260 West Kirkby to Birkenhead

I return to West Kirby. The lifeguards are back. And the route to Hilbre Island looks enticingly easy… I’m nearly tempted to walk out again…

01 Ruth Livingstone in West Kirby, The Wirral

… just kidding!

Onwards, following the coast, along a track running beside the shore which has changed from beach into marshland. This route is not marked as a public footpath on my map, but seems well used. Ahead is Hilbre Point and Hoylake.

02 Ruth hiking to Hilbre Point, Hoylake, Wirral

At Hilbre Point there are private houses bordering the shore. I clamber over rocks, looking for a way around that doesn’t involve walking along the road. I follow a girl, who seems to know the way, until she stops and sits down.

03 Red Rocks, Ruth hiking around the Wirral Peninsula

Hmm. Well, I continue. The rocks here are the same amazing red colour as the rocks over on Hilbre Island. Not surprising, therefore, that this rocky outcrop is called ‘Red Rocks’, according to my map.

04 Red rocks, The Wirral, Ruth walking the coast

I get around the point successfully (don’t know if it’s possible at high tide) and now I’m walking along the northern shore of The Wirral Peninsula. Ahead stretches a long beach. Actually, it’s a cross between a beach and a marsh, because even here it looks as though the sea has been driven back and vegetation is trying to reclaim the shoreline.

05 Hoylake, Ruth's coastal walk, the Wirral

Further along and sand predominates. Acres and acres of sand. The sea is a thin line on the horizon.  I pass a group of horse riders.

06 horse riders, Ruth walking around The Wirral

And then I take to the promenade. Here is an old Victorian monument – a drinking fountain erected in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It looks in good condition [and later I learn was restored, thanks to a grant, in 2008].

07 victorian thing, Ruth Livingstone, Hoylake

Otherwise, the promenade is a featureless place. And it goes on, and on, and on…

08 endless promenade, The Wirral, Ruth's coastal walk

… until eventually I reach slipway with boats waiting for the tide to rise. It’s creeping in now – the water unexpectedly sneaking in along a channel from the east, rather than coming in directly across the vast expanse of sands.

09 Liverpool Bay, Ruth's coastal walk around The Wirral

The sloping embankment catches the sound of the waves and amplifies it, creating the sensation of rushing water. I’m walking along a shared cycle/walking route. More cyclists than walkers are out today.

10 cycling along Wallasey Embankment, Ruth's coasal walk

I’ve left Hoylake behind. Ahead is Leasowe, with its lighthouse – an impressive white tower surrounded by the rolling grasses of common land. The lighthouse is, apparently, the oldest brick lighthouse in Britain, and once featured a female lighthouse keeper. It is no longer in use.

11 Leasowe lighthouse, Ruth hiking the coast of The Wirral

Beyond Leasowe Common is a golf course, dominated by a hotel – The Leasowe Castle Hotel – where I am staying for a few nights.

12 Leasowe Castle and Leasowe Common, Ruth's coastal walk

Built in the 16th century, the castle originally consisted of a single, octagonal tower. Later other towers and buildings were added, until the castle was abandoned and fell into disrepair for a time, before being extensively rebuilt. It was used as a convalescent home for retired railway men, and during the first world war held German prisoners. Now it functions mainly as a wedding venue at weekends, and a rather nice hotel during the week.

Onwards. I walk past the golf course and reach a corner in the promenade. Ahead are the red cranes of the Liverpool dockland.

13 end of Wallasey Embankment, Ruth walking to Liverpool

I turn the corner… and am surprised to see a curving stretch of sandy beach. After miles and miles of concrete, this make a wonderful change.

14 Leoasowe Beach, Ruth's coastal walk, Wirral

Beyond the beach, and I’m back on the promenade. I reach New Brighton, part of Wallasey. A road runs to my right, while to my left is a high concrete wall, shaped to form seats. Why anyone would want to sit on these seats, overlooking the road and buildings of Wallasey rather than the sea, is a mystery. But apparently people do.

15 Wallasey promenade, Mersey docks, Ruth Livingstone

It’s a Friday afternoon and parents are strolling with their children. From a young child’s perspective this must be an incredible boring walkway – because they’re too short to see over the sea wall!

