The Friday Walks – Out on the Marshlands

For several years we would walk every Friday and during 2012 we wrote about these walks every week for the whole year. Then this year they stopped, mainly because Sarah’s working pattern changed. As well as being part of ‘a sense of place’ she’s also now an independent funeral celebrant and therefore often needs to work on Fridays. So we have gone on walks, but not so regularly, fitting them in round both of our work.

Well I’ve missed the regularity, the rhythm and the ritual of the Friday Walks. So I’m starting them again. I don’t know if they’ll be every week, and Sarah will come on them only when and if she can. But I need to walk, for me.

Today’s walk is out on the Marshlands in the Dee Estuary. I’ve not done this particular walk on my own before but I’m always happy to spend time on my own. So let’s go.

Beginning at the long disused open air swimming pool near Parkgate.

Beginning at the long disused open air swimming pool near Parkgate, facing the coast of Wales.

It’s a cool and windy day.

Filled with autumn leaves.

Filled with autumn leaves.

 

And berries on the trees.

And berries on the trees.

 

Up the ancient steps onto the old sea wall.

Up the ancient steps onto the old sea wall.

This far up, the Dee Estuary is long silted up now, (plus the river’s main channel was changed to run close to the opposite shore). But you can still imagine waves lapping here.

And ships sailing upstream to Parkgate and beyond.

And ships sailing upstream to Parkgate and beyond.

 

Looking very hard you can just see Hilbre Island in the centre of the picture, out at the mouth of the Estuary.

Looking very hard you can just see Hilbre Island in the centre of the picture, out at the mouth of the Estuary.

 

And here's an ancient slipway for launching craft out into the river.

And here’s an ancient slipway for launching craft out into the river.

 

There are lots of geese around, arriving from the far north for their version of a balmy winter.

There are lots of geese around, arriving from the far north for their version of a balmy winter.

 

 

As the sea wall ends it's time to descend, out onto the Marshlands.

As the sea wall ends it’s time to descend, out onto the Marshlands.

 

The channels out here still low, another 4 hours 'til the tide comes in, I have checked.

The channels out here still low, another 4 hours ’til the tide comes in, I have checked.

 

Muddy between the rushes, glad of my watertight boots, but I have known it much wetter than this.

Muddy between the rushes, glad of my watertight boots, but I have known it much wetter than this.

 

And up ahead, a piece of might have been.

And up ahead, a piece of might have been.

 

Gayton, might have been a holiday resort if the sea had stayed.

Gayton, might have been a holiday resort if the sea had stayed.

 

Late Georgian, early Victorian railings.

Late Georgian, early Victorian railings.

 

A slipway for taking those horse-drawn bathing huts out into the water. When the water was here.

A slipway for taking those horse-drawn bathing huts out into the water. When the water was here.

I stop for my lunch and read about here even longer ago than that. Back 12,000 years to the last ice age when the whole of Northern Europe was covered by an extension of the polar ice cap. Ice sheets 3 to 4km thick pressing down on the underlying rocks and forming the river valleys we have today.

I'm reading this in Martin Greaney's book 'Liverpool, a landscape history.

I’m reading this in Martin Greaney’s book ‘Liverpool, a landscape history.

And I very quickly find out something I didn’t know.

I'd always assumed the ice flowed off the land into the sea, sort of downhill. Not so, the ice flowed from the north, from the pole.

I’d always assumed the ice flowed off the land into the sea, sort of downhill. Not so, the ice flowed from the north, from the pole.

I’m sure I’ll be writing more on here about what looks like a great book. But now it’s back out into the landscape he’s talking about.

And the day has turned sunny.

And the day has turned sunny.

 

So layers are removed and the walking resumes.

So layers are removed and the walking resumes.

 

This is a glorious place.

This is a glorious place.

 

Full of pieces of its past.

Full of pieces of its past.

 

Registered in Chester.

Registered in Chester.

 

And now almost returned to the Earth.

