Despite very different times over the last year due to the COVID Pandemic, this newsletter provides an update on work carried out in the last 14 months and sets out aspirations for 2021 into 2022.
The Wirral Public Rights of Way network continues to be maintained to enhance the public access to the 75 miles of public rights of way, plus about 25 miles of permissive footpaths, bridleways and off-road cycle tracks.
This is in addition to the 15 miles of the Wirral Way within Wirral Country Park from West Kirby to Hooton. The overall aim of promoting and maintaining these historic public routes is to provide an accessible recreational facility, helping to improve health and wellbeing as well as connectivity for Wirral residents and visitors alike whilst ordinarily making a contribution to the visitor economy.
This is all linked to other Geographical Information Systems based on the National Street Gazetteer and this has helped the ongoing development of The Highways Asset Management Plan with the compilation of an extensive register of the rights of way assets including fingerposts, historic sandstone step over stiles, gates, bridges and surfaces all being entered onto the database with photos and map references and accurate pinpoint locations.
The Wirral Circular Trail continues to be a very successful 35 mile walking and cycling route around Wirral, signposted and described in an 88 page booklet widely available and via Visit Wirral's website, together with our family of walking leaflets
The view from Eastham Country Park looking across the River Mersey to North Cheshire.
England Coastal Path
Work on this substantial project to improve walking access around the coast of England continues with Natural England to deliver the 18 mile Wirral section from Birkenhead to the Cheshire border. This new national trail of 2,700 miles will be the longest coastal path in the world when it is completed in the next couple of years. The report laying out the proposals for the Birkenhead to the Welsh border section was published mid-December 2020. The Consultation stage ended in mid-February and work could start on the Wirral section during the Summer of 2021. Please visit GOV.UK for more information
The beach from West Kirby out to Hilbre Island.
The 2018 – 2028 Rights of Way Improvement Plan
ROWIP 2, now entering its 4th year links with other policies and strategies across The Liverpool City Region reporting to the Transport Advisory Group and continues to provide Capital funding for the public rights of way and off road cycle track network. View further information
Thursday Volunteer mornings
Unfortunately, due to the 1st lockdown and then varying levels of COVID Health and Safety issues, an October re-start was prepared, but an Autumn Tier 3 lockdown thwarted attempts to get our frustrated volunteers out on the paths.
The numerous person hours each week normally carried out cutting and trimming brambles and nettles etc on the public footpaths and bridleways and off road cycle tracks across Wirral has most definitely been missed.
Hopefully we can get back to normal in the summer of 2021.
The National Trust Volunteer work on Thurstaston Common and Sustrans volunteers on the Cycle Tracks and all their good work has also been on hold.
Wirral Conservation Areas and Heritage Trail
This is a set of suggested routes to either walk, cycle or drive around Wirral and visit the 26 Conservation Areas and the specially selected 40 Heritage Sites.
The Wirral Walking Festival
This will take place in May on a restricted basis depending
on the Covid data and roadmap at the time. Details will be updated via wirral.gov.uk
The Board Walk, West Kirby
Early in 2018 the permissive footpath from Red Rocks to West Kirby beach alongside the Royal Liverpool Golf Club with over 400m of boardwalk came under the responsibility of The Wirral Council Rights of Way Officer. Ongoing repairs to this 1980’s permissive path structure continue to ensure a lovely alternative to the beach.
This Kestrel was captured one summers day looking for some lunch perched on the Golf Club sign alongside footpath 38, the Public footpath from Pinfold Lane off Meols Drive and leads out onto the beach and down to the boardwalk.
Port Sunlight River Park and links to Eastham Country Park
The 80 acres of Port Sunlight River Park, which opened in August 2014 is currently accessed via the main entrance in Dock Road North on foot or by cycle and to the north via the path from Shorefields Park. Please see the splendours of the River Park
Unfortunately, despite our best intentions, we will have to wait for the developments on the south side of the River Dibbin to be completed before the public are allowed access across or through what is still a ‘building site’.
Once the route to the south of the River Park is open, it will link the River Park to Bromborough Pool, The Old Court House Site, The Croft Retail Park and all routes along the East coast to Eastham Country Park via Port Sunlight if you prefer.
All these routes will help support the case for the re-instatement of the historic footpath 56 along the east coast shoreline.
