Hoylake to Neston 8.3.20

Out of the station at Hoylake we walk down towards the sea and follow the edge of the very marshy beach towards West Kirby. Out of all the birds described in the information board below I think I could recognise the sanderling (because of its scuttling gait), the oystercatcher (due to its red beak) and the curlew (again long curved beak and mottled feathers). I may be getting better at it but there is a long way to go.

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Soon we are faced with a choice of walking along the beach or the road – we take the “beach”, winding our way around and through large patches of soft sand and water. It doesn’t take long.

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And pretty soon we are in West Kirby……………..

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Not many ice-creams being sold today but people are out enjoying the sunshine……but hang on a minute……………… is this nondescript seaside town on the Wirral the site of unreported miracles? Are they walking on water?

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Well no – it turns out there is a concrete path circling what is in effect a marine lake – we give it a go. It is not quite a Biblical experience but definitely peculiar and curiously liberating.

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The windsurfers get very close ………….

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After this bit of excitement the path leads us down onto a long straight forest track through Wirral Country Park. Not much happens apart from trying to dodge families of cyclists out for the day and I fall into that meditative plodding motion which helps me through uneventful stretches of walking. The sun is warm on my back and it’s lovely to hear birdsong – I’m happy.

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However, after about 4 miles of this, both of us are gasping for a cup of tea so we hail a group of people to ask about cafes in the vicinity. The directions are a little vague (or were they too complex for us to remember?) and it takes another mile of residential streets before we get to the turn off for Parkland where pubs and cafes have been promised.

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The town is very busy on this Sunday afternoon and we walk up and down the street for a while trying to find a cafe with space for us – in desperation I plump for an ice- cream.

IMG_6958 And just as I am taking my first slurp we are lucky enough to grab a table from a couple who are just leaving the cafe next door. From here it’s all downhill – we miss two busses (standing in the wrong place, my fault, and unreliable rail replacement busses). The rainbow over Neston station is the only uplifting moment of an hour waiting in the cold.

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I am very glad to get back to Liverpool.

Distance: 11 miles

 

 

 

Liverpool to Crosby 7.3.20

Damian has gone to a football match in Sheffield – he hates football but it is an opportunity to meet up with a friend. So, I walk back to the ferry terminal and then head north past the Royal Liver Building. This is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city of Liverpool and is home to two fabled Liver Birds that watch over the city and the sea. Legend has it that were these two birds to fly away, then the city would cease to exist.

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I am actually not looking forward to this walk as the map shows a long slog along a main road (A5036) through what looks like real industrial docklands. This brick wall follows me for a mile or two and I seem to be one of the very few braving the pavement.

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I then walk past what must be one of the ugliest buildings in the country – can’t really work out what it is. I cross the road and scuttle past, preferring the intimidation of the brick wall, which at least allows me periodic glimpses of the docks and river.

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At one point the wall merges into stone and opens out into a small landing stage – some brave people have organised a kayak trip on the water.

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I walk on, avoiding piles of kerbside litter, through rows of shuttered shops and abandoned dockside pubs. In places, an influx of small businesses have appeared, taking over empty buildings, breathing new life into the area. IMG_6927

 

This one catches my eye – what on earth do they produce?

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And later I walk past what I’m told is the Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse – a grade II listed building and the world’s largest brick warehouse. It is currently being renovated to create, yes you’ve guessed it, luxury dockside apartments.

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……..and just up the road, if your visitors need somewhere to stay ……the gorgeous Titanic Hotel.

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I am by now getting very hungry and although I do have a few sandwiches, the lorry loaded road and industrial landscape do not offer up any suitable place to sit and eat. I am also coming to the end of the road where I have to turn right before the start of the container docks, which I am very glad I don’t have to walk through.

There then follows a tiring trudge up another main road, where I am forced to hide from the traffic in a bus shelter and bolt down one of my sandwiches – is this really coastal walking? I ask myself, not for the first time.

Anyway, at one point, I decide to forgo the delights of a two lane highway and the stench of gas from Seaforth Dock and turn off left through residential streets.

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After a while I end up on what I assume to be Seaforth High Street which is really the stuff bad dreams are made of. Every other shop is shuttered closed, although the bargain booze and bookies show signs of life. There are not many people around and those that are seem to sport the same grey pallor. The road is thankfully short with a brutal cut off at the end, consisting of one more busy main road and railway line. I long for some open space and head decisively west to pick up a trail around a lake which then merges with Sefton Coastal Path.

At last, a horizon…………

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On the path around the lake stands an information board which illustrates how far Seaforth has fallen. (I do hope no-one reading this post lives in Seaforth or knows anybody who does) The story is that in 1903 Seaforth Radio was established as one of the first wireless stations in the world for maritime radio communication. It also boasted the first school for the training of wireless telegraphists – one of whom was Jack Phillips, a senior radio operator on the Titanic, who remained at his post on the ship and consequently lost his life. Poor Jack………

From here I follow the trail along the promenade, and then on the beach to take another look at the Gormley sculptures. I first saw these back in 2103 when I walked from Crosby Beach to Southport. It seems so long ago…………………….

