When I left the house for a Friday Walk on an actual Friday I had, as so often, no idea where I was going. But walking round the corner I had an idea.
The weather was dreich, to use a lovely Scottish word. Cold, rainy, overcast and dull. Kind of like I was in a cloud. So my idea was to get on the first bus that came, then get off it when the rain stopped or when it reached its terminus, whichever was the sooner.
The first bus when it came was a 68, which I’ve already been on several times this week. But rules are rules even if I’ve only just made them up, so I got on.
“He’s going to walk round Stanley Park for the second time this week“.
Where my partner Sarah often works as an Independent Funeral Celebrant.
Not all that many people get buried these days compared to when this was opened in 1863. At that time here and where we’re going to walk today – see I’ve made up my mind already – we’re on the very edge of the City of Liverpool. This a vast burial ground opened to relieve the overcrowded cemeteries of the city centre.
On the map you can see that though the streets around the football ground are built, it’s farmland on the northern side of Priory Road except for the Cemetery and a ‘Fever Hospital’.
Together, of course, with many more thousands of the graves of those who didn’t have to fight because they did, particularly in the wars of the first half of the 20th Century.
I know someone who’s involved with Homebaked who’s also involved here. So I’m sure he could tell me more. Another friend has told me of someone called Billy who’s often around here and is an expert on the place. But I don’t go looking for him today, this is a day for me, a day to be on my own. Think my own thoughts, or nothing at all. I wander on.
Or at least where I first lived, Diana Street by Goodison Park.
I explored along there as part of my Walton Hall Park walk last year.
A friend called Pete Growcoot lived along here. And I’d walk around many mornings in the 1970s for a lift into the housing place where we both worked. Mostly we’d drive there in his Lotus Cortina, to my delight. But occasionally Pete would utter the dread phrase ‘I think we’ll go on the tandem today!’
Walton only became part of Liverpool in 1895. So, again, we are walking out beyond what was the edge of Liverpool not all that long ago.
Yes I know it’s spelled wrong but that’s what it’s called.
Not that modern health centre, but the former workhouse behind it. By 1954 when I arrived it had become one of the newly acquired NHS hospitals.
On the map the ring road looks like it’s being laid out but is not yet built. To the north the hospital can be clearly seen as ‘West Derby Union Workhouse’ with just one hospital wing in it. Again, farmland to the north and in Bootle.
Clearly an old roadside tavern where coaches and horses could pull in on the way to and from Preston and Glasgow.
Why Tuesdays? Who knows, but it was.
And it certainly didn’t have function rooms. Didn’t have food beyond crisps or peanuts. You’d have got yourself barred out asking for a pork pie or anything else sophisticated like that.
I’d missed this one going, haven’t been along here in a long time. But I’m doing my best on the rest. Which I’ll tell you about some time.
Built in 1855. So far then we’ve seen a cemetery, a workhouse and a gaol. All constructed beyond the limits of the 19th Century city.
Long gone now.
When I was growing up, coming here was a credible alternative to going to town. It’s only one road, true. But it was packed with quality shops. Now half of them aren’t really shops at all, but money lenders, tanning salons and bookmakers.
I’m so very sad to see this happen to what was one of Liverpool’s principal high streets. So many of my memories are here. Here’s one.
My Nan lived nearby – we’ll be going there in a bit – and we’d come here after visiting her to get the bus home to the suburbs, where we’d moved in the late 1950s. Sometimes while waiting for the bus we’d get to go to a Coffee Bar that had magically opened along here. They had a Juke Box, and I loved to press my face up against it while it played the records my mother would put on. Mostly slop by Cliff Richard, her favourite. Then this one time, pronouncing the just learned letters carefully I said to her:
“What does L-i-t-t-l-e R-i-c-h-a-r-d sound like?”
Fearing he might be a diminutive version of his near namesake Cliff. Well, heaven was with me, she went with my choice and the sound when the needle hit the record nearly knocked my head off:
“A wop bop a loo bop a lop bop bop!”
I’d had no idea until that moment that a human being could do that. That music could be not just exciting, but wild on a scale that would normally get you sent off to bed without your tea for a week! It was my rock’n’roll moment. It changed the rest of my life.
So that even today, walking along sad, tired Walton Vale, if you passed a man with a camera singing ‘Tutti Frutti’ by Little Richard it was almost certainly me. I only hope I sounded half this good:
I was wearing thermals on this still cold day, so didn’t want to go inside anywhere. But for another day this looked busy and good.
This was around 1970 when I wandered in and asked the scowling inhabitant if he ‘had anything by Elton John?’
“Al Bowlly’s what we have in here. Al Bowlly, a proper singer!”
Let’s move on.
Duly catalogued for Sarah’s Monkey Map.
Moss Lane is here, running through the middle of an area that’s almost all farms. Settlement beginning near to the railway at Orrell Park. And the terraced streets of the Klondyke beginning north west of still rural Linacre Lane.
Hope Marie’s got a Jukie in there with Little Richard on it?
This was the cinema where me and someone called Linda came to see ‘Easy Rider’ back in 1970. She mustn’t have liked films about drug-smuggling hippies, because she never went out with me again.
Just crossing into Bootle, hadn’t realised it was so close to the docks.
We did too, for a few months in 1957 while we waited to move into our new house out in Maghull. Here’s the house and my Nan, Elizabeth Gerrard, back in 1956.
The last words I remember her saying to me being:
“I never thought I’d live to see the bloody Tories being voted back in.”
One of Liverpool’s more interesting bus routes, back along Walton Vale, then weaving its way through Fazakerley, Norris Green and Old Swan. Fully documented in this ‘Great Bus Journeys’ post.
So that’s it then, a good day, a Friday Walk around the northern edge of Liverpool as was and half a century of my own life. In a busy time of early mornings and evening meetings it’s so good to do this sort of thing. Just be. And wander aimlessly.