Springtime in Walton Hall Park?

Walton Hall Park - 1

Walton Hall Park, Liverpool, April 2015.

So another springtime reliably arrives in Walton Hall Park in North Liverpool. Nothing special, just an ordinary miracle? Well maybe not. For reasons we’ll be coming to this could be one of the grand park’s final springtimes.

But to tell the full story today’s long and intensely photographed walk begins in another park a couple of miles away.

Welcome to Stanley Park. Just across the road from Everton FC's football ground.

Welcome to Stanley Park. Just across the road from Everton FC’s football ground.

Over there next to Diana Street, the place where I was born. Many of my baby days would be spent in here, the park at the end of the road.

Even though we lived in tightly gridded terraced streets, we were all just across the road from our beautiful municipal park.

Even though we lived in tightly gridded terraced streets, we were all just across the road from our beautiful municipal park.

Recently and beautifully restored now Liverpool FC have magnanimously decided they don't want to take over half of it for a new football ground.

Recently and beautifully restored now Liverpool FC have magnanimously decided they don’t want to take over half of it for a new football ground.

We’ll be returning to the territorial greed of Premier League football clubs a little later.

For now note and remember the careful cultivation and the many welcome benches.

For now note and remember the careful cultivation and the many welcome benches.

We’ll be returning to them too.

But now let's start walking. Over to Diana Street and Goodison.

But now let’s start walking. Over to Diana Street and Goodison.

Where my life began.

Where my life began.

At first in a shared house on this side of the street.

At first in a shared house on this side of the street.

Then over here, again a shared house - I think the tallest one there, No2.

Then over here, again a shared house – I think the tallest one there, No2.

“I stand in the window and marvel every other Saturday at the thousands of people walking down our street to get into the ground. Goodison would hold over 70,000 in those days and I can still remember the footsteps thundering past our front window and the roar of the place. My Dad rarely went there though because he supported Liverpool and taught me from very early on that I supported them too. I still do.”

Here I am in Diana Street. 3 years old in 1957.

Here I am in Diana Street. 3 years old in 1957.

With me is one of the ‘big girls’ from the house we shared. I wish I could tell you her name, but neither me nor my Dad remember.

Let's walk on.

Let’s walk on.

Past the ground, telling the story of Everton.

!954 was a notable year for me and Everton both.

1954 was a notable year for me and Everton both.

And I did come to see them play often in those early days, Liverpool supporter or not, in those days when football was accessible to the people who lived around the ground.

I remember being at this game for example.

I remember being at this game for example.

Even now, the only games I don’t want Everton to win are the ones against Liverpool.

I do love them.

I do love them.

And it has to be said they have behaved better than Liverpool in their both wanting new grounds. Liverpool dithered for years about moving to Stanley Park or expanding where they are. And so contributed greatly to the blighting of their neighbourhood. Everton, on the other hand have simply said they want to find somewhere new.

And so their neighbourhood remains populated and settled.

And so their neighbourhood remains populated and settled.

Even ancient shop signs being preserved.

Even ancient shop signs being preserved.

But now let's walk along City Road and through a fold in time in my own life.

But now let’s walk along City Road and through a fold in time in my own life.

In the later 1950s me and my family joined the exodus of many from the inner city and moved to the northern suburbs. Maghull, where we went, was still semi-rural then and was a lovely place to grow up. But I never lost my love and fascination for these streets I’m walking today. So as soon as my growing was done, I came back.

Coming along here, Church Road West.

Coming along here, Church Road West.

To a flat along here.

To a flat along here.

This is in 1975 and a big DHSS office stood where those new houses are.

Home, 27 Church Road, on the right there.

Home, 27 Church Road, on the right there.

The upstairs flat, in the middle.

The upstairs flat, in the middle.

The flat was from an estate agents called Thomas and Jones, but when the rent book turned up it said ‘Liver Housing Association.’ This in the days when many estate agents were taking advantage of the new 1974 Housing Act’s generous public funding and setting up their own housing associations. We knew about housing associations as my girlfriend then worked in one, Liverpool Improved Houses – and I already knew I wanted to work in another, Liverpool Housing Trust (LHT). Both of these being ‘proper’ in our view. But more, much more on the history of social housing another day.

For now, and I promise you we’ll be getting to Walton Hall Park soon, let’s look round my old neighbourhood.

The Anfield, I briefly worked in here.

The Anfield, I briefly worked in here.

And am surprised but nevertheless delighted to see that it now actually is a hotel where you can stay and seems to be thriving.

