Mersey Multimodal Gateway? Step this way

I wonder how long it took a boardroom full of suit-wearing go-getters to come up with that one? The ‘Mersey Multimodal Gateway.’ When previously, something like ‘West Widnes Industrial Estate’ would have rolled more easily off their corporate tongues. Oh well, it’s a terrible name for a place that contains, and is surrounded by marvels. So we set off to find it.Mersey30

But before we walk, we drive. One of the things we know we’re going to see on this walk is a little river called Ditton Brook entering the Mersey.

Mersey01

So we follow it from close to its source in Netherley, Liverpool.

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Here it is, Ditton Brook in Netherley.

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Then around Halewood.

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Knowing we’ll see it again later.

Now, do you ever find that sometimes when you get to a place you immediately think ‘Why did it take me so long to come to a place that’s so obviously ‘my sort of thing?’ Well, that’s what’s about to happen here.

We arrive at Pickering's Pasture.

We arrive at Pickering’s Pasture.

Reclaimed industrial land on the north bank of the Mersey, in between Hale and Widnes.

And within sight of the Runcorn bridges.

And within sight of the Runcorn bridges.

Today we’re going to walk along the bank and under the bridges. Why has it taken me so long to do such an obvious thing?

An idyllic country walk?

An idyllic country walk?

It looks like it doesn’t it? In fact though, it’s a narrow corridor between the river and fenced off industrial land.

Before long we arrive at this lovely bridge.

Before long we arrive at this lovely bridge.

The bridge over Ditton Brook.

The bridge over Ditton Brook.

Which is here.

Which is here.

Entering the Mersey, after its journey from Netherley.

Entering the Mersey, after its journey from Netherley.

And a tough industrial journey it’s been too, through lands poisoned by the Industrial Revolution. Now cleaning up and recovering.

And before long we approach our objective. Yes, the Mersey Multimodal Gateway.

And begin a game of 'What's that smell?'

And begin a game of ‘What’s that smell?’

It looks like a modern version of an last-house so I'm going for 'Something to do with beer?'

It looks like a modern version of an oast-house so I’m going for ‘Something to do with beer?’

Sarah’s having none of this. ‘It’s meaty, it’s cat-breath after they’ve eaten, pet-foody?’

Sarah’s right.

It turns out this is the Grannox factory, part of the PDM Group. And what we’re smelling here is part of our technological future. They’re using carbon-neutral animal derived bio-mass energy to produce pet food from parts of healthy animals we choose not to eat. Really. Very impressive. But you will want to walk past the smell fairly quickly.

Soon arriving at the gleaming heart of the Mersey Multimodal Gateway.

Soon arriving at the gleaming heart of the Mersey Multimodal Gateway.

And the steady hum of a thousand mobile Eddie Stobart truck-fridges being charged up and loaded.

By the side of another peacefully babbling industrial brook.

By the side of another peacefully babbling industrial brook.

Majestic.

Majestic.

And obviously, that’s the peak of the walk and we might as well turn around and go home now. We’ve seen the Mersey Multimodal Gateway and could die happy and fulfilled.

But it’s early afternoon on a sunny day yet, so we decide to carry on.

Passing an ancient quay.

Passing an ancient quay.

We arrive here.

We arrive here.

And stop for lunch.

And stop for lunch.

After lunch, in the shadow of the bridges and in sight of the wonders and ravages of the Industrial Revolution I read my current book. By a former Secretary of State for Industry.Mersey23Then, of course, we look at the bridges.Mersey25

First, the railway bridge. Built in 1868 and designed by William Baker (not Brunel, though I’ve always ’til now credited him with it in my head, for some reason).Mersey26

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Next to it, the road bridge.

Next to it, the road bridge.

Opened in 1961 and designed by Mott, Hay and Anderson. For most of my life, these bridges have been my real gateway. Crossing either of them from the Runcorn side has always given me a tremendous feeling of well-being. I am home.Mersey29Mersey33

And a dystopian poet has been at work on the road bridge.

'Imagine waking tomorrow' I can see from a distance.

‘Imagine waking tomorrow’ I can see from a distance.

Then just below the tide-line.

