Meanderings

Two experiences of two friends suggested yesterday’s meanderings. First, when walking by the River Mersey with Greg the other week, I’d pointed at a bit of the Wirral coastline opposite and said ‘Where’s that?’ ‘Rock Ferry’ was the answer. I’d never been there.Meanderings01

Then our friend, beekeeper Andrew Hubbard, went there for a day out on sunny Bank Holiday Monday and told us about a wonderful pub. So the idea of us going there was in place. But as we set off we’d no thought that Rock Ferry would be included in this particular day. That’s not what we do. We meander.

First, we have a bit of work to do. Sarah’s been really busy with her Independent Funeral Celebrant work lately and we needed to go and test out some music for a service she’s running in the week.

Landican Cemetery.

At Landican Cemetery.

Work quietly done we next go to our beloved Common Land to walk in peace.

Thurstaston Common, where Spring is in full flow.

Thurstaston Common, where Spring is in full flow.

Meanderings04 Meanderings05

The heather is flowering.

The heather is flowering.

And the ferns are unfurling.

And the ferns are unfurling.

Next, down to the Dee coast, where tradition is enthusiastically followed.

Meanderings08

Pannacotta and Chocolate. Pronounced ‘a winning combination’ by all.

Too early to go home, Sarah with the map book directs us along unfamiliar lanes to the other side of the Peninsula. Eventually emerging from a housing estate, we find the River Mersey.

The River Mersey at New Ferry.

And though we’ve travelled so far, we are in fact very close to home, and can easily pick out places we’ve worked in and streets we regularly walk along.

We have arrived at New Ferry.

Where once there was a pier, and a ferry to Liverpool.

Where once there was a pier, and a ferry to Liverpool operated until 1922.

The pier long gone now.

The pier long gone now.

We walk down into the Mersey.

We walk down into the Mersey.

So close to our Cathedrals.

So close to our Cathedrals, and the monstrous Royal Liverpool Hospital behind them.

And to home.

And close to home. Festival Gardens and Otterspool here, with Sefton Park and Mossley Hill church behind them.

We walk along this Esplanade.

We walk along this Esplanade.

Esplanade

Where the Lilac is in flower. Where the Lilac is in flower.

And find that beyond this point the Esplanade was once private. We have some exploring to do.

And find that beyond this point the Esplanade was once private. We have some exploring to do.

What we’ve come across is Rock Park. One of the first residential park developments in Britain. It was built between 1837 and 1850 as this side of the Mersey became the fashionable place for wealthy merchants to live.Meanderings21 Meanderings22

Gorgeous.

Gorgeous.

But what looks at first like a gorgeously peaceful Victorian remnant is, we can’t help noticing, quite noisy. And that’s because of this:

The New Ferry Bypass.

The New Ferry Bypass.

It turns out that Rock Park has been split in two by this during the 1970s. Nine large houses and a lodge were demolished and a dual-carriageway road driven through the middle. Immediately afterwards Rock Park was then cynically declared a ‘Conservation Area.’ What a joke.

A subway was buit at the time to link the two halves of rock Park, but this looks long disused.

A subway was buit at the time to link the two halves of Rock Park, but this looks long disused.

So, cracked and slightly faded, but still grand...

So, cracked and maybe slightly faded, but grand nonetheless…

By the southern bank of the Mersey, Rock Park shines on.

By the southern bank of the Mersey, Rock Park shines on.

We continue along the Esplanade to Rock Ferry.Rockferry2

And here, though dilapidated, the old ferry pier still exists.

And here, though dilapidated, the old ferry pier still exists.

It stopped running its ferries to Liverpool in 1939 and was later owned by Cammel Laird’s Shipyard (Beautiful pictures of the decaying pier here).

The slip road to the ferry still exists.

The slip road to the ferry still exists too.

We’ll walk along this later. But first, and wonderfully, we have to investigate the pub Andrew told us about. As it’s right here.Meanderings26As we go in the sun comes out and we enter a lovely light-filled place, where all is right with the world.Meanderings28

I hardly ever drink beer these days, so can confidently state that the half of this I have is the loveliest beer I've tasted this century.

I hardly ever drink beer these days, so can confidently state that the half of this I have is the loveliest beer I’ve tasted this century.

Though local, it reminds me of the great Manchester beers, Boddingtons and John Willie Lees that fuelled my 1970s and 80s!

In the perfect evening light we go outside for a look around.Meanderings29

The Refreshment Rooms visible on the right of this old postcard.

The Refreshment Rooms visible on the left of this old postcard.

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There has been demolition since those days. There has been demolition since those postcard days.

And much time has passed.

And much time has passed.

But this is a magnificent place.

But this is a magnificent place.

