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The Lazy Photographer's Guide 06 - North-West England

by Chris Maddock assisted by Tony Parkinson

 

This article is the sixth of a series of articles covering much of the UK. It is basically a list of locations I have programmed into my GPS Satellite Navigator - most of which I have visited, the rest being other places I intend to get to some day. It is not a comprehensive guide to the North-West, only the parts I have been to and photographed - or intend to. It does not cover the Lake District, Peak District nor the Yorkshire Dales which have ben covered in previous lazy Photographer's Guides.

It will not contain any photographs, the intention being simply to provide information about location, access and likely subjects. I have photographs of many of the locations in my Yorkshire Dales gallery at www.f22.org.uk if you want to see what you could see before setting out.

I've called it The Lazy Photographer's Guide since most of the locations are less than half a mile from road access.


Blackpool
Bride Stones Moor
Brock Valley
Cheetham Close
Coal Clough Windfarm
Cosford RAF Museum
Downham
Formby Point
Heathwaite
Hoylake
Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve
Lower Peover

Lyme Park
Marshside RSPB Reserve

Martin Mere WWT
Morecombe Bay
Mow Cop
New Brighton Lighthouse
Oxenhope Moor
Oxygrains Old Bridge
Peel Tower
Roddlesworth Wood
Salford Quays

Southport Beach
St Annes Pier
The Cloud
Winter Hill


Blackpool

Probably the most famous resort town in Britain, Blackpool is brash, loud and trashy . . . but despite this, it still has much to offer the lazy photographer

Access - From J32 of the M^ follow the M55 and continue onto Yeadon way at the end of the motorway. This will take you straight into the heart of the town and offers thousands of parking spaces on the various pay & display car parks alongside it. Ideally, aim for the earlier car parks to the south of the town.

What to see - From Early September to Early November, Blackpool illuminations shine out, stretching for six miles along the seafront (as do, at weekend, the traffic jams), during this period illuminated trams designed to look like steam trains, ships and rockets also offer good photo opportunities. To the south of the seafront, the various roller coasters at the Pleasure Beach (especially the 256 ft high Pepsi Max Big One) offer excellent subject matter especially when lit up at dusk. Blackpool's 3 piers (North, Central & South) also offer good opportunities especially Central Pier with it's Ferris wheel when placed against a winter sunset.

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Bride Stones Moor
GR SD 931 268
Moorland with interesting wind-eroded rock formations, The Great Bride Stones

Access - From the minor roads between Mereclough and Hebden Bridge. Footpaths onto the moor may be found at GR SD 929 272 and SD 937 267.

What to see - moorland plants, animals & birds, the Bride Stones themselves and the views around.

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Brock Valley
GR SD 549 431
A small wooded valley on the western edge of the Forest of Bowland, through which the River Brock (a tributary of the River Wyre) flows

Access - leave the M6 at J32 onto the M55 and immediately leave the M55 onto the A6 north. After passing through Bilsborrow, take the turning to the right signposted for Beacon Fell. Take the first right then first left. Following this road for about 3 miles, arrive at a junction signposted Brock Valley. Take this road and descend to the car park.

What to see - In May, the valley floor is carpeted with flowers such as Bluebells, Wood Anemones, Celandines and Wild Garlic. Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Treecreepers flit from tree to tree and Dippers are frequently seen along the fast flowing river

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Cheetham Close
GR SD 710 152
A small hill on the southern edge of the west Pennine Moors named after Humphrey Cheetham, 17th century lord of the Manor and founder of Manchester's prestigious Cheetham's School of Music

Access - Take the A666 south from J4 of the M65 to Egerton. After passing the Egerton House Hotel take the first left and follow the road up to the moorland edge. From there it is a short walk up onto the hill.

What to See - Moorland view, especially with winter frost. Views across to Winter Hill as the sun sets

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Coal Clough Windfarm
GR SD 899 283
Love them or loathe them, wind farms are now a permanent part of the British landscape, and this is a particularly impressive one.

