Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

11th May 2009

Desperately Seacombe Cruisin’
Posted by at 7.31pm | 1 response | Out and About

The original plan for today involved going to the gym, then spending the afternoon in the Odeon watching the new Star Trek film (it’s only been out a few days, but I already feel like I’m the only person who hasn’t seen it).

Two events conspired to alter this plan, however. On Saturday afternoon I apparently overexerted myself in the gym, leaving my arms aching in a most uncomfortable way and certainly putting me off setting foot in there again for a few days at least. Secondly, a quick check of the weather forecast this morning revealed that today was likely to be the only sunny day of the week, so spending it indoors was not the best plan.

So, what to do? I had a vague recollection of a previous trip on the Mersey Ferry, where the commentary had plugged the walking opportunities available along the promenade between New Brighton and Seacombe. Having only the vaguest sense of where I was actually going, I boarded a train into town, Saveaway in hand…

Exiting Moorfields station through the Old Hall Street exit (simply because I never usually use it), I strolled round to James Street to pick up the Wirral Line. On Chapel Street an unfortunate foreign couple were left stranded by the 500 AirLink bus, which sailed right past the stop without stopping because they didn’t put their arm out to flag it down. Really, that was a bit mean of the driver: it’s not as if many other buses use that stop and they were clutching luggage, so where else would they be going other than the airport?

At James Street, excellently my train to New Brighton was due to depart from platform 2 — normally used in emergencies only, but pressed into regular service during the current Loop engineering work. No pictures today, but if you’re interested check out my last visit during the Merseyrail Electric railtour.

When I was a kid, New Brighton was the place our family went at times when money was tight and Southport was a bit too expensive. One thing that always sticks in my memory is the moment when the train swings round the curve towards the terminus, and suddenly you get a marvellous view right across the estuary and out into the Irish Sea. They’ve spoiled it slightly by building some houses between the railway line and the beach, but there’s still enough undeveloped land left to appreciate it.

View of New Brighton beach

But let’s be honest, there’s not much to commend New Brighton as a dynamic day trip destination. When I was there today, there was a sprinkling of pensioners, a few scallies dragging ferocious-looking dogs, and not much else.

Well, there is Fort Perch Rock, which today looked as imposing as ever. I’ve never been inside, and that didn’t change today. But here’s a nice photo of it, with the lighthouse beside it and some swans and seagulls and stuff.

Fort Perch Rock, New Brighton

And of course there’s the wind turbines along the Liverpool shoreline. Many people condemn them as eyesores and I can understand why you wouldn’t want one at the bottom of your garden, but really, Seaforth Freeport is hardly an area of outstanding natural beauty, is it?

Wind Turbines at Seaforth Freeport

Last night I’d had a hankering for some proper chippy chips. I’d resisted the temptation then, but today, being in a seaside town with a chippy seemingly on every corner, I had ample opportunity to satisfy that need (diet be damned!) and popped into one of the takeaways on the seafront.

It was 12 o’clock and they had evidently only just opened for the day. Despite that, a queue had already formed and I took that as a sign that this was a good and popular eatery. As I waited, though, I noticed some warning signs: the floor was dirty, the seats and tables were ripped and stained, and the chips were emptied into the fryer from a scratched yellow plastic bucket. I was a bit worried, but it’s five hours later and I don’t have food poisoning, so I’ll assume everything is OK.

The fish was really nice, the chips less so. Why are chips so hard to get right? The Chinese takeaway near my house, which otherwise does really good food, serves horrible chips, and these ones were even worse. I ended up throwing half of them away.

Poor old New Brighton — I get the impression that the powers-that-be would really like to restore it to its glory days. Various schemes have come and gone without really making much impact. One big project has come to fruition, however: The Floral Pavilion, home to countless pantomimes starring Pete Price, has recently been completely rebuilt and it looks great.

Floral Pavilion Theatre, New Brighton

It seems like there’s always a Billy Fury tribute taking place somewhere on Merseyside. This poster wins extra points for being nearly a month out of date, advertising an event taking place between 17th and 19th April.

Billy Fury Poster outside Floral Pavilion

At this point my camera’s battery warning indicator came on. The impromptu nature of today’s trip meant I hadn’t had time to charge the batteries, but I had assumed that they’d last. Irritatingly there doesn’t seem to be a general store-type shop in New Brighton. There’s a Somerfield but I hate going into supermarkets for just one item, so I gave up and continued on towards Seacombe.

The walk along the promenade from New Brighton is pleasant enough, although the wind was getting up a bit at this point. The best part was the great view across to Liverpool, whose skyline I never get tired of seeing. I risked my camera’s battery to get this shot:

Liverpool viewed from Wallasey

Ah, it’s called the Millennium Trail! I’m always a bit suspicious of projects with Millennium in the title, based on previous experience (The Millennium Dome, Windows Millennium Edition, Millennium by Robbie Williams), but I think the Trail can safely be judged as an exception to that rule.

Millennium Trail, Seacombe

And here’s Seacombe Landing Stage. The plan had been to take the ferry from here back to Liverpool, but I missed the departure by about ten minutes. Rather than hang around for an hour, I decided to press on to Woodside — I guessed that it was less than an hour’s walk, and even if I missed the ferry from there, at least I could go to Hamilton Square for a train.

Seacombe Landing Stage

The ferry terminal building itself is one of those impressive buildings that local councils used to build just to show off — it’s hard to imagine anything of this stature being erected in Wallasey today.

