Blackpool Gazette & Herald, September 14th,
When the roads of the Fylde were mud or dust
I HAVE just been reading an account of what must have been one
of the first trips by motorcar between Yorkshire and Morecambe. Among other
adventures the veteran tells how, for part of the journey at least, they
proceeded in a cloud of dust. I was going to say that that was one of the trials
of the early motorist, but it is scarcely the truth. He, stout fellow, was
usually able to keep in front of the dust-storm that he created that is, unless
he had the doubtful benefit of a following wind. In which case he was never able
to emerge from the dust-cloud until he changed his direction.
MOTORING in those days involved a working knowledge of reading a
compass. Some of us remember those "happy!" pioneering days, when most of the
main roads of the Fylde were metalled with limestone and plentiful quantities of
dirt, or muck as the locals called it.
That part of the mixture was intended to gum the stones together. It was not always
successful. But even that was about as big an improvement as the jet-plane is on
the dog-cart so my father said. When he was "nobbut a lad" the lanes that connected
the various villages of the Fylde were little more than tracks.
In summertime the iron-tyred carts cut deep tracks into the
lanes, often a foot deep. It was almost impossible to get out of them when the
cart was laden. But it was in winter that the 'fun' began. After heavy rain the
tracks were brimming full of water and those on foot, who could not climb the
hedge into a neighbouring field, were splashed up to the ears with muddy
When the frosts came the tracks were in an even worse state. The ruts were frozen
iron-hard and filled to the top with blocks of ice. Yet it was on these tracks that
somehow, our hardy ancestors contrived to get about the Fylde, to market in
Garstang and Poulton and to the dance in the near-by village. It was, too, on such
tortuous Tacks that. my father first launched his way into the cycling world on a
THOSE were the days when Billie the Dryster (the man who looked
after the kiln) at Pilling windmill was experimenting with one of the new
safety-bikes. Before Billie ventured on to the track he had the new bike slung
between the beams of the barn that belonged to Mr. Gornall, one of the pioneers
of motoring in the Fylde.
It is on record that on his first venture Billie ran down the
steep incline at the kiln and through the hedge at the bottom. Things had
improved by the time that I began "to knock the bark off my shins" on a bicycle.
But there were still, all over the Fylde, places where the solid-tyred cars and
charabancs were bumping and bouncing out of one pot-hole into the next.
DUST AND MUD
ON a summer's day you were loft choking and gasping in a cloud
of dust that blanketed the hedges and rolled away over the fields of the Fylde
like a sand-storm. After a thunder shower the hedges were dripping mud and the
pot-holes were full of water. The method of repairing these tracks was a simple
one. At convenient places along the lane a heap of stones was tipped. From these
a man with a wheel-barrow replenished his stocks as he filled the pot-holes with
the aid of a shovel. It was around these heaps of stone that you would often see
the old-time stone-breaker.
During the summer months he would sit on the heap of stones
cracking the stones with a hammer. It looked a hard and blistering job. But not
for the expert. He could do it at easily as feeding the chickens. Not all the
stones were broken on the spot. Stone-breaking was one of the penalties of being
a tramp in the Fylde, 40 and 50 years ago. Some of these wanderers, who drifted
in at the gate of the Garstang Union Workhouse, were invited" to work their
passage by breaking a heap of stones.
RUED THE DAY
SOME of them looked twice at the heap of stones and rued the day
that they ever became a tramp. They were hustled before a magistrate and sent to
prison where they usually found an even greater heap of stones to tackle. The
evidence of those tearful times. today, lies buried beneath the smooth coating
of tar-mac on most of the roads of the Fylde.
We should be grateful for that tar. The only man that it almost put out of business
was the village tailor. After a trip to Garstang market in the old days you needed
a new suit. If you went in summer you got a dust-bath. If you were brave enough to
face the perils of the road in winter you got a mud-bath. There was little to