Thursday 8th July 2021

We returned home via the crossing of the River Lune by the Lancaster Canal. Thought, by many, to be the highlight of the canal, the Lune Aqueduct can today be seen below on the riverside and from the towpath.

Designed by John Rennie, it is 600ft long, 50ft high and has five 70ft diameter arches. It is built upon piles of Baltic Pine, imported from Russia, for its durability. It opened in 1797, one year after Rennie’s death.

It is in regular use by pleasure craft and offers views of Lancaster and, to the east, the Pennines.

  

Wednesday 7th July 2021

Today we explored the Kendal area of the South Lakes by double decker bus. The 755 Heysham to Windermere and Bowness Pier vis Carnforth and Kendal was our chosen transport and the brilliant thing was, for us, it was all for free!!

Clinging to Morecambe Bay at first the route eventually turns inland to reach Carnforth. Located at the intersection of three railway lines – the West Coast Mainline from London to Scotland; the East-West line to Leeds and the Cumbria Line to Barrow in Furness.

The town’s railway station is a shadow of its former self since the introduction of the tilting high speed electric trains on the West Coast Line, two platforms were removed. As these trains no longer stop here it is an awesome sight to witness them thundering through at over 100 mph. There is pressure being applied to reinstate the stop.

   

The station is largely a Visitors Centre with the restored Refreshment Room of the 1940s taking centre stage as a result of it being used as the setting for the fictional Milford Junction Station in the 1945 David Lean film ‘Brief Encounter’.

In pre-Covid times the film was screened throughout the day and information was available to visitors about the film, the cast and locations used. We noted an interesting point that as the town was far enough from major cities the enforcement of a blackout was not necessary even though it was still wartime. Shooting was necessary at night to add to the atmosphere of the black and white film. Unfortunately, at the time of our visit the Visitors Centre was not open.

The construction of the Lancaster Canal in 1797 industrialised the then rural community. Coal was transported here from Lancashire, limestone was quarried extensively on the edge of the town, iron ore from the Furness Peninsula was initially brought to the town by road and the migration of more than 1000 iron workers from a failed iron works in Dudley (West Midlands) led to the established of Carnforth Ironworks in 1846. The quarries still exist and parts of the canal are navigable by tourist barges. However, the site of the ironworks is now a Tesco supermarket and an industrial estate.

In Kendal we followed a history trail along steep streets where horses struggled to and from ‘The Yards’. Each yard would specialise in a particular product. Tanner’s Yard, for example, is the site of leather tanning mills, dye works, wool and leather warehouses and even a windmill. It is thought the Yards were built to defend the town’s workers and traders from the Scots.

   

Crossing the River Kent we found evidence of the Lancaster Canal.

The navigation is filled but there is still evidence of it operations. We found the Canal Agent’s Ticket Office/cottage where passengers purchased tickets for the Packet Boats (timetabled) for journeys to Lancaster and beyond.

The smell of snuff filled the air as we passed the long established snuff factory which shows the canal’s connection to the Caribbean.

Further along the filled-in canal is a canal road bridge designed by John Rennie with 19th c extensions for footpaths and evidence of rope wear from horse drawn barges on its supporting pillars.

By this afternoon’s end, on the Stone Pier, we were the closest to the sea we have been since we arrived!

Tuesday 6th July 2021

Today we explored Morecambe’s heritage.

Morecambe Promenade Station opened in 1907 and closed in 1994 when it was converted into an entertainment centre and pub. The latter is known as The Station and is housed within the concourse of the former railway station with many of the fittings, rooms and signage retained.

   

The jetty was the site of the harbour but finished its working life as Ward’s shipbreaking yard. It was a lucrative business but highly controversial being adjacent to the Marine Drive.


