A very wet walk this week. Along a route that will also be a run for a future ‘Running Free’ post.
Last Friday, in the howling rain, we didn’t go for a walk. So this week, even though it was raining again, we were determined not to be put off.
And we went for a local walk. From Sefton Park and Lark Lane we set off towards the river.
It’s obviously very old. And there’s something very similar to it in Everton, to the North of the city. When I worked in Everton, many years ago, people told me this was a Napoleonic tower, built as a look-out place in the early 19th century, when it was feared Napoleon was about to invade Britain. And it was said it had a ‘secret’ tunnel running from under it, down to the waterfront. And ever since then I’ve accepted this as the truth. Can’t find this ‘truth’ anywhere now though. It’s apparently an old Bridewell or lock-up, and was built in 1787. So around the time I’d thought, but for a different reason. Unless anyone reading this knows better?
Anyway, this one in the Dingle looks similar, though built of brick rather than sandstone.
Anyway, we’re soon arriving at one of the most dramatic collections of streets in Liverpool. Cockburn Street, Grafton Street and all the steep roads in between.
Sloping down towards a dramatic sandstone cliff, overlooking the river. These are the ‘Bread’ streets, where the celebrated/notorious early 1980s TV series was based. A series that, at a time when the city of Liverpool and its inhabitants, were under sustained and vicious attack from a Conservative government that had half a mind to simply abandon us, poked fun at what it portrayed as the dishonest survival instincts of the working classes.
Well never mind that, because we’re now approaching Liverpool’s greatest monument to those working classes, the Dockers’ Steps.
These are a precious piece of Liverpool working class history that have miraculously survived, though the docks they helped the dockers to get to, from their houses at the top of the cliff, are long gone. Until very late in the day, all Liverpool dock work was done as daily, casual labour. With men queuing at the dock gates each morning to see if they’d be taken on to work that day. So every time I walk down here I hear the footsteps of my ancestors. Who fought relentlessly for justice and fair pay. And at the bottom of the steps there is this wonderful mural about the history of my people, the people I am from and the people I love, the Liverpool working class. This sacred piece of art was painted in 2008 by Alan Murray, of Artworks Liverpool, along with several young people from the Dingle and the rest of Liverpool 8.
Just after this there is a piece of land marked ‘Private, do not enter’ – so obviously, we do.
And now we are at the river, the River Mersey.
And walking upriver from here we arrive at another curious bit of Liverpool history, the site of the 1984 International Garden Festival. This was a post-1981 riots attempt to regenerate Liverpool by making it ‘nice’. As this BBC film from the time says, ‘After 81 they gave us flowers’ – (and by the way, I am deeply proud of the fact that very young versions of me and my friends Vicky Nurse, Ray Quarless and Michael Desson fleetingly appear in this film).
Well, the Garden Festival was such an integral part of Liverpool culture that the land was soon abandoned and overgrown. At one stage we, a sense of place, tried to get hold of it to run a Beatles based social enterprise with our friends from the Furniture Resource Centre, but you’ll have to wait for a future episode of our story to hear more about that.
At the moment, after many years of dereliction, the site is about to re-open as the Festival Gardens. A manicured piece of parkland is now ready, but there’s no sign of the accompanying ‘residential development’ being started, in a city already over supplied with empty apartments.
Walk nearly over, we come into St Michael’s for two final bits of history.
And finally, the rain still pouring down, we arrive at shelter and lunch. Our favourite café.
So you’ll hear more of this walk, when it’s done as a run. Someday soon!