Saturday, June 29, 2013

Walk 328 -- Wallasey to Neston

Ages:  Colin was 71 years and 52 days.  Rosemary was 68 years and 194 days.
Weather:  Mostly dry with some sun.  Occasional very slight drizzle which never came to anything.
Location:  Wallasey to Neston.
Distance:  16 miles.
Total distance:  3378 miles.
Terrain:  Concrete promenades.  Firm beach sand.  Cycle track on old railway.  Flat.
Tide:  Out, coming in this afternoon.
Rivers: None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  No.422 as we left West Kirby.
Pubs:  None.
‘English Heritage’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan which was on a small farm site in North Wales, near St Asaph.  This morning we drove to Neston where we parked on the water front, again for free!  We walked up to Neston town centre where we caught a bus to Birkenhead, then another bus to Wallasey village.  (We used our bus passes today, but we won’t be able to use them in Wales because they are for England only.)  We walked down to the seafront to where we finished the last Walk two days ago.
At the end we came, exhausted, to our car.  We had our tea and chocolate biscuits, then we drove back to the caravan in North Wales.

We sat in a shelter and ate our pies before we began today’s Walk.  The weather was much, much better than it was two days ago (well, it could hardly be worse, could it?) and we looked forward to a pleasant hike.  The visibility was so much better too, and, looking behind us, we could clearly see cranes etc at Liverpool Docks which were only a couple of miles away at most.  We watched a Stenaline ferry go out towards Belfast.  In the far distance to the north we could see an offshore windfarm.
The tide was out, so we went down on to the sand fairly soon.  Such a pleasure to walk along a sandy beach once again!  There was a plethora of razor shells, jellyfish and sea urchins on the sands, but we just crunched through them — it was impossible to avoid them.  There were lots of cyclists along the prom, so we much preferred being down on the sand.
Colin discovered his pad had leaked even though he’d only just sorted himself out in the public toilets at the start of the Walk.  He has been referred to one of the top urologists in the country at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, but his appointments are twelve weeks apart and they haven’t yet said what they are going to do about his problem.  He can’t go on like this!  It seems to be far worse when we go walking.  I looked on the map for the next public conveniences, and saw that there was a leisure centre past the next two rock islands.  So we trudged up to the prom after the second island, but only found a posh golf hotel.  However, there was a pill-box on a corner, so Colin climbed over the wall and changed his pad hidden in the privacy of this Second World War artefact.
Much more comfortable, we returned to the beach.  The tide was now so far out it was over the horizon.  Looking back we couldn’t see the river at all between us and the docks.  (The Mersey’s gone!  Who’s pinched it?)   

We saw some bait-diggers, and we passed three lifeguards sitting in a kind of open shed — but there was no water in front of them!  (Perhaps they were there to rescue idiots caught out by the incoming tide.)  The sand got a bit muddy and slippery, so we returned to the prom to walk.  I slipped on a stranded jellyfish on the way up, it was difficult to avoid them.
We found a single bench up above a car park, with a disused lighthouse behind.  So we sat on it to eat our sarnies.  We just sat there thinking, “This is very pleasant!”  It’s days like this when we know why we’re doing this Trek.  The weather’s calm and pleasant, and it brings us to places we have never thought of visiting before — like the Wirral.  As we got up to leave, a cycling couple stopped and we got chatting.  They were staying in their motor caravan and were cycling the Wirral Way — which we were also following for most of today.  They were very interested in our venture, and cycled alongside us for quite some distance, chatting.  It was nice.
We continued on the concrete prom for a few miles towards Hoylake.  A river ran alongside us along the top of the beach, but as the tide was out there was very little water in it.  Quite a few boats though, tipped sideways as they were stranded on the sand.  As we entered Hoylake we passed a very pretty Victorian drinking fountain — the Victorians certainly knew how to build practical things with style!
Hoylake is a popular resort, and it was a nice sunny Saturday in June so there were a lot of people about on the prom and the beach.  We bought ice creams and sat by a model boat lake to eat them, watching children sail their toy boats.  It felt quaintly old-fashioned and rather comforting in this modern digital age.
Further along we watched families playing beach cricket, and a pony galloping along the sands with a young rider on its back — the age-old things that people have always loved doing at the seaside.