Access - From the minor road between Mereclough and Hebden Bridge. For a mid-distance view there is a car park at GR SD 894 288 where a bridleway crosses the road. Alternatively, there is a car park with footpath access into the turbine array at GR SD 892 285. However, the latter seems to be popular in the evenings with the local ne'er-do-wells, so exercise caution for your own safety/security if you go thee in the evening.

What to see - the wind farm, individual turbines and the views around. Head-on views of the turbines work well in early evening light, shooting from the first location given. The area should also be good for sunsets but take care as mentioned above.

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Cosford RAF Museum
GR SJ 797 052
Just outside Telford, Shropshire, Cosford is one of the RAFs two museums (the other being in London). Admission is free.

Access - best as described on the RAF Cosford website

What to see - Cosford has 4 main display hangers as well as static exhibits outside. There is a wide range of aircraft on display as well as collections of missiles, aero engines and motor vehicles.

Cosford was one of the main RAF Prisoner of War repatriation clearing stations in the latter part of the Second World War, where POWs were sent upon return to the UK, to receive medical examinations and treatment (including simply feeding them up!) before they were returned to their homes. There is a fascinating display of POW memorabilia in the museum, including letters, photographs and escape equipment.

New for 2007 is the Cold War Collection, a newly-constructed hanger in which all manner of Cold War items are housed - including, under cover together for the first time, all three of Britain's V-Bombers, the Avro Vulcan, Vickers Valiant and Handley-page Victor.

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Downham
GR SD 784 442
A picturesque village in the shadow of Pendle Hill, "Ormesby" in BBC's "Born and Bred"

Access - From the A59 east of Clitheroe take the turning into a minor road for Chatburn (on the left if travelling from the west, the right if travelling from the east), then from Chatburn, take the road signposted to Downham

What to See - St Leonard's Church, the village, Downham Beck and bridge, Pendle Hill

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Formby Point
GR SD 280 082
If sand dunes and seascapes are your "thing", then Formby is well worth an visit. If not, then how about the other things for which Formby Point is famous, the Red Squirrels?

Access - From Formby town centre, head for Freshfield station and follow the road west from the level crossing. Formby Point is National Trust owned, so parking is free for members, pay at the gate for non-members.

What to see - a short walk from the car park takes you to the dunes and the beach, offering good views along the coast and out across the Irish Sea.
An even shorter walk takes you on the Red Squirrel Trail, paths looping through the woodland where the squirrels live and feed. You'd have to be very unlucky not to see any squirrels, taking some bait (hazelnuts look more natural, although the NT sell peanuts at the gate) along helps a bit though. They will come very close to you, easily close enough for a 400m lens. With baiting and patience you could use a shorter lens with little trouble.

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Heathwaite
GR SD 451 770
Part of the National Trust's Arnside Knott Nature Reserve, a 500 ft high glacier eroded limestone hill close to the Kent estuary.

Access - Leave the M6 at J35 and head north on the A6 to Milnthorpe. Turn left at the traffic lights and follow the road to Arnside. From here follow the Silverdale road and after approximately a mile and a half, the National Trust Car Park is signposted down a lane to the right

What to see - Spring flowers, especially Early Purple Orchids and Cowslips in late April/early May. In summer the reserve is a haven for butterflies, especially Purple Hairstreak, Pearl Coloured Fritillary and the rare High Brown Fritillary in late June/early July.

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Hoylake
GR SJ 218 898

Located on the north-western corner of The Wirrall, Hoylake is a small coastal resort.

Access - Take the A553 from the M53 or Birkenhead, or A540 from Chester and follow road signs. Once in Hoylake town, head for the shore road.

What to see - mudflats and gravel banks, boats moored up, shore birds, etc. It is very nice in early morning light and undoubtedly would also do well with a decent sunset.

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Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve
GR SD 479 752
An excellent RSPB Reserve and visitor centre close to Morecambe Bay.