Neither can these fishermen actually see the water. A weird way to spend the afternoon.

16 fishermen, Wallasey, Ruth's coastal walk

I reach the far northeastern point of The Wirral Peninsula. It’s a place called New Brighton, part of Wallasey, and here is a rather nice swimming beach, and another lighthouse – this one is in working order.

17 New Brighton beach and lighthouse, Ruth hiking the Wirral coastline

At the far end of the northern shore is a fort.  Fort Perch Rock. Built during the Napoleonic wars, the fort is constructed of the same red sandstone that dominates this area. It’s an impressive building, but turned out to be an unnecessary defensive structure, because it only fired its guns once or twice – targeting a harmless Norwegian ship by mistake and, luckily, missing the vessel while, not-so-luckily, managing to shell Hightown on the other side of the Mersey instead.

18 Fort Perch Rock, New Brighton, Ruth's coastal walk, Wirral

The fort is open to visitors, but I don’t have time to stop. Onwards.

Now I’m walking southwards up the River Mersey. And here I am surprised to find more swimming beaches. The river water must be clean.

19 Walking up the Mersey, Ruth in Wallasey

The promenade is quite crowded at this point. There are joggers, cyclists, families out for a stroll, dog walkers, and groups of chubby young men walking around glued to their mobile phones – Pokémon hunters!

On the beach is an impressive pirate ship constructed out of driftwood. A notice declares it to be an ‘art installation’. Of course it is being used as a wonderful, children’s playground.

20 artwork ship, Ruth hiking the coast, Wallasey, Wirral

Everyone I meet speaks with a Liverpool accent.

Lining the wall of the promenade is a series of information plaques.

21 memorial plaques

I take a closer look. Memorial plaques in memory of merchant ships and their seamen lost during the wars, all erected by a private individual. I pause to read one of the notices. The Tacoma Star survived one bombing raid in Liverpool docks, only to be sunk by a U-boat in the Atlantic eight months later.

22 memorial explanation, Ruth Livingstone23 memorial Tacoma Star, Wallasey, Ruth Livingstone

I’m always touched by memorials to merchant seamen. Treated as civilian casualties, they often have no graves or other memorials. My Uncle Peter (aged only 16) died when his merchant ship was sunk by a German U-boat somewhere in the Atlantic too.

Across the water is Liverpool. It looks marvelous. Can’t wait to get there.

24 Liverpool, from Wallasey, Ruth's coastal walk, Wirral

But first I have to make my way to the ferry port (cue endless earworm music – Gerry and the Pacemakers Ferry Cross the Mersey a song I don’t even like, but which now bugs me for the rest of the day!)

25 Wallasey merseyside walk, Ruth Livingstone

Further along and I see a brightly coloured boat chugging along the river. A cruise ship? A joke ship? It can’t be the famous ferry, can it?

26 ferry cross the Mersey, Ruth Livingstone

I watch it pull up to a landing stage, which a sign proclaims to be the ‘Mersey Ferries Seacombe’. So it really must be the ferry. How disappointing. I expected something more classic. Older.

The ferry terminal building has an impressive tower. Rather sinister looking. Is this art deco style? Later I’m not surprised to discover it’s a listed building.

27 Seacombe ferry terminal, Ruth walking up the Mersey

I go inside to enquire about ferry tickets. There is a cheap commuter service, which operates weekday mornings and evenings, but not tomorrow (Saturday). The alternative is a more expensive river-cruise service, which I don’t want.

The ticket-seller looks me up and down, and obviously decides I need financial help. He tells me I can buy a Mersey Saveaway Ticket, for £5.20, and with this I can travel on all the Merseyside buses, trains and ferries free of any further charge. Perfect! Just what I need.

I walk past the Seacombe ferry building, because I’m heading for the second terminal. This is all rather confusing, but the ferry actually runs in a triangular pattern, between Liverpool on the eastern shore, and two separate terminals – Seacombe and Woodside – on the western shore of the Mersey.

There is the second ferry port, the Woodside Ferry Terminal, dead ahead. And close by is another impressive tower.