And now almost returned to the Earth.

As I sit in the boat I contemplate being returned to the Earth somewhere round here myself. This would seem right. I’ve always been so happy, so at home, out in this Estuary.Marshlands26 Marshlands27 Marshlands28 Marshlands29

 

Before too long now the tide will flow back into the channel here and, well, float these boats.

Before too long now the tide will flow back into the channel here and, well, float these boats.

 

But I don't want to leave just yet, so I find a dry bit of Marsh and sit down for another read.

But I don’t want to leave just yet, so I find a dry bit of Marsh and sit down for another read.

 

Then I walk on, leaving the Marshlands behind for a while.

Then I walk on, turning off at Lower Heswall and leaving the Marshlands behind for a while.

 

Walking part of the way back along the disused railway line that is the Wirral Way.

Walking part of the way back along the disused railway line that is the Wirral Way.

 

Where it's autumnal die-back time.

Where it’s autumnal die-back time.

 

But colours continue too.

But colours continue too.

Marshlands35

Then it's back down for another bit of Marshland.

Then it’s back down for another bit of Marshland.

 

Upstream towards Parkgate.

Upstream towards Parkgate.

When I get to Parkgate the day is once more cold and grey.

So were the proprieties complied with?

So were the proprieties complied with?

 

Of course they were!

Of course they were!

 

 

 

 

12 thoughts on “The Friday Walks – Out on the Marshlands

  1. Gerry

    Superb post,Ronnie. I knew it would end with an ice cream! (They are the best, those in Parkgate). That book you’re reading looks interesting.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      I’m only up to 1207 but the book’s already explained more than I knew about why Liverpool is where it is. I imagine a geological walk will break out one of these days.

      Reply
  2. Stephen Roberts

    Here I am in my house in North Lancashire, looking out at the beautiful view of Warton Crag which is bathed in autumnal sunshine and now I can see these enchanting pictures as well. I can’t tell you how poignant they are for me. They remind me of my many solitary walks along the Dee littoral and bring my homeland to mind. Every picture is familiar and moving – redolent with ancestry and heritage. My oldest known ancestor, James Roberts, was a fisherman and seaman in Parkgate in the late 18thC and last week, we put my Dad’s ashes in the middle of the Dee Estuary and watched them gradually dissolve and sink as they travelled towards the sun on the tide. I had a sense that he was joining his ancestors. This post reminds me of all those things and more. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      You’re welcome Stephen. The Dee Estuary, as well as being the littoral between land and sea, always feels to me like the space between life and death too, a place for your Dad to join your ancestors, a sacred place.

      Reply
      1. Stephen Roberts

        Yes absolutely. I have just had another thought about that – the Celts, who gave the river Dee its name even before the Romans came, believed it was a goddess. That’s where the name “Dee” comes from – it is related to the word “deity”, which is one of the oldest words in the Indo-European languages and which ultimately derives from a word for the sun and is also seen in the name of the Greeks’ chief god – Zeus. When we contemplate such connections, we feel the link between our ancestors and the place, which I think is what your blog touches on a lot of the time and why it is my favourite one.

      2. Ronnie Hughes Post author

        And as well…you have to wonder whether it’s the simple and inspiring beauty of this place and others like it that has made so many people over so much time feel they are standing on the edge of eternity?

  3. Stephen Roberts

    Yes that is exactly what I think about such places. Grange Hill is another wonderful spot. It is now dominated by the war memorial, but a bronze age burial urn was found on it during the later Victorian Period. When you witness the sunsets and general views from that spot you can quite understand why people wanted to bury their relations there – it is another of those liminal zones which often takes on an ethereal character.

    Reply
      1. Stephen Roberts

        No Grange Hill, West Kirby, although the one behind Grange over Sands is equally atmospheric, as is Black Comb further around the bay, from which you can see Liverpool, Wirral, Wales, the Isle of Man, Ireland and Scotland on a good day! Wordsworth wrote about it.

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