Access - Exit the M6 at J35 and head north on the A6, after a few miles a turning to the left for Yealand Redmayne is signposted for the reserve, follow the signs through the village and shortly before reaching Silverdale, the reserve is on the left with the car park on the right. Alternatively, Silverdale Railway Station is a 5-minute walk away

What to See - Leighton Moss is the best place in Northern England to experience breeding Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Bearded Tit. Avocets breeding on the scrapes can also be seen from the Eric Morecambe & Allen hides to the west of the reserve and, at dawn, otters can often be seen at the eastern end of the Reserve. The best guarantee of successful images for the photographer is the feeding station between the visitor centre and Lillian's Hide where excellent close up shot's of Robins, Blackbirds, Nuthatches, Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Great Tits and the occasional Marsh Tit can be obtained.

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Lower Peover
GR SJ 741 741
A small village in Cheshire, with a particularly attractive church, a mixture of stone and tudor framing construction with a nice roofed gateway.

Access - Lower Peover is about 3 miles south of Knutsford, take the A50 towards Holmes Chapel, then turn off onto the B5081. When in the village, follow signs for the church.

What to see - the church and churchyard, with a wide variety of gravestones. Springtime is good with a good display of daffodils.

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Lyme Park
GR SJ962 824
A large estate, acquired by the National Trust in 1947, with a herd of 400+ Red Deer roaming the parkland to the north, and the moorland to the south of Lyme Park

Access - Easily accessible, adjacent to the A6 south of Stockport.

What to see - Red Deer, particularly in October & November during the rut as stags bellow and fight, locking horns to establish dominance. March & April see the stags "boxing" as they seek to re-establish dominance after shedding their antlers. Lyme Hall itself and the surrounding parkland were used as locations for many scenes of the BBC production of Pride & Prejudice (and more recently, The Forsyte Saga)

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Marshside RSPB Reserve
GR SD 352 205
Situated on the internationally important Ribble Estuary. The reserve is home to wintering Pink-Footed Geese, Wigeon, Golden Plover and Black-Tailed Godwits. Additionally during winter months it also plays host to Marsh Harriers, Merlins, Sparrowhawks and the occasional Peregrine. Additionally in spring, it provides nesting grounds for Redshanks and Lapwings

Access - Take Marine Drive north out of Southport, there is a free car park on the left just before the sand processing works. Park here, cross the road and the main hide is about 100 yards along the road

What to see - The birds mentioned above. Birds backlit by the rising sun, flocks of geese in flight. Best visited at sunrise (for backlighting) or late afternoon. Best visited when there is a high tide as this will tend to push birds off the mudflats along the Ribble estuary and onto the reserve.

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Martin Mere WWT
GR SD 428 144
Situated close to the Ribble Estuary and Morecambe Bay, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Martin Mere is an internationally important wintering ground for tens of thousands of geese and over 1,000 Whooper Swans. It also houses an extensive collection of captive birds including the Ne-ne or Hawaiian Goose, saved from extinction by the WWT's captive breeding and reintroduction program.

Access - From the south, leave the M6 at J27 and follow the A5209 to Burscough. At Burscough, turn right onto the A59 and turn left immediately after crossing the railway line. The visitor centre is around 1 mile along this road. From the north, leave the M6 at J28 and follow the B5248 to Tarleton then at the roundabout, take the A59 towards Liverpool. At the traffic lights, remain on the A59 by following the left-hand filter lane. On reaching Burscough railway station, turn right immediately before it and follow the road mentioned above to the visitor centre. From Liverpool, take the A59 towards Preston and follow the directions given for approaching from the south.

What to see - Erm, wildfowl !! seriously though, in the morning a stroll around the collection will give you ample opportunity to practice your skills before heading over to the hides to photograph the wild birds on the reserve. In winter, the Swans are fed daily close to the hides and this can provide opportunities for good backlit shots using moderate (300-400mm) telephoto lenses. Additionally, as many hides face west or south-west, there may be opportunities to get images of swans and geese in flight against a sunset.

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Morecombe Bay
A large bay sweeping from Barrow-in-Furness in the north to Fleetwood in the south, Morecambe Bay is renowned for it's sunsets, it's bird life and more recently it's cockle beds.