28 ruth livingstone walking to Woodside Ferry terminal

And I can’t resist taking more photographs of the Liverpool skyline across the Mersey.

29 Liverpool skyline from the Mersey, Ruth Livingstone

To get to the second ferry terminal I must walk through a dock area. Parts of it are a little grim and, with no other walkers in sight, I feel slightly uneasy.

30 industrial dockside, Wirral, Ruth's coastal walk

Am I in Birkenhead now? It’s not clear where Wallasey ends and Birkenhead begins, but I feel I’ve crossed some sort of threshold – moving from seaside resort into an industrial city.

A few minutes later I pass a Stena Line ferry port. Cars and freight. For Ireland, I assume. It’s not shown on my OS map, so maybe it’s a new terminal?

31 StenaLine ferry port, Ruth walking in The Wirral

I walk across a swing bridge. Does it still work? I doubt it. Despite the docks around me, I can’t see many ships. Everything on the wharf side has a disused air, and although new buildings are springing up, they don’t seem to be connected to the docks in any way.

32 swing bridge, Alfred Dock, Ruth walking the Wirral

The reason I’m heading for the Woodside Ferry terminal is because it makes a convenient starting point for my walk tomorrow. There is no station handy for the Seacombe terminus, but the Woodside ferry port just a stone’s throw away from the Hamilton Square railway station.

The station has a rundown air about it. And I’m surprised to be ushered into a lift. It goes down. I follow other passengers out of the lift, and there are more stairs, still going down. The platform is deep underground – a surprise. It looks like a London tube station.

33 Hamilton Square station, Ruth LIvingstone

Later I wonder why I was so surprised. This is the last stop on the Wirral and from here the train dives under the Mersey. The line needs to be deep.

Today was an interesting walk. I started from the rural resort of West Kirby, plodded along one of the longest promenades I have yet encountered, walked up the iconic River Mersey, trudged through a busy industrial area, before descending here into the bowels of the earth under Birkenhead.


This walk = 13.4 miles
Total distance = 2,620 miles

Route:


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
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17 Responses to 260 West Kirkby to Birkenhead

  1. Looks like a very interesting walk – well, apart from the long boring promenade. I remember being taken to New Brighton when I was a kid – there was nothing there apart from the fort and it was the most boring place ever. Maybe it’s become a bit more interesting in the years since then.

    I like the Victorian water fountain, it looks really attractive. The beach you found after the miles of promenade looks really nice too, and that ferry is certainly very bright.

    I was ‘following’ in your footsteps last weekend along the Dee estuary – I found Flint castle and the old Duke of Lancaster ship but couldn’t find Greenfield Dock from the road. It was only when I was on the way home two days later that I saw a street sign for a narrow lane called Dock Road, only visible when travelling towards Flint. Presumably the dock was down there but I didn’t have time to look – that’s definitely one for another time.

    • Hi Eunice, I was surprised so many people were hanging around the New Brighton area, when the West Kirby side of the coast was much nicer, in my opinion.
      Yes, I read your blog post when you visited Flint Castle and the Duke of Lancaster ‘fun ship’. Greenfield Dock is, indeed, down Dock Road (I’ve just looked it up on Google Maps!). There is a carpark at the end of the road. Nothing much there, just a few boats in the old dock. Maybe you’ll find it next time.

      • Boats and water (or sometimes the lack of it) feature greatly in my photography so that’s one reason I wanted to find Greenfield Dock, and places with nothing much there are very often the nicest. With your confirmation that it is down Dock Road I’m determined I’ll find it the next time I’m down that way.

  2. Di iles says:

    Great review Ruth, think you’ll understand now my previous comment, that Wirral is a real mixed bag, isn’t it? My daughter had a flat in the second tallest building on the Liverpool sky line, the views were amazing, my husband used to work in an office next to the river too.
    We have an annual 15 mile charity walk starting at Seacombe Ferry terminal then along the coast to Thurstaston, or in my case Irby adding another 1.5 miles. Hundreds turn out to do the walk every year, raising thousands for local charities, it’s been going for years and very popular. Think it what inspired me to do long distance walking.