Work completed since January 2020
Despite all the restrictions and difficulties of COVID, we have still been able to make use of the Liverpool City Region Capital budget on the following improvements:
- Footpath 12 Birch Heys- Grange Cross Lane: two lots of surface improvements have been done on this path leaving the bottom of the field section of path as the missing link to improve soon.
- Footpath 49, Raby: several of the wet areas that continued to get worse over the last few years have had some revetment and surfacing around the wet areas done.
- Bridleway 47, Brimstage – Rocklands Lane: surface improvements at the junction with the Estates tracks and footpath 24 with new and improved signs as well.
- Footpath 56, Ashdown Pk, Greasby to the old RAF Camp: this had been on the list for a long time but finally we got the hedge cutback to expose the old original concrete path from the Camp to Greasby. While we were there, we put in two new gates either side of the footbridge.
- Footpath 72, Wirral Way end of the path to Dungeon Wood: a substantial cutback of the trees and bushes along this path was done before the nesting season plus improved surface works due to erosion from the adjacent stream overtopping during periods of heavy rain.
- Bridleway 23a, Fleck Lane: another location suffering erosion during the summer downpours with the silt very often flooding out onto Caldy Road. Previous work has helped but more work was done to help prevent further loss of surface.
- Caldy Hill Permissive Horse Route: new posts and way markers locating the connecting horse route between the Kings Drive and Fleck Lane Bridleways.
- Footpath 5a, from Meols had the burnt kissing gate replaced.
- Footpath 20, Duck Pond Lane: from Holm Lane, some surface improvements were done plus some cyclists dismount signs regarding issues with cyclists along this busy urban route.
- Beacon Lane, Byway 18 had surface improvements near the Beacons car park and with other similar byways such as Oldfield Drive, Grange Road, Seaview Lane, Wittering Lane and Broad Lane also had the worst potholes filled.
- Royden Park Horse Route: sections of surface and fence have been improved in preparation for it becoming a Public Bridleway.
- Footpath 43, Oldfield Farm – Dungeon Wood: surface improvements along the lower section of path that had become prone to getting very muddy and difficult for some of the year:
- Footpath 72, Dungeon Wood: the Board Walk was repaired and some anti slip strips were added to the slats and the flag stone path was realigned.
- Footpath 3, Bebington, Townfield Lane, had 30 or more sections of this tarmacked surface repaired due to long term tree root damage.
- Bridleway 22, Lightfoot Lane, surface improvements, most of which were arranged and paid for by the residents.
- Bridleway 29, Arrowe Park Road end: surface and drainage improvements.
- Bridleway 46, Limbo Lane, a new hand rail and fence on the bridge over the Arrowe Brook.
- Port Sunlight Walk and Cycle Path: The flooding in early 2020 returned in November but on-going work with our Contractor who dug some channels to the lowest point on the path near the A41 bridge appears to have cured the problem. It’s thought the drainage now in place with on-going leaf clearance etc should now cope with wetter periods of heavy rain.
- Footpath 3, Heswall Golf Club – Cheshire boundary at Backwood Hall: a new 150m section path was laid to overcome the mud and flooding that had become prevalent in recent wet Winters like here in early 2020:
to this in September 2020. It’s difficult to believe this is the same footpath:
- Footpaths 18 Landican – Thingwall:
Major works on this footpath finally reinstated the footpath on the correct route with a rebuilt section of path that had long since fallen into the pond with a board-walk that had to be walker friendly but cattle proof at the same time!
- Bridleway 16, Landican Lane between Landican Village and Prenton Brook, surface improvements.
- Horse and cycle path surface improvements from Arrowe Park past the Arrowe Park Road Car Park to the Pelican Traffic lights to enable horses and cyclists to cross the road onto Bridleway 29.
- Barriers at Wordsworth Walk have been installed as a cycling restriction and railings in Broughton Ave, also in West Kirby have been re located to assist accessibility for tricycles using the Wirral Circular Trail:
- Dibbinsdale Nature Reserve: there have been various footpath improvement schemes considered for this superb walking area with new culverts, surface and steps works. Then in January 2021 this flooding happened:
This was the 2nd such flood in two weeks that left all the wooden bridges damaged which will require considerable resources to repair once fully assessed by our in-house Structural Engineer.
Work planned for this year and into 2022
The report to our Environment, Climate Emergency and Transport Committee regarding the Council’s Combined Authority Transport Plan, Integrated Transport Block programme for 2021/22, Appendix A has recently been approved.
