Sunday, 3 September 2017

Day: 278 23/5/04 Little Neston to Wales Border

Weather:  Fine and breezy.

Distance:  3 km (1.9 miles)    Total Distance:   3583 miles

The last stretch.  I had contacted quite a few people before today telling them of my plans and inviting them to join me on the last leg.  I had heard back from a number of people and in the end quite a few turned up on the day which was a lovely surprise. As well as Margaret and the boys there were Terry who I had worked for and lived not too far away, John who had traveled all the way from Brigg and was combining the trip with a visit to his parents, Andy who had traveled all the way from Northamptonshire to be there especially.  There was also Tim who I went to Swansea University with and his wife and daughter and our friends Mary and Andrew and their daughters who came down from Catterick. Representing my school days was Richard partner.  My family was represented by my Uncle and Aunt  and my postgrad days by Michael and Debbie and their children.

We left plenty of time to drive up from Coventry and was glad we did in the end because I was distracted for a second whilst approaching the Thelwall viaduct by a smoking lorry on the opposite carriageway and missed my exit therefore had to go over the viaduct and back though Warrington.

Getting going was a little tricky as people kept arriving.  Richard couldn’t find us initially which was no surprise as it a little off the beaten track and there is no sign of the sea! 

Last day of the walk

The whole day seemed like a dream in that there were people there from all different parts of may life, many of whom didn’t know each other.  The good news was that everyone seemed to get on OK. 

I had read on the Internet the week before that if there was any firing on the riffle range then it should be over by the time we got to the range itself.  Whatever happened we should have been OK as the range itself was actually on the Wales side of the border.  It made me wonder what sort of danger I put myself in some 20 years ago because I have a photo of me at the border with the red flag flying.

This time the red flags were also flying but nobody showed much hesitation in following me the last couple of hundred yards to the border. Terry, a professional safety officer was well up for it.  The only one who was nervous was Gareth and in fact he never made the actual boarder preferring to lie on the floor and escape any stray bullets.

The end of the coastal walk.

It was quite an emotional moment striding up to the gate, posing for some photos and saying a few words of thanks to those who turned up.

The kind people who turned up at the end

We walked back to the pub and celebrated.  Unfortunately the pub was not doing any food and the landlady even objected to people eating their sandwiches on the picnic tables outside.  She appeared very officious.  It slightly spoilt the atmosphere and people headed away perhaps earlier than they would otherwise have done given the lack of food.

Harp Inn, Little Neston

Michael had kindly invited us back for a bar-b-que after so when everyone else had left we followed them back to Chester for a relaxing time there. 

A smashing day all round.

Celebrating back in Chester

Day: 277 18/5/04 Hoylake to Little Neston

Weather:  Fine and warm.

Distance:  18 km (11.2 miles)    Total Distance:   3582 miles

I was going to be working in Liverpool the next day so I decided to take a day off and go walking today.  I also made it a day for bagging trig points.  On the way up I went up Helsby Hill between Frodsham and Ellesmere Port.  This was a sandstone hill overlooking the Mersey.  I was relieved to have an excuse to pull off the motorway was it was getting very bunged up near Frodsham with Monday morning commuters.  I also bagged a low lying trig point near Clatterbridge hospital but had trouble finding this one as it was buried in the undergrowth at this time of year. I had to use my GPS in the end. 

Finally to Hoylake, parking the car on the promenade and heading west to begin with along the road but I pretty soon got down onto the beach for the rest of the day, something I was not expecting.  I was interested in Hibre Island just off the coast and the fact that there was a house or two on it, something I didn’t know anything about. 

West Kirby (Geograph)

Rounding the corner and heading southeast I very much felt that I was on the last leg of my walk.  I had to come up onto a promenade briefly at West Kirby but I was soon down onto the beach again.  As I was stopped for a drink and snack I got talking to a couple with a dog. They thought the Wirral was the best place in the world.  I nodded but was not that convinced myself. 

As I neared Neston I passed a lady who advised me that I should have a ice cream in celebration of nearing the end of my walk in a famous ice cream sellers in Neston. This I duly did. It was good advice, not as nice as the ice cream we had had in Italy on holiday at Easter but it was still pretty good compared to the normal bland stuff one buys these days.

The last stretch to Little Neston was on the marshland that no doubt used to be estuary before it silted up.  Finding a path here was a little messy at times.

Parkgate, Neston (Rosalind Mitchell, Geograph)

My other celebration was to have a pint of Pedigree in the Harp Inn, staking out the joint for my last couple of miles in a week or twos time.  I was thinking it would be a larger pub than it was but it was ok – at least it was in the Good Beer Guide. 

