Harris Museum, Preston
A city walk: Six miles
December was a lazy month so it was back to square one in January (actually make that square minus ten as I must have put on weight and become even more unfit and unhealthy during the Christmas season). To start the year off, a friend and I embarked upon a Suburb to City stroll, setting off three miles (approximately) from Preston city centre.
To those who don’t know Preston, it is a former industrial town in the North West of England. It’s not far from Blackpool, Manchester and Liverpool, and the beautiful Lake District is just over an hour’s drive away.
Originally called Priest Town (Priest’s Tun) in Anglo Saxon times, Preston has had a long and fascinating history. I haven’t time to mention it all here except the two key episodes on Preston’s timeline are the English Civil War and the Industrial Revolution/cotton industry. Check out the Harris Museum for a proper glimpse into Preston’s past!
We walked along a busy road on the way into the city centre. The worst thing about this urban ramble is the traffic. On several occasions, one of us would say something and the other person would say, what? And that’s because Garstang Road is one of the main routes and the sound of cars is tremendous. And yet, even on this hectic thoroughfare, there are a few gems…
Amid the large detached houses which line this stretch of tarmac, is a patch of woodland called Highgate Wood. And further along Garstang Road, there is a massive allotment. It takes you into another world, where you feel you have entered into a secret rural haven and although I haven’t ventured into Highgate Wood, I imagine it must be a similar feeling.
Moor Park is a large park. The Preston Moor Common formed part of Henry III’s Royal Forest of Fulwood, which received a royal charter in 1235. Horse races were held between 1736 and 1833, and that was the year Moor Park was officially recognised as a municipal park. According to Preston Guild City’s website, a hundred acres of the common was enclosed and renamed Moor Park. In the 1860s, unemployed cotton workers landscaped the park. And it’s where Preston marathon walker Tom Benson – who held at least six world endurance titles – walked laps (about 314 miles) of Moor Park over five days and nights in 1976. Without stopping.
Talking of famous people, did you know Star Wars’ R2D2 was a Lancastrian? Or rather, Kenny Baker who played him was a resident of Preston?
In the city centre, we had an enjoyable lunch at Wings and Beers, a trendy looking American-style sports bar, down Cannon Street, also home of the quirky Mystery Tea House (incredibly difficult to find but trust me, it really does exist on that street!)
I don’t love my home city. Money is wasted on silly traffic schemes and ugly carbuncles are lumped onto beautiful Victorian buildings (check out the train station’s new extension). Progress is the buzzword of the powers-that-be but sometimes at the expense of beauty. But it is also a city of hidden gems and fascinating history. If you go, I recommend the Harris Museum (stunning architecture) and Avenham Park, Halewood & Sons Book Shop, Mystery Tea Rooms and the art deco Bruccianis, Winckley Street and Winckley Square. Look for the beauty and quirkiness and, in any town or city, it is there…
Even the Grade II Brutalist 1969 bus station – believed to have once been the second largest bus station in Europe – has its devoted fans in this city!
On our way home, we walked along Deepdale – home of the famous Preston North End stadium. Sir Tom Finney used to play here and his statue can be seen. When he died, thousands of residents lined the streets to pay their respects as his cortege passed the streets of Preston – and the stadium – before the service at Preston Minster.
Facts of the Day
1. Preston North End (also known as PNE, Lilywhites and The Invincibles) was founded in 1880. A founding member of the Football League.
2. They were unbeaten in the inaugural season and were crowned first league champions. They also won the FA Cup that season.
3. Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC, founded in Preston, was one of the earliest women’s football teams in England, playing from 1917 to 1965.
For the latest news and features in Preston and surrounding area, read the Lancashire Post (a daily read) and for those of you who live further afield – http://www.lep.co.uk