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Distance: 8 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liverpool to Hoylake 6.3.20

These walks were made over the course of a few innocent days before the onset of Covid 19.

We have come to Liverpool to take a look at the Prince of Wales aircraft carrier, docked in Liverpool for a week. Arriving on the day of its departure, we are much too late to get tickets for onboard but still in time to stand and stare from Princes Dock.

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Seven hundred people are employed on the ship and a Wiki tells me there is room for 40 F-35B Lightning II stealth multirole fighters and Merlin helicopters. It is massive…….

Here is the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Prince_of_Wales_(R09)

And here’s a Google picture of the ship leaving Liverpool a little later in the day.

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It’s now time to take the ferry across the Mersey (I have the song in my head all day)……and here it comes.

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After a meandering crossing we arrive in Seacombe on the Wirral, to turn right and head down what must be the longest concrete promenade in the UK – it just goes on and on. So much so that there are very few photos, particularly because New Brighton certainly does not live up to its name – although there is an extensive sandy beach. I later discover that at just over 2 miles the promenade actually is the longest in the country.

In an attempt to brighten up the tedium of 2 miles of dull grey concrete, a local organisation has installed some colourful benches dedicated to lost loved ones.

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It is a worthy initiative but the overall effect is like walking through a graveyard.

On the other end of the scale is something a little more cheery. The contribution of local school children in a series of decorative plaques set into the concrete.

 

Knitting and crochet also play a part in livening up the promenade ……………..

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Eventually we reach New Brighton, an area which marks the outflow of the Mersey into Liverpool Bay. Across the river are the massive red and white cranes of the container terminal at Bootle Docks.

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A cup of tea in the sun and we’re off again, following the path through the North Wirral Coastal Park.

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A notice on the sign is a warning for prospective cockle pickers – Leasowe Bay has had its share of boom and bust over the years and it is now difficult to harvest cockles without a licence. Personally I don’t see what all the fuss is about, I always thought you might as well eat a piece of rubber soaked in vinegar.

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The rest of the walk has no highlights – to our left are never-ending rows of residential streets and to the right, featureless marshland leading out to the sea.

IMG_1500I am pleased to arrive at the station in Hoylake where there is a train just about to leave taking us back to Liverpool.

Distance: 10 miles

 

Whitesands to Porthgain 3.1.20

What difference a day makes…………………………………………….

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We set off from Whitesands Bay in bright sunshine, past the headland with an impossible name “Trwynhwrddyn” and up onto St. Davids Head where we get a bit lost. At one point we find ourselves scrabbling up a steep slope between large, tightly packed boulders and the signs we come across are ambiguous. Eventually the path becomes clearer, following the cliff edge past small rocky coves.

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Ahead is what looks like a tor – a large, free-standing rocky outcrop, rising abruptly from the smooth gentle slopes of a rounded hill top. I’m hoping we don’t have to climb over it but as we get nearer I can see the path skirts it.

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On we go – this is a video of our small silhouettes climbing up the other side of a valley. Gives you some idea of our pace.

Just before Abereiddy the path joins a minor road – I am struck by the colours on the rocks here but maybe you have to be there. After long strenuous walks I often experience a heightened appreciation of colour and shape.

 

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And so we amble down into Abereiddy, hoping against hope that there may be a tea van, even though we have been told that such provision is seasonal. Alas – but it’s not far now to Porthgain and its famous pub the Sloop Inn.

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As we get nearer to Porthgain we spy two white, cone like structures which we later discover are marker beacons to guide ships in to the harbour.

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We begin our descent, normally a relaxing lollop down the hill straight to the pub, but to my consternation the path gets narrower, steeper and rockier. Checking my map I see there is an alternative footpath off to the right which would takes us gently down in a long loop but Damian is adamant that we need to take the quicker way, particularly when we are overtaken by a man of about our age, older even, who literally jogs down the path.

After a lot of persuasion I grit my teeth and using my walking pole slowly pick my way down the slope trying not to look at the drop beneath me – at one point I sit down and slide a few meters. So glad no-one is around to see me.

And then, turning a corner, we are here and the path morphs into a metal stairway, much easier to negotiate!

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We head straight for the Sloop Inn, ignoring the sign that says “no muddy boots” and no-one seems to care.

The following day, before driving home, we visit St. Davids Cathedral – here are some pictures.

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Distance: 10 miles

 

 

 

Solva to Nolton Haven 2.1.20

The forecast is rain and strong winds and as we sit in the car at Solva, there is indeed rain, great sheets of it sweeping across the windscreen. So we sit and dither, shall we try in the hope of it clearing up? Or shall we call it a day of reading and hot chocolate?Finally we agree on a compromise – we will try for half an hour and if it’s too bad we’ll come back.

The path is up through woodland where the trees keep the worst of the weather out – I start to feel better. Up we go onto the cliffs and that’s where the fun starts. The rain is light now but the winds are making up for it. Buffeted from all directions we plough through gusts of 30 mph winds, struggling to keep our balance and this can be scary on a narrow cliff path. To my surprise I do not feel fear but instead a mounting rage – I feel like I’m fighting the wind and that it is NOT going to win. As you can imagine, there are not many stops to take photographs – but here are one or two ….

