• John Woodman

Water Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

John Woodman


Its interesting to see the increasing number of media headlines on the impact of global warming and prognosis for apocalyptic change in the not too distant future. Amid the relentless daily briefings on the virus pandemic and the UK's 'braveheart' stand through vaccine application across much of the population, the nagging doubts over the country's ability to withstand rising sea levels and ever increasing average temperature is becoming ever more problematic.


The global conference COP 26 taking place in Glasgow during September is seen as a final chance for joined up action by governments in holding back temperature increases by reducing net carbon emissions among diverse other remedies. The increase in area of melting ice caps which directly feed into rising sea levels; joined by warming of the enormous tracts of permafrost releasing vast quantities of stored methane from prehistoric era - are just two of the monumental factors which governments now need to confront as we move further into this century.


One may ask what does this all have to do with the relative innocent pastime of preserving the memory of former tramways on Blackpool's seafront? Well for a start at one time not foo long ago the site where Blackpool's present tram depot now stands was a large concrete go karting track. The venue was known to have been submerged in 40 feet of water during an earlier flood well before global warming was recognised beyond the scientific community. Today's tram service is wholly dependent upon access from this one depot sited directly against the sea wall at Starr Gate. Beyond the new sea defences added to the previously existing wall - which ends at Blackpool's boundary with the next local authority - Fylde - there is nothing; only low lying sandhills between a raging Irish Sea and the rows upon rows of new homes taking up the land formerly occupied by the Squires Gate Holiday Camp.


Storms on the Fylde coast can sometimes be dangerous, even to trams. A double deck 'Standard' car was blown over by gale force winds near to the Gynn in 1929. Here we see Tramway officials determining how best to salvage the car from its overturned position. John Woodman Archive

If one passes by the grounds of Rossall School on the way into Fleetwood, a lengthy berm can be seen running north until a sharp inland turn towards the main road. In fact the 'berm' formed the original trackbed for the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company especially built to raise its new electric line several feet above the level of then agricultural land and thus reducing, if not avoiding, seasonal flooding. Similarly nothing stands between the sea's encroachment onto low lying beachfronts all the way south to Lytham. While in Fleetwood once a trawler port where the rewards from deep sea fishing formerly dominated the town's economy - its wharves and purpose built infrastructure serving this long gone industry are given over to ever more house building capitalising on newly available land facing onto the Wyre Estuary. Where trawlers docked and unloaded their silver shoals for rail transport to urban centers across England - now only the serried rows of compact postage stamp houses complete with parked cars and barren landscape are the residue from two centuries of local labour and brave dreams.


The looming threat of rising sea levels and global temperatures so far seems to be a a distant problem beyond the ken of local government and 'civic leaders'. The pressing urgency for creating a Fylde coast task force with competence and inherent knowledge of the challenges we are all now facing - is but one important first step for an entire community to gain a grip on global warming. Further on in this century new generations bereft of homes or livelihoods, or probably both, will raise the question as to how seawater inundation on a vast scale was allowed to take over swathes of coastal land rendering an entire local economy with its infrastructure (and much more) redundant.


Of course this will also render moot the fixation of a small minority on running old trams up and down the promenade, and local authorities in licensing yet more premises for the consumption of alcohol, and increasing the national wasteline through consumption of fish and chips and an unhealthy fast food fetish. Plus of course the sanity of ordaining construction of new houses ever more likely to become overwhelmed by climate change within one or two generations - at most.


Below : 1928 and a not unfamiliar scene on Devonshire Road as a Corporation bus on the service from Cleveleys (7) slowly navigates its way under the railway bridge. John Woodman Archive






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