Southport Pier and Clwyd

As the sun was going down there was sure to be something spectacular going on after a sunny day in Southport, despite gathering cloud. I had never really noticed this particular feature before – the Clwydian Hills of North Wales, emphasised by back lighting from the setting sun, framed by the picturesque structures of the Victorian pier.

Just wait for the walker to reach the centre and shoot… Shame about the bin.

Southport pier is the second longest in England, after Southend-on-Sea.

At Llandudno Pier

It is August 1877, and the newly constructed pier at Llandudno is opened, replacing an earlier wooden pier from 1858. The next year, steamboats ply their way between Llangollen and ports in North Wales, the North West of England and the Isle of Man. The venture proves so successful that the pier is widened and extended (1910), with a pavilion and a tramway. Throngs of people pay to enter and walk/ride up and down the pier, and attend concerts in the pavilion. Even in 1969, when the landing stage was rebuilt in concrete, Landudno was still known for its ferry trips to the Isle of Man.

The modern pier with the Little Orme in the background

Llandudno was one of many seaside resorts established in England and Wales with the coming of the railways. At 700 m in length, this is the longest pier in Wales and the fifth longest in England and Wales.

A walk down the pier to the pavilion is still popular today (featured image). The tramway, concerts and steamers are long gone. The ironwork and decking show signs of wear, but the structure is still sound, and the ‘entertainment’ is now mostly rather loud bars, ice cream and amusement arcades. But the air is fresh as ever, and the views stupendous.

The pavilion

On the way back you see the Grand Hotel silhouetted like an enormous pleasure liner against the mountains of Snowdonia.

The largest hotel in Wales opened in 1902, replacing an earlier hotel alongside the pier, an adjunct to the 1855 bath house. The evidently once-grand bath house is now just a skeleton ruin. The hotel is still in business, despite a period of ownership by Butlins (1981-1998).

And the pier is but one of the many attractions of Llandudno!

Middle of the pier

The central section of Southport’s pier offers photogenic opportunities, such as this one set against a bright late afternoon December sky. Clumps of marram grass and reflections in foreground puddles complete the picture.

The view in the opposite direction (northwards) can also be of interest. Here the low sun catches the normally unremarkable buildings of Lytham St Annes on the Fylde coast, 5 miles away as the crow flies (or 34 miles by road, skirting around the Ribble estuary).

Southport pier 2

As child I was taken to the seaside at Southport on the few occasions we strayed from Lincolnshire, to stay with cousins on the other side of the country. An abiding memory is of the long walk down the pier and the tram you could take down the pier’s length to make the journey back easier. And then there was the question of the sea – it wasn’t always there, just miles and miles of beach.

Southport was created in the great Victorian railway/seaside resort boom, and very grand it was, too. Its pier, built in 1859, is the oldest iron pier in the country. At 3,635ft (once 4380ft) it is the second-longest in Great Britain, after that at Southend. In it’s heyday the pier was visited by steamers conveying tourists along the coast. By the 1920s increased silting meant steamers could no longer reach the pier, which fell into disrepair, until restored in the new millenium. The tramway recalled from my childhood ran in various forms until 2015, but the recent austerity meant it could not be maintained and the tram is now replaced by a little road train, which looks not bad on the featured photo.

The same silting in the water channel allowed for land reclamation, which is why some of the pier now runs over what is now dry land, reclaimed from the sea. This provided for the creation of the Marine Lake, now a very good location for paddleboarding.

Of course, the pier can be relied on as the foreground to some great sky photographs, but most usually with a base of sand rather than sea.

 

 

Southport pier

I tried a number of shots to get a good photograph of Southport pier. By far the best was this wide angle one taking in lots of sea and sand, reducing the pier itself to seeming insignificance.

The few breaks in the cloud, which is lit by low late afternoon sun, give colour in what might otherwise be almost a monotone picture.

You can see Blackpool tower on the horizon to the left of the pier.