.. Sweet May Flowers?

Red Rose Trail Stage 2, May 28th

WALKERS: 20. WEATHER: Better that expected! The heavy rain forecast did not come.

After a longer than normal coach journey because of road works. The group left Garstang at 10.15.

The route took us past Greenhalgh Castle.(the former home of Lord Stanley after the Wars of the Roses). Onwards through the Quaker Village of Calder Vale to have a break in  its lovely church gardens.

Feeling fully refreshed, we made our way through the  Bleasdale valley, with views of Parlick and Fairsnape Fell on our left and Beacon Fell on our right ,to eventually  reach the village of Chipping (mentioned in the Dooms day book as Chippenden) for a lunch stop.

Our route then took us to the Hodder Valley and alongside the river and through what must be some of the largest water board gates around.

The path here was high level which afforded us good views.

Eventually the hamlet of Whitewell came into view and after a short descent, a change of foodwear, refreshments were taken in the 17th century Hotel, but certainly with 21st century prices!



Photos by Mark Reed on Photobucket -



Wirral Circular Stage 2, May 18th

14 persons, 1 dog, 20 miles, Leader : Freddie Aird, Deputy and biscuit provider : John Bullen

Route – Hooton, Eastham, Mayfields, Eastham Country Park, Port Sunlight, Rock Ferry, Birkenhead, Birkenhead Priory, Wallasey, New Brighton, North Wirral Coastal Park, Leasowe, Meols 

As I said in the write-up for Stage 1 of this walk it is a dilemma knowing what to say when it has been so poorly supported. I was the only East Lancs member who turned up

I will just explain why I included this walk in our club programme. The Rangers at the Wirral Countryside Service have put in a great deal of time, effort and investment into creating this new long distance trail. They have fought battles to buck a worrying national trend and get this the route waymarked. They have also produced a superb printed guide.

I felt their efforts were worthy of our support. 

Again Mother Nature smiled down on us and the weather was superb, glorious sunshine all day. We had a great bunch of people out and the atmosphere was a joy all day. After a short section through a residential estate at Hooton we entered the beautiful old village of Eastham where one or two pubs looked worthy of a future visit in their own right. What a lovely place.

Here we came onto the promenade of the Mersey Estuary and our views were stunning for the rest of the day. It starts with Mayfields Memorial Gardens and what a final resting place this is - look no further – spread my ashes here (“the sooner the better” I hear you all say!). It is right above Eastham Locks where the Manchester Ship Canal finally feeds in to the Mersey and views across to Otterspool and John Lennon Airport are stunning. Along here Brunel’s wonderful ship, the Great Eastern, found its final resting place and was dismantled. Apparently what’s left of the skeletal remains can still be seen at low tide.   

On into Eastham Country Park, beautiful in its own right, but with the unique attraction of the well-preserved remnants of a Victorian age zoo. We threw Freddie down into the bear pit! A short while later we were wracked with guilt for our harsh treatment of our leader as he diverged from the actual Wirral Way to take us through Lord Lever’s incredible village purpose-built for his soap factory workers, Port Sunlight. A café stop was the order of the day in this quite wonderful spot.

Obviously dockland industry dominates Rock Ferry and Birkenhead but right slap bang in the middle of all these cranes and warehouses is the 12th century Birkenhead Priory. Here’s some advice – go and see it. It was founded in 1150 by the monks of the Benedictine Order and for four hundred years they supervised the first regulated “ferry cross the Mersey”. The Tower of St Mary’s on the site (climb to the top the views are spectacular) is now dedicated as a memorial to those who tragically lost their lives in the 1939 sinking of the Laird’s built submarine, Thetis.

Dragging ourselves away reluctantly we headed off past the Woodside Ferry Terminal, the Mersey Ferries seemed to be doing a roaring trade, and the Marine Museum with the U-534 submarine. 

As promenade walks go the section along to New Brighton is the equal of anything I’ve ever seen. First of all it is now dedicated to fisherman, walkers, dog walkers, runners and cyclists. The views to Liverpool, with the Three Graces and the two Cathedrals, the activity on the river, that wonderful sea breeze coming in off the Irish Sea and into your face make it all rather special. New Brighton, it being a beautiful weekend day, was buzzing. We were now on the long straight bit across the top of the Wirral Peninsular, lovely beaches sloping into Liverpool Bay and that Irish Sea.

We had one more treat before the finish – Leasowe Lighthouse. We got there just as they were about to close up for the day but as their volunteer staff had been forewarned of our arrival they stayed on and gave us the guided tour. Wow – it really is something special. This was not a flashing lighthouse warning of rocks to be avoided. This was a permanent light and there was another a mile inland standing higher on Bilston Hill. Ships leaving Anglesey and rounding the Great Orme at Llandudno would head for these lights. Once the captain had the two lights lined up he knew for a certainty that he was sailing in the safe channel. I mean - how is that for genius! And this was constructed in 1763!

A short walk to Meols station and again we caught the superb Merseyrail back to Hooton.

I wouldn’t have missed this event for anything. It was superb and I’d like to thank everyone who turned up. We had a cracking little team out and we all enjoyed eachother’s company so much we are planning a reunion walk! Many thanks to Freddie Aird and the Merseystride group for playing such a big part in putting on this venture and to the Wirral Countryside Service, Ann Litherland and Jo Hanik, for all their help in making it so enjoyable and including us in the superb Wirral Walking Festval.

John Bullen 





Burnley Way in a Day, Saturday May 10th

10 walkers, 40 miles, Ldr : Mike Bushby

This was an extra inserted into our walk schedule. Well done Mike and all concerned!