Access - Morecambe is easily accessed from the M6 via Junctions 33, 34 & 35

What to see - sunsets, the Lakeland fells reflected in the bay at high tide, wading birds feeding on the mud. a statue of Morecambe's most famous son, the iconic comedian Eric Morecambe. Just to the south of Morecambe at Heysham, the ruins of an ancient Celtic chapel and a number of rock-cut graves make an excellent foreground for a dramatic late-afternoon sky.

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Mow Cop
GR SJ 857 573
A folly on top of the hill in Mow Cop village near Biddulph.

Access - from the A34 south of Congleton, follow signs for Mow Cop. There is a car park beside the folly, to the west.

What to see - views from the hill and the folly itself. Because it's high up, the folly works well in most light, although early morning and late evening are best.

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New Brighton Lighthouse
GR SJ 309 944
Situated on the northernmost corner of The Wirrall, New Brighton is a late-19th century seaside holiday resort looking out over Liverpool Bay and the River Mersey.

Access - form the M53 (Junct 1) take the A554 through the outskirts of Wallasey and follow the coast eastwards. There is a large car park by the fort at the end of the road, and the lighthouse is just offshore from the fort.

What to see - the lighthouse works well in morning light or at sunset (during the summer the sun sets far enough north). Additionally there is the Fort, views across the Mersey to Bootle docks, shipping entering and leaving the Mersey. On a calm day, the Marine Lake offers beautiful reflections of the buildings along its southern shore.

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Oxenhope Moor
GR SE 015 335
The road across the moor, between Hebden Bridge and Oxenhope, can offer good views.

Access - leave Hebden Bridge or Oxenhope on the A6033 and keep your eyes peeled. There are a couple of parking locations at GR SE 015 335 and SE 013 330.

What to see - views north across the moor to Oxenhope, moorland flora and fauna. The moor is access land so a little wander will undoubtedly reveal more to see.

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Oxygrains Old Bridge
GR SE 004 158
An old packhorse bridge beside the A672 and M62 between Rochdale and Huddersfield

Access - from the M62, leave at J22 and take the A672 towards Ripponden. The bridge is about a mile along the road.

What to see - the old bridge and the newer turnpike" bridge over whuich the A672 runs. The moorland and associated flora & fauna. A foothpath leads to Green Withens Reservoir about a mile away if you wish.

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Peel Tower
GR SD 777 163
A 120-foot high tower on Holcombe Moor built in 1851 to commemorate Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister and founder of the modern police force, who was born in nearby Bury.

Access - From Bolton take the A676 towards Ramsbottom, bearing left onto the B6214 at Holcombe Brook. The car park is about 3/4 of a mile along this road and a short uphill walk then leads to the tower.

What to see - the tower surrounded by moorland against a dramatic early morning or late afternoon sky. Various paths offer lead-in lines and the Millennium Bench, a distinctive curving metal seat offers foreground interest. A 10-minute walk to nearby Harcles Hill provides longer views across the moors to the tower and also to Winter Hill to the west. NB despite regular confusion, this is not the same place as Turton Tower

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Roddlesworth Wood
GR SD 665 213
First planted in 1904 by the Liverpool Corporation to protect the catchment areas of it's 3 reservoirs, Roddlesworth Wood is now one of the largest areas of deciduous woodland in Lancashire.

Access - From Bolton, take the A675 north, 2 miles after Belmont, take the right turn for Tockholes and the visitor centre is about 1 mile on the right. Alternatively leave the M65 at J3 and take the A675 for Belmont, after 3 miles the turning for Tockholes is on the left.

What to See - Woodland, streams and reservoirs, autumn colours in October and November, Bluebells and Wild Garlic in April and May

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Salford Quays
GR SJ 805 972
Since the Port of Manchester closed in the 1980s, Salford keys have undergone a renaissance with many new commercial, residential, retail and leisure developments, together with new tramways and stations.

