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Life Chez Dee Episode #86: Why I love living here

Lytham St Annes… when you speak to people out of the area about where you live, many have no idea where it is … never heard of it … can’t picture it. Some can’t even pronounce it, even saying Lytham Street Annes for goodness sake. If I had a pound for the number of times I’ve explained to people where it is, I’d be one rich lady. And so I have to think of somewhere nearby that they will have heard of … South of the Lake District … South of Morecambe, North of Manchester … but these places are not really near enough to accurately describe our geographical location … and so it is with a cringe, that I wincingly explain to them that I live near Blackpool.

I shouldn’t wince really, I really love living here. I love Lytham St Annes, and I actually love Blackpool (the nice bits) … but the picture people have in their head of Blackpool is that of The Golden Mile, the lights, the music, the cabaret, the piers, the Pleasure Beach, the chips, candyfloss and kiss me quick hats. Tacky, cheap and down at heel … this is the side of Blackpool I don’t like… but it serves a purpose and it still attracts many much needed visitors … and they come in their thousands for Easter, Summer, Christmas and of course to see the world famous illuminations. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed many a day out in Blackpool to the beach, the Tower, Sealife Centre, Tussauds and much more. I’ve even spent many a rainy day with the boys posting our 2p coins into the slot machines in the amusements; or going for a tram trip along the coast, with our packed lunches on our knees, to eat on the journey as we look out of the steamed up windows … but even though we’ve spent many a wonderful and happy day out here … on the whole it’s rather grotty in my opinion.

There are pockets of beauty, nice housing, plenty of open spaces … Stanley Park for example is lovely. The seafront itself is really lovely … millions have been invested into the sea defences, and the promenade is very attractive. Wedding photography is often taking place against the lovely sea backdrop, however, just go back a short way from the promenade, to the streets behind the Golden Mile, and it’s a very different story. Delve further, and the picture, and the reality is worse … the back streets are very run down, tired hotels, unemployment, crime and one of the highest poverty rates in the country.

But get out of the town centre, and away from the mile of canned entertainment, and you have mile upon mile of golden sands. The beaches are beautiful, they’re clean, and they’re winning awards. You can set off walking and be gone all day. You could set off in Lytham, and walk all the way along the prom, the seafront and the beach right up to Fleetwood. And its beautiful sand to walk on … hard sand, not that soft stuff which you can’t possibly walk on, not purposefully anyway. Hard sand; clean sand; sand that’s been well and truly washed by the tide. You may get a battering from the wind as you’re pretty exposed to the elements when you’re walking on the beach, and indeed you may get a drenching as the sea crashes against the sea wall and sprays all over the prom … but the beach is gloriously vast, and the experience of that vastness, that freedom, that emptiness, is liberating.

The sand dunes begin at Starr Gate. They’re beautiful and thankfully protected. A SSSI site for wildlife and plants, they themselves offer protection for the beaches by preventing erosion and keeping the sand just where it should be ... although it’s hard to believe when you see how much gets blown off onto the road; it seems like half the beach has been picked up and dumped along Clifton drive; but the dunes also provide another type of protection for the residents here … they stop the sprawl of Blackpool extending along Clifton Drive and into St Annes, and god forbid Lytham. Trams would be good though … trams from Lytham all the way up to Fleetwood and back again … to have trams again, journeying along the tracks where they once were would be wonderful.

Lytham; St Annes; or is it Lytham St Annes? What do people write on their address? … I live here, and have done so for the past 12 years, but compared with many I think I’m probably regarded as an outsider … I wasn’t sand grown … and I’m learning these little local nuances all the time.

It has become apparent in the time I’ve lived here that there is a marked difference between Lytham and St Annes …. Lytham is Lytham, St Annes is St Annes … and never the twain shall meet.

The businesses in each town stick together, there are sites for selling, sites for information, chit chat, sites for gardening, the in bloomers, groups and clubs … all clearly defining the areas they serve with either Lytham, or St Annes at the start of their name. There’s an undercurrent though … a snobbery … some obvious, some not as much … just an undertone … a feeling … that Lytham is a cut above, and that St Annes is the poor relation. Why is this? Does this feeling go way back to when Lytham existed, and St Annes did not; was it the original handout from the wealthy Cliftons when they built a chapel for the hamlet of Heyhouses (now the Parish Church); is it nowadays because of the many restaurants, bars, and shops which surround the lovely square, give it a higher end feel than the high street of St Annes?; maybe it’s because they have a stately home, and a windmill, both iconic landmarks. I don’t know where it all began, but I do know that there is definitely a rivalry which exists. Although I’ve often detected the undertones of rivalry, I’ve never put much store by it myself. I’ve always taken people and situations on face value; I speak to anyone and everyone in the same way and I pay no heed to any hierarchical who’s who in the town. I take as I find, and expect the same in return. To be honest, I have found it easy to settle into this place, the people have been welcoming, and my boys have thrown themselves into pretty much everything within our community. I have found businesses supportive, people friendly, and have made some wonderful friends here. The businesses and people of the communities in Lytham and St Annes have been incredibly supportive to us as a family, support which we have more than needed to help us through the most difficult of times. I will forever be indebted to the many, who without hesitation, have been there for me, and for my family.