But this was the best pub in the neighbourhood, by a very long way.

But this was the best pub in the neighbourhood, by a very long way.

It always was called the ‘Top House’ by all of us who went there, though it used to say ‘The Walton’ outside.

Later in 1975 I started volunteering at LHT and my friend Peter Growcoot, who worked there, lived here, near the church.

Later in 1975 I started volunteering at LHT and my friend Peter Growcoot, who worked there, lived here, near the church.

Morning’s I’d go round to Pete’s for a lift in his battered but thrilling Lotus Cortina. Praying it wouldn’t be one of the days Pete would say ‘Let’s go on the bike!’ Wheeling out his tandem for us both to pedal for dear life from here to Falkner Square in Liverpool 8. Golden days!

My girlfriend Diana's dad, Joe Incledon had a butcher's shop here in Walton Village.

My girlfriend Diana’s dad, Joe Incledon had a butcher’s shop here in Walton Village.

Now sadly gone and just a few tiles remaining.

Now sadly gone and just a few tiles remaining.

This was a Tesco, in the days before they were trying to take over everywhere.

This was a Tesco, in the days before they were trying to take over everywhere.

But now, let’s walk over to the park.

All my life I’ve needed a local park. To play in, to breathe in, to walk around and dream in. And in these middle 1970s it was this one, Walton Hall Park.

I'd walk along Hagerstown road and across Queen's Drive.

I’d walk along Haggerston Road and across Queen’s Drive there.

Then turn into the park.

Then turn into the park.

Where the daffodils are now mostly finishing.

Where the daffodils are now mostly finishing.

Just a few blooms clinging on here.

Just a few blooms clinging on here.

Across the field the tower of the place I actually got born in.

Across the field the tower of the place I actually got born in.

Though I always say I was born in Diana Street because that was where I first lived, my physical getting born happened in Walton Hospital. Sadly gone now, though the tower of the place remains.

Here in the park are many long paths, it's a big place.

Here in the park are many long paths, it’s a big place.

And these are new, like I've noticed in other Liverpool parks lately.

And these are new, like I’ve noticed in other Liverpool parks lately.

A marked out running track.

A marked out running track.

Sorry the park's looking a bit grey. I'm promised 'sunny intervals.'

Sorry the park’s looking a bit grey. I’m promised ‘sunny intervals.’

But it's lovely to be back here anyway.

But it’s lovely to be back here anyway.

While South Liverpool is often celebrated for its ring of great parks, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the North here also has the great open spaces of Newsham, Stanley and Walton Hall Parks. Together with the ‘new’ park at Everton.

And here in Walton Hall Park its springtime.

And here in Walton Hall Park its springtime.

So why did I say this might be one of the place's last springtimes?

So why did I say this might be one of the place’s last springtimes?

Well it’s all about Everton FC you see. Another one of Liverpool’s football clubs thinking about moving onto another one of our parks. Having not moved to the King’s Dock and then not moved to Kirby Town Centre in the last decade or so, Everton have now been talking to Liverpool City Council about moving to a large part of here. Not all of here mind. But the rest would become housing and other new developments. So no Walton Hall Park any more.

There has been vigorous opposition and I’m not sure where things are up to. But it’s one of the reasons I’m taking this nostalgic walk. In case I wouldn’t be able to soon. The other reason is that the ‘vigorous opposition’ have asked me to. To take one of my gentle walks around and see what I think?

So here I am, seeing what I think.

So here I am, seeing what I think.

And I’m immediately thinking that things here are not as in other Liverpool parks.

There are signs of dereliction.

There are signs of dereliction.

There are paths leading to gardens that are no longer there.

There are paths leading to gardens that are no longer there.

And though there are splashes of colour.

And though there are splashes of colour.

And the blossoms of springtime.

And the blossoms of springtime.

Much of the park is completely without the careful planting I asked you to note back in Stanley Park. And there are no park benches. Not one. I looked hard because I wanted somewhere to sit and have my lunch.

In the end this was the best I could do.

In the end this was the best I could do.

And as I sat here and eat, I thought some more about Walton Hall Park and what seems to be going on.

Beautiful and peaceful though it is.

Beautiful and peaceful though it is.

It is being minimally maintained and quietly run down.

It is being minimally maintained and quietly run down.

I don’t know this as a Council confirmed fact. Only with the evidence of my own eyes. Within the last month I have spent time walking and sitting in Greenback, Sefton, Princes, Calderstones, Newsham and Stanley Parks. And every one of them is looking more cherished and planted than this.

