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At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Friday, 28 February 2020

Following the coast (8)

Thursday 27th February 2020 - Starr Gate tram terminus Blackpool to St. Annes-on-Sea, 2.5 miles

On the previous section I had intended to walk as far as St. Annes-on-Sea but bailed out at at Starr Gate tram terminus for deteriorating weather and time constraints.

Today should have been my Thursday walk with Pete. During the night I had developed a literally STREAMING cold but with no feelings of illness or temperature. I phoned Pete and he was emphatic about not wanting to be blighted, but it was now later than I would normally set off on my coastal campaign. But, including those extra 2.5 miles to St. Annes on the next section to get me to Freckleton would have involved 11 miles plus, so I decided to knock off the 2.5 miles so I could be more relaxed for the eventual section to Freckleton.

I was able to park in a side street at Starr Gate. I thought I would be walking down the main road but a path lead off into sand dunes in the direction of the coast so I followed but anticipating endless difficult one foot forward one foot backwards sand dune walking, but after some such quite arduous uphill I dropped down onto the beach and walked all the way to St. Annes on glorious firm sand. Huge rolling white clouds against deep blue sky and wild sea on my right and wide expanses of golden sand stretching into the distance made for enjoyable seascape walking. Again I was well clothed and well protected from the cold wind. A kite surfer was busy preparing his kit - at one time I might have been envious, but these days I value more my comfort.

Dog walkers were numerous, some a long way out on the edge of the breakers and looking vulnerable. All the dogs seem to have an endless appetite for chasing and fetching their balls. I remember my Springer Barney preferring to find the longest possible branch he could manage then using at as a scythe to fell you from behind.

I could see St. Anne's pier in the distance and as I drew nearer it looked run down but apparently it is till active which is not bad to say it has survived storms and raging sea since 1885.

This may be difficult to read so I have transcribed it below, but whatever I strongly recommend reading. There is more about this on Wikipedia -,_St_Annes

I walked as far as the lifeboat station and recconoitered the car park there for next time. Here there is a fine statue of a lifeboatman looking out to sea, high up on a good plinth.

The plaque describes the worst RNLI disaster ever in December 1886 (see my transcript below.) The thought of those men and their selfless determination to save lives with the knowledge that they may likely sacrifice their own had me feeling emotional and as I type now just having re-read more carefully I am moved again to a tear. Just imagine launching out in what were open rowing/sailing boats in a full gale in December at night. That is true braveness.

The Mexico lifeboat disaster was one the RNLI’s worst-ever tragedies. It was a German cargo ship, a barque that was wrecked in a full WNW gale off Southport on 9 December 1886. It was on its way from Liverpool to Guayaquil in Ecuador,

Fearing the vessel would be blown on to the sandbanks to her doom, the Captain sent out distress signals. The Lytham, St Annes and Southport Lifeboats answered the call. They rushed to save the crew of the Mexico – which by this time was being blown down the River Ribble.

The Eliza Fernley lifeboat was launched first from Southport, and that capsized, losing 14 of the crew of 16.
Shortly after the Southport lifeboat was launched, the St Annes lifeboat Laura Janet set sail. No one knows exactly what happened to it – except that the next morning the lifeboat was found washed ashore. Three dead bodies were still clinging to it, and all the crew of 13 men were lost.
A third lifeboat, the Charles Biggs from Lytham was also launched. On its first rescue they successfully saved the twelve crew of the Mexico.To date this is still the worst loss of RNLI crew in a single incident, with 27 men lost.
16 widows and 50 orphans were left behind. An appeal was launched to raise money to help them, and for a memorial. It was this fundraising which led to the first RNLI flag days. Generous donors included Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhelm.


  1. Hi Conrad, it seems we have just passed each other by! I'm walking clockwise and did Blackpool to Fleetwood on 16th Feb.
    Love your blog! I spotted the Charles Causley poem on there too - he was my teacher in primary school when I was 6!
    Best wishes matey­čĹŹ

  2. Hi Paul - welcome to the blog. New commenters are more than welcome. I have emailed you offering a brew if you are passing through my territory. I note you also follow Bowland Climber - he is a great friend of mine and we walk together on a regular basis.

  3. The car park beyond the lifeboat station is the location of the official motorhome parking 'Aire' at St Annes, where we have stayed a couple or three times. I've been past the lifeboat station a number of times and, as an avid plaque reader, don't know how I've missed that one.

  4. I like the idea of an active pier. At 2am it stealthily detaches itself from the land and goes for a frolic in shallow water. Inevitably it swims badly, the wood planks help keep it afloat but the metalwork hardly promotes good hydrodynamics.

    Once we measured things in firkins and ells, now only in money. How much do you think it now costs to temporarily disable the shutter in one of those sturdily mounted telescopes? They always disappointed me. Possibly because the most remote lens was always sticky with spume.

