Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label Wirral. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wirral. Show all posts

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Friday 28 June 2019 - Around Hoylake, and a visit to Hilbre Island

This was a walk taken from Jen Darling's . Five of us - me, Cary, Jeanette, Paul and Laura assembled in Hale for a ride in P&J's Espace, to Royden Park (SJ 246 858) at Frankby near Hoylake.
It was a lovely, cloudless day. Soon after our 10am departure following an hour's drive, we passed a very active riding school where there were signposts to the 'Nose Bag Cafe'. Unable to resist the temptation, we sought out the refreshments from the café, which turned out to be the Larton Café.
(NB - for a slideshow, just click on an image and then scroll through the pictures.)
Various paths, mainly beside fields of crops such as broad beans, took us all the way to Hoylake.
En route, we passed China Plate Farm.

The coat of arms, the date of 1753, and the initials TIE appear on a plaque on the farmhouse, the plaque appearing to comprise a china plate.

Further on, after crossing several stiles, we discovered that not all of them were in current use.

Next to Kings Gap, in Hoylake, the Green Lodge Hotel could be worth a visit on a day when the weather was not so clement.

Kings Gap, to the right of the hotel, was apparently the route taken by the Royal escort for the purpose of boarding ships when Hoylake was a port from which armies sailed to Ireland.
In bygone days, when a giant sandbank created a deep water anchorage for sea going vessels, Hoylake was used by armies, such as the army of 10,000 men who in 1690 sailed to win the Battle of the Boyne under the command of William III - an event often blamed for the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland.
Our route turned left, passing impressive houses on the right, including this old lighthouse that has been incorporated into a private residence, and the prestigious Royal Liverpool Golf Course on the left, before reaching the beach.

The sands here are extensive. We went over to Hilbre Point for a look at Red Rocks, which appear below as a black smudge in the middle distance.

Here are the rest of the team on Hilbre Point.

Hilbre Island looked a long way off, but it was just 2 km across the firm sands left by the receding tide.

The sand was beautifully textured in places.

The next picture was taken as we were getting close to the island.

There were some puddles to negotiate. Cary paddled, the rest of us jumped.

Once on the island it's a short walk past fading Thrift and vibrant Bird's-foot Trefoil (amongst numerous wild flowers) to a sheltered picnic spot at the far end of the island in view of the inquisitive seal population. There were slightly hazy views to the skyscrapers of Liverpool in one direction, and the mountains of North Wales in the other direction.

The remains of a building and a boat ramp indicate that this may once, a long time ago, have been a lifeboat station.

We strolled back past the red rocks of Hilbre Island.

Hilbre Island does in fact incorporate a series of islands. We took a direct line to West Kirby, via the next island, imaginatively named 'Little Hilbre Island' - in view across a sandy causeway.

The walk along South Parade in West Kirby could have been varied by walking around the Marine Lake, but we were glad to be out of the stiff breeze, and most of us appreciated an ice cream.
We continued along the coast by way of a lovely woodland path, The Wirral Way, that follows the course of a disused railway. Calm, warm, green and very lush in here.

Eventually we turned away from the coast to return to our starting point via the pretty village of Caldy, reached via a lovely sandstone track bordered by a high wall.
There's a war memorial next to the church, and an impressive old house the other side of the church.

The remainder of the route took us along pleasant bridleways through mixed woodland and past impressive 'footballers' mansions'. My companions for the day kindly posed for me in the sun dappled light of Stapledon Wood, from where easy paths led back to Royden Park via a short break to finish our provisions and for Jeanette to receive a back massage.

Here's our route (click on the map for a bigger version). It was a shade over 20 km, with 150 metres ascent, taking us well under six hours, including breaks.

A lovely day out. Thanks for your company, folks. There will be a short walk around Styal next Friday, but I won't be organising one the following Friday.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Thursday 29 August 2013 – An Evening Stroll from the Harp Inn


It didn’t look quite like this photo taken in March 2011, but the weather was fine and warm for this last ‘daylight’ evening walk of the season.  It was just that I was so pleased that Andrew and Judith had turned up for a walk on which we had expected no company that I forgot to take any photos until it got dark.

