The early 1970’s saw a number of formative years for me spent as a Geology student at Liverpool University. Although I had returned to Liverpool many times, today would be the first time in over 40 years I had been back to Pier Head, it had certainly changed a great deal since I last visited.
Todays walk would see me return to the continuation of the “English leg” of my walk around the coast of GB. Even though I was begininng todays walk at Pier Head at 6:25 in the morning, there were plenty of people out and about. At Pier Head I did something I never did as a student, and that was to take a picture of the Liver Building. The “Three Graces” (the Royal Liver, Cunard and Port of Liverpool’s buildings) are certainly iconic and an instantly recognised waterfront scene all over the world. I certainly appreciated the buildings now more than I ever did many years ago.
I set off up Princess Parade, which skirts the old Princess Dock, before turning left down Waterloo Road and later Regent Road. Collectively this was referred simply as the “Dock Road”, when I was here last. The area certainly looks run-down, with its closed pubs and derelict warehouses. However, this initial impression hides a myriad of small business’s making use of the older warehouses and some not so small. In particular, I passed a huge metal recycling plant that passed crushed metal fragments over the road by means of an overhead conveyor belt, into numerous piles of metal spread over many acres. The road I was now walking on beginning to get busy, with increased commuter traffic and an endless stream of lorries. No problems walking this section though as the road is wide and has large pavements on either side of the road. The road eventually runs into the docks at Bootle, so I turn right and head up the A565 which has been running parallel to the “Dock Road” since leaving Liverpool. This road is now thronged with morning commuters, but the walking is easy and safe along the pavements.
I pass the Seaforth Docks, with their large blue and orange cranes seen for miles around and helping them load and unload the 700,000+ containers each year. As I pass the Seaforth, I enter Crosby , which marks the end of the industrial part of todays walk. I turn left down Cambridge Road and to a large marine lake , which also marks the start of the Seaforth Coastal Path, which is notorious for its poorly defined and signed route. I ignored it and had already chosen my preferred route which meant making a b-line for the beach.
The shore-line, which can recede by quite a distance, depending on the tide, was only about 300m out. But the feeling of openness now felt great, with vistas back and across to New Brighton on the Wirral and Flintshire still visible in the morning haze. I was looking forward to seeing Antony Gormleys statues on Crosby beach. There are 100 of them, each with a numbered steel roped wrist tag and all in a different level of water or sand, spread out for 3km along the beach. The figures are exactly the same in shape and form, looking stoically out to sea. Each figure, weighing 650kgs were made from casts of Gormley’s own body. The whole sculpture is called “Another Place”. I’m glad to have seen it.
I have been walking about 250m from the shore-line on fairly firm sand, which has meant for fast progress. I head towards the Coastguard station as the beach and figures begin to run out. The track passes through Dunes as I head into Bludellsands and Hightown. In know I must soon make a detour inland because of the Altcar Firing Range. My footpath disappears for a while as I walk around new housing near Hightown rail station and finally pick up the footpath, which becomes sandwiched between the rail track and the firing range. The range is busy today with frequent bursts of small arms fire coming from the adjacent range. I pass a couple of joggers and cyclists, before I turn inland towards the Ravenmeols Nature Reserve and rejoining the coast.
The next 10 – 11 miles is spent walking along the beach, first around Formby point, then along Ainsdale sands, then finally Birkdale Sands! Very easy walking along firm sand. However, not much to see with dunes on my right and just the sea. I make excellent progress and can now just begin to make out the sea front of Lytham St. Annes across the Ribble Estuary and in the far distance the murky outline of Blackpool Tower.
The sky begins to cloud over as I pass over Birkdale sands and head towards the Ferris Wheel at the Southport Pleasureland. I head for the coast roads that runs alongside the beach towards the Lifeboat station. I walk through the town and get one of the frequent trains back to Liverpool. A very enjoyable walk, with the Gormley statues the highlight. It takes me 6.5 hrs to cover the 22.5miles.
Distance today = 22.5 miles
Total distance = 1816 miles