Sunday 29 March 2015

Burnley, Lancashire

One of the notable omissions from the blog has been Burnley in Lancashire, especially as it’s only 30 miles from Manchester.  To be honest, I’d been putting this one off as I knew Burnley was a deprived northern town and it can be depressing to visit a place like that.  However, it was the first proper blue sky day of the year and I thought it was time to bite the bullet and visit Burnley. 

Getting to Burnley from Manchester is easy enough – M60, M66, A56, M65, exit junction 10 and head into town on the A671.  It takes about 40 minutes and parking on a weekend is relatively straightforward.  We found a pay-and-display in one of the Council carparks.

Burnley is very much a Victorian mill town with plenty of buildings from that era.  It’s really worth looking up above the fast food shop signs to see the architecture of the buildings.  They have some class and style, but are in need of some TLC.  It would be interesting to see pictures of them when they were new, with far classier signage.
The centre of Burnley is pedestrianised with a large 1960s precinct dominating the centre.  The sun had brought people out and there were plenty of them pottering around the town.  The shops aren’t terribly exciting – just your standard low-end high street shops.

There is a café in the centre of the precinct, and outside the tables were packed with smokers.  There was a little dog sat on its owners lap with its chin resting on the stainless steel table looking bored, whilst its owner was smoking up a fog looking equally as bored.

There is an indoor market which has been built into the precinct over the main shops.  It is split into two – half is like a proper indoor market with regular stalls whilst the other half is a wide open space for a temporary market.  The day we went the temporary market was selling crafts.  I didn’t expect this, but I was very pleased to see local crafts-people have the opportunity to sell their wares.  In an age of mass produced products, there is nothing quite like something which is personal and handmade.
Obviously we were here for the charity shops and there were plenty to choose from.  Whilst Neil did find some vinyl records, he didn’t buy any as they were rubbish.  I didn’t find much either but the overheard conversations were good.  My favourite was one guy who was volunteering in a shop chattering away to his fellow volunteer.  He said that he’d had seven wives and at one point had three houses.  When we left the shop Neil said he’d probably had so many wives as he wouldn’t shut up.  It was interesting listening to him as I could only make out one in three words.  Years ago when I was at school we used to have a regular maths supply teacher from Lancashire.  The maths teacher had an impenetrable Lancashire accent and I remember there was often a sea of blank faces staring at him as we simply couldn’t understand him.  Listening to the guy in the shop I now realise our maths teacher was from Burnley.

Just one last note about charity shops – we noticed the YMCA had new signage and had gone for an AC/DC inspired font.  I quite liked it and it was certainly better than the previous logo.  In fact we had to double take as I didn’t think it was a charity shop at first.

One of the random things I found in Burnley was that you can do a degree in football here with Burnley Football Club.  It made me laugh, but then again football is big business these days so I guess there is a market for these types of courses.
There wasn’t really much else to see in Burnley, so we hit the road and headed off to nearby Clitheroe to stock up at our favourite sausage shop.

Ok, so was Burnley as depressing as I thought it would be?  No, but I knew that going on a sunny day would take the edge off it.  Then again you can tell there has been plenty of regeneration money pumped into the town, although a few more NHS dentists wouldn’t go amiss round here.

To me, Burnley is another northern town that has seen better days and a place where the kids with ambition will leave for the bright lights of Manchester or Leeds.  I honestly can’t say I’ll be back in a hurry, but Burnley wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and some good work has been done here to get it back on its feet again. 

Sunday 8 March 2015

Allerton, Merseyside

We haven’t really explored the suburbs of Liverpool for this blog and, to be honest, I really don’t know much about them.  On the advice of a friend, we decided to take a trip to Allerton, which is about 6 miles south east of Liverpool city centre.

Getting to Allerton from Manchester is easy – hit the M62 and go to the end of the motorway, take a left onto the A5080, then the A5058, go through the roundabout and left on to Allerton Road. You could park on a side street, but we ended up parking at Tesco car park near the fire station.  We had been through Allerton on previous occasions as I tend to prefer going to Liverpool city centre this way.  I worry if I go the other way I’ll get lost and end up in the Mersey Tunnel going to Birkenhead. Just as an aside, is it me or are Liverpudlian drivers rather polite and considerate drivers? 

Anyway back to Allerton…  As it was lunch time we thought we would get something to eat from a chippy. Bizarrely we couldn’t find a chippy on the main road.  Maybe we weren’t looking in the right places, but I didn’t expect that.  We then tried to get in a local pub for some pub grub, but it was packed out.  In the end we went to Sayers for a pasty and cake in their little café.  It was fine and I do love a Bavarian slice, which to me is just a slightly larger vanilla slice.
Allerton itself is quite a non-descript neighbourhood really, although not in a bad way.  It seemed a normal neighbourhood and not rough in the slightest as you may perceive Liverpool to be.  Wide main roads, almost like dual carriageways are tricky to negotiate and you really need to use the pedestrian crossings. 

The buildings on the main road are predominantly red brick, two storey shops built in the late Victorian and early 20th Century.  Some have black and white revival decoration on the upper storeys to make it look a little classier.  On my travels I’ve noticed that buildings which are or were banks were purpose built and often are the few buildings in suburbs which have some architectural style about them.   St Barnabus Church which stands on the corner of Penny Lane is a large imposing dark brick building from the Victorian era.  I do think it would benefit from some power washing to get rid of the decades of pollution, but sadly I think that will cost more than the church can afford.
There are plenty of shops in Allerton and they are a mix of local independents and some high street shops.  Obviously we were here for the charity shops, of which there are plenty.  We had a good browse through the shops, though Neil was struggling to find much vinyl.  Unfortunately he didn’t find anything, but I found another book to add to my Scandi-Noir crime book library.  I found many of the charity shops incredibly neat and tidy.  Although the one place Neil did find vinyl in, the Oxfam on Smithdown Road, was overpriced.  On the other hand it did have plenty of furniture in good condition.

The good thing about Liverpool are the people and the fact they are rather chatty.  This did lead to a rich seam of overheard conversations.  One lady was chatting about a seven day cruise she was going on around the Canary Islands.  An American lady was trying to find a suit for a child for Easter (poor kid) and the ladies in the charity shop were giving some good advice – John Lewis, M&S and wedding shops.  There were posh students hanging out with their equally posh mate who was working in the Oxfam.  It seemed like it was more of a social event than anything else.  There was an immaculately dressed lady walking down the street having a heated discussion on her mobile.  She had a high-pitched scouse accent which almost sounded comedic.  I do find the scouse accent a strange beast.  I guess I’ve mainly heard the scouse accent on TV, often in comedies, so to me it has an almost artificial quality about it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a number of scouse friends, but their accents have been much softer, maybe as they no longer live in Liverpool.
The charity shops weren’t that exciting, but I really enjoyed Penny Lane Emporium.  Downstairs it was selling fireplaces – they seemed a bit pricy.  But upstairs they were selling vintage furniture and bits n’ bobs. I’m always fascinated by the stuff that people upcycle to sell on.  The staff were talking to a customer about the vintage pop up shops in the city centre.  I do like the concept of the pop up shop as they keep the high street fresh and it’s good for new businesses to get started.  With a bigger budget I would have bought a few things from here.
In the end we must have covered over a mile along Allerton Road and Smithdown Road.  I’m sure we hit more than just Allerton, as suburbs tend to blend into one another in the cities.  I’m glad we’ve finally stopped off here as Neil had been bugging me to go here on previous journeys to Liverpool.  Okay, whilst it wasn’t exciting, it was fine and if you are a Beatles fan then it’s a good place to go for a photo opportunity on Penny Lane.