Day: 276 9/5/04 Eastham to Hoylake

Weather:  Fine and warm. 

Distance:  29 km (18 miles)    Total Distance:   3570 miles

I parked in the old part of Eastham and headed down the road towards the old dock.  It was still a quiet Sunday morning.  As the path neared the River Mersey it entered Eashtam Country Park.  I followed it not knowing if I could get out the other end but fortunately I could, into an industrial estate.  My way eventually got blocked by a chemical works – the FMC Lithium works I think, so I was forced inland and along another stretch of industrial estate including a cake factory.  A safety board in the factory reported accidents – I think the doughnut department was performing best. 

Eastham       (Sue Adair - Geograph)

At the end of the road I turned right and ended up in a village called Bromborough Pool, a village of workers terraced housed all in excellent condition. I guess it mirrored the nearby Port Sunlight village.  It was in sharp contrast to the untidy nearby industrial landscape. 

For the next few miles it was a case of hoping I was not forced too far inland by docks or factories.  I ended up in a suburban area called New Ferry, threading my way around the streets and again eventually catching sight of the River Mersey. 

At the end of this area there was a slip path and I sat and ate a banana and had a drink, satisfied with my progress to date.  Soon after this point there was a path into a more middle class area and then after this I was forced over the dual carriage way by means of a footbridge and again into a semi-industrial area, then back over the main road, down through another deserted industrial estate before turning seawards again and stumbling on the remains of a priory. 

Soon I was able to join a path down to the water’s edge and stopped for a canned drink and cake the head of the Mersey Ferry Terminal in Birkenhead.  It was still a case of trying to find a good path and as I passed the tunnel head’s, it was a desolate area.  I ended up in one dockland area afraid I would have to back track on myself but fortunately the path did let me out onto the main road and a bridge over the dockyards and into Wallasey. 

Wallasey Town Hall (Stephen Nunney Geograpph)

After another half mile of road walking and past another tunnel terminus I was on the coast again and the wide straight  promenade, past the elegant Town Hall,  that took me north all the way to the Wirral headland.  The area was barred to cars but still pretty busy with walkers and cyclists, especially at the headland. 

As I turned left I studied the map and the time to decide when to stop.  I was going well so pushed on to Hoylake.  After a disappointing stretch along modern roads the path became more rural and I took to the beach for quite a long stretch and was relieved in the end to see Hoylake. I then just had to decide when to stop – the nearest point to a train station I decided.

Perch Rock Lighthouse, New Brighton   (Geograph, Peter Craine)

I caught a train from the rather strange Manor Park Station in Hoylake which is down the end of a suburban street. A lady noticed that I was looking a little lost and told me which way to go to find the station.  Some youths walked down the line so the station master called the police. It seemed that sort of area.  I changed trains in Birkenhead, an underground station, again strange. 

On the way back I took the last train to Bromborough Station and walked back to the car but as luck would have it I had to walk straight past the front door of my Uncle and Aunt.   I don’t think I had ever met them or if I had I must have been very young.  They had a surprise to see me and in the usual generosity invited me in and made me share their Sunday lunch with them.  They must have been very inventive to make it stretch the extra person and they must have been hungry on Monday when they usually eat the leftovers!  After dinner my uncle kindly gave me a lift back to my car so I could drive back to Coventry without being too late.  I phoned Margaret to tell her not to cook me any tea!

Day: 275 25/4/04 Frodsham to Eastham

Weather:  Fine and hot. 

Distance:  23 km (14.3 miles)    Total Distance:   3552 miles

I slept like a log and got up for the breakfast that was in the overnight price – another sign of changing times in Youth Hostels and very nice it was too. 

Starting point for the day - River Weaver at Frodsham
(Geograph - ROW17)

I drove to Frodsham and parked outside the Bridge Inn with signs of the previous evenings drunkenness – a meal tipped over a car parked next to me.  The first part of the walk took me down the river’s edge, under the motorway and around an ICI landfill site.  I passed some bloke camping on a spit of wasteland just under the M56, not exactly a choice site. 

Frodsham map

This was good bird watching country, particularly at this time of year.  As the path cut back in again towards Frodsham I passed a number of twitchers.  Just before I got to the motorway again the path cut back out again onto the marsh.  The path went westwards though - not seemingly following the path marked on my 20 year old map. 

I was beginning to enjoy this stretch in the fine weather when all of a sudden it ended and I was in among a chemical factory again.  I was passed by a seemingly very fit walker who strode past me with purpose.  I asked him if he was off to Ellesmere Port and he said yes, to do the shopping!  After a stretch along farm tracks and minor roads I ended up in the village of Ince.  I took refuge in the church graveyard and dug into a packet of biscuits.  The shade of the trees was much appreciated.  I psyched myself up for the next stretch.