This delivery programme includes £80,000 towards Public Rights of Way Improvements at various locations. It is however still subject to being the finalised with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority delivery programme that contributes to the strategic objectives of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Transport Plan and Wirral Plan 2025, all working for safe and pleasant communities and working for a sustainable environment.
The work planned is as follows:
- Bridleway 1 & 21 Roman Road, Prenton – Storeton, surface improvements.
- Footpath 8, Storeton to improve the fenced in section of path to help with the excessively muddy conditions prevalent for the last two winters. Byway 13, Ditton Lane, potholes and cracks to fill in and make good. Footpath 44, Irby, The Anchor Pub - Dawlish Road: drainage and surface work: Hoylake Cycle Track: tree root damage and fencing. Heswall Dales, footpath 32: a new sleeper bridge and surface improvements. Footpath 49, Liverpool Road end, new gate layout and improved surface work.
- Footpath 12, Grange Cross Lane: the wet muddy bottom of the field section of path is to have a new kissing gate and some field edge path surface improvements.
- Footpath 6, Acres Road, Meols, surface improvements up to the field.
- Bridleway 3, Park Lane, Meols, renew the horse step and put in a new anti-motorcycle barrier.
- Footpaths 45, Exmoor Close, to Irby Village: chippings & or planings.
- Footpath 12, Sparks Lane – Mill Road, Thingwall, surface improvements.
- Metal Barriers along the Wirral Circular Trail north coast and River Birket are to be replaced with more accessible anti motorcycle barriers to allow tricycles and wheelchairs greater and easier access.
- Footpath 36, Benty Heath Lane, Raby, the Black & white fingerpost is to have a new metal finger welded back onto the solitary post with the original wording embossed on it.
- Footpath 45 Irby – Pensby: where it’s joined by footpath 68 at the top of Harrock Wood, a new more accessible bridge alongside the steps is being considered.
- Footpath 43 near Church Farm, new kissing gate & planings on the grass section that becomes quite muddy at times.
- Footpath 72, Dungeon Wood: path revetment by the waterfall to reinstate, mindful this is a remote location and access the Woodland is a continual challenge.
- Footpath 11, Frankby Road to Montgomery Hill and the Permissive Bridleway opposite Lartons: re defining Footpath 11 by cutting back bushes and trees to reinstate the public footpath alongside the permissive bridleway.
- Footpaths 61 & 62 Meols, regarding restrictions for horses across this area.
- Bidston Moss to behind B&Q: monitoring of the Walk and Cycle Path along this section continues amid fears that further subsidence is occurring leading to longer periods of more sustained flooding.
- Footpath 57 Cubbins Green: surface improvements between the Wirral Way and Macdona Drive.
There are many more locations noted for minor surface improvements.
Current proposed changes to the network and public path creation orders
Some of these have been listed before but because of the considerable work required for each one, there have been delays whilst we’ve all had to adapt to home working over the last year: Therefore the list is now as follows:
- Byway 22, Mill Lane: The residents have requested a Traffic Regulation Order to restrict through traffic. This is currently being considered.
- Royden Park Public Bridleway: From Pikes Hey Road, via Montgomery Hill, on the north side of Royden Park, alongside Greasby Brook to Hillbark Road to Irby Quarry onto public footpaths 50 and 51 to public bridleway 49, Sandy Lane.
- Thurstaston Road Footpath, From School Lane junction with Thurstaston Road, north to public footpath 54.
- Thurstaston Common Footpath: From where public footpaths 56 & 57 meet, to a location north west alongside Telegraph Road.
- Dibbinsdale Local Nature Reserve: two Public Path Creation Orders from Dibbins Hey to public footpath 55 and also from some way along this path, across to public footpath 55 next to the railway tunnel.
- Caldy Hill: a further two Public Path Creation Orders from public footpath 49 north to public footpath 51 and the other from the junction of Public Footpaths 27 and 51 adjacent to the Mariners Beacon, north to Village Road.
- Footpath 49 along the Wirral and Cheshire West Boundary over Liverpool Road through to the Chester High Road.
- Footpath 18 from Gilroy Road West Kirby to New Hall Lane, Hoylake, known as Tip Lane: the suggestion of a reclassification to Public Bridleway was considered a few years ago but was put on hold because of the possibility of the Golf Resort.
