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Sunday, 27 November 2016

Walk 199 Crosby to Liverpool

Walk 199 Crosby to Liverpool

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 108
Distance: 10 miles or 16 km approx
Difficulty: Easy mainly flat.
Terrain: coastal path, road walking (tedious at times)
Access: Parking in both places
Public transport: Frequent trains run between Hall Road Station (to the north of) Crosby and Liverpool Central.

The walk between Formby and Crosby is best avoided because of the dangerous areas that contain military rifle ranges leaving little access to the coast. The walk therefore starts to the north of Crosby on the coast near Hall Road Station.

The major feature of the Blundell Sands at Crosby is ‘Another Place’. This is a set of 100 life size sculptures of men looking out to sea. They are spaced out on 3 kilometres of beach and up to I km out at sea. They are secured on solid foundations and are cast iron replicas of the artist, Anthony Gormley. Some have become submerged and are gaining character as they are affected by the elements. See photograph underneath.

Crosby itself goes back to Viking times and the name originally meant ‘village of the cross’. Several well known people come from the area including Kenny Everett and Anne Robinson – Cherie Blair went to school here. Follow the cycle path down to Waterloo. On the opposite bank are the buildings of Wallasey.

The path skirts the Marine Lake before cutting inwards near Seaforth. Look out for the large mural which tells the story of the area between 1900 and 1914. It pictures The Dockers Umbrella, an overhead railway for dock workers, which was demolished in 1970. Also featured are The Titanic (many officers and crew lived nearby), old trams and a bathing machine.

From here on the walk to Bootle is a bit of a slog. The pavement is alongside a very busy and noisy main road. The docks and shipyards once stretched for ten miles but are now mostly concentrated on the Bootle waterfront. It is impossible to miss the busy entrance to The Port of Liverpool which deals with grain and containers (recently expanded and updated, I understand). Once the second biggest port by tonnage handled, Liverpool is now the seventh busiest.

Just before the Sandhills area, turn left along the A5038 which is a quieter road with more interesting buildings to see. Follow this road all the way into Liverpool. Many derelict buildings were evident when I walked this stretch. On a more positive note, on the River Mersey Side, the impressive Jesse Hartley Clocktower can be viewed through gaps in the walls/buildings. Built in 1848 it is also known as Victoria Tower and served as an aid to ships with accurate time and weather warnings. Look out for Stanley Dock on the left hand side of the road. This was also designed by Hartley and opened in 1848. It looked rather derelict when I walked past but it is a Grade 2 listed building purported to be the biggest brick building in the world with 27 million bricks. On the right hand side of the road is the old entrance to Clarence Dock (named after the Duke of Clarence who became William 1V). The dock was filled in 1929, then a power station was built on the site, then this was demolished in 1990. A plaque on the old dock wall explains that through the dock gates poured most of the 1,300,000 Irish migrants who fled the Great Famine between in Ireland between 1845 and 1852.

Further along, at the end of the road, is the modern frontage at Princes Dock- this area was redeveloped from the 1821 old docks.

The walk finishes at The Royal Liver Building – an iconic structure overlooking The Mersey. This is a Grade 1 listed building of 1911 and still houses The Royal Liver Assurance Group. It was one of the first buildings in the World to use reinforced concrete and was the tallest building in the UK until 1961. Be sure too look out for the Liver Bird sculptures on top of the building. This building and the tow next to it - The Cunard Building and The Port of Liverpool Building are known as The Three Graces.

More about Liverpool on the next walk.

Photos show: Another Place, Crosby - one of the sculptures, others in the background; the mural near Seaforth; Stanley Docks building, Liverpool; Jesse Hartley tower; Liver Building.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Walk 198 Southport to Formby (Lancs)

Walk 198 Southport to Formby (Lancs)

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 108
Distance: 13 miles or 20km approx
Difficulty: Easy, flat although if the tide is in and you have to walk along the dunes it could be more challenging
Terrain: coastal path, sand and pavement.
Access: Parking in both places
Public transport: Trains run between Southport and Formby

Most of the coast is inaccessible between Freckleton, Preston and beyond so I started the walk at Southport. It is worthwhile having a look around Southport before venturing on to the coastal walk.

