Clive nobly took responsibility for making up a route and leading. We headed north past the impressive Thornton Manor estate and onto Brimstage. From Storeton we turned south-west to Barnston, as even Clive baulked at the obvious, but no doubt very muddy, Landican Lane link. Clive forged ahead up to Thingwall on the A551, stopping at the side of the road in order to give us a short history lesson on the Viking origins of the name“Thingwall”. However, as we thought he was only waiting for us to catch up, we carried on past him, regardless! Clive had stopped at Cross Hill adjacent to two reservoirs. He would have told us stuff like, that the name Thingwall derives from the Old Norse meaning “assembly field.” Cross Hill was a major meeting place or parliament for Viking communities on the Wirral, and perhaps from as far as Helsby, Whitby and Talacre. “by” is a suffix meaning “village”, e.g. Frankby(Franki's settlement), Greasby(wooded stronghold) and West Kirby(west church settlement).
We worked our way through the supposedly notorious Woodchurch estate, and then meandered towards Bidston via a snaking, largely green route. We passed under the spaghetti junction of exit 2 of the M53, but eventually reached the promenade at New Brighton on this route that only Clive would be able to repeat without the assistance of GPS and a water diviner.
The weather and the view across the Mersey was very attractive, and soon we were making the choice between Weatherspoon's, or the traditional fish and chip Nirvana of The Seaside Cafe. Fish and chips and tea it was.
|Photo by Steve T|
We were unusually into the wind on our initial riverside return. I was soon lagging behind with Keith, as we favoured a more relaxed pace on a full stomach. Visiting New Brighton is always a little nostalgic for a lad born in Liverpool in the forties. I remember the ferry well, and the Tower Ballroom where The Beatles and Joe Brown and his 'Bruvvers' played at some time in the sixties. The Tower itself was before my time, and at 544ft. high was the tallest in the country, before closing in 1919. As a kid, I particularly remember the daring Wall of Death riders in the old fairground. Guinea Gap baths I also remember from sixty years ago. Evidently, the baths are over 100 years old, and originally used sea water. Between 1908 and 1957, 205 world and national swimming records were achieved here.
The swing bridge between East Float and Alfred Dock was missing at Seacombe, so we had to divert to the next crossing. We eventually returned to the river front before Birkenhead Woodside ferry and bus terminus. At Birkenhead Priory a very welcoming guy told us the opening hours, and I was pleased to know that the tower overlooking the famous Cammell Laird shipbuilding site was once again open to the public. Rock Park with its magnificent old mansions overlooking the river is a real gem, hemmed in by less glamorous urban and industrial development.
We eventually reached Brimstage for tea and cake at an establishment in the far corner. We were served by lively young people and sat outside in the sun at the back. The conversation was informative and wide ranging, from Clive's historic references about the Vikings and more, to an analysis of the attractions and limitations of Barcelona and its environs, conducted mainly by George and Steve, as I recollect. The lad on the till was enterprising, as not having the correct change, he suggested that they owed me until my next visit! Shurley some mishtake there!(As the late Bill Deedes would say). Clive couldn't resist the muddy link past Oaks Farm, so earning a few more points for his brown polka dot jersey as King of the Grime (urban and rural). Somewhere along the line we lost the agreeable company of George and Nick, as four of us headed toward Clive's home village of Mollington. From there The Runcorn Three clocked up 60 plus miles back to Guilden Sutton via the Greenway. This was the furthest Keith had recently ridden without breaking anything! A really pleasant day, expertly led.
See route map and/or gpx file download