  

Along the promenade is the statue to Eric Morecambe. Born here in 1926 and named John Eric Bartholomew, he became one of the most loved British comedians. With his partner Ernie Wise, their Sunday evening programmes would have tens of millions of viewers and especially at Christmas when their special programmes were legendary, must watch hilarious spectaculars. Eric was a keen ornithologist and his statue is located so that at appropriate states of the tide sea birds can be viewed feeding on the sandflats and saltmarches.

Along Marine Road are reminders of the town’s entertainment heritage. After the evening meal around 7:00 p.m. holiday makers would flock to theatres in their finery to watch famous entertainers of the day. The renovated former ghost-sign (i.e. could hardly be seen) of the Palladium cinema points to one such venue. However, only a small part of the much grander entrance now remains as a small shop. Close by are the remains of Art Deco buildings, one of which may have been an early department store or cinema.

    

Close by is the Winter Gardens. Once known as the Victoria Pavillion, it opened in 1897 and could seat 2,000 people. As built it contained a ballroom, bars, a billiard hall and the theatre. In the latter stars such as Shirley Bassey, Barry White and Barry Manilow performed through the 1980s. Following its closure the Friends of the Winter Gardens have been working to return it to its former glory.

    

Close to the Midland hotel is the site of The Super Swimming Stadium. It opened in 1936 with a mile long queue and claimed the biggest outdoor pool in Europe. After WWII it hosted the Miss Great Britain competitions with candidates wearing swimwear despite reportedly freezing if not bracing conditions. Millions watched this on TV but today the remains are a hole waiting to be converted into the Eden Project North.

 

Towards the west there are a few remains of the town’s heyday when holidaymakers would travel by special ‘Summer Saturday Only’ trains from Leeds, Bradford and Scotland. The remains of the Wellington Hotel is a somewhat drab reminder to a successful past.

  

Monday 5th July 2021

At the moment we are prevented from exploring the high seas but we have found the next best thing! It is the Midland Hotel in Morecambe, Lancashire. It is often described as an Art Deco (1933) masterpiece built as a curve similar to the superstructure of an ocean liner’s bow of the same time. From here there are uninterrupted views across Morecambe Bay to the Irish Sea and the Lake District.

 

The hotel was built by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and named the Midland Hotel as a reminder of the railway that started tourism in the town.

Adjacent to the hotel is the Stone Pier with the remains of its railway station and lighthouse where passengers from trains could transfer to ships for Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scotland. The success of the Midland Railway meant that a new railway station was needed and it was built on a site that is now across the road from the hotel. This led to the eventual closure of the Stone Pier terminus and shipping transferred to the bigger port at Heysham.

Lancashire has a reputation of being industrial and the ‘cottonopolis’ of the Industrial Revolution. However, many parts of the county are beautiful and remote. The Midland and other railway companies tapped into this from the 19th – 20th century. Posters declared that resorts like Morecambe had something for everyone, but especially, the clear air and the tonic of ozone.

As mentioned earlier, Morecambe is a product of railway development from 1889, but this development only made the town, established by the Morecambe Harbour Company, bigger. The sands of the Bay were the ‘wide open space’ attraction but by the 1920s and 1930s larger numbers of tourists led to the building of piers, swimming pools, hotels and entertainment venues.

The posters are photographed from a National Railway Museum book about railway art of the 20th century.

During dinner the tide came in and began to obscure the sand. This was followed by a brilliant sunset.

       

Sunday 5th April 2020

All the photographs have now been uploaded. Enjoy!

Leaving the hotel at 07:30 a.m. was remarkable because instead of an aeroplane landing every minute there was silence. One could hear the birds and the wind adjacent to the runway!

Terminal 5 was quiet which enabled us to get away on time on a brand new A320-220 series aeroplane. One could almost smell the showroom finish! It was a little breezy on approach to Manchester and the motorways were empty but the closer we got to the ground the choppier it became and the captain slammed it down and burnt a lot of rubber. Was this his plan to make it look as if his aeroplane had been to lots of places.