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After a while as we get closer to Newgale, the wind seems to abate a little and we are able to take a better look around. The path takes us past a construction site where some lucky person is building a beautiful one story house. The wave like turf roof curves over huge picture windows looking out to sea.

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Below is the digital model from the architect’s website…………….what a place to live.

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Eventually we reach a spot with a view over Newgale Beach and head down for tea and mince pies in the local surfer cafe. The plan is now to take the bus back to Solva, pick up the car, drive to Nolton Haven and walk back to Newgale.

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And this is what we do, braving the rain and winds again to end up on Newgale Beach where we can walk to the village – this is Damian disappearing into the mist.

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So yes, we got wet but I am so glad we didn’t give up.

Distance: 8 miles

 

 

 

 

Whitesands Bay to Porthlysgi Bay 1.1.20

It’s New Year’s day and time for the annual dip – for some………. Whitesands Bay has it scheduled for 12 noon, in about an hour, so we cannot hang around for the vicarious thrill of seeing people throw themselves into the freezing waters of the Irish Sea.

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Some have already started…

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……and just up the coast in Aberdovey my sister in law and her mates are braving the water. RESPECT.

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Soon we reach Porthselau where another New Year’s Dip is happening – someone has lit a fire on the beach to warm people up.

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Overlooking the bay is a beautiful little cabin tucked discreetly into the hill – its grass roof blending perfectly with the surrounding vegetation.

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Our next bit of excitement is when we reach the lifeboat stations at St. Justinians – there are two, the blue is the new one, completed in 2016.

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As we stand and take photographs the lifeboat arrives, discharging a dinghy which is then hauled up the ramp.

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Some time later, just as my patience is wearing thin, the huge lifeboat wiggles its way onto the ramp in reverse and is also winched slowly up into the hanger.

There is a slight drizzle around now and it is time to don waterproof trousers – a frustrating operation which tests one’s balance and patience even with long zips up the sides. They are also horrible to walk in restricting gait and speed but better than wet trousers of course.

The eastern shore of Ramsey Island off to our right follows us as we walk across the top of the cliffs, with the occasional heart stopping peek down onto a series of dramatic rock formations and caves. “Ogof” means cave in Welsh so we walk past Ogof Mary, Ogof Goch, Ogof Felen, Ogof Cadno and weirdly Ogof Mrs. Morgan. Further research indicates that in 1912 the Morgan brothers of Abercrave and a friend, were exploring caves in the area, so perhaps they discovered this cave and decided to name it after their mother or wives – who knows.

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Eventually we reach Porthlysgi Bay, where we finished yesterday, and stop for a rest. We sit on the beach and watch little birds deftly flipping over pebbles to look for food and later find out that these birds are called Turnstones.

From here we take the now familiar path over the fields and down lanes to St. Davids and a hot bath.

Distance: 7 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solva to Porthlysgi Bay 31.12.19

We are in Pembrokeshire in Lower Solva, a village with a small harbour, which sits at the head of an inlet leading out into St. Brides Bay. It’s a grey day with rain building up in the clouds, but the forecast says dry.

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Following the path up on to Morfa Common we head west along the cliffs towards St.Davids, the smallest city in Britain, courtesy of its cathedral. Slabs of dark granite cliff sweep down into the sea protecting small inlets where smugglers would unload their goods. Solva was a known centre for smuggling where even the local Baptist chapel was lit using candles made of smuggled tallow.

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As we get closer to St Davids, a stern looking building appears on the horizon – the house appears to have its own chapel. Visitors are welcome so we go in to have a look.

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A sweet old lady with a strong Irish accent is busying about and tells us we have missed mass by 5 minutes. I wonder just how many people had attended in such a small space. She also tells us that the house is used for retreats and after a bit more chat she wishes us a good day and scuttles out.

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The chapel is dedicated to St. Non, who was the mother of St. David (the patron saint of Wales for the uninitiated) and she has her own well where the water is said to cure all manner of ailments. I do not know whether the idea is to submerge your afflicted body part or drink the water but I was not about to do either.

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Here she is again…….

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From here we head back down to the coast path through Portclais and following the advice of a local, decide to head for Porthlysgi Bay. There are some terrifying drops on the way.

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Porthclais has an ancient harbour and even on a dull day the colours and formation of the rocks on the sides of the cove are startlingly beautiful.

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Eventually we reach Porthlysgi Bay from where we’ve been told there is a footpath cross country up to St Davids.

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We find the wide grassy path that leads up to a minor road and follow it into the village/city. On the way Damian is smitten by a herd of young bullocks.

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This is our first sight of the cathedral……………….

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And here is the centre of the village – I am so glad we are here in December and not at the height of summer.

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We check in to our accommodation, have dinner and after a few New Year’s greetings to family and friends we are asleep by 10.30pm. New Year’s Eve for us is not what it used to be!

Distance: 9 miles