Bear with me, if anything interesting happens on one of these local walks from home I will let you know. Today was a grey day and I left Longridge at noon to wander some lanes and footpaths between here and Goosnargh.
I met a lady who was incensed that a dog had scratched her piece of lawn on the roadside, it looked innocuous to me. I suspect she would not be a good neighbour. A cyclist passed me on Ashley Lane. I left the road at Stump Cross and walked through the egg factory of Field Foot Farm and then on through boggy fields towards the church in Goosnargh.
Another quiet lane with horse riders led on to Broadeth Lane and then Ford Lane. I dread to think what this would be like if it was up to the 6-foot level. New House Farm is possibly one of the oldest in the district. The Cottage restaurant is a throw back to the 50s, prawn cocktails, chicken in a basket and sherry trifle. I diverted to have a look at Hill Chapel, another RC established from the C18th and run for many years by Franciscan and then Benedictine monks. There is some history at – http://www.stfrancisgoosnargh.org.uk/ Walking around the graveyard I came across the recent grave of a friend of mine, a sad reminder of his vivid personality.
Next I walked through the grounds of the fishing lakes owned by Horns Dam. The dam was originally the water source for Goosnargh Cotton Mill which I had passed earlier in the day. I knew the next stretch through fields that have been divided up with electric fences for the nearby horse stables would annoy me. And it did. I have complained to the authorities about the loss of public rights of way in this location but nothing seems to have been done.
What is it about dog walkers? This stretch seemed to be inundated with them in all shapes and sizes, usually the dogs get more exercise than their owners.
The first person I asked for directions strangely didn’t have a dog, but nonetheless he gave me advice about getting round the beach to Red Rocks. It had rained all night and it was difficult to tell if the tide was in or out so I quickly walked round Hoylake beach to reach these rocks. Expecting a cliff they turned out to be no more than a platform of reddish sandstone. Inland was now The Royal Liverpool Golf Course more commonly called Hoylake when I have watched the Open on TV. Not much could be seen over the dunes and I didn’t spot anybody famous.
The second man had one dog and gave me good advise about traversing the dunes and information on walking out [at low tide] to the three islands Little Eye, Little Hilbre and Hilbre less than a mile off the coast at West Kirby. I think summer would be the time to return, they looked totally inaccessible today with wind blowing up the waves.The weather took a turn for the worse and I was fairly miserable as I walked the promenade on the landside of the Marine Lake, people using the path on the seaward side looked in danger of being swamped and there was not a boat in sight. My saviour came in the shape of Tanskey’s Bar which was open at 9.30 [despite the staff having a hangover from last night’s Christmas Party] and served me a wonderful coffee, with classy background music, whilst I dried out. These little cafes are a treasure, I notice they even have a classic cinema evening with food once a month.
Refreshed I navigated round some expensive real estate and sailing clubs to the start of The Wirral Way which follows the abandoned railway line calling at all stations to Hooton through the Wirral Country Park along the Dee Estuary. It was now full steam ahead on the flat straight trail. Passing through the exclusive looking Caldy Golf Course, bridges passed regularly and an old station platform appeared at Thurstaston.Getting bored with the railway I wandered through fields onto a cliff top path which gave me views across the Dee to Wales. Committed to this path I followed it to steps leading down through the loose red sandstone cliffs and on to the sandy beach. Turn left and walk along the shore was my only option, ahead I could see a boat on a ‘side stream’ of the Dee. From the map there was no obvious way off the beach.
But I met a man with two dogs, we chatted about Liverpool, Thurstaston and Thor’s Rock which I had wanted to visit. Its some distance inland and hence an excuse to return to this delightful area. More importantly he showed me the way, by a little path, off the beach to regain the Wirral Way. After more marching along the railway and then nondescript streets saw me hemmed in at Neston Golf Course, I felt the need to rejoin the river. The couple with three dogs showed me a lane towards the estuary which when I reached it had become an extensive salt march. There was evidence of stonework of ancient quays from before the silting up of this area. A birdwatcher reported peregrines but none of the harriers he had come to see. Lanes then took me to the ‘sea front’ promenade at Parkgate, Neston. There was previously a port with links to Ireland but gradually this silted up in the 19th century, this also put paid to the local bathing. All that remains is the stone sea wall and some elegant houses on the ‘promenade’ – rather surreal. However today it is still popular for its pubs and eateries and for the birdwatchers who come at high tide which sometimes floods the salt marches. Here the Wirral Way turns inland, still faithfully following the old railway which closed in 1962.