If people can’t sit in a place, then less people will come to it. If a park contains no planted up gardens, also less people will come to it. And if less people come to it, then someone soon will say ‘The people don’t want it.’ And then the plans of the authorities and the developers will be visited upon it it – like they may well have planned by their careful running down of the place in the first place.

I walk on.

I remember from the 1970s there was some sort of animals thing here. Can't remember what.

I remember from the 1970s there was some sort of animals thing here. Can’t remember what.

But now its brambles guarded by a big fence.

But now its brambles guarded by a big fence.

Though much happy noise just opposite.

Though much happy noise just opposite.

Then, oh thank you, the promised ‘sunny interval’ happens and everything looks suddenly sunnier.

Like there might be a future for here after all.

Like there might be a future for here after all.

With many more springtimes to come.

With many more springtimes to come.

Maybe the Council will not in fact close it down and allow it to be built on?

Maybe the Council will not in fact close it down and allow it to be built on?

Maybe get it a new sign?

Maybe get it a new sign?

Maybe the 'vigorous opposition' will win the day?

Maybe the ‘vigorous opposition’ will win the day?

As I’ve walked around I’ve been noticing that, large as Walton Hall Park is, it’s surrounded by housing with many gates and pathways to get in.

And along here, opposite Richerd Kelly Drive...

And along here, opposite Richard Kelly Drive…

We must be a good 2 miles from Stanley Park.

We must be a good 2 miles from Stanley Park.

So I wouldn’t say the densely populated area is over supplied with parks.

Anyway the sun's out so let's walk on.

Anyway the sun’s out so let’s walk on.

Finally, a planted up bed, waking up with springtime.

Finally, a planted up bed, waking up with springtime.

Walton Hall Park - 66Walton Hall Park - 67

 

Looking more cared for.

Looking more cared for.

Where the park faces Walton Park Avenue.

Where the park faces Walton Hall Avenue.

Walton Hall Park - 70 Walton Hall Park - 71

An avenue of exercise.

An avenue of exercise.

A swing park there through the trees.

A swing park there through the trees.

And

And a City Council Gym.

Also, football is already here.

Also, football is already here.

One of the places where we grow and nurture our Premier League footballers.

One of the places where we grow and nurture our Premier League footballers.

And where the children of the place can breathe and dream...

And where the children of the place can breathe and dream…

About their unfurling futures.

About their unfurling futures.

In a city that loves and cares for them.

In a city that loves and cares for them.

Along their pathways to the future.

Along their pathways to their futures.

Next I find my memory wasn’t fooling me when I’d thought there was some sort of ‘animals place’ back in the 1970s.

That

That ‘Pets Corner’ must have been it?

And in this sun dappled glade?

And in this sun dappled glade?

A handy wall to sit on. For my afters.

A handy wall to sit on. For my afters.

Yes having had my first course on that collapsed piece of stone an hour or so back on the other side of the park, it’s now time for dessert.

Custard, strawberries and one of her own biscuits.

Custard, strawberries and one of her own biscuits.

Prepared for me by Sarah and carefully and separately packed so I could assemble it all here. Get me, gentrifying Walton Hall Park all on my own!

Leaving now, past the lake.

Leaving now, past the lake.

After 2 happy but concerned hours.

After 2 happy but concerned hours.

There needs to be more talk before this lovely place gets wasted.

There needs to be more talk before this lovely place gets wasted.

Out along Moor Lane. These weren't here in the 1970s.

Out along Moor Lane.

These weren't here in the 1970s.

These weren’t here in the 1970s.

But here's a memory of what was and, presumably, who's living here now.

But here’s a memory of what was and, presumably, who’s living here now.

Walton Hall Park - 92 Walton Hall Park - 93

 

I'm just guessing these people would rather be living next to a park than a modern car-Park-most-of-the-time football ground?

I’m just guessing these people would rather be living next to a park than a modern car-park-most-of-the-time football ground? Arid as they are.

Out along a more ancient looking bit of Moor Lane.

Out along a more ancient looking bit of Moor Lane.

To the Queen's Drive flyover.

To the Queen’s Drive flyover.

Underneath Queen's Drive.

Underneath Queen’s Drive.

Very close to Walton Hospital as was.

Very close to Walton Hospital as was.

And back at Walton Church.

And back at Walton Church.

Walton Hall Park - 100I could actually catch the 68 bus back home from here. But the walk’s not quite circular yet and therefore vaguely incomplete.

So I walk on, past the crowded Black Horse.

So I walk on, past the crowded Black Horse.

