10k Sunday: A walking version of a run

Noticing the unkempt state of the former Garden Festival site towards the end of this November 2014) walk, you may well be glad to hear the whole site, including the unbuilt housing bit has now been bought from the non-developers by Liverpool City Council (June 2015) with plans to make better use of the place than at any time in the last 30 years. At last.

This is a favourite route of mine as a run. But it’s also a good walk. And since runs are tricky to photograph decently me and my camera set off to walk this particular 10k today. A sunny Sunday and the last day of November.

Along Crawford Avenue.

Along Crawford Avenue.

And up the hill over the railway at Penny Lane.

And up the hill over the railway at Penny Lane.

Down the other side.

Down the other side.

Past one of the two houses round here where the great feminist and politician Eleanor Rathbone used to live.

Past one of the two houses round here where the great feminist and politician Eleanor Rathbone used to live.

It’s now become part of a ‘Spire’ private clinic where, strangely, I was recently given NHS treatment when my left ear went deaf. A bizarre and unsettling experience getting state care in a place full of cosmetic surgery adverts.

'Greenbank' the main home of Eleanor and all the other Rathbones is in the grounds behind here. A now closed down student halls.

‘Greenbank’ the main home of Eleanor and all the other Rathbones is in the grounds behind here. A now closed down student halls.

Now the lucrative student housing market is shifting itself into new and expensive developments nearer the city centre.

But they're still using the older and strikingly beautiful halls next door.

But they’re still using the older and strikingly beautiful halls next door.

On the side of Ibbotson's Lane.

On the side of Ibbotson’s Lane.

One of Liverpool's most glorious ancient and hidden roads.

One of Liverpool’s most glorious ancient and hidden roads.

That mostly never got made into a real road.

That mostly never got made into a real road.

Until we get nearer to Sefton Park.

Until we get nearer to Sefton Park.

Detail on the large corner house by the Park.

Detail on the large corner house by the Park.

While on the opposite side of the Lane an idyllic game of football takes place in the low winter sunshine.

While on the opposite side of the Lane an idyllic game of football takes place in the low winter sunshine.

Passing Sefton Park Meadows, the scene of much popular protest.

Passing Sefton Park Meadows, the scene of much popular protest.

I just can’t get myself worked up about them. It’s the second time in my lifetime their sell-off and development into housing has been proposed, both times under Conservative led governments. And I’d quite like them not to be sold off, but well, I’m having trouble working up the energy to finish the sentence.

Let’s walk on.

Into the Park.

Into the Park.

Still surprisingly green amongst the gold.

Still surprisingly green amongst the gold.

Simply beautiful. I've been living and walking around here for nearly 40 years now and I never tire of it.

Simply beautiful. I’ve been living and walking around here for nearly 40 years now and I never tire of it.

This is where my spirit lives, the place where all my big decisions have been taken and all my best work done. The municipally planted architecture of my life.

Down to the lake.

Down to the lake.

For a sit and a read and a cup of tea.

For a sit and a read and a cup of tea.

I’m reading ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ to remember P.D. James who has died this week. Though she was a prominent Conservative I’ve only ever heard good things said about her. And so feel the world is a less well balanced place for her loss. Gracious and intelligent political debate is an essential part of any civilised society and something we see precious little of in these days. So here’s to P.D. James, gracious and intelligent.10k Sunday19

 

Leaving the Park.

Leaving the Park.

Along to Aigburth Vale.

Along to Aigburth Vale.

And through the subway.

And through the subway.

Which is also an art gallery.

Which is also an art gallery. Paintings by community artist Nicola Taggart.

Out of the subway and down into the next park, Otterspool, one of Liverpool's greatest secrets.

Out of the subway and down into the next park, Otterspool, one of Liverpool’s greatest secrets.

Where the Osklesbrook flows.

Where the Osklesbrook flows.

This little river is the confluence of the Upper and Lower Brooks that have been partially dammed to form the lakes and waterways of Greenback Park, Greenback House and Sefton Park. From here to the Mersey it’s now culverted.

But this was once the left bank of the ancient river.

But this was once the left bank of the ancient river.

Before it became a municipal park this was also the driveway to a 19th century grand House.

Which looked like this, 'Otterspool'

Which looked like this, ‘Otterspool’

So at first sight it’s strange that this old carriageway should be crossed by a railway.

But actually it's not that strange at all. And I'll tell you why.

But actually it’s not that strange at all. And I’ll tell you why.

The house was just through here.

The house was just through here.

And it was owned by John Moss, who invested early and well in the development of the railways. Unfortunately he also invested enthusiastically in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. So I never walk across his property without cursing his memory for that.

Where his house stood later became the park Café. Long closed now.

Where his house stood later became the park Café. Long closed now.

The steps and wall, what's left of Otterspool House.

The steps and wall, what’s left of Otterspool House.

Eventually the land and the house passed to Liverpool City who demolished the house in 1930 as part of the major landscaping project that was the creation of Otterspool Promenade.

Which is actually a levée, a flood defence.

Which is actually a levée, a flood defence.

Walking across the levée down to the Mersey.

Walking across the levée down to the Mersey.

Grassendale and Garston Docks upstream.

Grassendale and Garston Docks upstream.

Birkenhead and the city downstream.

Birkenhead and the city downstream.

And do you know what the levée is made of?

And do you know what the levée is made of?

Well actually it’s the rocks taken out of the Liverpool end of the Mersey Tunnel as they were building it in the early 1930s.

Flower

Along the riverbank.

Asked later for identification Sarah thinks this might be mallow. ‘Very late though?’

Then just here the landscaping of the promenade comes to an end.

Then just here the severe landscaping of the promenade comes to an end.

And somewhere more interesting happens.

