Freshfield to Southport

Well, 2020 has been a real “annus horriblus” so far. First the storms in February which more or less kept us indoors, no walks no gallery visits, no theatre, no cinema. And now, to top it all, the Corona virus. At the moment I’m stuck inside on a nice day, work in limbo, wondering how our small training and consultancy company is going to survive, and pondering whether I should go out for a walk while maintaining “social distancing”. Oh well, an opportunity to catch up with all sorts of things I’m behind on, reading, watching some films and TV, DIY (ugh!) and, of course, writing up some blog posts.

Walking during February was mainly restricted to local walks around the Plantations during any “weather windows” that occurred. Just 2 weeks ago I took a week off work, as our son was using up some holidays, intending to get out for some family days out. The weather was awful on the first couple of days but the Wednesday afternoon was looking reasonably promising in South West Lancashire so I decided to get out for a walk by the coast near Southport. The family declined to join me preferring to stay indoors.

I travelled over by train (on reflection that might not have been such a bright idea) over to Freshfields, which is at the northern end of Formby. Leaving the station, I followed the path that runs along the east side of the railway line. I was soon walking through some woodland.

I crossed over the railway line

and was soon crossing the golf course (watch out for flying golf balls!) towards the extensive pine forest on the sand dunes.

There’s a network of paths in the woods and although I had a rough idea of where I wanted to end up I decided to wander randomly, taking twists and turns as I fancied. There were a few other people walking through the woods and several cyclists riding solo or in groups.

Eventually I came out of the woods and started following the path through the dunes in the direction of Ainsdale.

That was a bit of a mistake. Expecting relatively easy going I’d come out in my walking shoes rather than my boots and I started to encounter lengthy sections of the path which were flooded, too deep to consider wading through.

and most of the sections didn’t have conveniently placed (if rather wobbly!) stepping stones to cross on. I persevered, finding ways around the worst of the flooding and boggy areas and I eventually crossed over the dunes on to the beach at Ainsdale.

The sun was shining and the sky was blue but there was a strong southerly wind whipping across the beach so although I’d originally intended to walk back along the beach to Freshfields I decided I’d carry on in the direction of Southport. A little longer but, I thought, it would be easier going with the wind behind me.

The going wasn’t as easy as I thought

and eventually I reached an impasse where a wide channel of fast running water blocked my way. I had to retreated turning back along the beach walking into a strong head wind.

After about 20 minutes, when I was half way back to Ainsdale, there was a path into the dunes which headed in the direction of Southport. I set off through the dunes, thinking I’d either divert off to catch the train at Birkdale or, if I felt up to it, carry on to Southport.

Walking was reasonably easy on a good path sheltered from the wind, but I could see dark clouds looming out at sea which seemed to be rapidly approaching, driven by the strong wind. No worries – I had a waterproof coat in my rucksack.

I carried on, deciding to continue past Birkdale and on to Southport. It’s somewhere with a lot of memories for me as we had regular days out there when I was a child. My fathers parents both came from the Victorian sea-side town and we had family there, including great grandparents, who we used to visit. I think another reason for visiting Southport, through, was that it had fewer costly attractions than the brasher Blackpool further up the coast!

As I got closer to the town I was amazed just how much of what had been a sandy beach had silted up and had turned into salt marsh.

Reaching the outskirts of town I passed Pleasureland, looking rather sad and forlorn being closed for the winter

but then reached the Marine Lake.

Southport was always famous for the sea being a long way out, so the Marine Lake was created to compensate for this and give visitors a chance to promenade alongside the water, so that’s what I decided to do!

I walked along the lake as far as the pier, and took the steps up on to the deck. The wind was still blowing so I decided against walking down to the end (the tide was way out, anyway) and set off towards the Prom, but I took a shot down the pier

Reaching the prom I took some shots of a couple of the sculptures held up high on top of long poles.

(Southport used to be famous for it’s shrimps. I used to pester my parents to buy a cone of them during our days out there when I was young!)

Facing the end of the pier is Nevill Street, where my great grandparents used to live in a flat with a view towards the pier, upstairs in this building

I remember looking out past the statue of Queen Victoria which used to be in the very centre of the road – they’ve moved her over to one side now

At the end of Nevill Street is Lord Street, a long boulevard which some people believe inspired Napoleon III to create the boulevards of Paris (he was exiled there for a while living in lodgings just off Lord Street). I stopped to take a look at the War Memorial. My Great Grandfather’s name is inscribed on it, along with many others. (My great grandmother remarried after the war so the Nevill street great grandfather was my grandad’s step father)

It was starting to go dark now and finally beginning to rain, but it was only a short walk around the block to the train station.

19 thoughts on “Freshfield to Southport

  1. A good walk and post, evocative.
    I got completely lost in those dunes once, complicated paths trying to follow the Sefton Coastal Path.
    That marshy ground approaching Southport scared the life out of me as the tide was coming in and filling all the little channels.
    Keep getting out for some exercise and fresh air while you can, uncertain days ahead!

    • Thanks😊
      Local walks only now after I was a bad lad and went for a walk up in the Lakes on Saturday. 😬 Fortunately it was very quiet on my route, and, where I parked, Grasmere was deadly quiet. Government guidance has been so vague and unclear it’s been difficult to know whether you’re doing right or wrong.

  2. I have never been to Southport or if I have it was a very very long time ago. I hope you manage a few local walks. I feel so sad that I cannot go to the lakes now, but it is for the best. Stay safe.

    • Your hidey hole off limits at the moment ☹️. But at least you have access to some lovely countryside from your front door. Be careful and keep safe.

  3. I so enjoyed this walk through so many varied landscapes. The image of the blowing grasses is a very peaceful, soothing image, much needed today. How wonderful that your grandfather is commemorated for his service in this beautiful seaside town.

    • Thanks Susanne. It was an enjoyable, relaxing walk ( most of the way 😊)
      It’s my great grandfather who died towards the end of the First World War in Greece. We went to Thessalonika to visit his grave back in October 2018. A moving experience.

    • Thanks 🙂 The dunes from Formby to Birkdale are certainly a gem. And further south, at Crosby, you have Gormley’s iron men.
      Work has been hectic. Some crisis management (still going on) and attempting to convert face to face training to online. Challenging but that can be fun in its own way . Soon been a hectic couple of weeks so far.

    • No wet feet and no scree. Well there must be very few places in the Scottish hills you can walk !!! 🙂
      Strange times indeed Anabel. Been a week of crisis management at work.
      We’re well, although been suffering from colds (I’m 90% sure it’s not the virus). Son was told to stay off work at end of last week as a someone from his company had developed virus, but then lockdown happened anyway. Our daughter is still in the Netherlands. She was toying with coming home but didn’t and now probably can’t. Thank goodness for all these fancy internet things that allow us to keep in contact. She even played a board game with her brother yesterday via Facetime!
      Look after yourself and keep safe and healthy.

    • Thanks 🙂
      Yes, I think we all feel the same. After all the awful weather in February it’s been frustrating being stuck in as things have brightened up. Bu hey, ho, not much can but get out locally where possible.

  4. I recently made my first ever visit to Southport, but that was with my son’s rugby team, so I didn’t see much of it. We tried once to visit the sands at Formby, but the National Trust has signs up saying they were closed due to high winds. At least I’ve had a vicarious visit now!

    • Formby beach and the dunes are worth a visit if you’re down that way with a few hours to spare. And Crosby beach with the Iron Men is only a few miles south too.

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