Where do the children play?

The day begins with breakfast. Not at home, as it does usually, but out somewhere. Get me, modern as well as urban.

I’d been supposed to meet a friend but as she isn’t well enough this morning to come out to play I decide to go out anyway.

Down to Baltic Creative.

Down to Baltic Creative.

For something fortifying.

Waiting for something fortifying.

It’s going to be a long cold walk.

Just so's you know where we are.

Just so’s you know where we are.

And yes, the new camera’s with me and the good news is I’ve spent some time playing around with it yesterday and I’ve moved beyond the automatic settings!

Mind you, on a day like this...

Mind you, on a day like this…

Next door's dog could take good photos.

Next door’s dog could take good photos.

The old Higson's brewery. Waiting to become a market place, I think.

The old Higson’s brewery. Waiting to become a market place, I think.

Stanhope Street, once some of the closest housing to the city centre.

Stanhope Street, once some of the closest housing to the city centre.

Which brings me to today’s theme, housing. I’m basically going to walk out through the city’s South Docks. But not to look at their maritime history. I’ve already done that with a 1906 map, naming them and telling their past stories. No, today I want to have a look at their current story, as a place where thousands of people live.

But before we get to that, a bit of a meander around here.

Where there's a 'dog creche' - of course there is.

Where there’s a ‘dog creche’ – of course there is.

In the shadow of the brewery and along the road from where the mighty Caryl Gardens tenements used to be.

In the shadow of the brewery and along the road from where the mighty Caryl Gardens tenements used to be.

Just down there.

Just down there.

Now there's a pet's adventure playground.

Now there’s a pet’s adventure playground!

And what's that?

And what’s that?

Going round to the front, in Perry Street.

It's a Chinese Theatre.

It’s a Chinese Theatre.

A friend used to work for an organisation called Novas Ouvertures and I remember them having this built around ten years ago. He told me they’d got specialist craftworkers over from China to do the tiling.

And the dragons.

And the dragons.

There were no signs saying what might be on or even if it’s used now. This little secret gem up a narrow side street.

I cross the main docks road to here. Half a mile or so from the city centre.

I cross the main docks road to here. Half a mile or so from the city centre.

And see all those apartments? Well someone’s told me recently that, from a population that dropped down into the hundreds only a few years ago, there are now around 47,000 people living in and around the city centre, mostly in apartments like those. People who bought one early in the development of the Albert Dock on the 1980s, to more recent developments. People who bought them when ‘yuppies’ was new word and are still there. Others who intended just to stay for a while when young, but have also stayed. Because they like it round here or because they got stuck by the property market. And are now having children here.

So children and pensioners in a place where millions of visitors pour through every year.

And I’m wondering, what must that be like? So I’m walking around their place as part of finding out.

I'd thought I might find some of them out on the water.

I’d thought I might find some of them out on the water.

Sarah used to come dragon-boating here on Sunday mornings, but I think they’ve just finished today.

And part of Sarah's fun was sometimes falling in.

And part of Sarah’s fun was sometimes falling in.

But you wouldn’t wish that on anyone today. It’s literally Baltic down here.

But they're at work as we speak on the old VAT building.

But they’re at work as we speak on the old VAT building.

I’ve always considered that, with keen competition, to be one of the ugliest buildings in Liverpool. Not sure what it’s being turned into now – apartments?

Whatever that is?

Whatever that is?

Reaching the Mersey, along from the Ferry, the Arena and the Conference Centre.

Reaching the Mersey, along from the Ferry, the Arena and the Conference Centre.

And surrounded by housing.

And surrounded by housing.

And boats in the Coburg Dock.

And boats in the Coburg Dock.

After the 1981 riots all this land and docks down here were taken out of the hands of Liverpool City, who were not much bothering with it anyway to be honest, and put in the hands of the newly set up Merseyside Development Corporation. This was largely a Michael Heseltine initiative, him disagreeing with his Conservative cabinet colleagues who’d have been happy enough to shut Liverpool down.

And

And the Development Corporation is still remembered in the signs here.

In this 'temporary place of refuge.'

In this ‘temporary place of refuge.’

Where you can see the passage of maritime time.

Where you can see the passage of maritime time.

And the old docks are all around the pleasure-craft.

And the old docks are all around the pleasure-craft.

And in the ground we walk on.

And in the ground we walk on.

Ancient rails.

Ancient rails.