There were taxis but the airport was deserted and we had to walk from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 to access any facilities. Since arriving home we have been warmed and pleased by the concern, care and attention and interest in following our adventure both at home and abroad.

We travelled a round trip of 20,415 miles with nearly 10,000 of them in isolation!!

Saturday 4th April 2020

We boarded one of 10 coaches just after 10:30 p.m. last night. Each coach was only half full. It appeared that every one of Fort Lauderdale’s Harley Davidson police motorcycles were in use, stopping traffic and running alongside our convoy to the airport to the foot of the aircraft’s steps.

We eventually got away on our Boeing 777-300 ER of 1990s vintage, complete with small overhead bins which were rectangular and clunky as well as the large central screens for movies. Nothing in the seat backs. A delayed departure meant that most of the flight was in daylight. Landing at Heathrow after 4:00 p.m. was amazing as from the Thames Barrier, passed Canary Wharf, the London Eye, Kensington and into West London the streets were silent and the capital was like a ghost town. Terminal 2 was similarly quiet but the taxi got us to the hotel for an overnight stay.

Friday 3rd April 2020

It has been another quiet day so much so that as we write after dinner at 6:30 p.m. it is silent on the ship. When the dinner tray arrived a peep along the corridor showed around 20 trays. At breakfast there were over 100. During the day, as silently as the virus arrived, passengers have left. One is informed in writing that you will receive the knock on the door at a certain time. That is when you go!

Apparently the flights are chartered, are parked on a remote part of the airport and planes are shuttling back and forth to various locations. The coaches that take us to the airport take us straight to the plane. We do not go into the terminal. We prepare to go to our plane around 10:30 p.m. and should be in London tomorrow afternoon.

 

Thursday 2nd April 2020

We awoke, moored in international waters, off Florida where we waited for most of the day.

The big shots said we were good to go, but it wasn’t until 5:00 p.m. that we made it into Port Everglades. We were photographing the action through the window and on TV.

People living in the apartments alongside the dock entrance were waving flags, large colourful hands and whatever else they could use, as we passed. More locals were outside on the grassland, waving and as we manoeuvred to the dockside the workers waiting were clapping and waving. Helicopters were flying round filming for the news channels. It was surreal, something we have only seen happen to others.

By 8:30 p.m. all the luggage was sanitised and drying in the tropical air. We were called for our health check and given our authority to disembark. We could stretch our legs walking through immigration. Now we await tomorrow’s call to go to Fort Lauderdale Airport.

Wednesday 1st April 2020

At daybreak we were alongside the Zaandam, off Cuba. We had stopped to transfer oxygen and a nurse. Before breakfast were on our way again.

Little happened during the morning other than President Trump may be applying pressure on Florida, but no news yet.

After lunch was interesting. We sighted the island of Cuba, a ship and rain to our northeast.

In his daily news conference the President said something had to be done about the ships and the Canadians and British were sending teams out and Florida would handle the Americans. It is all in the logistics and protocols and the Captain does not expect anyone leaving until Friday.

Tuesday 31st March 2020

This has been another day at sea. We are heading north across the Caribbean to the gap between the Cancun Peninsula (Mexico) and Cuba.

If this was our regular cruise around now we would have been calling in at a piece of the Netherlands off the coast of Venezuela, namely the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The natural landscape is stark and very dry and is heavily wind eroded. In contrast the human landscape is very colourful with Dutch built gabled buildings along their waterfronts.

The Spanish discovered the islands in 1499 and according to the records they couldn’t make things work for them. The oranges they thought were too bitter and there was no gold. The Dutch West India Company seized the islands in the 17th century and never looked back. The oranges are still used to make the world famous liqueur.

Around 9 o’clock the Captain announced that we were going to Fort Lauderdale, arriving Thursday but that getting off may be another day. This was followed by glasses of sparkling wine outside each cabin and the Captain proposing a toast on the TV but he didn’t have any.