This is an area rich with history and wildlife, as described in more detail in my entry from March 2011.

Today, from the benches pictured, a bird of prey could be seen along the shore towards Neston, engaged in a contretemps with a crow.  This brought a number of complete strangers into animated conversation, and as we had brought along both binoculars and Tony Bowerman’s excellent books, it didn’t take long to establish that the bird was a Hen Harrier.  Several people scribbled ‘Tony Bowerman’ on scraps of paper – I hope their searches for his out of print books bear fruit.

I didn’t get a chance to chat much to Judith after this year’s TGO Challenge, on which she only bumped into two other Challengers before entering the ruckus at Montrose, so it was good to catch up.  Her Challenge reports are here – a good read.  Had she been on her own tonight, Judith would perhaps have been shunned, as she was sporting plasters that some may have found suspicious, arising from abortive attempts to extract blood from several appendages.

“I’ve been declared ‘anaemic’” she announced.

Later the real reason for her motivation to join us became apparent.  She is engaged in a pedometer contest with two work colleagues.

I don’t quite know how, but armed with a flimsy scrap of paper showing the route portrayed below, we did manage to follow the blue line fairly precisely, despite night descending.  One section was along a deserted old railway line.  We were hemmed in by a deep cutting, with verdant late summer undergrowth. Andrew and Sue were discussing grizzly murder scenarios. A blinding light appeared.  Hearts fluttered. 

The sound of “Good evening” as the cyclists sped past relieved any tension.  We got used to these polite encounters and slowly made our way around the 7 km route and back to the friendly pub for a second round of Holt’s Best.


Postscript: Humphrey’s Pyrenean Adventure

Some will recall or be aware that TGO Challenger Humphrey is enjoying a couple of weeks in the Pyrenees.  He doesn’t write a blog and enjoys solitude on such trips.  He is walking GR10 from Etsaut to Luchon and has managed to negotiate the serious snowfields of Hourquette d’Arre which Sue and I avoided.  “Oh Boy!” he reports.  By now he will have passed through Barèges and past the car park that houses huge piles of rubble that used to be the Hotel du Tourmalet.  He has been chatting to lots of locals – “the worst in living memory” – they say, when referring to the devastation caused by the weather during the first week of our own trip. 

The third week of June, 2013, and it's aftermath, will be long remembered in this part of the Pyrenees, in Spain as well as in France.

Hopefully Humphrey will be enjoying views like this one from Col d’Ispeguy in July 2004.


Monday, 4 April 2011

Thursday 31 March 2011 – An Evening Stroll around Parkgate and Neston

Sue, Andrew, Judith  and two Johns, after dusk at Denhall Quay

Six of us assembled at the Boat House in Parkgate for a pleasurable 8 km stroll.  Having postponed this walk from last week, we had the benefit of an hour of daylight, though our torches were never needed, even after dusk.

The usual trio of Sue and Andrew and me were joined tonight by Judith, who lives nearby, and the two Johns – JMcN having again succumbed to JJ’s powers of persuasion!

Apparently there has been an inn here since 1613, known at different times as the Beerhouse or Ferry House, and later as the Pengwern Arms.  There were large store houses for goods to be shipped to Ireland.  During the 1800s it was the arrival and departure point for ferries to Bagillt and Flint, across the estuary in North Wales.  Horse drawn carriages took passengers on to Liverpool and Chester.

The Boat House - rendezvous point

Parkgate promenade comprises a good kilometre of seafront, with cafés, pubs and shops crowding together for the view over the Dee estuary.

Ice cream shops feature heavily.

One of Parkgate's ice cream parlours

For those wishing to watch the sea lapping up to the edge of the promenade, you are out of luck.  The Dee used to be navigable up to Chester back in the fifteenth century, but the estuary has been silting up since the Middle Ages, so what used to be the Port of Chester gradually moved down the estuary to Shotwick, then Burton, then Denhall, then Neston, and finally to Parkgate.  That lasted for around 200 years, until the early 1700s, but the silt finally encroached on Parkgate.  A new channel was then cut on the Welsh side of the estuary from Chester to Connor’s Quay.