    • Thank you, Di. Yes, the Wirral was a constant surprise. I really enjoyed my stay here – so much variety and unexpected things to discover. The charity walk sounds like a great route – and a great introduction to long distance walking. I know I’m moving on from your area soon, Di, but hope you’ll continue to keep in touch. Would love to hear where you are with your own walking.

      • Di iles says:

        I’ll be staying in touch Ruth, most definitely, I really look forward to reading your blog it’s such an inspiration. I’d definitely like to do the all of the Uk, like you, after I’ve finished Walesof course and by then, the proposed English coastal path should be open, 2020 I believe, so can’t wait! Must have been difficult for you when there’s been no official path. Really looking forward to your next stretch as I’d like to do that myself ( easy to do from home using public transport) and no accomadation costs.
        Really pleased you enjoyed the Wirral Ruth.
        Not sure if you’re into golf Ruth, but not sure you knew you walked past famous ‘Royal Liverpool golf course’ at Hoylake ( lots of people assume it’s in Liverpool you see ) which has been host to the OPEN Championship on a couple of occasions and as you’ll be heading up to Birkdale soon to which boasts the same.
        Happy walking Ruth 😀

  3. John Bone says:

    Hello Ruth

    The decorative Mersey Ferry is a project sponsored by the Tate explained in the link. Pop artist Peter Blake is the man responsible, but it will revert to the old decoration at the end of this year.
    http://www.biennial.com/collaborations/peter-blake-dazzle-ferry

    Greatly enjoying your blog … more power to your legs, and fewer cows on your route.

    John

    • Hi John. No cows on this day – thank goodness! Ah, yes, thanks for the link, which explains the weird patterns on the ferry. It was a shock seeing it, I must admit. But now I know what it’s all about I have to confess I like it! 😀

  4. Heather Walker says:

    “Mersey Ferries Seacombe’. So it really must be the ferry. How disappointing. “, ah I see you’ve already changed your mind Ruth. Thrilled to ‘hear’ your enthusiasm about Liverpool- it does look great in your photos. It’s at the other end of the canal I’m walking and I’ve already done a bit of research for my walk there. Your blog has given me extra ideas-thankyou. I’m afraid they’ll have changed the ferryboat decor before I arrive though.
    THE WALK IS THE EASY BIT: I find the drive to pick up my walking route where I left off last time is much harder than the actual walk. I often get lost in spite of all my map reading before hand.

    • Hi Heather. Yes, sometimes the logistics of walking are the hard part – working out how to get to the start of the walk and back from the finish can take me hours! Thank goodness for the Internet, which takes some of the pain out of it. But I frequently get lost too.

  5. Was going to explain about the dazzle ferry but by now you already know.
    It was nice to see in your photos those beaches being enjoyed in the summer, there were only dog walkers when I passed in the winter.

    • It’s interesting how the same places, and the same beaches, can look totally different in different seasons, isn’t it. Partly it’s to do with the different foliage, flowers, etc. But also partly to do with whether the cafes are open and people are milling about too.

  6. rlbwilson says:

    How good to see you continuing your Welsh coastal walk into England. This is my local area! And New Brighton is now packed in summer and fairly busy in winter as it has been regenerated ( they’ve threatened this all my life!) with a cinema, restaurants, etc. As for the concrete promenade, if you come along in stormy weather, you’ll appreciate why it’s there!

    • Hi Ruth. I’m sure there are some magnificent waves crashing up against that promenade during storms and high tides. I did enjoy walking around the Wirral, an area I’d never really heard about before.

  7. Marie Keates says:

    The ferry across the Mersey is far more colourful than I expected. I’m pretty sure I’d have had that song in my head too. It’s amazing how often that happens. I’ve never been to Liverpool for real but I’ve walked beside the Mersey in Manchester.

  8. Marie Keates says:

    I forgot to say, we have a ruined church here dedicated as a memorial to the merchant navy. If you ever come back this way you should visit it. It’s called Holyrood and is on the High Street as you head towards the sea.

    • I didn’t know about the memorial, Marie, despite spending 5 years in Southampton as a student. Yes, if I pass through again I must look out for it. There are a few merchant seamen memorials dotted around, but obviously not as many as for military men lost.

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