The Wednesday of my week off work was looking promising for a walk but where to go? J’s foot was still swollen after twisting over her ankle in Conwy Castle, so this was to be a solo trip. I didn’t leave her unattended though, as our son was also off work. I decided to take the train to the coast for a half day walk along the beach and through the dunes from Freshfield station near Formby, which is between Liverpool and Southport.
People have been living around Formby for a long time. The suffix -by is derived from the Scandinavian byr meaning “homestead”, “settlement” or “village”, so like a number of towns and villages in Lancashire and north Cheshire, Formby was originally a Viking settlement.
From the station is was just under a mile to the Pine Forest and Red Squirrel Reserve, looked after by the National Trust.
Rather than head straight to the beach I took a path through the forest and wandered through the pines across to the asparagus fields.
No squirrels spotted, unfortunately.
After cutting through the asparagus fields, taking a few moments to look at the information boards and the wooden sculptures dotted around the route, I took the path across the sand dunes
over to the beach.
Formby beach is part of an extensive spread of golden sands, backed by an important dune system, which stretches all the way from Crosby (home to Antony Gormley’s iron men) to Southport.
The tides here often reveal prehistoric mud layers underneath the sand, some of which contain human and animal footprints from the late Mesolithic to the late Neolithic periods, approximately 8,000 – 5,000 years ago. I didn’t spot any during my walk, though, although I left plenty of footprints myself!
It was low tide when I arrived so it was quite a way to the sea.
But I wanted to get my boots wet so made my way across the sands to the water’s edge.
Looking south I could see a ship sailing through the off shore wind farm at the mouth of the Mersey towards the docks at Liverpool
Being half term there were other people about, mainly clustered near the National Trust car park, but other than that it was very quiet and I enjoyed the solitude. There wasn’t a lot of wildlife about but I spotted gulls (not surprisingly) a few Oystercatchers and Sanderlings pottering about on the sand, but too far away to catch on a photo.
I carried on heading north along the beach for a while, with the extensive sand dune system over to my right
After a bout a mile I cut across towards the dunes and then doubled back along the beach towards the “Fisherman’s Path” which I joined and headed inland through the dunes into the Pine Forest.
The sand hills between Formby and Ainsdale are a Nature Reserve but there are a number of way-marked paths and routes to follow. I’d planned a route that would take me through the woods to Ainsdale.
It’s a variable landscape with mature pines, areas of deciduous trees and grass covered dunes
The Nature Reserve is rich in flora and wildlife, including the Natterjack Toad and Great Crested Newt. There’s also herds of cattle and sheep, introduced to control the undergrowth. I spotted some sheep, including some Herdwicks, natives of the Lake District brought south onto the dunes.
I carried on meandering along the paths through the Nature Reserve
until I emerged next to the Pontins Holiday Camp at Ainsdale. After a final look over the beach towards the Fylde coast across the Ribble estuary (I could just about make out Blackpool Tower)
I headed inland and on to the road that took me towards Ainsdale village and the train station. After a short wait I was on the train to Southport where I was in good time for my connection back to Wigan.
It had been a cold, but sunny day and an enjoyable walk. I mustn’t leave it so long before I go back – I enjoy walking on the beach on a cold, clear, sunny day in the winter.
Arriving home I dug out a favourite book of mine Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach by the poet, Jean Sprackland who used to live in the area and enjoyed walking along the beach here, picking up flotsam and jetsam, including mermaid’s purses, lugworms, sea potatoes, messages in bottles, buried cars, beached whales, and a “perfect cup from a Cunard liner”. I didn’t find anything like that – perhaps I need to look more carefully next time!