West Kirkby, Wirral Sunday 27th November 2016

Today’s Walks

Strenuous Leader : Carole Rankin   Distance : 10.00 miles

We walk along Grange Rd then north up Grange Hill to the War memorial, south to the Mariners Beacon and Caldy Hill then east to Royden Park, south to Thurstaston Common, Thurstaston Hill and passing Thurstaston Hall then west down through the Dungeon to return to West Kirkby along the coast on the Wirral Way. A walk of viewpoints along paths and fields in a mainly sandstone area but there could be some mud!!

Moderate Leader: Peter Denton   Distance : 7.50 miles

The first half of our walk today takes us up on to Thurstaton Common for our lunch with lovely panoramic views of the rivers Dee and Mersey, Wales and England (If we get lucky). We will then head down to Thurstaton and onto The Wirral Way and back to West Kirkby for a well-earned cuppa!

Leisurely Leader: Joan McGlinchey   Distance 7.00 miles

Our route takes us through the park, along Caldy Hill and then up Thurstaston Hill where there are fine views of the Dee Estuary and across the Wirral Peninsula. We then go down a country road to meet the Wirral Way. Here there will be an opportunity to use the toilets at the visitor centre. We then take an elevated footpath alongside the Wirral Way with views across the sea, and come back to town via the promenade where there are numerous benches to tarry a while if the weather is kind. Apart from about 25 stone steps up Caldy Hill to the monument and a short steep rise to the summit of Thurstaston Hill, the walk is flat or gently undulating with no stiles. It will probably be muddy in the woods but generally it is good underfoot. The walk can be shortened if the weather is poor.

Easy Leader : Derek Lee   Distance : 5.00 miles

We start off with the only climb of the day – 200 feet up to the War Memorial and Beacon from where there are views over the Mersey and the Dee. We then drop down through the woods to Caldy and return on the Wirral Way with a diversion along the riverside Cummins Green to complete a 4.7 mile walk, and with the option to add an extra half mile walk round the Marine Lake.

Notes On The Area

The Wirral Peninsula is situated between two major rivers. To the east is the Mersey, which rises in the distant Pennines, and to west is the Dee, rising in the Welsh uplands and making its way through the city of Chester and across the broad sands between Wales and Wirral. The estuary of the Mersey is narrow, barely a mile across, its banks lined with cranes and wharves of Liverpool’s dockland whereas the estuary of the Dee is five miles wide. It was important for navigation at one time but it kept on silting up up so now it is a haven for wildlife.

West Kirkby has developed from a small fishing village into a large residential town in little more than a hundred years. The reasons are easy to see. A mild climate, the town being protected from the biting, easterly winds by a range of low hills, a pleasant situation at the mouth of a beautiful estuary, and good communications with Chester, Birkenhead and Liverpool. The original Kirkby (West was added to distinguish it from Kirkby-in-Wallasey) is half a mile from the modern town centre, in what is now called old West Kirby, near the parish church. Norse settlers landing in Wirral from Ireland in the tenth century were quick to spot the advantages of the site, and established a small community. They built a church which they dedicated to St Bridget, a dedication still held by the present church.

Fort Perch Rock Battery, the red sandstone building standing in the mouth of the Mersey, is the fort that never was! Nicknamed the “Little Gibralter of the Mersey”, it was built between 1826 and 1829 to protect the Port of Liverpool. The idea of having some sort of protection for Liverpool was born some years earlier during the Napoleonic Wars. The fort was built upon outcrops of sandstone originally known as Black Rock, where Wirral’s wreckers and smugglers used to lure ships aground. Built to withstand the tremendous impact of high seas, the Fort was constructed of Runcorn stone, and could accommodate one hundred men with officers’ quarters, kitchens, storerooms and eighteen guns. But for all this, it is said that the Fort only ever used its guns twice: at the beginning of the First World War when a warning shot was fired across the bows of a Norwegian ship; and again at the start of the Second World War when a fishing smack tried to enter the Port through the wrong channel. During the last war the Fort was camouflaged as a tea garden complete with painted lawns and paths, and a TEAS sign across the roof.

New Brighton lighthouse stands alongside the Fort, sharing the same outcrop of sandstone. Built in 1827-30 at a cost of £27,500, it is 90 ft high and is constructed of Anglesey granite. The first 35 feet of its height consist of solid rock built to withstand the constant battering of the sea.

Today West Kirkby has developed into a pleasant seaside resort with beaches, a promenade and a marine lake which is popular for water sports. Across the bay is Hilbre Island which can be reached at low tide and is now mainly a nature reserve.