Reaching the Brunswick Dock entrance.

Reaching the Brunswick Dock entrance.

This is the major way in from the river to all of these South Docks.

This is the major way in from the river to all of these South Docks.

And it was these gates that were deliberately left open in the mis 1970s.

And it was these gates that were deliberately left open in the mid 1970s.

So the whole dock system would silt up.

So the whole dock system would silt up.

The thinking then being, apparently, that no uses would ever be able to be found for all these old docks and buildings. I remember, for example, a serious plan to concrete over the middle of the Albert Dock there and build a tower block in the middle to be the new home of Liverpool Polytechnic. It sounds too crazy to be true, but then so was letting the whole place silt up.

So it's an astonishing feat of heavy engineering that the place is now so beautiful and so full of water.

So it’s an astonishing feat of heavy engineering that the place is now so beautiful and so full of water.

And on a beautiful day like this I could quite imagine living down here. So close to the river, so close to the ebb and flow that is the pulse of the city.

Living on water.

Living on water.

Surrounded by history.

Surrounded by history.

This was one of the first dock buildings converted down here. Into a warren of offices and workshops for the small companies and social enterprises that got the place working again from the mid 1980s. But demolished a few years ago and now? Just leftover space.

Space for what? Well, as you’ve seen, there are thousands of people round here. But we haven’t seen a shop or anything in the way of open public space for people to sit and gather and, well, behave like a community. And I keep thinking, like it says at the top of the post ‘Where do the children play?’

Apart from the Watersports Centre this is the only gathering place I've passed.

Apart from the Watersports Centre this is the only gathering place I’ve passed.

Walking on.

Walking on.

And here is one of the social enterprises I was talking about.

And here is one of the social enterprises I was talking about.

The Furniture Resource Centre, where Sarah And I spent so much time working in the years when the century turned.

The Furniture Resource Centre, where Sarah and I spent so much time working in the years when the century turned.

The City Bikes have made it along here.

The City Bikes have made it along here.

Though many bring their own.

Though many bring their own.

Riding along in sight of Camell Laird's across the river.

Riding along in sight of Cammell Laird’s across the river.

And past where the Overhead Railway used to emerge.

And past where the Overhead Railway used to emerge from under the Dingle up there.

First ritual stop this year to stand and lament the municipal vandalism of 1957.

Down here is our second gathering place of the South Docks, a Chinese Restaurant.

Down here is our second gathering place of the South Docks, a Chinese Restaurant.

And another that's stood like this for years now.

And another that’s stood like this for years now.

Both of them behind these ancient steps.

Both of them behind these ancient steps.

Next to yet more apartments.

Next to yet more apartments.

Someone up there even brave enough to have their balcony door open.

Someone up there even brave enough to have their balcony door open.

We've reached the Cazzy, the Cast Iron Shore, Dingle Beach.

We’ve reached the Cazzy, the Cast Iron Shore, Dingle Beach.

But we haven’t finished with possible places to live yet.

We're going along here and part way up the Dockers' Steps.

We’re going along here and part way up the Dockers’ Steps.

One one side of the path...

One one side of the path…

Alan Murray's beautiful...

Alan Murray’s beautiful…

History of Liverpool...

History of Liverpool…

Though the eyes of us working people.

Though the eyes of us working people.

And on the other?

Where the Herculaneum Dock used to be.

Where the Herculaneum Dock used to be.

'City Quay'

‘City Quay’

Hundreds of modern apartments down the cliff from the Dingle.

Hundreds of modern apartments down the cliff from the Dingle.

And people who live here love them, I’m told.

Me? Well at least for today it's not time to carry on walking up to the Dingle.

Me? Well at least for today it’s not time to carry on walking up to the Dingle.

Because we haven’t finished with life on the riverside yet.

Wondering how all these are doing since 2007?

Wondering how all these are doing since 2007?

Another bit of edgeland breaks out.

Another bit of edgeland breaks out.

Somewhere to sit and watch the river, or sell your vans?

Somewhere to sit and watch the river, or sell your vans?

The Garden Festival pub.

The Garden Festival pub.

Built specially in 1984 for the great spectacle put on by the Merseyside Development Corporation.

That's where we are now.

That’s where we are now. Here be another dragon, left here in 1984.

On land waiting for its apartments.

On land waiting for its apartments.

Waiting for some time now.

Waiting for some time now.

