Far from just another excuse to name a Fugitive Motel feature after a song title or lyrics, Faded Seaside Glamour is a comprehensive and wholly subjective guide to seaside towns. On our collective travels (travels made between us as opposed to 25-strong group excursions out), we've noted that sadly, not every seaside town is as full of love as they used to be, or, for that matter, deserve to be. And every coastal resort has its own unique character. Mary commences proceedings with a trip to Lytham St Anne's...
St-Annes is a tiny northern seaside town -well past its best, but still full of quirky charm. To give you a sense of geography, in the massively unlikely event that you pursue a trip there on the grounds of what you are about to read, it is an hour and a half of train travel away from Manchester and right by Blackpool.
The tiny town has a largely elderly population and, accordingly, some very nice quiet pubs. They haven’t really adopted that attitude that 40 is the new 30, so said pubs close at eleven sharp. There is one ‘nightclub’ but St Annes is certainly not somewhere you come for the nightlife.
Its charm is in the pace; it’s a break from the city. Rather than party-hard Manchester, how about tuppeny bit machines in a seemingly abandoned pier? In fact, the pier is one of the main attractions of the place. First of all, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was derelict were it not for the faint echo of arcade games. Inside, it could still pass for unused-since-the-late-1970s in terms of décor.
Still, a good two hours can easily be spent on the old machines. I am a right one for the two and ten pence machines that rarely let a precarious coin slip. Plus, there’s the glimmer of hope that the toy tank you’ve pursued all afternoon can be yours at a total expenditure of about 14p.
After the dizzying highs of the machines, look at the pier itself. Pretty standard, one might assume - made of wood, on stilts going from the sand and into the sea, right? Not so. This pier is different, made of wood and on stilts yes, from sand into the sea? Nope. Not a chance.
To defend the pier, it isn’t particularly short. It is trying to reach the sea, it’s just that there isn’t any. I know the name is St Annes-On-Sea, but seriously, I looked. I walked straight forward from shore towards horizon and I never found it. It was further away than Blackpool so far as I could tell. So, try as it might, the pier is left with no choice other than looking a bit pathetic. They would have to fell the Amazon to extend it far enough.
To add to the bizarre beach ambience, further out than the pier is a massive framework of charred wood. Perhaps the burnt out wreck of an earlier pier, or a washed up ship carcass, you may think. However, it faces the wrong direction to be a pier and as I may have mentioned, there ain’t a lotta sea to leave boats behind. It’s certainly gothic though, and provides another dominant activity in a visit to St Annes, namely working out what the frigg it is.
So, there you have it - a barren but charming sand-drenched escape. Good for walking, crap for clubbing and top for making you appreciate home. Criticism aside though, if you are willing to engage with the simple and almost archaic pursuits available, followed by a reasonably sedate night in the pub (where you’ll probably be accosted by a drunken ex-serviceman), St Annes might be just the relief you need.
words: Mary Pollard
illustration: Ceri Williams