St James church, Ince - a good graveyard for taking a rest
(Geograph - Ian Nadin)
There now followed a three-mile stretch through Stanlow Oil Refinery and past the Associated Octel works that was being demolished.  It wasn’t as bad as it may have been.  There was a decent pavement and not too much traffic.  I took a break in the Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port – used their loo and sat on a settee in the foyer and had a can of their pop.

Ellesmere Port map
Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port with a comfy sofa in the foyer.
(Geograph - Martin Clark)
The next stretch was also none too good, on roads parallel to the motorway.  There was just one nice stretch where I found a woodland area with good paths parallel to the motorway but very peaceful.  I crossed the M53 again and approached the village of Eastham and although the scenery was getting better I decided to call it a day.

There now followed another tortuous journey back to the car.  I got a bus easily to Ellesmere Port by waking up on to the main road.  In Ellesmere Port however there were no busses to Frodsham so I walked up to the railway station and asked the guard in the waiting train who advised me to get to Chester which was a journey in two trains – one back virtually to Eastham!  Once in Chester I would have had an almost two hour wait for a train to Frodsham so decided to see if I could get a bus.  It took a while to find the bus station and then another fair wait for a bus – time for a pint in a historic Chester pub and eventually back to Frodsham, a quick trig point bag and a drive home!

Day: 274 25/4/04 Garston to Frodsham

Weather:  Fine and hot.

Distance:  29 km (18 miles)    Total Distance:   3538 miles

It was a good weekend’s forecast so I set off early and started the day with my new hobby of trigpointing – one of them in Stanley Park, Liverpool between Anfield and Goodison.  

The week previously I had made contact via the net with David Cousins who last year had walked around the coast and made a log of it n the Internet.  I had read his log of this coming section where he describes Garston as not very attractive, or words to that effect, and how right he was.  

Garston map

I parked not too far from the train station and made my way though Garston and then the nearby industrial estate.  Soon however I was able to cut down onto the mini cliff top.  As I approached Liverpool airport I was expecting to have to go down onto the foreshore and in the end I did.  Fortunately the tide was out.  The bad thing about this stretch was that the 4X4 vehicles had discovered the area and there was mile upon mile of ripped up ecosystem – the first evidence I had seen of this destructive hobby my entire walk. 

The coast got more pleasant at Hale Point especially in the Spring sunshine.  The path from here goes into Hale where I stopped for lunch.  As I was nearing the end of my coastal walk I decided to have a pint and a proper lunch in the pub, the Marquess of Hale.  It was a good pint of Liverpool brewed beer. 

After a short stretch of road walking it was back to the coast, through a country park, past some chemical industry, over an elaborate footbridge and then into the outskirts of Widnes.  To get onto the footbridge over the Mersey I took the underpass under the bridge and then onto the very distinctive iron bridge.  Getting off on the southern end was more difficult and the road swung around and back though Runcorn and onto the coast again.

Runcorn map

It all got rather scrappy from here.  I wandered through a new housing development but was then forced inland and ended up lost in Runcorn docks in amongst lots of scrap car dealers.  After a while I ended up crossing a railway line and going over an overgrown embankment onto a dual carriageway. 

I was a little nervous here as I had just had the operation on my wrist the Monday before to have the pins taken out of my broken wrist and I didn’t want to fall and break it again!  I used my GPS at one stage to find out where I was – that’s how lost I was. 

The road went down into Weston Point – famed I believe for chemical contamination from the nearby ICI chemical works.  I had a pint of larger shandy in the pub, a rough place but the drink was only £1.64.  There was a cockatoo sitting on top of a cage in the pub!

After a spell on the dual carriageway again I cut down towards the power station and thought I would have to backtrack again as I could not see the path that was marked on the map but I asked the gateman and he said it was over the hedge – seldom used but passable. 

Down to the river, up the canal, over the bridge then another little error – a little detour up to near the motorway and back again. 

I called it a day near the Bridge Inn at Frodsham and began a very tortuous journey back to the car that took three and a half  hours.  A bus to Runcorn, a very slow bus to Liverpool stopping everywhere and then train to Garston - all with bad connection in between. 

I stopped the night in Chester Youth Hostel arriving at 10.00 with just time to eat some pre-packed sandwiches I had bought and drink two cups of tea before I was thrown out of the Members Kitchen and had to retire to the lounge with a modern working TV.  Oh how youth hostels have changed!  A drunken exuberant group of teenagers then appeared so I retired to bed hoping that none of them were housed in my room.