I’m the only person on the beach and I can hear music across the dunes, yes that is the ‘Last Post’ being played and I realise it is the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. What a place I’d found to quietly contemplate. Of course 2018 is 100 years since the end of WW1 and special events are being held, on the train this morning were army cadets off to one. I didn’t know at this time that back on Formby beach the face of one of the fallen soldiers was being temporally created in the sands. I’d arrived onto the southern end of Southport beach to escape the busy road I’d found myself walking on, another example of the present deficits of the Sefton Coastal Path.
An early start from my airbnb and I was back at Freshfield station and walking through the golf course which was already busy. In Ainsdale Dunes I followed the SCP as marked on my leaflet. This started really well through the woodland, no Red squirrels, and the undulating track was popular with dog walkers, runners and cyclists. The rain started heavily just as I emerged from the tree cover onto a less pleasant track so finding a marked trail leading back into the dunes and trees I blindly followed thinking it would take me back to the coast so I could avoid the busy coast road.
There were enticing tracks everywhere in this attractive wilderness and I somehow arrived at the depot of Natural England who care for the area. Sheltering under a store for a snack gave me time to speak to one of the wardens who admitted that it is a well kept secret. He pointed me on a way to the coast and I was back in the expansive dunes. Walking was not easy once the path was lost. As I headed for the coast I could see Pontins Holiday Camp looming in front of me and made the mistake of avoiding it on the right which had me alongside that busy road.
After the dismal looking Pontins I continued for 2 miles up the lonely beach towards the pier and then began to worry about getting back to solid land before the tide turned, there seemed to be a lot of marshy grassland to cross. What followed was not pleasant, 300m of bog hopping with some sizeable channels amongst the reeds, more serious than I thought. Time for a sit down and a sandwich – phew. Across the bay was Blackpool and Lytham, I’m just glad I won’t be attempting any more of the coast – too many inlets to negotiate. By now the tide had come right in to the sea wall and the sun had come out.
Here is the start of the Trans Pennine Cycling Trail and there were sculptures to mark it. Seaside resorts look empty in the winter but the boating lake was busy. An easy stretch along the promenade was marred by the constant traffic.
At the first opportunity I took a side road which gave access to a lovely footpath across a golf course and then into the RSPB’s Marshside Reserves. The afternoon was sunny by now and the paths were popular with locals and their dogs. On my right was a housing estate and on the left the marshy reserves with lots of distant bird life but without binoculars identification becomes guesswork. Ahead I could see the distant Bowland Fells which appeared giants in the clear sky. At the end a walk alongside a Ribble Estuary drainage channel brought me conveniently to my bus stop home.
Sefton Coastal Walk has been mixed with plenty of highlights and quite a few lows. Some of the latter were unavoidable and some were my mistake, a decent map would help as would waymarking through the forests and dunes, and local knowledge of the beaches and tides. I suspect it was designed by committee rather than enthusiastic walkers. Nonetheless a decent 23 mile walk fortunately blessed with decent weather.