5 Surprising Things About... Burnley

    A lot of my friends seem to have been tagged lately to share '5 surprising things' about themselves.  I'm grateful, but also a bit worried, that nobody's yet tagged me (at least, not that I've noticed... if you've tagged me and I missed it, sorry!  I'm really not ignoring you on purpose!).  I'm not sure what I'd say, because I don't think there's a lot surprising about me.  I'm pretty much 'what you see is what you get'.  So instead of sharing 5 surprising things about me, I thought I'd share 5 things that surprised me this weekend.  And I was VERY surprised this weekend. 
     Being a southerner by birth but a northerner by choice, I thought I'd got used to the fact that the North isn't the grim industrial wasteland that southerners tend to imagine.  I live within easy reach of the Peak District and the Yorkshire Moors, not to mention my favourite seaside resort, sunny Scarborough.  So why did I expect Burnley to be the grubby, grimy mill-town of southerners' nightmares?  Maybe it has something to do with the centuries-old rivalry between Yorkshire and Lancashire?  At any rate, I was so surprised by my visit there, I thought I'd put fingers to keyboard to let you know some of the amazing things we discovered about Burnley this weekend.
1. Thompson Park
Nestled surprisingly in the middle of a residential area, just around the corner from the Premier Inn where we stayed, this has to be one of the largest, and loveliest, town-centre parks I've seen in a good while.  The boating lake and paddling pool were both obviously popular, as was the charming little 'Boat House' cafe.  The miniature railway was sweet too, and amusingly well-equipped with both 'steam' and 'diesel' locos! 
2. The Canal
From the park, it's easy to join the towpath walk and follow the Leeds and Liverpool canal for a lovely peaceful waterside walk.  The highlight of our walk was spotting a kingfisher flitting through the trees - not something you see every day, in fact it's the first time I've been certain I've seen one.  Sadly, I didn't get a photo of the kingfisher as it moved too fast, but I did manage to capture part of the canalside walk.  

3. Fantastic Chinese Food
For some reason, I expected Burnley to follow Manchester and Bradford in being dominated with Indian type eateries, so I was surprised that when we googled restaurants in Burnley, we found a Chinese buffet restaurant high on the list.  The English on the website left a little to be desired (I'm still not sure what "the cook is a senior chef China chair hotel" is intended to convey), but I'm really glad I decided to ignore my inner pedant on this occasion, because the food was incredible - a great array of dishes, including some of the best duck and chicken dishes I've tried and all for a very reasonable price.  It's a pity the decor didn't quite match up to the quality of the food and helpfulness of the staff, but you can't have everything.

4. Incredible Talent
If you've read any of my books, you probably won't be surprised to know that it was a showbiz connection which drew me to Burnley.  Most of my fictional heroes are entertainers: Alex (Desperate Bid) is a singer and guitarist, Redmond and Lisa (Perfect Partners) are ballroom dancers, and Bryn (The Santa Next Door) is a classical conductor and composer.  So it's no surprise that I've been fascinated by the true story of Burnley entertainer Andrew Derbyshire, whose one-man show at Burnley Mechanics' Institute spanned the highlights of his career, from first treading the boards as part of a local theatre school, to the heights of the West End and Britain's Got Talent.  The surprise for me was the wealth of local talent he involved in his show, from his longstanding friend, the super-skilled singer and director Carl Mullaney, to the members of Basics theatre school and Energise dance troupe.  Not to mention the adorable little girl from the 'Sing it Kitty' advert, who just happens to be Andrew's niece... seriously, Burnley must have some kind of talent magnet going!
This odd-looking object is a sculpture created just outside Burnley as part of the panopticon projectIt's set high on a windswept hillside and made up of thick pipes, each of which hums with its own distinctive tone when caught by the wind.  Since it wasn't the windiest weekend, we had to get pretty close up before we caught the sound, but the eerie, beautiful noise was well worth the short (and very scenic) walk down from the car.  Like another favourite of mine, the Angel of the North, this is an inspired piece of artwork which is both beautiful in its own right and expressive of the uniqueness of the area it represents.    

I'm sure there are lots of other wonderful things we haven't had time to discover, but in our brief acquaintance with Burnley, these were definitely the highlights.  If you've found something else which we should see next time we visit, feel free to share in the comments below! 



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