Map out, well actually my iPhone map app (we are in the 21st century after all) and I was trying to find places to go that take under an hour from Manchester. It’s getting harder to find places we haven’t been or I haven’t yet written about, but I remembered I hadn’t written about Lancaster. In order to make the journey worthwhile I needed to pick another location.
I’d never really heard of Garstang, so a quick Google and a check on Yell for charity shops, this place seemed like a winner.
Getting to Garstang from Manchester is easy – M61, M6, M55, first junction off onto the A6 and follow the signs. It was quite a misty morning driving to Garstang along the A6, but I could just make out the countryside. I reckon on a nice day you have pretty views as it’s not far from the Trough of Bowland.
In all honesty I didn’t know what to expect when we got to Garstang. However when I saw there was a Booths Supermarket I knew two things:
- That’s where we were parking.
- Garstang is a classy town as Booths is the northern equivalent of Waitrose. As superficial as that may sound, supermarkets can be a giveaway to a place’s economic circumstances. Waitrose aren’t going to pitch up in deprived areas like Harpurhey because no one will be able to afford to shop in them.
Anyway, the plus point for parking at Booths is that the car park is free, although there are other car parks to choose from.
It was lunchtime so we grabbed a bite from Garstang Fish and Chips opposite Booths. It was a drizzly day, so we decided to eat in the restaurant part of it. We may be in our 40s, but we were the youngest customers in there. I think they had been offering an OAP special that day as it seemed to be quite busy. I ordered fish and small chips and Neil ordered battered sausage and chips. Normally I’m disappointed with chips from a fish and chip shop, but these were nice, crisp and golden. The fish was fab too with a nice batter. Neil liked his battered sausage too. We both agreed it was a fine chippy and wish our local one was like it. There were a couple of old blokes with deep voices chatting. One of them was saying how he wasn’t keen on walking along the promenade and wouldn’t do it by choice. However if his wife wanted to he would do it and even hold her hand. Quite sweet really.
After our nice lunch we cut through an alley to High Street where most of the shops were. It’s a compact little town really, with predominantly independent shops. As it was midweek and midday we were some of the youngest people in town. There was a good selection of shops including a pet shop, an art gallery and a tiny market hall selling fresh produce. I do think some of the shops in town are more geared towards weekend trade as Garstang strikes me as a place where neighbouring communities flock to. Interestingly Garstang was the first Fair Trade Town in the world.
Obviously we were also here to check out the charity shops as we’d found 5 listed on Yell. I wasn’t disappointed by them and I think there were actually more than 5 charity shops. Funnily enough that morning before we set off, I’d chucked in the bin my bag which had fallen apart in London. Normally I buy most of my bags new, but I spotted a nice black leather, satchel style bag in Croston House for £11.99. I’m sure it had hardly, if at all, been used. Apparently it had only been put out that morning and I simply couldn’t leave the shop without it. Neil on the other hand didn’t have any joy. He kept finding immaculate, picture sleeve copies of Val Doonican and Bachelors records from the 60s – sadly not collectable in the slightest.
Further down the road there was a charity furniture shop – the name escapes me – but if you are looking for good quality furniture, this place is for you. The shop resembles more a professional furniture store and the volunteers seemed to be doing a fine job. I was very tempted with the writing bureau they had.
There are plenty of traditional looking pubs in Garstang and most of them do food. I’m sure these pubs are packed out at the weekend between the food and the sports.
It was time to move onto Lancaster, but not before we went into Booths. I really like Booths supermarkets as they are very pleasant shopping experiences, in part due to the layout which is spacious and not crammed to the rafters with stock. But I like all the interesting brands they have, which you don’t always find in other supermarkets. We picked up some cakes – I had a rocky road and Neil had a brownie – both were nice. Upstairs were the café and toilets. The café seemed a nice place and to me it more resembled a community centre on over 60s luncheon club day, which is a good thing in my world. However I did manage to get stuck for 10 minutes with all the OAPs queuing for the three ladies toilets. They say with age comes wisdom, but also a weak bladder.
Garstang was such a pleasant surprise I can’t believe we hadn’t been here before. It’s a genteel little town and a complete world away from nearby Blackpool. It’s probably livelier on the weekend with families, but those charity shops are well worth a visit alone.
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