The walk of Saturday the 13th of April 2013.
A long time ago (sounds ominous doesn’t it?), probably a year, maybe slightly less, I posted a potential walk, an urban walk no less, to go from one end of Southport’s Coastal Road to the other. In itself this is no mean feat, being some eleven miles in length. In actuality, it gets even more taxing as one has to first of all get to one end of the Coastal Road which can either be three or five miles away from my starting point. This was going to a long walk and here is its’ story.
My usual starting point for Southport walks is the Methodist Church on Leyland Road (1. It’s easy to find on a map, 2. I don’t really want to publish my home address) and this was where I started from today. My first turn off and road crossing was at Roe Lane where I then had a very mild and pleasant uphill stretch to Norwood Avenue which soon turns into Norwood Road . As I got to the railway bridge and the junction of Norwood Road / Tithebarn Road and Bispham Road I caught sight of an owl perched on a roof – at nine thirty (or thereabouts!) this seemed to me to be an odd thing to see…maybe it’s a pigeon deterrent, I don’t know. One gets accustomed to odd things on Norwood Road…
Another few hundred yards down the road and as I made my way passed Meols Park and King George the fifth (KGV to locals) colleague my heart lifted as I realised that at last this could be time to get a photograph of the “Lightning Tree” – essentially a tree which I assume has at one time been hit by lightning, fell over then continued to grow from its’ new inclined position. This has long been one of my favourite little features that one spots whilst urban walking and I do hope that this characterful tree is allowed to always grow in this unusual direction unimpeded.
After passing this rare arboreal treat I then took care to cross the busy Scarisbrck (I knew the spell checker would throw that out!) New Road and made my way onto Town Lane Kew – that really is its’ name. As I passed Southport Hospital it occurred to me just how quickly I had made it to here – forty two minutes from home – the next time that I have an appointment here, if the weather is fine I shall be walking as opposed to spending £4.00 on parking at the hospital car park – robbery legalised!
I made it across the next two roundabouts without any hassle although it has to be said that crossing Town Lane to get onto Town Lane Kew (seriously you could not make this up!) can be something of an extreme hobby at rush hour! I spied a path leading over some park land but not being aware of how far away from my route following this path would take me…I soldiered onwards on the flag and tarmac paths that had been my only type of walking media on this day. I soon went past Dobbies Garden Centre – home of the world’s most dreadful café with truly awful customer service and arrived at the tiny roundabout which sits at the junction of Bentham’s Way, Guilford Road, Moss Road and Stamford Road. By now I was in need of something to drink and it was with a wry smile that in the week when Margaret Thatcher had departed this world I would now call in to a shop on Grantham Road.
By now the sun really was beating down overhead as I made my way through suburbia incarnate. All around people were washing their cars, mowing the lawn, heading off for the gymnasium etc…these are the sort of activities that one doesn’t get to observe on more rural walks that I have been on in the last few years and it does add a certain indefinable value to the walk. A slight concern of mine had been that I might walk passed the turn-off which I needed to take – Carr Lane, however, my niggle was allayed when I spied the street sign some yards across the road, Carr Lane is pretty much the continuation of Guilford Road making the missing of the turning a pretty absent-minded venture. Within five hundred yards I was turning left onto the A-Road that is the A565 – Liverpool Road.
I had already prepared for the fact that this next part of the journey would seem like an endless trudge…it was. Granted the view of the spooky cemetery at Ainsdale added an element of interest, as did the volume of passing traffic but I was somewhat relieved to make it to the roundabout where Liverpool Road meets Segars Lane – by this point I had already walked 5.4 miles – just under one third of my intended route. After an eternity of semi-detached houses and pavement of not-so-varying-types and another .1.2 miles I finally arrived at the junction for Coastal Road. Now for a long time I would be walking in a straight line for miles after miles at the side of what can be described as Southport’s most dangerous road.
The first few hundred metres of the road are relatively urban – my feet were already quite weary after pounding mile after mile on paving, but the constant stream of high-speed traffic invoked a certain adrenal rush in me that forced me to increase my pace – involuntarily! After a railway bridge had been traversed the scenery was in essence…sand dunes…many, many sand dunes.
Ordinarily, whilst walking in the country I encounter the odd fell runner, these are incredibly fit but lean individuals that would hardly cause a draft as they pass by you. The marine equivalent are dune runners who it has to be said, in contrast have legs of a certain steel-like quality and seem to make the ground shake as they thunder on over it! I spied one dune runner atop the sand dunes across the road from me – he appeared to be causing his very own micro-whirlwind but was going at a phenomenal pace. If my feet had not have been burning so much I would have crossed the road and gone to admire the coastal view over the dunes and woods towards the Irish Sea, instead I ploughed on, ever watchful, ever wary of that most ignorant of all species – the cyclist! Admittedly I was walking along a cycle lane, however, whilst not being visible from Space I am highly visible from one hundred yards on a dead straight road! On five occasions as I turned around 180 degrees to check behind me I was nearly hit by these mechanical misanthropes – my bicycle has a bell with which I can alert walkers in front of me of my presence, even without this I would shout “excuse me” to avoid hitting them…I guess that I am in the minority!
Not that long ago I commented that White Hough Outdoor Activities Centre looked like a detention centre, as I passed Pontins at Ainsdale I thought that this particular building looked like a full blown prisoner of war camp, no wonder they are not doing so well! The dunes continued, the ever-so-distant views to the coast beyond my reach continued and my feet continued…to hurt like hell- or at least like they had been dipped in something from hell! Actually it was just one foot – righty, he’s always the first to cave-in. After almost two hours on one stretch of road – and 5.1 miles, and a couple of roundabouts…I had arrived at the wonderful Marine Drive (still the same road but now with added scenery!). The sea breeze coming in was like a marine nectar, thoroughly invigorating almost intoxicating! I sat on the beginnings of the sea-wall and took-in the surroundings as the air temperature had dropped a number of degrees and I welcomed this change, I simply could not have gone much further in temperatures approaching twenty degrees C.
From being in an environment with the odd idiotic passing cyclist and a constant speeding procession of cars I was now amongst people at Marine Drive, the smells of a couple of dozen eateries on Lord Street and surrounding area wafted towards me delightfully. True the sky was now looking considerably darker but I really didn’t care if we had a little light rain…it would be refreshing!
I was now hobbling. by the time I reached Hesketh Road – incidentally this is in one of my favourite areas of Southport, my right foot felt like it had ruptured. I stopped at a viewing platform on Hesketh Road overlooking Marshside Marsh and considered my options, which were essentially two: 1- Carry on in spite of the pain and the ever-blackening sky or 2-Turn-off now and go home…I figured that I had probably done close to fifteen miles of an eighteen miles walk. What did the remaining one and an half miles have in store for me that would make the pain tolerable? In truth, although I do know that there is an Alpaca or Llama on the golf coarse where I would walk, this was not sufficient to influence my decision and with regret I head towards home eventually calling in at the outdoor licence for drinks and low calorie snacks to be consumed at home either before or during my bath!
In summing, I still haven’t done the entire Coastal road – although it has to be said I have now walked its’ entirety, just not in one go! Walking through suburbia once more had been every bit as pleasant as I had remembered and I had genuinely missed it. On another occasion I will walk the Marshside Coastal path again as it is a lovely walk of barely any effort but it is unlikely that I will ever attempt the entire Coastal road again as there is just not enough to distract attention away from the burning pain that walking for many miles down a pavement in walking boots will bring…or I could just wear trainers next time!
Distance = 14.55 Miles ~ 23.4km
Altitude – negligible
Time taken: 5 hours, 20 minutes including shop stops and rest-bites.