Since I recently declared that I would now be walking around the estuaries and rivers that I had previously bypassed by means of a ferry; I have been planning which “gap” I would tackle first. As this section was the closest to my home I could easily make a one day excursion to complete it.
Todays walk would be through a collection of residential suburbia and a large swathe of industrial complexes, in particular the Stanlow oil refinery. I drove to Frodsham where I parked my car. I then caught the 6:33 train to Chester, where I changed and caught the Mersey rail service to Hamilton Square – Birkenhead.
It was a dull and grey start as I rounded the Woodside ferry terminal and set off south along the Wirral Circular route (which I would following, more or less, for the next 6 or 7 miles). It was not long before i was turning inland slightly as the first dock appeared. In fact I would spend very little of todays walk alongside the river, as the industrial landscape is very extensive here. I followed the quieter Campbeltown Road south and emerged at a roundabout. The main road continued as a bypass with not many verges. I continued down the Old New Chester Road through Rock Ferry. I passed over the bypass which led into Rock Park, an area of once grand Victorian building which faced onto the River Mersey. I was back on the shoreline walking along the Esplanade with old grand buildings the other side of a stone wall to my right. The Esplanade ran to an area known as New Ferry and a favourite place for people from Liverpool to come and picnic and a place to get fresh air. I found the site of the recently demolished Great Eastern Picnic Hotel, now the site of a group of new private dwellings. I continued along the shoreline until a sewage works and cul-de-sac meant I turned inland back onto the New Ferry Bypass.
I now passed through Port Sunlight, the model village built by the Lever Brothers. Unfortunately, I did not pass through the village itself . I had indeed seen some of the village from the train that morning. It is somewhere I will undoubtedly go back to and take a better look. I turned into Old Court House Road, with large industrial units flanking either side of the road. I walked along Thermal Road, then onto Riverbank Road. From its slightly elevated position I could quite look across the Mersey to its northern bank. It was not long before I entered Eastham Country Park and a short respite from walking amongst industry. The Country Park is quite large and has a visitor centre and park ranger. in the mid to late 19th century, Eastham had a busy and vibrant ferry service to Liverpool.
I passed out of the country park and the entrance to Eastham docks, this is where The Manchester Ship Canal has its entrance; although it was not possible to get any view of it. I passed through the small village of Eastham, where the Wirral Circular Route heads off south-west towards the Dee Estuary and I continue down Rivacre Road. I am now entering the sprawling urban area known as Ellesmere Port. The road runs alongside the busy M53 and I can now see Vauxhall Motors plant directly opposite and over the M53. The traffic on Rivacre Road was mercifully very quiet compared to the roar of traffic on the adjacent motorway. I turn off the road and enter Rivacre Country Park, after a short distance I find a path that leads up to a motorway access road , the road passes under the motorway and up to North Road. North road eventually comes to a dead-end, but I am able to use a pedestrian underpass to cross the M53 again, which takes me onto another North Road, confusing eh? I pass signs warning of the presence of Giant Hogweed, an introduced and invasive species of plant that cause’s severe burns to the skin. I can see the base of the stalks that have already been cut down. I walk onto yet another Motorway junction and recross the M53. I am now north of the motorway and walking along a road that services a number of dockside industries.
The dock road merges onto a road collectively called the Oil Sites Road, which is a privately owned road that serves a number of oil site industries, some of which are now derelict. I reach a sign which tells me not to stop , not to take photographs and that after Entrance No.3 no further continuation along the road is allowed to unauthorised users. Obviously this was meant for vehicles. No mention is made of pedestrians and cyclists, although I am walking on a wide and impressive cycle path. CCTV cameras are everywhere and I suspect that I am being watched very closely by someone, somewhere! Pedestrians are indeed allowed along this road, but I didn’t feel comfortable. At Entrance 3, there is a set of automated barriers, with vehicles flashing a card or pressing a keypad. The cycle path simply goes around them, which I do. The Oil Sites Road is almost 3 miles long and serves the Stanlow oil refinery.
I emerge at a roundabout and head down a quiet lane to the village of Ince. The surrounding land suddenly turns very rural and given back to agriculture, although large industrial premises chimney stacks are never far away. I continue out of the village along Marsh Lane, which soon becomes a dirt track road. The whole area is very flat and certainly once a flood plain of the Mersey. I join a cycle path NCN 5 which continues around recently built factories and then alongside a large fertiliser plant. I am now walking along Lordship Lane and amongst a small Wind farm. there are large deposit pools used by the Manchester Ship Canal, warning me not to trespass.
As I continue along Lordship Lane I witness an astonishing sight. About 60 metres up the track I see a rabbit, which is jumping in the air being chased then turning and chasing back. The animal doing the chasing is a Stoat. I thought at first it could be a weasel, but weasel’s don’t go for rabbits. This continued for about 5 minutes as the stoat went towards the rabbit, but was then chased back by the rabbit into the undergrowth. I watched this through my binoculars. I followed at a distance as this ‘cat and mouse’ game continued. It looked like they were both playing, but in reality rabbits are the main source of food for stoats. I investigated on the net and others have witnessed this rare spectacle. Unfortunately my camera would not have been much help at that distance, so sorry no photos.
I cross over the very busy M56 and enter Frodsham. Hopefully, I may only need another days walking to cross over the Runcorn bridge and continue on to Liverpool.
Distance today = 22 miles
Total distance = 3085 miles