Other on-going projects
Bidston Golf Club
The missing link of the Birket walk and cycle path continues to be developed but will involve two new expensive bridges, therefore funding is still being sourced. The aim of the project is to connect the Wirral Circular Trail on The Birket Cycle Route with the National Cycle Network Route 56 under junction 1 of the M53 and on to Bidston Moss and then to the docks within the Wirral Waters Cycle route schemes. This will link up with work to start soon alongside the River Birket from Reeds Lane towards Solar Campus along the route of the Circular Trail.
North Coast Sea Defence Access Road
Currently with a bye-law prohibiting cycling which is why the Circular Trail Cycle route uses the Birket Cycle Path. There has been a massive increase in use since the 1st lockdown and conflict between users continues to be a problem. Officialising and defining the route would benefit all users including the occasional horse, RNLI Quad Bike and Biffa Bin Wagon !
Heswall Fields – Beach and – Wirral Way Accessible Permissive Horse Route
Discussions with the National Trust and Cheshire Wildlife Trust continues regarding the viability of such a project and its ongoing maintenance implications along a path that currently exists but just needs improving.
Heswall – Clatterbridge all user route
The planning of one of the long term aspirations for an all user route connecting east and west Wirral are underway. Using the Old Clatterbridge Road & the M53 bridge as a Junction 4 alternative and then west mainly using current public rights of way across to Heswall Station would be of great benefit to walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
Footpath 6, Lingham Lane, Railway Footbridge
Further to last year, following a routine inspection, the structural report suggests the bridge is in need of replacement. The estimated cost of a new bridge is somewhere in the region of £1m, therefore options are being considered.
Signing schemes currently being planned
New Brighton: to improve the cycle Route Signing along the Circular Trail.
Port Sunlight Walk and Cycle Route from The Gladstone Theatre to Riverbank Road and then south to Eastham Country Park and North to the River Park.
Resident led surface improvement Schemes
These continue to be quite successful particularly along Bridleways 23, Lightfoot Lane, Bridleway 9 Rectory Lane and footpath 12, Mill Road, Thingwall.
The maintenance schedule: the seasonal operative we have employed this last year has done a superb job keeping all the routes mown, strimmed and trimmed. It is hoped this will continue throughout 2021.
The recorded lost ways to be claimed by January 2026:
- Route 56 Eastham: the old route, as near to the cliff top as possible or along the beach route from Eastham Country Park to Port Sunlight River Park.
- Barnston – Brimstage, the old route over the railway line.
- Prenton – Pensby woodland walk: Durley Drive – Landican Lane – Barnston – Pensby Road, Pensby.
- Gardenside, Leasowe Road to Green Lane at the Gunsite car park.
- Historic research and other information for routes to claim are currently being explored by members of the Wirral Footpaths Society.
Paths to be adopted soon
These are surfaced urban footpaths that could become adopted, for example:
- Footpath 22, Rock Ferry: pending redevelopment of the Rock Ferry High School site
- Footpaths 20 and 28, Duck Pond Lane, Prenton – Holm Lane.
- Footpaths 12, Greville Road, 14, Highcroft, and 20 & 42, Nelson’s Croft, Bebington.
Wirral’s Rights of Way Officer is Robin Tutchings and is also involved in the following local groups and committees and can be contacted using the details below:
- Wirral Rights of Way User Groups.
- The England Coastal Path Implementation Group.
- Wirral Road Safety Partnership, helping with Bikesafe and IAM Roadsmart.
- The Wirral Active Travel Pedestrian and Cycle Forum.
- The Liverpool City Region Local Access Forum.
- Dee Coastliners Recreation Group & Cheshire Wildlife Trust
- Several Local and Regional Footpath, Cycling and Horse Riding Groups.
- ‘Dignity at Work Advisor’, ‘Mental Health 1st Aider’ & 1st Aider at work.
- IPROW: As a member of The Institute of Public Rights of Way, Robin continues to gain invaluable assistance with access issues via their forum and information database. Robin always attends the Conference and Annual Update in October.
- ADEPT: Association of Directors of Environment Economy Planning and Transport: Robin is the Northern Region Rights of Way Managers area representative for Wirral and endeavours to attend their northern region meetings whenever possible. The three meetings a year are now all on line.
Robin Tutchings, Rights of Way Officer, Highways and Infrastructure, Neighbourhood Services, Wirral Council.
Footpath 57, one of the many lovely footpaths across Thurstaston Common.