  5. Gayle - the memory of that lifeboat catastrophe will stay with me forever. I can't think of anything being braver than those men setting out in those conditions and I get a lump in my throat every time I think about it. Things like base jumping and free solo rock climbing don't compare - those people do it, I am lead to believe, partly because they have some physiological imbalance of chemicals that makes them thrive on adrenalin andm believe it or not, they do it for enjoyment. Those lifeboatmen are motivated by a selfless desire to help others who are in difficulty.


    RR - The iron sub-structure would of course act as ballast. If your experiences of those telescopes were those mounted on active piers they would probably be full of sea water anyway. Michael Leddy in my post previous to this one (Folowing the coast 7) noted a similarity from my descriptions with "boardwalks." As far As I can discover that is an American equivalent word for a pier, (active or otherwise.) You may wish to comment with your accumulated knowledge of things American considering your six year sojurn there.

  6. Gayle - I agree that doing something you love, no matter how dangerous, isn’t the same as risking your life to rescue others but the idea that those who solo rock climbs have some partial chemical imbalance is a stretch I think. Where on earth is the data to substantiate that? I soloed in the late 1960s - it was all the rage - and yes there is an adrenalin rush but, I think, I was perfectly normal then and still am. Honest.

  7. afoot - Hi Gibson, that was me replying to Gayle. Ok, that was perhaps a bit of hearsay. Glad to hear you are still normal! Whatever my distinction between the two examples as you point out still stands.

  8. It's a fantasy for goodness sake. If one wanted to be numbingly realistic one might say that the weight of the metalwork would cause the woodwork to sink. Boardwalks in the US can take the form of very simple piers (compared with UK piers) but I didn't know this. More often they offer a slatted walkway on the landward edge of the beach so that pedestrians, mothers with push-chairs, passengers in invalid chairs may proceed without bogging down in soft sand.

  9. Hi - Conrad. So sorry. I should get my own data right and reply to the right person! Your distinction is of course a valid one. Don't you think that there is also a distinction between BASE jumping (thrill seeking behaviour?) and a carefully considered solo ascent of a rock climb? An old colleague of mine was a member of the Anstruther lifeboat crew and loved every minute of it. Did you see the video of the lifeboat nearly capsizing during Storm Ciara? I know they are self-righting but crew were on the deck. I can safely say that I couldn't do that job.

    Finally - sorry to Gayle too!

  10. I was going to make some comment about this post having collected the highest ratio of comments per mile or some other trivial remark - until i saw the serious discussion on motivation -
    maybe all voluntary 'Rescue' 'work' has some element of the selfish 'do unto others . . . ' motive, but, as you say, at sea, where the objective risks are high, uncontrollable and demand the highest commitment, and yet are only really understood by the crews themselves, must be the ultimate. Nevertheless, if you are a sailor, I can imagine that the call is irresistible - in the same sort of way mountaineers rescue their fellows, but much more compelling.
    But i don't think one can entirely dismiss peer pressures - 'he didn't try to save his pal', a known driver of depression and suicide in the armed forces, and considered to be so serious that i believe one can be courtmartialed for it.
    Can anyone ever say they wouldn't ? Basic human instinct, surely - and will go on being so. Cutting the rope ? would you - or not ? My guess is that no one knows until asked the ultimate question, however much we theorise and try to act the stoneheart in advance.

  11. RR - No need to be so tetchy. Of course I recognised it as a fantasy and I thought my reply obviously continued in that vein.


    Afoot - I agree. There are degrees. I am pretty sure your own careful solo climbing would have been within your own limits. I don't know if you have seen the film Free Solo showing a chap soloing a huge route on El Cap including a move that he had repeatedly failed on in practice - even though one knew beforehand that he succeeded it was almost unbearable to watch. I still believe that he must have had a different physiological make up from most people, or alternatively some unorthodox brain function that motivated him.


    gimmer - Interesting. The questions you raise ponder on whether individuals will turn out to be brave when faced with unexpected circumstances, and one may then go on to argue that in your example of cutting the rope for instance that they may have been brave whichever decision they made, and that is a philosophical conundrum. What I was trying to emphasise was the simple undoubted bravery of the lifeboatmen setting out in vile conditions where even their innate attachment to the sea that you refer to would hold no attraction, rather the opposite.

  12. gimmer - there has been a programme on television for a while now called Saving Lives at Sea. Lifeboat crews around the country are equipped with cameras and vivid recording of real life rescues at sea are heart stopping. The reason I am adding this to my comment above is that many crew members come from a wide range of backgrounds including business professionals, factory workers, housewives, and tradespeople to name but a few who have no occupational connection with seafaring on a daily basis which in my opinion underlines their bravery even more.