Tag Archives: Two-day walks.

THE SEFTON COASTAL PATH. Formby to Crossens.

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.

Simple but very effective stile on NE Reserve.

I don’t want to be here…

… or here.

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.

What’s the history of this case?

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.

Start of the Trans Pennine Trail.

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.

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THE SEFTON COASTAL PATH. Waterloo to Formby.

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

*****