A week that not only involved walking but also catching up with old friends and family.
I have been very lucky to have been hosted by several, old and new, friends as I have made my way down the NW coast (including the IOM). Staying with friends makes a huge difference to my trip, both in terms of admin (e.g. getting washing done) and, more importantly, my emotional well-being. It can get lonely on my own and seeing friends is a huge fillip.
The Wales Coastal Path seems to be well signposted so far. It is 870 miles long so it’s unlikely I’ll get to the end before Christmas.
I left Ivor’s house and caught the train back to Moreton on The Wirral.
It was a fine and calm day so the sea was like glass as I walked along the front at Hoylake.
I could see Wales pretty clearly and in between were 3 small islands at the mouth of The Dee. I was surprised to see houses on the largest island, Hilbre, which was cut off from Wirral by the high tide.
This is a great place to come and see migrating birds in the Autumn and there were several hundred Oystercatchers on the shore.
The sun came out and I had a lovely walk along the edge of the marshland bordering The Dee as far as West Kirby. Here I was due to collect some more maps so I headed into the picturesque little town and missed walking around Marine Lake: a man-made salt water lake with quite a small border that separates it from the Dee estuary.
West Kirby was quaint, busy and friendly. The lady in the Post Office was very friendly but, yet again, my maps had been sent away. I have lost all confidence in the Post Office as none of the staff I meet know the service they are supposed to provide and they agree things on the telephone that they later deny. Very frustrating.
From West Kirby I picked up after Wirral Way, a path following an old railway line located in Britain’s first Country Park (designated in 1968). Much of this path is in the trees and the coastline is not visible, but it was a nice walk. I did try walking a section along the shore but it was quite difficult walking on the edge of marsh through huge reeds so I abandoned that idea.
Neston is the last town on the Wirral coastline and here I met up with my Aunt and Uncle. I had decided to finish my Wirral walk here and to avoid the road walk across the border into Wales. Luckily for me Esta and Alan offered to drive me into Wales tomorrow.
On the way back to their house they kindly diverted into Chester city centre so I could buy some more maps. This is getting rather expensive for the Post Office to keep refunding me for lost maps!
Kathrine’s house looks across the dunes at the Irish Sea and the busy shipping lane heading into Liverpool docks. The geese were on the move in the morning and I headed past the sailing club and onto the beach. I had been advised only to walk as far as the docks and then to get the train from Waterloo into Liverpool.
It was a lovely walk along the beach and the promenade, past Crosby. The Burbo wind farm was in the distance and huge ships kept passing.
As I approached the docks it looked like there were people going for a swim in the sea. In fact they looked like they were heading determinedly into the water as if they were going to swim to Wales (or else to drown themselves).
These are The Iron Men: Anthony Gormley’s sculpture, Another Place. There are 100 iron figures on the beach and they are quite an attraction; lots of people were out looking at them.
I left the beach, walked to Waterloo train station and caught the train through Bootle to the centre of Liverpool. I could have stayed on the train and gone to Wallasey, but why would I do that when I could get the famous ferry across The Mersey? Walking down to the ferry port I saw the beautiful part of the city with its talk, elegant buildings like the Cunard Building and the Liver Building.
I was just in time to catch the Dazzle Ferry. The regular Mersey ferry had been painted in dazzling colours and patterns in honour of the WW2 dazzle patterns.
The ferry was packed with tourists and it gives a guided tour of Liverpool and Wallasey landmarks (after playing the first few bars of its own song).
We docked at Seacombe and I stopped for a coffee before walking alongside the river to New Brighton, the right hand tip of the Wirral. The walk was signposted with bits of art and things to look at.
New Brighton was once a bustling holiday resort but I didn’t stop for candy floss or a tour of Fort Perch Rock, the small fort built to help repeal a possible Napoleonic invasion.
I rounded the corner of the River Mersey and headed halfway along the Wirral coastline as far as Leasowe train station. The coastline was rather barren on a grey afternoon, looking at grey water and with grey buildings behind the grey concrete path around the edge.
At least Wirral has a designated Wirral Circular Trail that is a 37 mile long circumferential path taking inthe 3 sides of the peninsula and heading across-country to join them up.
My walk through Leasowe showed me one of the less affluent parts of the Wirral; no hint of seaside living here.
I caught the train back under The Mersey to Liverpool and then on to Runcorn to meet up with Ivor. I’d promised to visit Ivor on my way and he very kindly offered to put me up for the night, even though he’s just turned 90. We went out for a lovely dinner with his son and grandson and their wives.
It was very cold last night and I didn’t manage much sleep. My sleeping bag was damp and the tent was soaked. I was keen to get out of the horrible campsite so I was away as quickly as possible and caught a bus into Preston to avoid walking the main road. I didn’t see much of Preston but I did make my way out of the bus station and into a shopping precinct to get a coffee in between buses.
I had decided I would not bother walking the mixture of roads and paths along the River Ribble as it didn’t look that exciting and I wanted to reach Hightown. So I caught a bus to Crossens, the first town in the borough of Sefton. I had reached Merseyside.
I walked around the corner of the River Ribble, so I could look back across at Blackpool, and then I was on Marine Drive, the coast road to Southport. The road must be built on sand because it’s quite bumpy. The sky was getting very dark and it looked rain but fortunately I escaped and the wind blew the cloud inland before it dumped its contents on someone else.
The Marshside RSPB Nature Reserve is situated on the corner between the Ribble and the Irish Sea, and there were several birders out today. Southport is set back from the sea and its buildings look quite grand from a distance; a contrast to the funfairs and garishness of the sea front.
I walked past Southport on the promenade and then diverted onto a footpath through the dunes. The sun came out and I had a lovely, peaceful walk hidden from everything except the sound of the sea.
After about an hour I popped out onto the beach and walked the rest of the way to Formby along the beach. The sand is beautifully fine (which makes it hard to walk) and the dunes are big; it reminded me of Aberdeen’s beach.
I reached Formby and diverted off the beach here in the hope of seeing a red squirrel in the reserve. It wasn’t my lucky day but the Asparagus Walk through the Jubilee Wood pine trees was lovely nonetheless. This part of Formby used to have big asparagus farms.
I used to play hockey here in Formby and I had forgotten just what a lovely town it is. It really is a gem on this coastline.
The coast path diverted inland alongside the railway line in order to skirt around the Altcar Army Range. I arrived at Hightown and Kathrine met me. Tina Cullen came round for tea and I had a great evening catching up with old friends, 17 years after I left the hockey club here.