So, a new walk. Now you probably don’t know this, why would you, but Sarah doesn’t really like new things. As she’s just said herself:
‘The only way to get a Horton to do something new is to find a way of making them think it was partly their idea.’
So I don’t know how I managed that but here we are. Starting on fairly familiar ground, but then moving on to new places. A day about the joys of common land and the frustrations, not to say rage, of enclosure.
We begin up the hill from The Shining Shore, in fact we were last here in the summer on Shining Shore, the LP version.
When we were up here in the summer you could see for miles both ways. For today Sarah puts her binoculars away.
This is ‘Hill Bark’. It used to be called ‘Bidston Court’ and it used to be about 4 miles away, near Bidston Hill. But the nob who owned it didn’t like looking out on the encroaching Birkenhead suburbs. So in 1930 he had it moved, brick by brick, to where it now interrupts our day.
But not for long. Round the far side of this aberration we find a real delight.
Open Wednesday to Friday and offering such delights as ‘Fried egg on a crumpet, £1’. We stop for a late breakfast of cheese toasties.
“The clearance of Wirral’s woodland during the middle ages provided the conditions for heathland to develop on areas such as Thurstaston Common. Grazing and heathland management on the common land helped maintain the health and prevent the re-invasion of woodland until the middle of the nineteenth century.
In 1879 Birkenhead Clegg of Thurstaston Manor, together with the other two major landowners of the parish, TH Ismay of Dawpool Hall and the Rev. Thurland, petitioned for an order to enclose the common. On 29th December that year Birkenhead Council objected to the proposal and requested that’ the highest and most attractive part of the common should remain unenclosed as a place of recreation’.
The situation was finally resolved in 1883 when 45 acres known as Thurstaston Common Recreation Ground and including Thurstaston Hill, were granted to Birkenhead Council. The remainder of the Common was divided between the three original petitioners in compensation for their loss of all rights of common. This land changed hands a number of times until in 1916 27.5 acres were presented to the National Trust by its owner Sir Alfred Paton. Furtherr large donations were made to the trust between 1916 and 1925. Since then the Common has been used for informal recreation.”
(All this from a Wirral Council leaflet available in the Visitor Centre)
So I assume one of the bits not donated back to be common land is the bit where that wedding hotel is squatting. Never trust a nob.
Anyway, delighting in the now established fact that most of the place belongs to us all, we carried on having a look round.
There’s also a walled garden (‘open every day’ – but mysteriously closed today), an occasional craft centre, organised walks and self-guided trails. A lovely place. We’ll be back.
And when we left the common land the walk entered into its second half. Which you’re not going to see much of. Because we didn’t much like it. Bits of road between fields, then public footpaths sometimes obstructed or downright moved by the owners of the enclosed lands we were crossing. Farmers thinking we shouldn’t be there interfering with their crops and livestock (we weren’t). Householders acting like we’re snooping round the backs of their precious semis (we were having our lunch).
And as you might know if you’ve been reading about these walks for a while (And thank you, we know lots of people do) – we give new walks marks out of 10. This one got an overall score of 7. Reflecting our disappointment with the ‘enclosed’ second half.
Splitting the walk into two, however, revealed an immediate ’10’ from both of us for the first half. So this walk will be back. But in a different shape next time. I can also feel an organised rant coming on about the iniquities of the nobles (‘the nobs’) stealing the land off the peoples of these islands by centuries of enclosures. But that’s for another day.
And no, I’m not putting in a link to that ‘fairy tale wedding hotel’.