Thursday, 26 April 2012

Southport

We've been to Southport lots of times as it's a nice place to go.  Okay you don't go to see the sea as there's a couple of miles worth of beach before you reach the shore, but I like the fact although Southport is a seaside resort it doesn't feel like one.  Of course there is the pier, an arcade, some seaside type shops selling rock, chips and cheap tat, but you can easily miss it as it's confined to one part of town.  The rest of Southport is fairly respectable.  The centre is based around  Lord Street (A565), which is broad and leafy with interesting heritage shop fronts.

Normally we park by the Marine Parade near the Promenade.  It's pay and display parking pretty much everywhere in Southport and the only freebie parking is on the edge of town.  There's a retail park on Marine Parade with lots of chain eateries like Nandos, Chiquitos and McDonalds. You can walk the pier from the Marine Parade toward the town which is nice.  I quite like the fact they have a skate park for the teenagers along side the pier.  It's always packed with kids doing their tricks.  This time we parked on a side street in a pay and display bay, as it was late in the day and knew we wouldn't be there more than two hours.

Whilst the main shops are along Lord Street and the pedestrianised shopping area of Chapel Street, I tend to get bored around Chapel Street as it's your usual high street chain shops.  Lord Street is definitely more interesting on the shopping front.  However it's worth going off the main roads and down the side streets as they are full of interesting little shops.  One of my favourites is Wesley Street, off Eastbank Street.  Whilst Eastbank Street is fairly down-at-heel compared to the rest of Southport with scary looking people smoking and drinking outside the local pubs.  Wesley Street is ace with all sorts of shops including a busy cafe, a wool shop, gift shops, an antique jewellers, bric-a-brac places, designer kids stuff and one of my favourite charity bookshops - Freshfields Animal Rescue.  I really like how well organised the shop is.  It's essentially a second hand bookshop, which happens to be a charity.  I always seem to leave the shop a few pounds lighter with a book or two in my bag.

If you like your charity shops then Southport is the place for you.  There are simply loads of them and we're talking double figures here.  You could easily spend a whole day exploring them.  As Southport is a relatively affluent area, charity shops are okay - although not to Alderley Edge/Wilmslow standard.  I would recommend you print out the list of shops, get a map and plan your charity shop trek.  We have seen lots of people over the years doing the charity shop trail around Southport, so don't be surprised when you start to get de ja vu when you start spotting familiar faces on your journey.  I just love listening to the random snippets of conversation you overhear in the shops.

My favourite shop in Southport is not a charity shop, but a rambling antique shop on Lord Street inside the Royal Arcade.  If you don't know Southport it can be hard to find as it is set back from the main road.  It isn't a wildly expensive antique shop, more your affordable collectables and house clearance retro stuff.  The place expands over several floors, with countless rooms, nooks and crannies.  I just love pottering through the shop as you never know what you will find.  They have now opened a coffee shop in one of the rooms, but they were just closing as we got there.  For the vinyl fans there are plenty of records to flick through and according to Neil not too overpriced either.  There is no way I can visit Southport without visiting this shop.
Southport is part of Merseyside and you certainly get to hear the Liverpudlian accent drifting through this town. You can really tell when it's coming up to the Grand National in Southport as the boutiques are jammed to the rafters with maxi dresses, hats and stripper heels for the occasion.  They really like to do dressing up Liverpool and it's just the same in Southport - maybe a touch classier though.

We have been here many times over the years and whilst it's always busy with people shopping we found the recession was biting with some empty shop fronts.  Although miraculously the Edinburgh Woollen Mill seems to keep going despite my thought of 'who shops in a place like this?'  We always say if there is an Edinburgh Woollen Mill it must be a touristy town - it's our barometer of affluence.  Apparently there are plenty of events in Southport throughout the year, like the Flower Show and the Air Show which helps keep the tourist pounds rolling in.

I love the expansive nature of Southport and it has many faces from the traditional seaside resort, the heritage of the Wayfarers Arcade and Lord Street and the quirkiness of the side street shops.  The good thing about Southport is when the weather is bad the town offers plenty to do and when the weather is good you have the seaside, the park and rides at the New Pleasureland.  It's well worth spending a day here.