At only 21 miles long The Sefton Coastal Path hardly qualifies for a long distance walk category. In the past I would have happily seen this as a one day challenge, but in my maturity I’m happy to take a couple of leisurely days over it – one of my two-day classics. [must link in the numerous others]
I’m setting off again without a map but I’ve a decent leaflet from Sefton Council which should see me through. I met my Waterloo at the bus stop and walked down to the beach to be alarmed by the sight of men standing up to their necks in the water. And there more some on the beach and others with their heads disappearing under the waves. In fact there were a hundred [I didn’t count them] all part of Anthony Gormley’s installation of ‘Another Place’. A brave man to depict all those identical nude images of himself. Not being one who is comfortable in water I found the statues disturbing, I am not in the best of places.
In the background were the industrial cranes of Liverpool, or more precisely Bootle, Docks and a constant stream of boats being escorted up the Mersey. A cold wind from the south was behind me as I marched along the beach and then the prom with all the dogs and their ‘masters’.
Once out of Crosby the path headed off across dunes but all was not as it should be – the edge of the coast was eroding away and exposing building rubble not sand. The local coast guard out on patrol explained that postwar the debris of the heavy bombing of the city was dumped here to help shore up the sea defences and now those weathered bricks were resurfacing. What a history they must have.
I blindly followed the surfaced track which took me inland to Hightown, there had been no waymarking as such and I realised I was following a cycle route. I could have continued along the coast for more pleasant walking and this slowly dawned on me as I progressed over the two days. I might as well say it now The Sefton Coastal Path as promoted is a rather boring cycle route and a far better walking route could be devised, I made it up as I went along with varying degrees of success. So that is why I was walking through a housing estate trying to see the coast. At the first opportunity I turned west and for a while walked alongside the Alt River but red flags were flying with a lot of gunfire. It didn’t need much persuading to walk around the perimeter of Altcar Training Camp. The next fenced in stretch by the railway was uninspiring with explosions to my left and emptiness to my right, I felt isolated and vulnerable.
As soon as I could I escaped out onto the Formby dunes, there were paths everywhere and I ended up on one going to the Devil’s Hole, an extensive crater in the dunes thought to have been started by a wayward German bomb and carved out over the years by the wind, the largest ‘blow out’ in Britain. Coming through the dunes I was onto the beach with views back to Liverpool Docks, across to Wales and Anglesey, and out to wind turbines in the open sea, the whole creating a sense of immense space.
The sense of space was enhanced as the tide was way out with an extensive stretch of sand in front of me and I was able to walk three miles up the beach. At the high tide mark were thousand of empty Razor Clams apparently washed ashore in recent high winds, crunchy walking.
Most of the time I had the beach to myself but there was always a gaggle of people and dogs where a path through the dunes led to a car park. Yes that is Blackpool Tower in the distance. The low light was constantly changing as clouds drifted across the sun.It was time for a spot of dune walking on the edge of the pine forests famous for their Red Squirrel population. I found a maze of paths, didn’t see a squirrel and eventually followed a route inland through the mixed woods and across a golf course to Freshfield station as darkness was approaching.
A train whisked me one stop down the line to Formby where I enjoyed an excellent airbnb. https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/18223313