We begin a ‘what would you do with it’ discussion. But this soon peters out as we enjoy the evening and the peace of the place as it is right now.

Just next to the Tranmere Oil Terminal.

Just next to the Tranmere Oil Terminal.

And just across the river from The Florrie.

And just across the river from The Florrie, its Dome visible to the left of this piece of abandoned pier.

And soon, too soon, it’s time to go home. But we’ll come back to Rock Ferry, and definitely to The Refreshment Rooms.RRooms1880sMeanderings37 Meanderings38 Meanderings39

Back on our side of the river we stop to look back on the day’s adventure. And see New Ferry and the Esplanade, and Rock Park, Rock Ferry, the Refreshment Rooms, the Tranmere Oil Terminal and Cammell Laird’s Shipyard across the sunlit water. A lovely day’s meanderings and our mental landscape of home now much expanded.

19 thoughts on “Meanderings

  1. stan cotter

    Hi Ronnie, I’ve been down there at rock ferry, the photo of the long gone pier and slipway well on the other side of the Mersey. You can see on right a large tank and I live just by it, another looking torwards the Florrie.

    There’s a white building off centre that’s on the corner of Harlow Street and Grafton and to the right of that there’s another white wall that’s the Herculaneum Bridge hotel. It used to be my local, its nick name is Peg Legs, no one really knows why. It really is a dockland pub, one of the few remaining if not the only one. People have said how nice the rooms are as is the breakfast and they have had visitors from as far away as Norway and Iceland to stay.

    Don’t know how you did all these things,my friend but can you tell if there is still a pub called the Admiral by the old jetty in Rock Ferry?

    Reply
    1. Keith Wilkinson

      It is called peg legs because my wife’s great grandfather Charles Gerrard, the owner of the Herculanium in Victorian times, had a wooden leg and was known affectionately as peg leg.

      Reply
      1. andyddavies

        Hi Ronnie,
        Yeah, how people feel and experience place has become really important in human geography in recent years, and the importance of walking as a part of that is key too. I can dig out some of the more academic writing if it’d be of interest? Anyhow, I enjoyed the blog – will look forward to the next entry!

  2. Carol Williams

    Love your blog when I occasionally drop in Ronnie! Still thinking about who I am – will get back to you. I have always loved Rock Park – Venture has a house there – used to visit and pick bay leaves to bring home!
    Carol (Schoie)

    Reply
  3. Stephen Roberts

    Absolutely brilliant – yet again, a profound sense of place. You have such a deep love of your part of the earth’s surface and manage to juxtapose pictures in a most poignant fashion. You might be interested to read about Nathaniel Hawthorne who was American Consul in Liverpool and lived at number 26 Rock Park.between 1853 and 1857. He wrote about his time in Wirral and left us some lovely little insights into local life, including the eccentric practices of one Mr Thomas Francis of Bebington. You can find a description of this in my book, “A History of Wirral” on pages 131-132 (other books are available). The the next resident of 26 Rock Park was Isaac Roberts (no relation), an astronomer, whom I think is buried in Flaybrick Cemetery in Birkenhead.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      I remember Nathaniel Hawthorne from your book. Sensitive of them to knock number 26 down for the by-pass. Was there much opposition at the time do you know? To what seems, primarily to be a posh front gate for Cammell Laird’s?

      Reply
  4. cheethamlib

    Rock Park Housing Development is so interesting, one forgets that such places must have been built in large cities for the well to do just as they are now. As for cutting it in half for the usual badly planned bypass well really is all I can say!

    I liked those wonderful pics of the jetty and how amazing that it has survived at least in part.The Refreshment Rooms will certainly have to be revisited – the menu made me feel very hungry. A wonderful meander indeed, thank you…

    Reply
  5. Cathy

    Thank you for the lovely things you write about Rock Park and the Esplanade, I have lived here in Rock Park for 22 years and our house is one of the properties fronting the Esplanade, it is a bitter sweet experience living here and we love it but terribly frustrating in trying to get any help to restore the wonderful Esplanade.

    What you say about designating the conservation area after the council destroyed the character of the place is so true, the residents who were here at the time put up a brave fight and must have been devastated when all this happened.

    2 years ago a working party was set up by the council to link the coastal path right through Rock Park with plans to restore the Esplanade and improve the area as a whole. However sadly it all fell apart with the economic downturn, and the working party which had representatives from the Park on it quietly disappeared without even informing anyone. That is how Wirral borough council operate.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Very glad to hear from you Cathy – as well as slightly envying the beautiful place where you live.

      Maybe time for a bit more resident action? As we’ve been finding here in Granby, it can take a while but the people who live in a place really can make change happen if they’re determined enough.

      Reply

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