I can recommend the ice cream.

Ice cream on the promenade

At the far end of the promenade we passed the splendid black and white Mostyn House School – ‘An independent day school for children aged 4 to 18’.  It opened in 1855 and shut in 2010, its contents having recently been auctioned by Bonhams.

Mostyn House School

Beyond the promenade, planners have allowed housing to encroach upon the saltmarsh.  We passed in front of these houses on a boggy route through high reeds and grasses, before reaching the pleasant footpath that leads to Little Neston.  We were hoping to see short-eared owls, but had to be satisfied with a lone heron.  I’d seen egrets here on a recent visit.

The shore path to Neston Old Quay

I think the others would have walked past Neston Old Quay without noticing it, had I not pointed it out.  It doesn’t look much from the landward side, but the two metre (or more) wall you can see below stretches for a couple of hundred metres down the edge of the estuary from here.

Neston Old Quay

Continuing on in fading light (have you spotted that only the header image is contemporaneous?) we passed the site of a colliery and reached the far point of the walk – Denhall Quay, built in the 1760s to load Neston coal for export, mainly to Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Denhall Quay

The estuary had silted up hereabouts sufficient to stop the coal barges, by 1850, without which cheap transport the collieries were not really viable until the railway arrived in 1866.  The quay is also known as Lawton’s Quay, after a well-known wildfowler and punt builder who built his home on the derelict quay.  It’s a good viewpoint, with Moel Famau showing clearly behind the Welsh coastline across the estuary.  On a clear day, that is!

Denhall Quay

I don’t know how I’d managed to get the others past the Harp Inn on the way to Denhall Quay.  There had been a few moans, but not even Judith had managed to summon the effort to climb the sea wall to access the pub!

Anyway, they weren’t disappointed for two long, and we were soon enjoying the ale and the ambience of this old pub.  It was originally called the ‘Welch Harp’ and then the ‘Old Harp Inn’, and was a favorite watering hole for both wildfowlers and the Welsh, Lancashire and Staffordshire miners brought in to work at Neston Colliery.

The Harp Inn

The mines were first sunk around 1760.  At one time there were 90 pits hereabouts producing poor quality coal.  The levels ran up to 3 km out under the estuary and were often half flooded, with incredibly harsh conditions for the miners.  They finally closed in 1926, and there’s a photo in the Harp of miners coming off their final shift.

Whilst the colliery workings and spoil heaps were being buried under new housing estates, some of the miners went on to become shepherds, wildfowlers and fishermen – quite a contrast for them!

Reed buntings and reed warblers are to be seen in the various differing types of reed bed around here, but not today.

Estuary rushes

Our route retraced the path to the remains of Neston Old Quay.  It is very old.  Work began on this stone quay at the ‘New Haven’ in 1541, taking some forty years to complete because of the ‘economic situation’ of the time.  Its heyday, when it was known as Neston Quay, was in the 17th century.  The historian William Webb wrote in 1622 that the quay was ‘where our passengers to Ireland do so often lie awaiting the pleasure of the winds, which make many people better acquainted with the place than they desire to be’.

With the decline of the Port of Chester, and the establishment of Liverpool as a port rather than a small fishing creek, business here subsided and Neston Quay is hardly mentioned after the 1690s.

In 1779 the ruins were sold to local landowner Sir Roger Mostyn and much of the stone was used to built the sea wall at Parkgate.  At one time the depth of water off Neston Quay was over ten metres at spring tides; today it’s essentially dry land.

A solitary building once stood here.  An inn, which started before 1599 as a wooden house that later became a prison for smugglers, runaway servants, and religious recusants.  It was rebuilt in brick as the ‘Key House’ inn in the 1680s and was popular with travellers.  There’s no trace of it today, but in 1902 local colliers found a secret hiding place, perhaps used by smugglers, in the ruined chimney.

