Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Gorgeous Grange-over-Sands

Sunrise taken nr Netherwood hotel
Grange-over-Sands has been described to me as "the town that time forgot" and I think that's why I love it so much.  Don't come here expecting amusement arcades, funfairs or even, despite its name, sand.  It's affectionately known by the locals as Grange-over-Grass since the main channel of the Kent Estuary shifted over towards Arnside, but it hasn't always been that way.  Once it had a lovely sandy beach and a pier with regular ferries across the estuary to Arnside; now the pier is long gone and the sand is a little further out, but it is still a wonderful place to pass the time.  Let me introduce to Grange by showing off one of its best bits; the prom.  It runs from outside the Netherwood Hotel past the station, the ornamental gardens, the kids play area, the new bridge, the old pool and finishes half way to Kents Bank.  Its perfect for an after work stroll or panoramic trip to the shops.

View from Platform 1.
We have the Victorians to thank for the railway and the prom.  With its easy connection to Lancashire and Manchester it was a popular destination for day trips and holidays.  In fact we have a Victorian to thank for the name.  Prior to the arrival of Rev Wilson Rigg in 1858, who nearly drowned on his way across the bay, the village was known simply as Grange.  Rev Wilson added the "-over-Sands" bit to distinguish it from Grange-in-Borrowdale.  The prom has changed little since it was built and, after leaving the footbridge near the Netherwood you're soon at the beautiful railway station.  It's right on the prom and really is a lovely place to commute from.  It can be a little exposed on a cold winter morning, but there's a lovely waiting room to keep you warm and dry.

Flowerbeds next to the station.
As you pass the railway station you'll notice the colourful flowerbeds that line the rest of the prom.  Loved and maintained by an army of volunteers these flowerbeds will brighten your spirits any time of the year and have won the town many accolades. Between April and September on the last Sunday of the month the prom is home to Prom Art where dozens of local artists, photographers, potters etc. all have stalls.  It's usually packed and last year we were blessed with good weather for pretty much every event.

Proof the tide does come in sometimes!
As you look out across Morecambe Bay on a clear day you can just make out Blackpool Tower in the distance, but closer in you'll notice the vast expanse of grass usually being munched on by the resident sheep.  They're there most of the year but are moved to a different pasture when the high tides cover the grass.  If you're a meat eater I can thoroughly recommend the Salt Marsh lamb from Higginson's butchers.  In fact I can recommend pretty much anything from Higginsons, and they're always happy to help out with a recipe suggestion if you fancy trying something new.

View from our new bridge towards
 the old pool.
Continuing on along the prom you'll spot our new bridge, opened last year and, thankfully, providing another much needed crossing point for the railway.  Just beyond there you'll come face to face with the most controversial site in Grange-over-Sands; the old outdoor pool (or Lido as it now appears to have been christened.).  Steve grew up near here and has very fond memories of using it as a child.  It was built in 1932 and closed in the early 1980s apparently because it was leaking, however I can personally vouch for the fact that in 2012 it is still full of water.  In 2008 plans were approved to develop the whole area but they controversially involved filling in the pool.  Since then the battle has been fought long and hard and pretty much everyone in the town has a strong opinion on the matter.  Last year English Heritage awarded the lido a Grade II listing, thus protecting it, however this is being challenged by the consortium behind the redevelopment.  If you can get past the fact that he shouldn't have broken in there, this guy took some nice pics of how it currently looks.

Moonrise over the Kent Estuary
Just past the lido you'll find the bowling green and crazy golf.  If all that sounds a little dated then right next to it is the skateboard park and outdoor iPlay machine which heckles you as you walk past.  It's like a giant solar powered version of Bop-It and will wear you out in minutes.  Perfect if your kids are still full of energy and the council have thoughtfully placed plenty of benches nearby for you to rest up and enjoy the view while they tear around.

And that's it, the end of the prom, though you can still continue along the coastal path to Kents Bank, which I can also recommend.  Standing on the end of the prom you get perfect views across to Silverdale and Morecambe; the Midland Hotel is an easy landmark to pick out as you enjoy the sunset and watch the moon rise over the estuary.