No ……… I haven’t just increased my daily mileage from 14 to 200 miles – this is Waterloo Merseyside, just north of Liverpool.
I am visiting my sister Lynda and family for the weekend so I grab an opportunity for a walk and set off on Saturday morning from the car park of Crosby Coastal Park. There is a stiff wind blowing and I’m forced to reconsider my wardrobe and put tights on under my shorts. On the lake a group of kayakers are bobbing up and down on the choppy water as I make for the beach, head down against the wind. Topping the dunes I am faced with the vast expanse of Crosby Beach and the 100 strong series of Anthony Gormley’s “Ironmen”. Lost in their thoughts they stare out to sea, some barnacled, some up to their chests in sand, some with clear features and others where the weather has taken its toll. A little further up the beach some joker has decided to improve on the original.
As the statues come to an end at the coastguard station, a path appears running parallel to the beach. Thinking there may be less wind I follow the signs for the Sefton Coastal Walk, through bushes of beautiful pink wild sweet peas and many other wild flowers I am yet to recognise.
At one point I come to a bend in the path marked by a sculpture called “Pebble”- the work of pupils from a local school – I struggle to see why.
A while later I arrive at Blundellsands yacht club which leaves passers by in no doubt as to which way to turn, so I continue up into rough ground and dunes until I arrive at the estuary of the river Alt. On the headland a familiar red flag is flying, warning me of military shooting practice and just as I stop to ask for a few directions a volley of shots rings out just to confirm.
Following the path through a bed of reeds swaying in the wind I am faced with the backs of houses on the fringes of Hightown. Needing a toilet and a cup of tea I head for the station but passing by Hightown Hotel I decide to sneak into the Ladies. The hotel has seen better days – threadbare carpets, fruit machines and a pervasive smell of hot cooking oil. Holding my breath I make my escape, without a cup of tea.
The next part of the walk runs parallel to the railway line along the edge of Altcar firing range. A few joggers and cyclists pass me by but otherwise there is nothing to distract me from the painful realisation that my new summer walking boots (bought at the end of the summer) are too small! When will I ever get it right? I need a personal trainer to buy shoes.
At the end of the fence the path divides and I take the left fork heading for Formby Point. At another junction where I’m almost certain I have to turn right, I find myself suddenly swallowed up by a group of cheery ramblers, milling around adjusting various bits of their walking gear. I feel slightly overwhelmed by their noise and number and irritated by the fact that they are blocking the information board by the side of the track. I suppose I must have looked confused because a man at the back suddenly looks directly at me and says confidently “It’s straight on up” The authority in his voice is all it takes for me to meekly trot off in what I instinctively feel is the wrong direction but I do hate to disappoint. Thankfully I don’t have to wait too long for them to disappear from view and I can turn around to regain the path.
I am now heading towards the outskirts of Formby and that elusive cup of tea, but patience has its reward in the form of a fund raising tea party for the local church. I sit outside in the sun munching fruit cake, chatting to pleasant women doing good.
Reluctantly I drag myself away from the delicate chink of porcelain and head down through some very tall fir trees towards the dunes and the sea.
The beach to my right stretches endlessly into the distance, the enormous blue sky reminding me of a trip to another sister in Australia.
Mile after mile I walk, thoughts arise and drift gently away as my feet instinctively find the firmest patches of sand to walk on. Occasionally, I am caught up short by the strange formations of mud or the psychedelic flash of a kite surfer out to sea, but it is mostly just walking.
I have really no idea where I am as my iphone has no signal and there are no landmarks peeking out from behind the huge sand dunes, but eventually I see some buildings in the distance which can only be Ainsdale. From Ainsdale it is another hour and half to Southport, my toes hurt, I stop to rest on a friendly looking tree trunk to dig out the plasters, foam pads and insoles that will take me through the last few miles.
In the distance I can see the highest cables of a road bridge and the paraphernalia of Southport’s Pleasureland. The sand gradually turns a muddy grey and the sea recedes into the distance, a light grey smudge on the horizon. On the “beach” cars go through their paces – the driver of a Mercedes saloon car executes furious handbrake turns, whirling up flurries of sand, the air stinks of hot engine and diesel. Onlookers seem unimpressed, I guess they’ve seen it all before.
Clambering over the sea wall I walk up to the pier with just enough energy to take a picture of the whacky street lights. The last section of the very long pier (1,100 metres) is closed for the day so I will not get my tram car ride to the pier head – I’m not THAT disappointed.