And

‘And all music has disappeared.’

We walk on.

Into West Bank.

Into West Bank.

Streets of terraced houses huddling under the bridges.

Streets of terraced houses huddling under the bridges.

And in one of the streets we find the former offices of the ‘Transporter Bridge.’Mersey36

Yes, between 1905 and 1961 road traffic would be carried across the river on this marvellous contraption.

Seen here on its final day, 1961.

Seen here on its final day, from the Runcorn side, next to the new bridge in 1961.

What's left now of the Transporter Bridge.

What’s left now of the Transporter Bridge.

Walking on along a promenade and park area we find 1905 was an important time around here. Along with the transporter bridge there were general efforts to improve the look of the place.Mersey38

Very necessary, because by the end of the 19th century chemical industries had ravaged Widnes.

And it looked like this.

And it looked like this.

The scene today. Fiddler's Ferry Power Station in the distance.

The scene today. Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station in the distance.

And at the top of this West Bank street, The Catalyst Museum.

And at the top of this West Bank street, The Catalyst Museum.

The only museum in the country dedicated to chemistry. We’ll be back, but today is for walking.

We arrive at Spike Island, where Widnes Docks used to be.

We arrive at Spike Island, where Widnes Docks used to be.

Before today I’ve only known one thing about Spike Island.

The Stone Roses played here in 1990.

The Stone Roses played here in 1990.

In the words of Wikipedia:

“It is a reclaimed toxic waste site, considered a birthplace of the British chemical industry.

Its maze of abandoned chemical factories, rail lines, canal and industrial dockage, and industrial pollution, which had declined into a rust belt toxic wilderness, was reclaimed as woodland, wetlands and green space between 1975 and 1982.”

Here's how it looked.

Here’s how it used to look.

And today?

And today?

At Spike Island, the Sankey Canal.

At Spike Island, the Sankey Canal.

So, all’s well at Spike Island now? Not so fast.

What has Sarah found?

What has Sarah found?

Not much by the look of it.

Not much by the look of it.

Well actually, it’s nothing less than the ‘Mersey Gateway Project.’ But didn’t we see that earlier? I hear you questioning. No, you couldn’t be more wrong. That was the ‘Mersey Multimodal Gateway,’ this one’s going to be another bridge. An entirely different sort of Gateway, don’t you see? (I wonder though if some of the same corporate suits were involved in its naming. Imagine the scene. ‘Gateway? Mmm, like that, got a real go-getting ring to it. Pass the port would you?’)Mersey47

Apparently this one’s going to be a toll-bridge. In fact, so delighted are the Con Lib and some Lab Neo-Cons who run society with this idea, that they’re going to make the old bridge, (open since 1961 remember, and a snip at £2.4m, so well paid for) into a toll-bridge too.

Oh well, all in favour of progress and prosperity and all that. But you have to feel sorry for Spike Island.

We turn for home.

One more look.

One more look.

The tide's coming in and the river is full now.

The tide’s coming in and the river is full now.

What's Sarah seen?

What’s Sarah seen?

Seagulls hitching a ride on the fast flowing incoming Mersey. Multi-modal? You bet.

Canny seagulls hitching a ride on the fast flowing incoming Mersey. Multi-modal? You bet.

Evening coming on now.

Evening coming on now.

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Looking across at Rock Savage. A chemical works, looking as peaceful in the fading light as a Hebridean Distillery.

Looking across at Rock Savage. A chemical works on the Runcorn side, looking as peaceful in the fading light as a Hebridean Distillery. If only.

Teasels in the sunset.

Teasels in the sunset.

Back at  , our walk at an end.

Back at Pickering’s Pasture , our walk at an end.

A truly amazing and fulfilling walk through the Industrial Revolution and the ragged glory of the River Mersey and what has happened on its banks over the last 200 years. And of course the Mersey Multimodal Gateway, mustn’t forget that!

A huge thank you to Gerry Cordon of ‘That’s How The Light Gets In’ for suggesting this walk to us. You can see his own version of the walk ‘The call of the river’ on his beautiful, informative blog.