Access - From Manchester, take the Metrolink trams for Eccles which pass through the Quays and alight at either Salford Quays or the Anchorage. Alternatively, take the M602 from the M62 and at the end follow the signs for the Quays

What to see - Architecture, particularly the Victoria Building by Erie Basin, The new Imperial War Museum North and The Lowry Centre. The evening hours provide the best time for photographing these buildings as the warm light gives the buildings a golden glow then as darkness falls many of the buildings are transformed by floodlighting and internal lights.

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Southport Beach
GR SD 329 178
Located on the southern edge of the Ribble Estuary, Southport is a major Lancashire resort town, though somewhat more staid than its neighbour to the north, Blackpool. With its vast Mud Flats Southport Beach is a magnet for wading birds. Southport Pier also provides good opportunities for silhouetting it against a dramatic sunset

Access - From the north, exit the M6 at J31 (Preston) and follow first, the A59 then the A565 to Southport. From the south exit the M6 onto the M58 at J6 then leave the M58 at J3 and take the A570 to Southport. The beach is easily accessible from Marine Drive. Be aware that as even when the tide is in, it can still be a good 1/2 mile walk out to the tide line so this may not be a location for the very lazy photographer.

What to see - Wading birds along the water's edge - Oystercatcher, Knot, Dunlin, and Bar-Tailed Godwit. Pink-Footed Geese roosting on the sandbars. The pier silhouetted against a sunset.

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St Anne's Pier
GR SD 318 286
St Anne's began as a small seaside town, the result of the ambition in 1872 of several Lancashire businessmen to build their ideal health resort on Lancashire's Fylde Coast. There are several excellent examples of high-class late Victorian Residences in the town together with the pier built in 1885. St Anne's joined with it's neighbouring town in 1923 to become the single borough of Lytham St Anne's (though it is now part of the borough of Fylde) and is today best known as a regular host to one of Golf's four Major tournaments, the British Open. It is however far more sedate than its brashy, trashy neighbour, Blackpool

Access - From J32 of the M6 take the M55 for Blackpool. At the end of the M55 take the A5230 signposted for Blackpool Airport. After passing the airport and crossing the railway line, turn left at the traffic lights onto the A584. Continue past Pontins Holiday Camp and turn right at the 2nd set of traffic lights and the pier is in front of you.

What to See - spectacular lighting on the pier at dawn and sunset, typical English Seaside resort scenes, wildfowl on Fairhaven Lake just to the south, Fairhaven's White Church, the windmill on the fine green alongside the Ribble Estuary in neighbouring Lytham. The lights and sights of Blackpool are a 10-minute drive away

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The Cloud
GR SJ 903 636
A high outcrop of rocks above Congleton, looking out over the Cheshire plain.

Access - from Congleton take the A54 Buxton road and turn right for Key Green just outside Congleton. There are a few places you can park along the minor road that runs around the eastern side of The Cloud, with a footpath that leads up onto the top.

What to see - the rock formations and the views. Just below The Coud to the north-west is the impressive Congleton Viaduct, whilst beyond is the Cheshire Plain. If visibility is good, you can easily see the radio telescope at Jodrell Bank. The Cloud is home to a wide assortment of wildlife, including 2 breeding pairs of ravens.

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Winter Hill
GR SD 659 149
At 1496-ft high this is the highest point in the West Pennine Moors and with its 100-ft high TV transmitter is a landmark for miles around.

Access - footpaths leading from Belmont on the A675 or Rivington Country Park just north of Horwich easily reach the summit. For the more distant views from Turton Moor described below, leave the M65 at J4 and take the A666 through Darwen. Shortly after passing the turning on the left for Turton Tower, a right turn leads to a large lay-by on the left of this road immediately after the junction and a footpath across the road from the north end of this lay-by leads out onto Turton Moor.

What to see - Open moorland. Winter Hill is best used as an element in the image particularly when lit by morning light or when silhouetted against a dramatic evening sky. The best views include the aforementioned Cheetham Close and Harcles Hill close to the Peel Tower, but probably the best images of all can be taken from Turton moor where a ruined farmhouse or two solitary hawthorn trees provide foreground interest. For refreshment afterwards the Black Dog in Belmont offers a fine pint.

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All text and photos are copyright © Chris Maddock, 2007