Southport was founded in 1792. When an innkeeper built a bathing house here in the 19th century it became popular with tourists due to its easy access from the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. In 1886 the worst lifeboat disaster in history occurred near the town when 28 lifeboat crew were drowned attempting to help a cargo ship.

The elegant, tree lined Lord Street in Southport, with its landmark war memorial and shops, is of particular interest. Napoleon 3rd lived here before returning to France to become emperor in 1851. It is thought that the boulevards, covered walkways and shopping arcades in Paris were inspired by Lord Street.

Walk out of the town towards the Marine Lake going past the Queen Victoria Statue and on to the Marine Lake Promenade. A stroll northwards up this road past the casino is the old Southport Promenade Hospital, a grade 2 listed building of 1852. It is now luxury apartments but was an important military convalescent hospital during the world wars, then a specialist unit for spinal and orthopaedic injuries. It closed in 1990. On a lighter note, The Lakeside Inn, which was closed when I was there in 2013, claims to be the smallest pub in Britain with a bar of just 22 feet by 16 feet – I am not sure whether it still holds the record.

Cross the impressive Marine Lake Bridge and down the road to the pier. The lake opened in 1887 and is one of the largest man made leisure lakes in England.

A stroll just north of the pier gives a good view over the sands back to the River Ribble and Lytham. The pier, built in 1860, is a listed structure and starts a fair bit inland. It is the second longest pier in the UK after Southend and one of the first to be constructed using iron. Like most piers, it suffered a fire which caused it to be shortened. It was restored in the early 2000s after there were plans to demolish it. A tram runs from Southport Promenade to the end. This was originally installed to transport luggage from steam ships which stopped at the end of the pier.

The walk follows the road southwards and, providing the tide is out, there are 7 miles of golden sands to enjoy. The beach is popular with horse racing stables who use it for training; the three time Grand National Winner, Red Rum was often to be seen here. The sands have also been used for attempts at the land speed record.

Further down the promenade, look out for the structure which marks the end of the Trans Pennine Walking and Cycling Trail. It goes across the country finishing at Hornsea on the East Yorkshire coast. According to the information board much of it is surprisingly flat.

Continue the walk to Ainsdale on the Pennine Trail which runs parallel to the road. (It may be possible to walk along the dunes instead). On the roundabout at Ainsdale-on-Sea (Shore Road) there is a sculpture of an aircraft which commemorates ‘The Coronation Flight’ of May 1937. This was an important 24 hour transatlantic flight to New York by a twin engine monoplane which took off from the nearby sands. It became known as the Coronation Flight as the pilot was commissioned to transport newsreel coverage of the coronation of George V1. The nearby lake, which is part of the Sands Lake Nature Trail, is a good place to stop for a rest.

Near to the Velvet Trail (a circular walk) is access to the beach. I walked along the beach from here to Formby Point. Unusually, there are finger posts in the sand indicating paths inland. At Formby Point there is one marked into the town. Red squirrels live in the dunes. Christmas trees are donated to the National Trust and planted in the dunes to help prevent erosion of the sand dunes. The beach here is the location of the first lifeboat station in 1776. The last launch took place in 1916.

Further along the beach MOD notices warn of the dangerous rifle ranges. The noise of rifle fire gives fair warning!

Formby is a well off area with many Everton and Liverpool footballers choosing to live here. The ukulele player and comedian George Formby adopted the name of the town while waiting for a train.

Photos show: a view along Southport Pier with tram tracks; the marker at Southport Beach for the end of the Trans Pennine Walking and Cycling Trail; aircraft sculpture at Ainsdale; path signpost on the beach walk to Formby Point.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Walk 197 Blackpool to Freckleton (Lancs)

Walk 197 Blackpool to Freckleton (Lancs)

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 102
Distance: 15 miles or 25km approx
Difficulty: Easy, flat
Terrain: coastal path and pavement.
Access: Parking in both places
Public transport: 68 bus goes frequently between the two towns and takes about an hour

Start out at The Blackpool Tower which is well worth a visit (on another day). Don’t miss the ballroom and viewing platform as the views down the coast are stunning. The tower was opened in 1894 and was Britain’s highest building (518 feet) for many years. It is based on the Eiffel Tower and is made from 5 million bricks, 2500 tons of iron and 93 tons of cast steel. It is not free standing – the base is hidden by a building which houses the Tower Circus. There is a 7 year cycle of repair work undertaken by workers known as ‘stick men’.

