On the very first stage of my round-Britain coastal walk, I get a bit emotional at the start, bored in the middle, and exhilarated at the end. Here we go, woohoo!
So here I am, at Liverpool’s Pier Head. The start of this walk, and only 5500 miles to go. That’s quite daunting. I record a little video explaining why I’m doing this, and why now. It’s a bit personal so it’s not going on here.
So, right now I’m on my own. I kind of hope there’ll be a few of my friends around when I get back here in a few years’ time. Maybe. I look out over the river Mersey – it’s very wide at this point, and the waters are quite choppy. I lived less than a mile away from the Mersey for 20 years, in Didsbury, Manchester, and have a bit of an affinity for it. In Manchester it’s an impressive river, but nothing like this, this is huge.
I’m trying to think of something enigmatic to say, but nothing comes to mind, and there doesn’t seem much point dwelling on this in the circumstances, so I just turn to my right and get on with it.
After a few hundred yards stands this statue to Capt F J Walker, Britain’s most successful anti-submarine warfare commander. I love the “liveness” of the pose.
The buildings along the front of the river are very impressive, including the iconic Liver Building, but they’re soon replaced by modern offices, apartments, and as you walk northwards, the decaying docks, the relics of Liverpool’s past glories, and ignomonies.
Across the other side of the river you can just make out the ventilation shafts of the Mersey Tunnel which must run underneath my feet, and shortly I pass the same shafts on the north side of the river. They’re huge, and ugly in an iconic way.
Shortly after I come across a rent-a-bike park.
Liverpool seems to have managed to keep hold of their scheme, much like the one introduced in London many years ago. They tried to introduce the same thing in Manchester a couple of years ago, but so many of the bikes got stolen or thrown in the canals that the company had to pull out. I can’t help thinking that the design of the bikes was at fault to a certain extent (they should have disconnected the drive when the credit ran out, not applied a lock which could be smashed off), but it also embarrasses me a bit, as I love Manchester, and to think that these schemes have been successful in cities all over the world, except my own….. and worse, the thought that Liverpudlians are better behaved than Mancunians is excruciating!
I then come to a pretty boring part of the walk, for at least a couple of miles the water is hidden from view behind a huge stone wall that encloses the old Liverpool docks – Nelson dock, Wellington dock, Sandon dock, Canada dock – the list is huge, and the walk very dull because I can’t see any of them. The buildings on the other side of the road are almost derelict, although there are a couple of music recording studios along the way.
Shortly after, I come to a huge old tobacco warehouse. The scale of it really is astounding. I live in an old cotton mill, Old Sedgwick Mill in Manchester, which was built in 1818 and at the time was the tallest iron-framed building in the world and that is big, but this old warehouse would completely dwarf it. According to Wikipedia when it was built in 1901 it was the largest building in the world in terms of area.
Just the other side of the cute little wooden bridge over the road that you can just see on the left, I come upon a house with two sculptures in the wall. The artist Adrian Jeans apparently sculpts portraits. If this is his house I guess he doesn’t earn much from his work.
After a while, the boring wall on my left becomes a boring fence, but at least it allows me to see the derelict docks on the other side, although several still seem to be in use by various companies, including Danback Stevadores. I must admit I had to look up what a Stevadore does. It makes sense here.
There are still ships in the docks here. This Seatruck ship, the Panorama, is from Limassol in Cyprus, and another, the Acra, registered in Monrovia. When I was younger I felt I had a calling to go to sea. I grew up in Cornwall, but a long way from the sea, so it didn’t come from there, but from my childhood I just felt like I wanted to escape to sea, get a job on a container ship or something, but I never did. Who knows how things might have been different….
Eventually, the dull wall/fence comes to an end when I reach the new Port Of Liverpool, and I finally manage to turn off this long dull straight road, Regent Road. I then have a mile or so of dual carriageway, which is not very interesting, but the extra activity at least makes it feel more alive.
After a left turn through a nice Victorian housing area, I arrive at Crosby Marine Lake, and follow the path to the beach. The wind is so strong today that the sand is getting blown into the air, and creating little sand devils in the paths.
Once I arrive at the beach, I encounter the wonderful “Another Place“, the iron statues that artist Antony Gormley installed here in 2005. I managed to get a picture of myself next to one thanks to another visitor. The figures stand lonely, far away from each other, staring longingly out to sea. It gives me an air of sadness for some reason.
By this time the light was getting dimmer, the sky was looking threatening, and my phone battery was about to die (leaving me with no sat-nav), and I still hadn’t found my car which I had parked around here somewhere!
It was an interesting walk along the docks. I love derelict factories. In the late 1980s I worked for Marconi in Chelmsford, at the old New Street Works. I remember it had a beautiful art deco entrance hall which was quite daunting to walk into as a 17 year old apprentice, but behind the beauty was an old jumble of buildings from the turn of the century up to the 1970s. A couple of years ago I did an internet search for it and found it on a website called “Derelict places – documenting decay” – how depressing! It had closed in 2008 and is now abandoned. All the lives that worked there, such a sad end to a once-bustling and famous factory.
This walk was completed on Jan 11th 2020. It’s quite a short walk to start with – 7.4 miles. I couldn’t have managed much more anyway. Apparently, you get fitter quite quickly. We’ll see!
Here’s the real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around…