Crowded this particular Sunday  afternoon with people watching Liverpool shockingly lose their FA Cup semi-final to Aston Villa.

At least the Black Horse is open these days, unlike the Glebe here.

At least the Black Horse is open these days, unlike the Glebe here.

I did come here when I lived nearby, of course I did. Though I never particularly took to the place. Always seemed a bit bleak in those days. (By the way, pub fans, there’s a ‘Pubs of Liverpool ‘ post coming along some day soon.)

I used to walk home along Mandeville Street here. That was some sort of warehouse on the corner, now all well cared for and turned into flats by the looks of it.

I used to walk home from work along Mandeville Street here. That was some sort of warehouse on the corner, now all well cared for and turned into flats by the looks of it.

Prominent baby memories of being pushed along past Arnot Street school here.

Prominent baby memories of being pushed along past Arnot Street school here.

The local public library. Still open, just.

The local public library. Still open, just.

The current prices to be an Everton fan.

The current prices to be an Everton fan.

Apparently by Premier League standards these are reasonable?

And so we end our walk. Pretty much where it started from.

And so we end our walk. Pretty much where it started from.

I wait here for my bus home.

I wait here for my bus home.

On the corner of County Road and Spellow Lane.

On the corner of County Road and Spellow Lane.

A wonderful walk and a lovely day in the North Liverpool fields and streets where I come from. My once and always home.

5 thoughts on “Springtime in Walton Hall Park?

  1. Gambier Liz

    Oh my gosh Ronnie..thank you for those great photos!..i walked and played in those streets and roads all through my childhood,and up to age 22 when i left home to work away.
    Kids were total free rangers back then in the fifities and sixties…we went far and wide,always with big or little sisters and brothers and friends from our street..We spent so many many hours in Walton Hall Park .. ( the massive house with big verandah in the middle of the park was a cafe,right by the lake,and there were concerts every afternoon in the “concert field” during the school holidays.. And yes there was a pets corner with donkeys,birds,rabbits…)
    Lots of happy times in Stanley Park too ( the cuckoo clock!) and many hours – for me- looking for Enid Blyton books (and anything about ballet or dogs) in Spellow Library,which opened when i was about seven.
    We also played most days in what we called the ” little park” ..swings etc/bowling green/ “cockie watchman”(!)…it was next to Queens Drive baths.
    Used to be a tiny tiny sweetshop right on the top of City Road hill… (“City Broo”) called The Matchbox.
    And the furniture warehouse on Mandeville Street was called Hellers. Walked down Mandeville street every day of my primary school life to my school St Francis De Sales on Hale Road..later walking along County Road and Walton Rd every day to Notre Dame Everton Valley.
    (and also to do the ” messages” for my Mum and Nan)
    Waiting for the bus at Walton Church to go to Lewis’s and Blacklers with my Uncle John.
    Wonderful times and fabulous memories..thanks for that walk down Memory Lane ..gave me goosebumps! X
    Yes…my once and always home too,Ronnie..Walton was a lovely place to grow up in xx

    Reply
  2. waltonhallparkcommunity

    Hey Ronnie, we are the friends of walton hall park. We have read your comments and we do agree that it is the council that has run our park down over the years. The plans to build the stadium here has been tried three times since 2000 and each time they have failed, yet this time the Mayor and the labour councillors are giving there full backing, but still the community will fight to the end as the park is worth saving.
    I take note of your comments about the park being neglected but that is down to the city council and shame on them! We are now all working hard on a works programme to regenerate the park but sadly it takes time…. a lot of time and effort yet we are not sort of that.
    Some of the beds are done but it is nesting season so the cutting has had to stop, the signs are about to be painted. We are also starting to plant to reclaim the long lost gardens you speak about.
    I hope you will come back soon and please let us know what you think and maybe drop us a line and we could meet to show you what we have done and achieved in what is walton hall parks future.

    Reply
  3. J. C. Greenway

    Ronnie, you grew up round the corner from my mum and dad (he went to Arnot Street) at about the same time. My nan and grandad got married in Walton Church – except they had to have it in the hall next door because of bomb damage. Loads of happy memories in L4. The two clubs bring so much to the area, but they’re not always good neighbours and the uncertainty doesn’t help. Thanks so much for blogging about North
    Liverpool as well as your usual haunts, thanks to you I’m following Homebaked and their plans.

    Reply
  4. blb1

    While I enjoyed your park I would hope it could be saved and maintained. I have no such place to walk in my part of the city. I would have to drive to a park.

    Reply

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