Ferry Terminal Building, Seacombe

And here’s my MerseyTart tribute photo. I think I’ve ticked all the boxes: sign in background, slightly odd angle due to holding camera with one hand, feeling like a bit of a prat in view of all the passers-by.

Mersey Tart tribute, Seacombe Ferry

I thought getting from Seacombe to Woodside would be a simple matter of continuing along the waterfront. This is impossible thanks to the various industries adjacent to the river at this point, including a wastewater treatment plant and the Twelve Quays terminal. Undeterred, I left the ferry terminal and continued on into Birkenhead, trusting my usually-reliable sense of direction to deliver me to Woodside.

I’m really glad I did continue on foot, because this section proved to be the most interesting part of the day. Much of Birkenhead’s dockland is disused and abandoned, but there are loads of interesting relics, from a time when the locks and quays on both sides of the river were much busier than they are now…

Example one: this lifting bridge. Is it still used? It is equipped with modern flashing warning lights and barriers, so it must have been in use until fairly recently.

Lifting Bridge, Birkenhead

Nearby was this scene of dereliction, which again left me wanting to know more. What was this building used for in the past? More importantly, why can’t something be done with it? It’s such a shame that it’s being left to slowly crumble like this.

Derelict Building, Birkenhead Docks

Look at this: one of the Mersey Ferries moored in the docks. I always wondered where they lived when not in service, and now I know! Apologies for the crap photo; my cheap digital camera does not have an optical zoom, so I had to do the best I could from a distance.

Mersey Ferry Moored in Birkenhead Docks

Continuing on, I was surprised to see a sign warning of a level crossing ahead. Incidentally, am I the only person who thinks the sign for a level crossing is the most confusing design ever? Why is it just a picture of a fence? No wonder so many drivers get confused by them.

Level Crossing Sign, Birkenhead

I guessed that this could be a sign of the disused Birkenhead Docks freight line, and I was right. Officially this line is only mothballed, and I believe the junction with Merseyrail at Rock Ferry is still maintained and fully signalled. However, even though the track is still in place, I would guess there’s not much chance of a train anytime soon.

Disused Birkenhead Docks Railway

A footbridge is also provided across the line at this point…

Footbridge over Birkenhead docks railway

…although I wouldn’t recommend trying to use it.

Broken footbridge over Birkenhead docks railway

The steps on the other side are even more overgrown than the ones shown above, but there is this hilariously optimistic sign to greet you at the top.

Bridge Under Repair Notice

Nearby, a derelict signalbox pokes out through the weeds. There are semaphore signal posts (minus the actual arms) dotted around as well, but I couldn’t get a decent shot. It’s weird to see all this rusting railway equipment, surrounded by busy roads all around. It has been reported that this line will reopen to carry freight traffic to the Twelve Quays terminal, but no firm proposals have been put forward.

Derelict Signalbox on Birkenhead docks line

I was certain that by this point someone would have reported me as a terrorist for taking photos of railways and docks, so I hurried on. I was getting closer to Birkenhead town centre now and was pleased with myself for not getting totally lost. I encountered yet another lifting bridge, but I’ve seen this one before so I knew I was on the right track. Egerton Bridge was disused for many years but has been restored, with tours of the machinery available by prior appointment.

Egerton Bridge, Birkenhead

Pacific Road Arts Centre is one of many buildings under threat of closure, thanks to Wirral Borough Council’s ridiculously short-sighted costcutting, which will soon see libraries, museums and theatres all ruthlessly culled.

Pacific Road Arts Centre, Birkenhead

I walked along the tracks of the Heritage Tramway. It only operates weekends and school holidays, so no sign of any trams today. The tramway is also threatened by Wirral’s spending cuts, but rumours are swirling that it will be taken over by Merseytravel to complement the other visitor attractions at Woodside Ferry Terminal. I don’t know if this is true, but it would be funny if this was the way Merseytravel got to operate a tram system at last.

Tram tracks, Birkenhead

I arrived at Woodside with plenty of time to catch the 2.40pm ferry over to Pier Head. It was high tide and the landing stage was rocking and lurching a bit more than I was happy with, so I was quite relieved when Royal Daffodil arrived to carry me across the water. Most of my previous ferry rides have been at the weekend when the boats are usually packed with tourists; it was good to get on board one that was only lightly-loaded, with plenty of opportunity to get a good view.

Mersey Ferry, Royal Daffodil, at Woodside

Merseytravel’s branding people have been at it again: the smart Mersey Ferries logo on the funnel has been replaced by the standard yellow M logo. At least they haven’t painted the whole boat yellow — yet.

Merseytravel logo on funnel of Royal Daffodil ferry

So that’s it, back to Liverpool, after a day that turned out to be far more interesting than I thought it would. New Brighton is dull, but the walk to Seacombe is enjoyable. Meanwhile, there’s lots of interesting things to see in Birkenhead’s derelict dockland, if you look for them.

Did I mention how much I love the Liverpool skyline? Here, have another picture. In fact, I took a lot of pictures today. Despite the ominous red flashing warning of low batteries, my camera actually lasted right through the afternoon. I’m glad that, for once, I didn’t forget to take it; it’s nice to come back from a day out with something to show for it other than windburn.

Liverpool viewed from the Mersey Ferry

Tags: , , ,

One Response
  1. Comment by Mike Kelly
    15th May 2009 at 9:54 pm

    I and my better half like to take in the sea air on the New Brighton to Seacombe walk in the company of our minature poodle. Very nice it is to.