If you have ever visited the sea front of Cleveleys on the Fylde Coast, you may have seen numerous art installations on the promenade and down on the beach. Some of them are more obvious to be seen than others, all connected by folklore, history and a children’s book.
The children’s book (The Sea Swallow) was written by Gareth Thompson and illustrated by Hannah McGee. This book tells of the epic story of land versus sea and uses old stories and fables true and ‘maybe’ false from this stretch of the Fylde coast. A copy was given to every local primary school child in 2011. Pictures of characters and props from the book helped to shape the art you see today.
Not far towards the north end of Cleveleys Beach, facing the more famous and photographed Mary’s Shell (shall come to that shortly). Blending in amongst the green, weather beaten rocks down on the beach. Sits the old stone ogre. The tide comes in beyond him so you may need to look harder as he is often green and mossy like the rocks surrounding him.
In the book he is the bad guy that lives in the sea.
The main character in the book ‘The Sea Swallow’ is a child called Mary. And Mary’s Shell must be one of the most photographed installations on the beach.
The book has the ogre creating a huge wave with his giant paddle and threatening to engulf the town and coast. Mary saves the day with her ‘Golden Shell’
Folklore in the area has it that there is a long lost village off the coast that was engulfed by a tsunami like wave in long lost years. Singleton Thorpe. Other stories say this is why there is a nearby village called Singleton inland where the survivors moved to. The name Singleton is etymology connected to shingle and beach so there may or may not be some truth here?
Mary’s Shell is large piece of metal art that spirals into a shell shape. if you look through it you can look out towards the sea. And photographers flock here to catch the sunset through it too. When the tide is out you can explore it on the beach. When the tide is in and high it is engulfed but you can often see the top of it poking out of the waves.
The Ogres Paddle
Onto the promenade itself now and you can’t miss the giant Ogres Paddle. It is engraved with words from the book too.
The Sea Swallow
The monument that namesakes from the book, The Sea Swallow. Right in the middle of the promenade is this tall sculpture, it’s shape inspired by the feel if a book coming to life. The swallows are the town’s protectors.
If you are heading down the high street in Cleveleys this is the sight you see at one end to draw you to the sea front.
The Shipwreck Memorial
This installation is for more than folklore, this is in memory of all the ships that have ran aground all along the Fylde Coast from St Annes up to Fleetwood.
It is pierced with the names of all the ships that have wrecked on this coast from way back into time right up to the more recent Riverdance Ferry wreck of 2008. These names are surrounded by words from The Seaman’s Hymn.
Everytime I head to the beach here I walk past them all and did at first wonder what they all stood for. Now I have learnt a bit more about them I can walk past them more fondly. If you are ever in the area look out for them as they a free to visit local art and together with the fresh sea air, a nice day to be had.