Ten of us met on the outskirts of Burnley at 6.30am to embark on the 40-mile Burnley Way.  What began as a recce ahead of two club walks provided a good opportunity for a strenuous warm-up ahead of the Valleys 100, with a couple of hardy souls participating just for the heck of it.

The weather forecast was for a wet morning and clearer afternoon, but things turned out just the opposite.  We managed to stay dry as the Leeds and Liverpool Canal took us through the town's industrial heritage and a resplendent Turf Moor, then bluebell-carpeted woods, farmland (containing over-enthusiastic cattle in one place) and small valleys led up onto the moors around Widdop Reservoir.  At this point, Brenda appeared as a Range Rover angel, providing bonus cookies and jelly baby sustenance.

The route brought us back to Hurstwood for lunch, then turned away from Burnley to follow the Long Causeway, past its monolithic wind turbines. All the while we each pondered the great question - to stick on the waterproofs or not? - as the showers and wind intensified and eased from one moment to the next.  This decision was made easier as conditions steadily worsened during the pull up Thievely Pike and it was a grateful, slightly bedraggled bunch that made it to the Towneley Hall cafe 20 minutes before the 5pm closing time for shelter and a fresh brew.

Though less varied geographically, the next chunk of the walk over Hambledon Hill promised fine views across Burnley, Pendle and beyond.  However, wind, showers and wet/muddy conditions underfoot meant that we were rarely gazing into the distance and the focus became to get the remaining miles through Hapton and Padiham knocked off before dark.  We just about managed, reaching the cars around 9pm.  Despite differing degrees of weariness, all were still in fine spirits, appreciating a challenging and hugely diverse walk.

Chris Hopkins, Kath Page, Hazel Storyuk, Paul Banks (E Lancs), Paul (S Pennines), Steve Clarke, 3 guys from Bolton.

John Bullen



Wirral Circular Stage 1, May 10th

15 persons, 1 dog, 2 Countryside Rangers, 22 miles, Leader : Freddie Aird, Deputy and biscuit provider : John Bullen 

Route – Hooton, Neston, Parkgate, Thurstaston, West Kirby, Hilbre Island, Hoylake, Meols

It’s a quandary what to include in a write-up for a scheduled club walk when only one other East Lancs member turned up. I do apologise if people were disappointed to see this walk included in the schedule but there was certainly a lot of enthusiasm for the idea when I first floated it. Perhaps it was the bad weather forecast or it being on a  Saturday!

Let’s talk about that weather first up – we had just two short smatterings of rain all day despite it pouring down nearly everywhere else in the northwest. With the bursts of sunshine and constant breeze coming in off the Irish Sea it was just about the perfect walking weather.

There’s certainly no shortage of parking space at Hooton railway station. There must be room for five or six hundred cars and it’s 80p for the whole day. Throw in toilets and a coffee vending machine and it’s just about the perfect base!

The Wirral Circular Trail is a 35 mile trek round a peninsular hemmed in by the rivers Mersey and Dee. It’s just about as flat as pancake (despite Pete Balshaw’s admittedly faulty GPS showing we did 2,400ft of ascent!) but there is much else on offer to lift this walk into the highly attractive bracket.

The first four miles is along a disused railway track the highlight of which is Hadlow Road station near Willaston. It is perfectly preserved as it would have been in the 1930s - even down to the station cat being curled up on the chair and the station master’s fried eggs out on a plate just ready to eat! We bypass Neston, birthplace of Lady Hamilton, before leaving the circular trail for a short while to visit the remarkable Parkgate, once many, many years ago a thriving port but now a quite unique peaceful and quaint town with wonderful history (Handel wrote his “Messiah” here whilst waiting for a ship to Ireland) and superb views across to Flintshire and North Wales.

We had a brew and a butty before pushing on to Thurstaston, the focal point of the Wirral Country Park and our venue for lunch. The facilities here - café, toilets, information centre and picnic tables - are superb and we were joined by two Countryside Rangers, Anne Litherland (who had helped us include this walk in the Wirral Walking Festival) and Matt Thomas. They came bearing gifts with walk guides and Wirral Way badges for us all!

Pushing on we dropped down on to the beach and hit West Kirby where the marina was in full swing with a yatching and windsurfing event. With the tide out (the reason we did the walk Saturday and not Sunday) we headed across the one and a half miles of sands to Hilbre Island. My advice on this for anyone who has never been is GO, it’s a wonderful and rewarding experience. We did see two or three seals but apparently just a couple of hours previously there had been a hundred and fifty frolicking about on the rocks of West Hoyle Bank. There was once a pub on the island, the Seagull Inn, there’s three cottages, a telegraph house, ruined lifeboat station and the famous Hilbre thrift was coming into full bloom, superbly contrasting its pink with the glow of the bluebells.

The trail back to the mainland retraces your steps and from West Kirby we headed along the beach past some of the most impressive properties on the Wirral with their superb views out into the Irish Sea and alongside the Royal Liverpool golf club where preparations are already underway for hosting the British Open in July. The cut-off point on the first section dictates how much we have to do next Sunday so Freddie put it to us that we should call it a day at Meols and head for the railway station. Good old Jonathan who had been great fun all day asked our permission to carry on going – admirable having already clocked up 22 miles! We caught the superb Merseyrail (trains every eight minutes) back to Hooton - £3.60 so a real bargain!

It’s all set up for Part 2 next Sunday May 18thwhich will include a little excursion off route through Port Sunlight village and hopefully we are going to finish with a look round Leasowe lighthouse!

Many thanks to Freddie Aird and the Merseystride group for playing such a big part in putting on this venture.


John Bullen