THIS area is full of optimism at the moment. The beaches are starting to pass the European bathing water standards and Blackpool is set fair to become a major casino resort.

There is a tendency to compare all the other Fylde resorts with Blackpool but each is different and visitors should enjoy historic Lytham, the Victorian and especially Edwardian splendour of St Annes as well as the vibrancy of Blackpool.

Neither should the inland treasures be ignored, especially Kirkham and Wrea Green.

The first point of interest as Blackpool is approached from St Annes is the Pleasure Beach.

This year sees the 100th birthday of Mrs Doris Thompson, the Queen Mother of seaside entertainment.

The Thompson family has controlled the destiny of the beach since Alderman Bean (Mrs Thompson's father) began the operation.

Since it really got going around 1890 the Pleasure Beach has led the world, although it has never lost touch with its roots.

One of its first rides was Sir Hiram Maxim's Flying Machine and this structure has been going strong from the day it opened in 1904.

The focus of the town is, of course, the Tower which opened in 1894. Blackpool has always been a go-ahead place and in recent years successful attempts have been made to extend the season. The Illuminations obviously helped, but the recent proposals to create a casino culture are bound to be welcomed.

The only factor which Blackpool has never been able to switch on and control is the sun and the resort took pains to do battle with this particular demand..

Indoor attractions were obviously the answer, including Sun Centre, waxworks, a Sealife Centre and all of the Golden Mile attractions have an everlasting appeal.

The food at seaside resorts including Blackpool has often been criticised, usually by people who have never sampled what is on offer.

Some of the best seafood is on offer here and there are a number of excellent restaurants as well as traditional fast food outlets.

Blackpool's tram service has been successfully operating for more than a century and is a real institution which everyone hopes will go on forever.

The same must also be said for the three Blackpool piers.

The seaside pier is a typically British institution and each resort must fight hard to preserve its history.

Blackpool has never been slow to celebrate its history but neither has it been slow to deep in touch with very modern developments.

Its zoo is a valuable asset which began in the tower but now has its own large acreage close to Stanley Park.

The elephant houses were once the hangars occupied by Blackpool Airport, which is now situated at Squires Gate.

The park itself has been important to the residents and visitors to Blackpool since the 1920s and shows no signs of decreasing in importance.