The strangest piece of pure wilderness in Liverpool.

The strangest piece of pure wilderness in Liverpool.

Within sight of the Cathedral.

Within sight of the Cathedral.

Wild heathland.

Wild heathland.

The land is very uneven, so I think it might still be the rocks from the Mersey Tunnel, but just dumped at the point where Otterspool Prom used to end.

Almost a secret place.

Almost a secret place.

A place of walkers, runners and once I remember a Gypsy camp. A wonderfully ‘outside’ kind of place.

Back down to the Promenade.

Back down to the Promenade.

The completion of the Promenade into the City was carried out in the early 1980s by a Manpower Services project (remember them?) managed by Liverpool Housing Trust Community Projects, part of where I worked in those days. Us ‘Housing for those in greatest need’ champions were entirely opposed to this scheme. Time and this walk might suggest we were entirely wrong?

Turning into what's left of the 1984 Garden Festival.

Turning into what’s left of the 1984 Garden Festival.

Though constructed with post 1981 riots public money this is now a private park.

As they relentlessly keep reminding you.

As they relentlessly keep reminding you.

Having been left abandoned for many years it does have a 'Secret Garden' kind of beauty.

Having been left abandoned for many years it does have a ‘Secret Garden’ kind of beauty.

But the maintenance of it gets worse every time I come here.

But the maintenance of it gets worse every time I come here.

'Danger' as in 'We've stopped maintaining this bit.'

‘Danger’ as in ‘We’ve stopped maintaining this bit.’

The glorious Pagoda.

The glorious Pagoda.

The deck in front of it though has grown mossy and very slippy.

The deck in front of it though has grown mossy and very slippy.

As I find when I fall flat on my back stepping onto it from the Pagoda! This walking around can be a dangerous business you know?

This fall will later turn out to have sprained my ribs. Yes, who knew you could sprain them? My backpack protected me to some extent from the impact, but it contained a couple of books, one of which – my doctor reckons – has pushed into the side of my ribcage slightly parting the ribs and thus spraining them. ‘Four to five weeks of discomfort’ to look forward to!

Through there the rest of the Garden Festival site might become apartments some day.

Through there the rest of the Garden Festival site might become apartments some day. Apparently.

Then more evidence of dropping standards here.

The 'Lake' is steadily draining away.

The ‘Lake’ is steadily draining away.

And 'the waterfall' seems to have given up for good.

And ‘the waterfall’ seems to have given up for good.

I leave.

And cross through St Michael's Wood.

And cross through St Michael’s Wood.

Into St Michael's Hamlet.

Into St Michael’s Hamlet.

Home to several lovely and quirky white houses.

Home to several lovely and quirky white houses.

And one magnificent church.

And one magnificent church.

St Michael's.

St Michael’s.

It’s of great historical significance, architecturally. But for me, every time I pass it simply means ‘Andy Barrett’. I knew him first from my time at Liverpool Housing Trust. When he died a few years ago his funeral was held here and the huge church was full to overflowing with all of us, overwhelmed by his early death. So I thought of you today as I passed your church Andy, like I always do.

Up onto Aigburth Road, passing the safe for now Sefton Park Library.

Up onto Aigburth Road, passing the safe for now Sefton Park Library.

And along Lark Lane.

And along Lark Lane.

Where I do something I’d never do if this were a 10k run. Call into Greendays over there for a cup of tea and a piece of cake.

Here's Ronnie who runs the place with his partner Carole.

Here’s Ronnie who runs the place with his partner Carole.

Ronnie and I went to school together and as I come in he delights in telling everyone already there that the ‘great housing campaigner is amongst us!’ Ronnie’s a lifelong Guardian reader and has of course seen The Guardian article this week.

Full of Carole's deliciously light chocolate cake I walk home.

Full of Carole’s deliciously light chocolate cake I walk home.

Past Keith's.

Past Keith’s.

Liverpool's first wine bar from the 1970s.

Liverpool’s first wine bar from the 1970s.

Through Sefton Park in the dark.

Through Sefton Park in the dark.

And past Greenback once again, where Eleanor Rathbone was born.

And past Greenbank once again, where Eleanor Rathbone was born.

Passing here I recall that among the many great things she did in a life of determined public service, she was for many years the Councillor for Granby. And I hope we’ve done her proud this year, all of us involved in Granby 4 Streets. I think we have.

 

4 thoughts on “10k Sunday: A walking version of a run

  1. Sarah Jane

    This walk looks amazing Ronnie. I love the unmaintained part of Otterspool. I haven’t been down that way for years. Can you get to it by walking from the Albert Dock?

    Reply
  2. Martin

    I agree that the Festival Gardens have not received the maintenance they deserve, and the laminated notes about closing time and ‘keep out’ are really ugly. Who is responsible for it’s upkeep? I worry that they will just close it again, just to ‘save money’. This little park could be a great asset so close to the river. When it first reopened I thought it was lovely and how great to see the site of the festival gardens with it’s pagoda back in use. Now it looks a bit sad with the drained lake and these stupid warning signs.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Martin, the Festival Gardens is managed by the Land Trust ‘a national charity that manages Liverpool Festival Gardens and other public spaces including play areas, nature reserves and other green areas for the benefit of the local communities.’ Which all sounds fine. Except it looks as if they’re not being given much of a budget to keep things going. I don’t go there too much, sometimes just running through, but I rarely see any staff around. Their website giving the impression it’s largely cared for by volunteers. But that lake and waterfall have been consistent problems.

      Lovely though the park could be I suspect one of its principal purposes is to provide a green and attractive neighbourhood for when its developer, Langtree, eventually gets to build and sell its apartments on the so far undeveloped side of the Garden Festival site. And while that’s all paused it’s like the park is paused too.

      Reply

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