So I went to Preston station and got on the first train going anywhere I hadn’t been before. And it turned out to be the slow train to Colne. Colne seemed a bit far for the three hours I had to spare. So I bought a day return to Accrington – having never been there before – and set off. It was a grotty train. Two cars, no bogs, bench seats with metal railings a bit like buses used to have. Too close together to sit straight. My knees didn’t
fit. (And I’m not tall)
The train set off south, over the river, and turned left past the field where dodgy teenagers play noisily with fake motorbikes. The first stop is Lostock
Hall. Not much is visible from the station. A few suburban rooves behind some small trees – Sorbus on one side, Salix on the other. As the train draws away
from the tiny halt I see rows of small new brick houses, a sort of retros-80s-council-estate-retro-30s-neo-Georgian-pseudo-vernacular with conservatories
style. Orange brick. Pantile rooves. Tiny plastic windows that look as if they can’t be opened.
After Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge the train did a great slow left curve and entered some lovely rolling countryside. Green,well-wooded small fields, some almost spectacular narrow steep treed gullies, and loads of Rose-Bay Willowherb by the railway. Small fields, landforms almost like the ancient countryside of the Weald or some of the mildly hilly parts of County Durham. Ash trees, rowans, and willows. Golf courses even. After a roll through this unstereotypically not-quite-northern landscape stations start to come thick and fast and we get to Pleasington (aptly named) and Cherry Tree Station, and Mill Hill – which has a mill and a hill and so beats the better-known London suburb with the same name which doesn’t. This is a lovely place.
And we can’t be twenty miles from Preston, maybe not even ten.
Then some industry is visible and it all gets urban again and here is a giant green metal arch over the railway and there are churches and shopping centres everywhere. This must be Blackburn? It is. There is even a cathedral. This is a real town, a large one, and it looks quite substantial in the sunlight. Near Blackburn station there is a mill converted into a mosque and out the back there are loads of young men in white robes and skullcaps playbing basketball.
Almost everyone gets of the train and they are replaced by a huge load of other passengers. There are posh accents – I mean posh Lancashire accents – and an
unliley large number of teenage girls, some in school uniform (its after three by now so maybe they are on their way home ((but if so, where are the boys?))
Then they all get off again. After Blackbun the hills are briefly covered in houses, then bare, no longer like the ancient farmed landscapes of the east of
England but now open and spattered with sheep. Few trees and ther might even be some drystone walls creeping up them.
One more stop and the skyline is now all moorland. We halt at Rishton and then “Church and Oswaldthwistle”. Now the North looks like the North.
Accrington’s quite posh. Well, compared with Burnley it is. Photos later (upload bandwidth is dodgy here) I walked round the centre for half an hour – photos
later – then had two pints of Guiness and a pleasant chat in the Nags Head. Thank you Sharon (“don’t call me ‘dear’ – I’m expensive” not hat I did) and Pete and incomprehensible barman.
Th train back is for Blackpool South rather then Blackpool North and it is faster, more comfortable, provided with bogs, and full of beautiful women. Enugh
of whom get off at Blackburn for me to move to a seat by a table, oon the right, facing forwards. The hWe get back in less than half the time the outward
journey took. The houses between Bamber Bridge ande Lostock Hall look quite inviting now. Maybe that’s the Guinness. And all through that pretty Lancashire
countryside, I can see Preston in the distance. It is visibly more of a town than Blackburn. Even unto St Eggburger’s