The silted up River Dee.
After a few more streets built on the line I found myself in a kilometre long, stone cutting completed in 1866. This was an amazing place. Quarried sandstone cliffs enclose the track and you can see the marks of the picks used to carve it out. Also featured are areas of ripple sediments known as ‘current bedding’. Ferns bedeck the walls and tree roots seek weaknesses in the sandstone. Met a man with three greyhounds who was equally enthusiastic about the place, he was interested in my walk and I was beginning to unravel the ‘scouse’ accent.
Once out of the cutting I was surrounded by green fields and horses of the Cheshire countryside. A lady jogging towards me had four dogs – the record – and as she bent down to ‘poo scoop’ explained it kept her hands warm, rather her than me. I was transported back to my youth at Willaston where Hadlow Road station has been ‘preserved’ giving a real sense of past travel on the railways. A last rural stretch through trees saw me chugging in to the platform at Hooton station for my modern train journey back to Preston.I found the Wirral a fascinating area with lots of hidden gems. A good way to spend a couple of days and avoid the Xmas shopping .
Despite its proximity I’ve not visited the Wirral Peninsular very often, I remember once going to Ness Botanic Gardens to buy some rhododendrons and magnolia. They are still thriving in my garden. But there are two walks which combined seem to highlight the best of this peninsular – the North Wirral Coastal Path and the Wirral Way. Due to the weather and Lake District flooding I thought now was a good time to explore.
Could have subtitled this as ‘Ferry across the Mersey’ but opted for a more practical train journey under the river. I wish I had taken the ferry as it would have made a superb start to the day. Too late now as I watch from this side the ‘Dazzle’ ferry heading across with the famous Liverpool sky line behind. The Three Graces are being overshadowed by elegant modern buildings. The day is overcast.The Wallasey promenade stretches before me and opposite are the remnants of the once mighty Liverpool and Bootle dockyards. Few cranes remain now but on this side of the river are poignant reminders of their wartime duties. Plaques have been put on the sea wall to honour the many boats lost in both wars, each plaque placed opposite the dock where the sinking took place.
As New Brighton approached there were avenues of houses from more opulent times. New Brighton had its hay days either side of WW2. Ferries from Liverpool stopped sailing in 1971 and the famous Open Air Bathing Pool closed in 1990. There has been an attempt to regenerate the area but mainly by building new retail outlets, Brand New Brighton. The past is remembered at Fort Perch Rock and Rock Lighthouse.
Lighthouse and Fort with shipyards across the river.
Leaving the mouth of the river and turning along the north coast brought a change of character. Inland suburbia was replaced by sand dunes and a bracing sea breeze. Sand had been blown and deposited everywhere. The tide was retreating and flocks of birds were feeding at its edge – oyster catchers, redshanks, knots, turnstones and others – I had forgotten my binoculars. I was able to walk along the beach on firm sand, a change of surface. Crunchy empty Razor Clams were everywhere. Out to sea were lines of wind turbines.Clambering back up to the sea wall there is a golf links course in the dunes, a ruined ‘Mockbeggar Wharf’ and another redundant lighthouse passed, the Welsh Hills were glanced in the late afternoon sunshine. Small fishing boats waited on the beach.Housing reappeared and Hoylake was reached. Next to the modern lifeboat house a couple of intrepid sailors were fighting the wind across the pond. An information plaque relates some of the tragedies at sea. Nearby an ornate cast iron drinking fountain erected in 1901 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.Xmas parties were in full swing at my hotel for the night, but needless to say I experienced friendly Merseyside hospitality. Thank you Green Lodge Hotel.