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At the turn of the 19th century, the area became popular with tourists due to the easy access from the nearby Leeds and Liverpool Canal.The rapid growth of Southport largely coincided with the Industrial Revolution and the Victorian era.The Ainsdale sand dunes have been designated as a national nature reserve and a Ramsar site.Local fauna include the natterjack toad and the sand lizard.Town attractions include Southport Pier with its Southport Pier Tramway, the second longest seaside pleasure pier in the British Isles, and Lord Street is an elegant tree-lined shopping street.Extensive sand dunes stretch for several miles from Woodvale to Birkdale, the south of the town.In 1792, William Sutton, the landlord of the Black Bull Inn in Churchtown (now the Hesketh Arms) and known to locals as "The Old Duke", realised the importance of the newly created canal systems across the UK and set up a bathing house in the virtually uninhabited dunes at South Hawes by the seaside just four miles (6 km) away from the newly constructed Leeds and Liverpool Canal and two miles southwest of Churchtown.When a widow from Wigan built a cottage nearby in 1797 for seasonal lodgers, Sutton quickly built a new inn on the site of the bathing house which he called the South Port Hotel, moving to live there the following season.
A particular feature of the town is the extensive tree planting.
Southport Pier is referred to as the first true "pleasure pier", being one of the earliest pier structures to be erected using iron.
A design from James Brunlees was approved at a cost of £8,700 and on 4 August 1859 a large crowd witnessed the driving home of the first support pile.
As well as Churchtown, there were vicarages in Crossens and Banks.
Parts of the parish were almost completely surrounded by water until 1692 when Thomas Fleetwood of Bank Hall cut a channel to drain Martin Mere to the sea.
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The population was scattered thinly across the region and it was at the northeast end of Otergimele (present day Crossens), where blown sand gave way to alluvial deposits from the River Ribble estuary, that a small concentration of people occurred.