Today I would be completing my walk around the Mersey estuary. This would be the first of a series planned walks around rivers and estuaries that I had simply bypassed using ferries while walking the coast of GB. In order to make my walk more “complete” and to give my claim to have walked around the coast of Great Britain more authenticity I will be “filling in these gaps” over the Winter period.
I again drove to and parked at Frodsham station, as its free and convenient. I then caught the 6:51 train to Earlestown (near Newton-le Willows) and then caught the a train to LIverpool Lime Street. I realised when I was on the train that I had forgotten to bring my maps, which I printed out the night before. Grrrr!!! I always take a map with me and I always plan my route beforehand, noting any tricky sections. I never set off on a walk with blind optimism hoping to find a route; which can be frustrating and tiring especially when you have accumulated quite a few miles on a walk. I went over the route again in my head a number of times and was satisfied that I could remember it.
It was just after 7 in the morning as I strolled through the very quiet streets of the City centre. I reached Pier Head and turned south walking along the river. In fact, todays walk would be predominantly walking along the shore of the estuary.
I spent 4 years at Liverpool University in the 1970’s and really cannot remember walking around the dock areas to the south of the city. This was not surprising as the whole area was run-down and dilapidated. It was not until the late 1970’s that the area was made a conservation area and work began (from the 1980’s onwards) regenerating and renovating the whole shoreline down to Grassendale.
Now, there is an excellent path which links the Albert Dock, Kings Dock, Dukes Dock, Wapping Dock, Queens Dock, modern riverside housing and other wharfs and quays to the Otterspool Promenade some 5 miles away.
I made excellent progress along the path, with many cyclists making their way into the city to work. Gradually the buildings and docks gave way to more open spaces and I was soon walking along the Otterspool Promenade, with its commanding views up and down the River. At the end of Otterspool Prom, I had to turn inland to get around the large and grand houses of Grassendale and the impending approach of Garston Docks which are still operational. I walk along one of the main arterial roads and then along the old high street in Garston. The street appears very run-down even though it has an ample supply of various shops. I head back towards the river passing a new housing development, which sits alongside a derelict buildings and present industrial premises. This area, around Blackburne Street, is quite run-down. Evidence of fly tipping, dereliction and dog-extrement abounds. I pass two chaps scratching their heads over a dumped mattress which had been deposited outside their allotment gates.
I am soon through this area and onto the shoreline path. I enter the Speke and Garston Nature Reserve which leads me along a path around the perimeter fencing of the John Lennon Liverpool Airport. The airport is very busy with Easy Jet and Ryanair flights coming and going. I walk alongside fields with crops and then drop down to the shoreline as the path becomes slightly overgrown,. I am heading towards the lighthouse at Hale, now a private residence. I pass around the lighthouse and continue around a large sweeping bend of the river. I can now see Frodsham on the opposite shore as well as the numerous chemical plants near Runcorn. The path heads inland into the charming and delightful village of Hale, with its thatched cottages. I head along a road and then turn back to the shore and pick up the Trans Pennine cycle route which runs alongside the river all the way to Widnes and the Runcorn Bridge.
I walk under the railway and road arches to road and path that leads onto the iconic bridge. I had driven over this bridge many many times, this would be the first time I had walked over it. I was amazed to read the bridge was only opened in 1961. It was not until the 1977 Queens Silver Jubilee that it got its second name. To the east I could see the Mersey Gateway bridge, similar to the new Queensferry Crossing in Scotland but on a smaller scale. This bridge is nearing its completion and will alleviate traffic on the Runcorn Bridge.
I move off the bridge and must now negotiate myself around the complex road network that Runcorn is famous for. I remember my route well and am soon heading east along quiet suburban roads and bypassing the nearby chemical plants which offer no access onto Frodsham. However, as I approach the larger roundabouts of the ring roads I come across a very large section of new road development all linked to the new Mersey Gateway Project. My planned route is barred by this development. I come across a crude map of the pedestrian diversion, I commit the map to memory and am able to get back onto my planned route after about 20 minutes of walking.
I finally cross the swing bridge over the Weaver Navigation Canal and proceed along the A56 into Frodsham. I had been walking for almost 8 hours.
Distance today = 26 miles
Total distance = 3111 miles