Lytham - the coastal town that offers a diverse shopping experience and much more
- Credit: Archant
Many locals believe Lytham has more than enough charity shops but they are still proud of its terrific diversity
They used to say that charity began at home. These days, it seems to be on every corner of every High Street. The great Charity Shop Debate bubbles on and not even the leafy lanes of Lytham are immune to this vexed question. You’ll go many miles before meeting anyone who is anti-charity and few dispute their right to raise funds by retailing, but more people are now asking if there really has to be quite so many.
Lancashire Life decided to take a day out in Lytham and soak up the shopping experience with the firm intention of proving there is more than second hand goods in this first class town.
We started off speaking to a man in the know. Robert Silverwood is vice-chairman of the Lytham Business Partnership and, for more than 20 years, he has been running the busy café next to the theatre in the picturesque Lowther Gardens.
‘It is a problem, but Lytham has something like 230 retail units and a very small proportion are charity shops,’ he said. ‘There is a lot more to the town but I’m not denying there are too many.’
As another charity shop is expected to take up a prime location soon, he is keen to raise the whole issue with politicians at a national level, especially the vastly reduced business rates which, some believe, invite charities to swamp High Streets.
Charity shops and an older population can go hand-in-hand but Robert sees definite signs of change in this coastal gem. ‘In the last five to ten years Lytham has not only become more sophisticated but it also seems to be appealing more to younger people,’ he said. ‘You see many more young families in the town.
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‘The offering to shoppers is still very good and diverse enough for you to be able to live here using nothing but the local businesses. I always think that’s the hallmark of a successful community.’
More restaurants and bars have opened in recent years and this has, said Robert, created a vibrant night scene which attracts visitors from the surrounding communities. ‘The place has really come alive in the last decade,’ he added.
Despite this, if you exclude a couple of raids on a particular jeweller’s shop, the crime rate is so low they struggle to justify permanent CCTV in the town centre.
‘The place looks fantastic, too,’ he said. ‘Lytham in Bloom has brought international recognition and created a buoyant atmosphere. Some places you go to people seem to have given up. They feel defeated.
‘But here, there is still a strong spirit. Groups determined to improve the town don’t fizzle out, they thrive. Take the volunteer beach cleaners – there are about 20 of them who are out every Monday removing rubbish from the shoreline.
‘I love the fact we have such a lot of community groups dedicated to making the place even better.’
3 Must do things
Walk on the sea front past the iconic windmill to Granny’s Bay
Have afternoon tea in one of the almost countless cafes and take home potted shrimps from Lanigans.
Ladies who shop might like to try some of the fashion stores, such as Cherry Pie, Poppy’s, Stringer’s and Cudworths or a top jeweller such as Stones.
Summer of fun
Most people require no excuse to visit Lytham, but if you are looking for some events to liven up your day, August is the month.
Lytham Proms Festival Weekend is the biggest event for miles around. The action happens near the windmill on Lytham Green, starting on Friday night with ‘The 80s Strikes Back,’ a musical feast with Tony Hadley, Jason Donovan, Marc Almond and many more. Saturday sees Lancashire lad Russell Watson, the UK’s best-selling classical artist, staging a ‘Last Night of The Proms’ style concert. The curtain comes down on Sunday with singer-songwriter Rita Ora, MTV award winner Conor Maynard and girl band Stooshe.
The Lytham Hall Classic Car Show is expected to feature over 300 vehicles.
Lytham Hall is also the venue for Art in the Park featuring work from across the region. Visitors can buy direct from artists, printers and photographers.
Illria, the team that brought you The Twits last year, is back at Lytham hall to perform Dick King-Smith’s Babe the Sheep-Pig aimed at children five and over.
You can find out about these events and more by going to www.visitlythamstannes.co.uk or www.lythamproms.co.uk and www.lythamhall.co.uk
Fruit salad days
August is a great time to visit Lytham and if you go and spot locals with very red lips, they haven’t been putting on their make-up in the dark. It’s the strawberries, you see.
The town has won so many Britain in Bloom awards they need to borrow Andy Murray’s trophy cabinet. But this year will be a little different.
Lytham is one of only five towns in the UK to be selected by the Royal Horticultural Society for its Champions of Champions competition and the theme is ‘edibles’.
Jim Leak, the Lytham in Bloom chairman, and his colleagues have been delivering veg plants to schools across the borough and there will be a big planter in the Cenotaph Gardens with flowers - and strawberries. ‘People are invited to eat them while they are out and about,’ says Jim.
He and his colleagues were invited across to Quebec in Canada where they received the highest international award for Communities in Bloom and last year they won gold at the RHS. Jim has received national and regional awards as a community champion.
Where is it?
Lytham is on the Ribble Estuary between Preston and Blackpool. Not to be confused with St Annes, the next town along. FY8 5LE takes you to the town centre.
Where to park?
There are plenty of car parks - two on the front, Lowther Gardens, Booths, Pleasant Street and by the Railway Station. There are on-street spots but don’t park illegally – wardens are usually on the prowl.
Where to eat?
The Queens, overlooking The Green on Central Beach, has well-kept beer a superior pub food. The Taps does lunches, too. Portofino in Henry Street is regarded as a Lytham institution, serving mainly Italian food in a vibrant setting. Opposite is Henry’s, a very popular bar and grill.