On the promenade, near the tower, is The Comedy Carpet, a paved area which features jokes and catchphrases by over 1000 comedians. Good fun.

The walk from here south is known as The Golden Mile and includes Madame Tussaud’s waxworks as well as traditional seaside attractions. I went when the famous illuminations were on and although this can be a good time to visit it is a bit chancy with the weather. The town developed in the nineteenth century as developers saw the potential for cheap holidays aimed at low paid Lancashire mill workers and their families. The resort was greatly enhanced by the arrival of the railway.

About half a mile south of the tower is The Central Pier. In contrast to the more genteel North Pier the emphasis here is more on fun. It was built in 1864 and a Ferris wheel was added in 1990. Further down is The South Pier, also known as Victoria Pier, was originally intended to be more upmarket when built in 1893 but now contains a number of rides.

After a short walk the path moves away from the sea and passes Blackpool Pleasure Beach. This is the most visited tourist attraction in the UK and is in the top twenty amusement parks in the world. The slogan outside says: ‘See it, feel it, love it’. It was founded in 1896 and the scary ‘Big One’ was opened in 1994 – it was the tallest and fastest in the world at the time. Definitely not for me!

Returning to the promenade look out for the sculpture constructed in 2002 called ‘They shoot horses don’t they’. It is the world’s largest mirror ball and has 45000 mirror tiles. The name refers to the 1969 film about dance marathons of the American Depression; it links with Blackpool’s strong dance traditions.

After about half a mile the walk continues along the main road which is rather tedious. It may be possible to walk along the sand dunes but the wind was whipping sand up so I did not try it.

Just before the pier in Lytham St Annes is a specially commissioned sensory garden with a larger than life statue of the comedian Les Dawson. He lived in the town with his wife and daughter and described it as ‘so posh that when we eat cod and chips we wear yachting caps’. The town, which is also known as St Annes on Sea, was a planned development which opened in 1875. In recent times it has been an international centre for sand yachting activity but this was suspended in 2002 when a visitor was killed by a sand yacht. St Annes was the original centre for premium bonds – this has now been moved to Blackpool.

At Fairhaven Marine Lake and Gardens there is an impressive full size replica of a Spitfire. This is a tribute to airmen from the area lost in World War 2. The salt water lake built at the end of the 19th century is an important wildfowl habitat. Back inland is an interesting white structure. I took a walk up to have a look. It is the Fairhaven United Reform Church which opened in 1912 and known locally as The White Church. It imitates Byzantine architecture and is probably a unique place of worship in the UK.

Continue along to Lytham and its landmark windmill. It was built in the 19th century and functioned until 1919 when a gale caused a fire. It was restored in 1988 and now houses a museum telling the history of milling. The town overlooks the estuary of the River Ribble. Lytham was for many years dependent on fishing and shrimping then grew when seaside cures and tourism became popular. Now it is one of the wealthiest areas of Lancashire partly due to highly paid jobs at nearby BAE Systems.

Follow the Coastal Way out of Lytham, across the bridge and alongside the marsh to Warton Bank. The path skirts around Warton Aerodrome which was a depot for the US Air Force in World War 2. An air disaster in 1944 occurred when an aircraft attempting to land crashed into a school killing 61 people including 38 children. BAE took over the airfield in the 1960s and became its testing facility. High speed aircraft wreck the peaceful walk at times.

Take care with the walk into Freckleton as parts of it are difficult to identify and there is some very marshy ground nearby.

Photos show: a view south from the Blackpool Tower; 'They shoot horses don't they' glass sculpture in south Blackpool; Les Dawson sculpture, Lytham St Annes; Spitfire memorial, Fairhaven Marine Lake; windmill at Lytham.