We passed the lifeboat station with a fine sculpture outside.  Full of energy, the statue is a memorial to a number of lifeboatmen (mostly teenagers) who died in a tragedy back in 1810.  A long time ago, but never forgotten.
We came across another pirate ship built from beach rubbish, very like the one we had passed in the wet at New Brighton two days ago.  Branches were lined up on the grass, and people were still constructing this one.  Colin spoke to one of the workers who told him they have to continually repair them because children play on them — but that’s what they’re for so they don’t really mind.  However, they did mind when vandals set fire to the one in New Brighton.  The local community responded by two hundred of them turning up to build a new one!
We came to the end of the prom and took an “alternative beach route” which was signposted.  This led us back on to the sand, but it was quite firm here.  It got a bit slippy as we approached the corner, and we came across a huge jellyfish there.  We could see the mountains of Wales in the distance well before we got to the corner.
As we rounded the corner I climbed over swirly rocks but Colin walked round on the sand.  He said it was OK, not at all slippery, so I went down an old concrete lifeboat ramp and joined him.
We turned south and decided to walk to West Kirby on the beach because it was so nice.  We thought the tide should be in by now, but there was still no water between us and an island on which there seemed to be several houses — well, buildings anyway.  There was no sign of a causeway, and we wondered how the people got there across soft and slippery sand.
The beach began to get a bit muddy.  We were now in the Dee Estuary, and there was marsh-grass growing everywhere.   So we decided to go up to the beach top which we could see was busy with people.  We felt it was a bit déjà-vu as we leapt from tuft to tuft of marsh-grass — we have definitely done this before!  But we reached the path unscathed, and found there was a sandy track all the way into West Kirby.
We sat on the first bench we came to and ate our apples.  Colin declared he “couldn’t be bothered” to walk round the huge marine lake which was in front of us.  I thought that the path must be narrow and possibly slippery (I was remembering Brighton Marina all those years ago!) because it looked like that from a distance.  But whilst waiting (for ages and for the umpteenth time, poor Colin) for him to sort himself out in the nearby public loo, I noticed that families with small children, dogs and buggies were walking it.  Surely it must be safe?  So I changed my mind, and when Colin rejoined me he was much more comfortable, and he agreed.
We found it to be a wide safe tarmacked path after all.  We were requested to keep off the rocks, no cyclists and no dog fouling, but we had no difficulty complying with these requests.  It was a very pleasant walk, and we watched novice wind-surfers practising on the lake as we marched by.
At the further end we had to go inland a bit, then through a housing estate to a little country park.  Colin insisted we sat on a bench overlooking the estuary to eat our chocolate, and it was rather pleasant.  But we had no food left now — neither of us realised we were little more than halfway along today’s Walk.
We turned on to the track of an old railway which we followed for miles!  There were two parallel tracks, a wider one for cyclists and a narrower one for walkers.  We followed the latter mostly, except where it was overgrown and muddy.  The only other walkers we came across were a girl, her mother and their dog — but they were sauntering along and we soon left them behind.  Quite a few cyclists were using the route, in both directions.  We passed under a number of bridges, one was badly cracked!
Through one bridge Colin stood on a station platform and pretended to wait for a train.  Sorry, you’ve got to walk!  Sometimes we could see the estuary away to our right, but it was not as far away as it looked because there was an increasing amount of marsh-grass which looked like fields.
In Heswall the cycle track turned on to a residential road, then it turned back on to the old railway at the next bridge.  The following bridge was supported by a colossal buttress — they’d obviously had a lot of trouble with it.  We turned off the railway there, walked over the supported bridge (it didn’t creak!) and down to the marsh.  Concrete steps led us round a corner on to a concrete-based footpath along the edge of the marsh.  We were pleased that this footpath was in an excellent state, much better than we had been expecting — we had been wondering, because we have been let down so many times before, especially when it comes to marshes.  We even met a couple coming the other way.
We crossed a footbridge which marked the boundary between Merseyside and Cheshire, and the footpath immediately improved dramatically.  It was now of wheelchair quality.  We passed a wooden seat on which were carved pictures of the numerous birds to be found on the estuary just here.  A real work of Art!
We came to a car park, and then on to a road which ran along the ‘sea’ front.  It reminded us of Grange-over-Sands because there was a lovely prom with railings, but grass instead of a beach!  A notice told us that ships used to anchor in the main river channel a mere fifty yards out from this spot.  But this all came to an end when the river was artificially forced to flow along the Welsh shore.  This place was also a bathing resort until the 1930s.
We read a notice telling us about the Parkgate Marsh project to reduce the mosquito population in an environmentally friendly way.  This is by de-silting the main drainage gutter and creating deeper pools.  I wonder if it is working.
We walked past all the buildings to find our car parked at the end.  We have been pleasantly surprised to discover that the Wirral is such a pleasant place to be.  We really liked it.

That ended Walk no.328, we shall pick up Walk no.329 by the ‘sea’ front in Neston.   It was eight o’clock, so the Walk had taken us eight and a half hours.  We had our tea and chocolate biscuits, then we drove back to the caravan in North Wales.

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