But looking recently cleared so maybe they’ll start building soon? After all, half of the old Garden Festival site was opened as a sort of public park a few years back now.

So is this where the children can play?

So is this where the children can play?

Well they can certainly run around a bit. But there’s no swing park here, little open grassland. Oh and it closes at four o’clock. I’ve also seen them close it when it’s snowed. As I say, not really a proper park.

And all a continuing part of the antagonism that existed between Liverpool City and the Merseyside Development Corporation in the 1980s. Liverpool was led by the Militants then and of course they refused to have anything to do with the site of what they saw as a ‘Tory’ Garden Festival once it was over.

So this never became municipal land. Never, somehow, a ‘proper’ part of Liverpool.

But there is beauty here.

But there is beauty here.

Places for contemplation.

Places for contemplation.

And the garden has matured around the Pagoda over all these years.

And the garden has matured around the Pagoda over all these years.

Just next to where there may yet be some more riverside dwelling places.

Just next to where there may yet be some more riverside dwelling places.

From where the people would be able to walk through to this.

From where the people would be able to walk through to this.

Now I have issues with how this park is poorly staffed and maintained. But at least, as this South Docks walk ends, there is space here to breathe. Somewhere that could be precious. Somewhere for the people.

And glory be, for the first time in a long time, today the waterfall is working. So I can play with the shutter speed on my new camera and separate out the drops of flowing water.DSC00616

DSC00615DSC00614DSC00609Beautiful, thank you.

Leaving the riverside through St Michael's.

Leaving the riverside through St Michael’s.

Past the last lnown logo from the 1984 Garden Festival.

Past the last known logo from the 1984 Garden Festival.

And the station that was specially reopened in 1984, because of the new life on the riverside.

And the station that was specially reopened in 1984, because of the new life on the riverside.

First time I set eyes on it, in the mid 1970s, it was a ghost station.

So maybe it’s the time we embraced the riverside? Recognised that it’s there? The Liverpool most of us never see. The Liverpool of 47,000 people. Who are as Liverpool as the rest of us. Discuss?

Meanwhile I walk home, through Sefton Park and Greenbank Park, on a Sunday afternoon. Both of them full of children playing. Some of them, no doubt, the riverside children. They’re their closest swing parks after all, along with Princes. Cue for a song?

8 thoughts on “Where do the children play?

  1. stan cotter

    The temporary place of refuge was once where people could moor their boats freely as a right from the city elders, later became just a place of refuge as you say. And now in private ownership and no such rights exist other than in an emergency.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Stan, though the current situation is ‘private ownership’ that has long been effectively long been the case with Liverpool’s dockland. The old Mersey Docks and Harbour Board was always a great centre of power here, and from things I’ve read over the years always fiercely resisted very much involvement from Liverpool City Council. Money doing what money always does in provoking greed, enclosure and exclusion.

      Reply
  2. Gerry

    Great photos, Ronnie! Our dog has stayed at the dog creche – you should see it on a weekday, the happiest place in Liverpool as the dogs chase each other round the playground!

    Reply
  3. John Viggars

    The temporary refuge known by fishermen as the Cockle Hole or more correctly South Ferry Basin was a pig to sail in & out of or so I was told back in the 70’s. Must be nigh on impossible to take refuge with that amount of silt in it? Never had to enter it myself when I crewed small boats out of Coburg when the docks were tidal then. Both locks out of Brunswick were open if I remember correctly, they were difficult to pass through on account of the build up of mud.
    I’m overdue a walk down there but hope to go back later this month but unlikely to return to the ‘Festival Gardens’ which are a pale shadow of how they were in ’84 & unfortunately are no longer worth a special trip despite their ‘restoration’.
    Your photos (as ever) do though remind me of many a happy hour spent in the South Docks when a young(er) man.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks John. It’s well worth a walk. Especially as you were there in those ‘lost’ years. I remember going there once myself in them days and thinking ‘They’ll never turn this around.’ But they have, sort of.

      And I just view the Festival Gardens as a green space ready for development into a proper park one of these days. It certainly isn’t one now.

      Reply
  4. Mike Hammond

    So many memories evoked from this fabulous blog. Your site is fast becoming my favourite place to be on the entire www!
    As far as I remember, St. Michael’s Station closed I the eary 70’s but was open again by around 1978. It was certainly open between 1982-84 as I used it regularly around that time and watched it being ‘tarted up’ for the festival.

    Reply

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