Since we walked along the bank of the Mersey to Widnes last November we’ve been promising ourselves a return visit to get a better look at the place than we could on such a short early winter day. Being midsummer and being so sunny we couldn’t have had a better day than today to do so.
Sarah’s also written her own impressions of the day on her Monkey Puzzles blog.
Sarah on Widnes Dock Gates.
Close as it is to Liverpool neither of us is familiar with any more of Widnes than the river frontage we walked to in November. So we begin today by looking for the town centre.
We follow the signs and are directed to here.
This turns out to be a 1995 version of a town centre.
Built to look like the Victorian Arcade it clearly isn’t.
But leading through to a ‘proper’ street.
There’s a market here too. Also from 1995.
But glad though we are to see a market this all feels like a precinct surrounded by car parking. So we feel there might be another town centre somewhere?
We get in the car and drive, feeling that much of this place has been given over to new roads and roundabouts.
We find the main graveyard and crematorium. Always of interest to Sarah.
We find Victoria Park.
And the town’s War Memorial.
Also this splendid fountain. Sadly not working.
But dedicated to Gladstone. This has obviously been a wealthy place.
And of course it was. With docks, railways and chemical factories.
It looked like this.
And of course it doesn’t look at all like that any more.
Apart from the occasional surprise view of Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station.
But it does feel like a place that’s been torn apart and never quite put back together again.
Like, some distance from the place calling itself the ‘town centre’ we find somewhere that actually looks like one.
A set of splendid red brick Victorian buildings.
Including this beautiful Library.
And what must have been the Town Hall.
But the large ‘Victoria Square’ is almost deserted. Cut adrift from the town which once must have clustered around it. We wonder if this lonely Square was a 1995 redevelopment too?
We head for the River.
To the Sankey Canal. Spike Island in the background.
Nature in abundance over on Spike Island.
While Sarah cools her feet in an idyllic, though strangely rectangular pool.
Which is in fact Widnes Dock.
And looked like this back in the 1930s.
It’s still got its Dock Gates.
Once the way in and out looked like this.
Now these are quieter times.
We walk along to look at more ways of crossing from Widnes to Runcorn.
This is where the Transporter Bridge would cross the river, until 1961.
More on that in a bit.
Meanwhile Sarah is looking up at not one, but two, engineering wonders of the world.
The 1961 road bridge and the 1868 rail bridge.
Through the tunnel under the Transporter Bridge terminal you can walk into the River Mersey, should you so choose.
We don’t though.
Instead we turn for a look around the West Bank, as this bit of Widnes is called.
‘The Mersey’ – a wonderfully situated pub.
Streets of terraces crowding alongside and even under the bridges.
And containing the Catalyst Museum, the museum of the town’s chemical history.
We’d thought we might go in. But not for £5.95 each, thanks. Museums only cost this kind of money when the Tories have got at them.
Instead we decide to go and look back at Runcorn from the other side of the river.
Across the road bridge and down into Runcorn Old Town.
Yes, there’s a whole Runcorn New Town we’re not going to today. We will though, another time.
Down on the Promenade there is the Manchester Ship Canal before the River Mersey. And a whole township of assorted geese.
And this view of Widnes, where we’ve just been.
The Widnes end of the old Transporter Bridge.
The Runcorn end was here.
This Transporter Bridge, from the Runcorn side, on its last day, in 1961.
We walk under the bridges here on the Runcorn side.
Neither of us have ever been down here before.
The road bridge gets more beautiful the more you look at it.
Engineering or art? What’s the difference.
Here I am, taking that last photograph.
Through the arch of the rail bridge.
Which looks like this if you turn around.
And again, terraced housing clustering in roads sliced up by both bridges.
It looks beautiful. But we both wonder what it must be like to live here?
This church, built into this arch of the rail bridge 20 years after the bridge was constructed. Splendidly eccentric.
Stragely this part of Runcorn is called South Bank. Even though the opposite bit of Widnes is known as West Bank.
Whatever, they’re both beautifully curious places and we loved having a good walk around both of them.
Then, as in all good stories of good days out, we went home.