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Review of the Wirral Circular Trail during Wirral Walking Festival

15th May 2014

Categories: News

Walking in Wirral - Wirral Walking Festival
Wirral Walking Festival, Wirral Circular Trail

John Bullen reviews the Wirral Circular Trail as part of the Wirral Walking Festival

Wirral Circular Stage 1     Saturday 10th May 2014


14 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 18th which 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 Merseysride group for playing such a big part in putting on this venture.

John Bullen                 

Click here to find out more about the Circular Trail & the Wirral Walking Festival 

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