.w3644.com.
Park life gets better and better
It started with a group of disgruntled mothers unhappy with the quality of play equipment on their local park. It has finished with a state-of-the-art playground, skate park and caf. And nine years after those mums first discussed improving the facilities, the Park View playing fields were given a secure future this summer when they became a Queen Elizabeth II Field as part of the nationwide jubilee celebrations.
Its been unbelievable. We held our first meeting in November 2003 and there was nothing here for the children then. Now weve got all this, said Cath Powell, the Park View 4U groups development manager as she looked out from the caf across the toddlers play area, teen zone and BMX track.
Children were at the centre of the planning and were even involved in choosing the equipment. We took a coach load of children on a tour of playgrounds all over England, seeing what they liked and what they wanted, Cath said.
The park is also home to football pitches, a senior citizens exercise area and a woodland walk and there are plans to develop the site further, with nature walks and more activities. The current facilities are proving increasingly popular with more youngsters testing themselves on the BMX track since the Olympics.
They have also been given a grant of 2,500 from national charity Fields in Trust. Cath said: We are using the money towards improving the landscaping, using volunteers from the local community to help plant trees and shrubs, and to relay paths. This planting will help us to remember 2012 it for years to come.
The Park View project is also now being used as a blueprint for other groups around the country to follow as they look to revamp their own parks.
Since the project began the developments have been filmed to help other groups.
Around the world and back to Lytham in seven easy steps
Les Dawson lived at Fairhaven near Lytham and theres a statue of him along the coast at St Annes, and among his neighbours was
George Formby, who had three songs banned by the BBC, as did
The Beatles, whose first single, Love Me Do, was released 50 years ago this month
And also in October 1962 (as were sure you recall) Algeria was accepted into the United Nations
Algeria, of course, was the birthplace of writer Albert Camus, who was also an accomplished goalkeeper, as was
Placido Domingo, who is now a conductor, but found widespread fame as one of the Three Tenors, alongside
Jose Carerras, who performed at Preston Guild last month with Katherine Jenkins, who headlined Lytham Proms last year