The Old Quay

Our path led in the dark, but not dark enough for torches, across a footbridge and through a couple of fields to gain the end of Old Quay Lane, that used to provide access to the Quay for passengers travelling between Chester and Ireland.

We left the lane almost immediately, turning right into a field where the residents seemed surprised to witness our nocturnal wanderings.

The horses thankfully showed no more than a mild curiosity, but it was too dark to admire the form of the shapely tree on this occasion.

Horses near Moorside Tree near Moorside

After a couple of fields we reached a wide track where a left turn, back towards Parkgate, was in order.

We had reached the route of the Wirral Way (more details are here), a well signed and surfaced route that leads walkers, cyclists and horse riders along the trackbed of the Hooton to West Kirby railway.  Opened in 1866, this was a branch of the main Chester to Birkenhead line, bringing townsfolk out to Parkgate and the seaside on Cheap Day Excursions.  It also served to supply those same townsfolk with produce from the Wirral – potatoes, milk, coal, etc.  But by 1962 the seaside resorts had silted up, the collieries had closed, and the fertile farmland was being covered by housing.  The line was closed and lay derelict until around 1969, when, as a result of much work, and funds from the Countryside Commission, the old railway line was opened as Wirral Country Park, the first Country Park in Britain.

Railway trackbed - Hooton to West Kirby

These days the sound of birdsong drowns the ghostly echo of steam trains, and wild flowers flourish in the cuttings and embankments.


We soon passed under this solid sandstone bridge; the railway ‘furniture’ remains satisfactorily intact despite its age.

Bridge dating from circa 1866

Modern day signage makes navigation simple hereabouts.

Modern day cycle way signs Wirral Way sign

But it was a little dark as we wandered along the old trackbed – it was 9.30 pm after all, and on crossing the B5134 road I managed to head on down a ginnel rather than along the old railway.

Anyway, after a bit of ducking and diving (no evening walk led by me would be complete without such an incident) we returned to the track, from where there are splendid views across the local fields that have so far survived the relentless march of the ‘developers’. 

View from course of old railway

Despite the wishes of a small splinter group who seemed to want to continue all the way to West Kirby, the desires of the more sedate members of our merry band prevailed, and we left the trackbed at Blackwood Hall Bridge.  A short stroll took us down to Gayton Sands Nature Reserve, and a car park that occupies the high ground above the estuary.  We failed to notice the two machine gun nest (‘pillbox’) beside the parking area that guards the road as it rises from the shore.

The lights of the Boat House beckoned across the marsh, and we were soon back at the start of this most pleasant evening stroll.

Approaching The Boat House from the north

Here’s our route - 8 km, 60 metres ascent, 2.7 hours including stops.

Our route - 8 km, 60 metres ascent, 2.7 hours including stops

Thanks, everyone, for making this a very enjoyable evening, and also to Tony Bowerman, whose book – ‘Walks in Mysterious Cheshire and Wirral’* (ISBN 978 0 9553557 0 7) furnished both the route and many of the words in this posting.

* Tony Bowerman’s books tend to go out of print.  They are true gems – purchase recommended.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Wednesday 9 March 2011 - Parkgate

The Harp Inn at Little Neston

Some time ago now, I enjoyed an 8 km stroll along the changing shore of Parkgate and Neston.  This area has undergone massive changes since the days nearly 300 years ago when it was a major seaport.

More of that later, after we’ve returned to repeat the walk on the evening of 31 March.  All are welcome.

We’ll be calling in at the Harp for a tipple, of course.

[Sorry about the delay – I’ve been wrestling with a lack of disc space/too many photos/etc – I really will try to catch up.  But we are out ‘Walkies’ again tomorrow…]

Postscript: Six of us did enjoy the evening walk, the report on which is here.  What we didn’t see on that walk were the egrets and the distinctive trill of the whirling curlew on the brisk wind that accompanied me on 9 March.