There’s another area of our community which I need to mention though. Ansdell … that quiet neck of the woods that is ever overlooked. Where does Ansdell fit into all this? This little beauty, little sanctuary, little undiscovered, or often forgotten about place, tucked neatly between Lytham and St Annes; offering that buffer of protection to Lytham from St Annes, and vice versa, in the same way the dunes protect us from Blackpool encroaching on us. Named after the painter Richard Ansdell who kept a summerhouse here, it is the only place to have honoured an English artist this way.

It may be small and not big enough to compete with the big boys of Lytham and St Annes, but Ansdell has lots to offer. Lovely, lovely houses, schools and a community which is even lovelier. A bustling little community with a lovely village feel at its centre with pub, library, several churches, post office, Coop and Community Centre along with a variety of local businesses … hairdressers, barber, florist, beauty salons, launderettes, carpet store, dentist, float rooms, cafes and much more, including the newly established and incredibly gorgeous Wild Ginger where you’ll find the lovely Sarah selling all manner of beautiful gifts from local artists, and artists from a bit wider afield, but still Lancashire based. You have only to walk to the end of Ansdell’s “high street” and you arrive at Fairhaven Lake, another much loved beauty spot neither belonging to Lytham or St Annes, but beautifully situated midway between both, and I’m really not sure whether the houses here fall into Lytham, St Annes, Ansdell or even Fairhaven, so that’s another area in the midst of our community. It’s all rather complicated working out which areas are in which Parish boundaries, and even more so if you start looking at who’s in charge, and of what; Lancashire County Council, Fylde Borough Council, St Annes Town Council, and I’m not going there as I feel I’ll be writing forever and a day about this.

Ansdell has groups and clubs which can rival many of those in Lytham and St Annes, but they don’t really shout about things the same; they don’t have that same social media muscle, and so more often than not, what goes on in Ansdell is tagged and advertised in the existing groups of the other two.

But let’s not forget that it was in the heart of this community, at The Ansdell Insitute, that on the toss of a coin, Fylde Rugby Club was founded on 25th July 1919.

We are incredibly lucky to live in such a beautiful place, with a stunning coastline, wonderful beaches, parks and green spaces; celebrities, past and present have made this their home; we have our own coffee, gin and even a music festival. To have an abundance of local facilities, shops and amenities here on our doorstep, allowing us to stay local, remain local, and shop local, I regard as a gift. In times of trouble and hardship these businesses have been there for us, sourcing products, delivering products, advising us, chatting to us, donating to charities, going that extra mile and above and beyond time and again. You deal with a person … a real person … who takes an interest in you the person, not just you the customer; who quite often becomes a friend, or at least a good acquaintance; who more often than not will offer you a much better deal than you can get on line. It is genuine, personal service, from people who genuinely want to please and do a good job. Through this unsettled time of lockdown, these businesses have been operating as much as they can, helping us as much as they can, working long hours, and doing so many extras, not for profit, but out of good will. These businesses are a godsend, and we need to look after them as they have for us, whenever we can, starting now.

We have the town centres of Lytham and St Annes, and we have other little gems of shops and businesses tucked away on our side streets. One example of this is St Albans Road in St Annes. There’s the Post Office, where Jan will help you with anything post office related, banking and even if you want to get some cash out … and you can ask for it in whatever note value you wish £5s if you find that more useful … and it has been known for me to ask for £1 coins if I’ve got to fork out for loads of clubs and special school days that the boys are involved with. You can get your meat and pies from Giglis, furniture from SteWay, and if you don’t want to titivate your own battered pieces up then give to the lads to paint and you’ll feel like you’ve bought a new piece. Hadfields have everything you could possibly need for the home or DIY, and the service here from James and Heather is second to none. From haircuts, to cafes, to TVs, sewing and alterations, news and booze (to buy pre done, or make your own at the homebrew shop), there are many wonderful businesses tucked on the side streets of our local area, all needing support and all offering a wonderful service.

We live in a beautiful part of the country, a beauty spot, with its own microclimate it seems; it has heritage, stories, character and soul, and it is a place I’m happy, and proud to call home.

by Elizabeth Dee

[This piece was originally written for and published by Lytham St Annes news; republished by Elizabeth Dee on Life Chez Dee on 18th January 2021]

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