11 thoughts on “Mersey Multimodal Gateway? Step this way

  1. Gerry

    Thanks for the mention, Ronnie. Loved your account, emphasising the ‘ragged glory’ of the place, and your photos which differed from mine in showing the river at low tide. You also solved a mystery I couldn’t find the answer to – what was going on at that hoppy-smelling place along the trail? So now I know: using ‘carbon-neutral animal derived bio-mass energy to produce pet food from parts of healthy animals we choose not to eat’. I’m surprised our dog didn’t take more of an interest.

    Finally, I was sorry to learn that Spike Island is going to be swept away by the new bridge; wouldn’t have taken much to figure it out, I suppose. I’ve nearly finished walking the Mersey from its source to the sea (plug: http://gerryco23.wordpress.com/mersey-walks/) – just the stretch round Warrington and then on to Runcorn, passing Spike Island. I’d better get a move on!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Glad you liked it Gerry.

      Yes, apparently the initial contracts for the bridge works will be awarded by the end of this year. And I don’t know that Spike Island will be swept away – but access is bound to be difficult while they build a thing of that size on top of it. On the simulation gallery here you can see the route the bridge will take over Spike Island. Mostly on the marshland section.

      Reply
  2. stan cotter

    Oh well done my friend, you’re now in my second homeland I have done that walk from Spike Island throught to Westbank and yes i remember the smell.We referred to as a stench (with a few variations of description I may add, your imagination will tell what they were).

    I visit the Pasture each Friday. I have a routine that involves my buying a sandwich, a newspaper and sitting down at Pickering’s eating my sandwich, reading my paper and listening to the radio in my car.
    Had you walked the other way of course you would have passed the bird hide, and although pushed back onto the main road, eventually down into Hale village and down back to on shoreline by the old lighthouse, which I recommend as a visit, including Hale village, itself full of history eg the Lighthouse so far up river, and also little known decoy woods just outside hale village that were cons tructed with a pond in the middle to attract ducks, where some kind souls shot them etc.

    I had no idea just how much history there was here including Wigg Island across the Mersey where mustard gas was produced during the war, you always have to turn over to the next page to see what else there is.

    Like, did you know you could once walk across the railway bridge? You’ve openend a can of worms, keep at it my friend.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks Stan, it was a pleasure to be there. And you’re right, there is history everywhere. It’s just that the history of where the working people are is often overlooked.

      And I did notice that about walking across the rail bridge in one of the links. Only stopped in 1965 apparently. Frightening but I wish you could still do it!

      Reply
  3. Pingback: The call of the river | That's How The Light Gets In

  4. Martin Greaney (@histliverpool)

    Another great post. I loved the bit where you stumbled on an old quayside, and the bridge offices. Little bits of hidden history! I went to the Catalyst Museum back in about 1992/3, and loved it so much I made my dad take me and my brother back a couple of weeks later. I hope it’s still as inspiring to the current generation of 10 year olds, though clearly chemistry didn’t stick with me too much (though I do like a good science book now and again). Lovely post, thanks!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks Martin, we’ll definitely be going back to go to the Catalyst, so I’ll let you know.

      The walk, as good walks are, was a delight because of things not planned. We knew we wanted to walk under the bridges. But then our usual ‘What’s through there, what’s round that corner?’ urge brought us so much more.

      Reply
  5. Mark Grady

    I’ve just discovered your fantastic blog, really interesting and despite being local I’ve only made that walk along the waterfront once, to my currently eternal shame.

    I’m also going to be cheeky – I work in Halton for the Children’s Trust – http://www.haltonchildrenstrust.co.uk – and while reading thought I might be cheeky – I’m writing a new plan for all the agencies within the Trust – Council, Health, schools, police, voluntary agencies etc – to explain how we’re working together to support our children and families in Halton. A couple of your pictures of the Bridge would be fantastic and save me trying to go and take similar if I’m honest – would it be okay to look to use one or two in the Plan – would only be with your agreement!

    Regards,
    Mark Grady

    Reply
      1. Mark Grady

        That’s great Ronnie, any that are used would be acknowledged and would send link – will let you know, it would be across this month and April that the design comes together so would be in touch over the next 6 weeks!
        Mark

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