2012: Friday Walks, Running Free

Yes, I know, it’s been three weeks since our last Friday Walk. The intervening two Fridays having been complete washouts.

But today was fine. A coolish but dry English summer’s day. And we picked an urban walk today. Along a new route for us, mapped out by me in a run of about 10k I did the week before last. You can’t take photographs on a run though, so this doubles up as a walk report and another ‘Running Free’ route.

Leaving our house. Note, winter curtain still up, it’s been a cold spring and summer so far.

Along Penny Lane.

To Ibbotson’s Lane.

This is one of Liverpool’s ‘secret’ lanes, like the ones around Allerton Towers. Ancient bridleways that have never been turned into modern roads.

Running time to here from our’s is about eight minutes.

Then it’s into the great park, Sefton Park.

Through the middle.

And turning left round the lake.

Then we cross under Aigburth Road through a nasty 1960s subway.

And enter Otterspool Park.

Otterspool is the most mysterious of Liverpool’s parks. Little visited by most of us. A densely wooded valley for the first mile or so.

Crossed by the railway line going out through Aigburth and Garston to Hunts Cross.

Before opening out to the former site of Otterspool House.

Now occupied by a derelict café.

Though a good, new, café has recently opened nearby.

Here’s what the house used to look like.

The house was demolished in 1931. And before Liverpool City Council turned the area into a park, it was used as the municipal dump for the next eighteen years! They also brought the rocks here from the Liverpool end of the Mersey Tunnel, that was being dug in the early thirties.

This might all sound a bit undignified for the land, but actually it was a piece of magnificent and far sighted municipal creativity. Because out of all that rock and rubbish, they made this:

Approaching the river at last.

Otterspool Promenade.

Opened in 1950 and extended in the 1980s by the housing association I was working for then, Liverpool Housing Trust. You can now walk all the way along the promenade into the middle of Liverpool.

On the run I reached the front at Otterspool in 25min:47sec. Yes, I was surprised too.

Today we just go a mile or so along the prom to something sort of new.

The Festival Gardens, opened just a few weeks ago.

I mentioned these a few weeks ago when we did our Docker’s Steps walk. They’re part of the 1984 International Garden Festival site, had been derelict for years, and frankly we weren’t holding out much hope for what might have been done to them now. But when I ran through them a couple of weeks ago, I got the fleeting but distinct impression that they are actually rather good.

Large areas of wildflowers rather than arid municipal planting.

Beautiful and very much not manicured wetlands, surrounded by maturing trees.

Because that’s the great secret of this place. It’s seems new to us now. But in fact its plants have been maturing unobserved for nearly thirty years since the Garden Festival. Like a Secret Garden.

The Chinese Garden. Sarah at the Moon Gate.

Also in the Chinese Garden. One of two pagodas. You don’t see one of these every day.

There’s also a fully restored Japanese Garden and woodland walks. And Sarah and Gemma will, I’m sure be coming back here to give you a much longer and more botanical look at the place over on Shine Like a Bee.

And there’s a bit of pure surrealism. The snack bar is a double-decker bus with café seats upstairs!

The Bus Café. Not everyone thinks its funny.

Leaving the Festival Gardens, we cross the road into what’s left of the gardens of the house where the Melly family used to live.

If you’ve read the comments on our Docker’s Steps blog post, you’ll know that one reader, Stan Cotter, contacted us with the news that ‘The Melly house in Aigburth, by the Dingle Field, my mother used to work there in service.’ So we are walking through part of Stan’s life story here.

(And by the way, the Melly family didn’t just produce George, the great raconteur, writer and jazz singer. There were many other significant Mellys in Liverpool’s history – and a walk around their Melly drinking fountains may one day be organised.)

Next it’s through St Michaels. And on the run I got to here after about forty minutes.

Then across Aigburth Road and along Lark Lane, for lunch in Greendays.

Note, there was no lunch stop on the run!

Then it’s back across Sefton Park.

Where Sarah stops to pop the seed heads of the Himalayan Balsam.

Then we detour into Plot 44, Sarah and Gemma’s allotment.

Where it is high summer, and there is perfect peace.

Crossing Greenbank Park, to home.

A perfect day in a perfect place. Isn’t Liverpool great?

And no, the run didn’t end with me flat on my back in Greenbank Park. The 10k was completed in 58mins:08secs.

13 thoughts on “2012: Friday Walks, Running Free

  1. stan cotter

    Hi Ronnie, just read your blog, I don’t know if I confused you but didn’t you say the Mellys house down by St Michaels Station? I refer to the house on the corner of Colebrooke Road and Sandhurst St at the bottom of Dingle Vale, please accept my apologies if i got it wrong. The memory takes time to catch up these days.
    This may be of interest to you, but nearby is Turners Home, both my mother and my auntie worked there at one time not sure what they did, most likely cleaning.
    It has an interesting history as it proper title suggest eg Turner Memorial Home, built by Turners wife in his memory and used mainly for homeless men. It houses its own chapel, I think its on the internet if you wish to check it out. That little area has so much history with Turners Home , the ancient chapel, the overhead rlwy “tunnel”, and the old tramway terminus and garage.
    Keep up the good work. Bye for now, Stan

  2. Mandy

    I love walking down laneways because I am an inveterate stickybeak. How interesting it is to peer into back gardens and ponder about what people do with that space.The green and leafy parks are wonderful. At least there is hope for us all when beauty can be created out of rubbish heaps.

    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Mandy, yes Liverpool is a very green and leafy place. In a book called ‘Liverpool, City of Architecture’ by Quentin Hughes (no relation, though Sarah did know him when she was growing up) he actually says that south Liverpool contains the greatest concentration of parkland of any city in Europe, except, I think, for Berlin.

  3. stan cotter

    Hi Rood Girl, as Ronnie says, people who don’t know us think we are all scallies and giro bashers, never done an honest days work in our lives. Oh are they so sad. Should come down among us and see what we are really like.

  4. lindsay53i

    That is a truly beautiful walk/run…(I would prefer to walk!). So lush & green & mysterious. Sarah’s plot is looking abundant and healthy! That’s a lovely gate! Who made that….? Love your posts, Ronnie. I save them up to read when I have a quiet moment to really appreciate them. Hence the delay in replying. The best things are worth the wait!x

    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks Lindsay, yes David’s gate has settled into its new location and is much appreciated there. It fits there so well, makes us wonder why we didn’t move it ages ago.

      And so glad you’re enjoying the posts and that they’re worth saving up. I’m enjoying writing them too. xx

  5. The Accidental Amazon

    What a fantastic walk! And I have to note how Sarah looked happier and happier the further you went. Love the Moon Gate. xoxo


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