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Twelve reasons to visit the Wirral

PUBLISHED: 00:18 06 September 2013 | UPDATED: 22:37 23 October 2015

Heswall High St bunting

Heswall High St bunting

Archant

A dozen good reasons, in no particular order, to pay a visit to the Wirral peninsula

1 Gorgeous gardens.

The BBC’s Gardener’s Question Time will hold its annual the summer garden party at Ness Botanic Gardens on Saturday September 7 and if it’s good enough for them, it’s got to be good enough for the likes of you and me. The gardens, which are owned and managed by the University of Liverpool, have wonderful views across the Dee estuary and are home to impressive collections of rare and important plants. There is a varied programme of activities and events as well as courses, workshops, tours and exhibitions.

2 Shore thing.

What do you want from a visit to the coast? Whether seaside strolls with an ice cream are top of your list, or exhilarating watersports are more your thing, then you’ll be right at home in Wirral. And if you’d rather be lounging on a sandy beach, exploring a seaside town or looking out for birds and wildlife, then you’re well catered for too. The 25 miles of the Wirral coast has it all and unusually for such a small stretch of coastline, faces three famous bodies of water – the Dee, the Mersey and the Irish Sea.

3 Bring me sunlight.

Port Sunlight is already one of Wirral’s most popular visitor destinations, but there’s an extra reason to head there this month – a free two day festival. The Port Sunlight Festival, to be held on September 21 and 22 promises fun for all the family with food, drink and craft exhibitors, live music, traditional fairground rides and much else, all taking place in the pretty village. But whether or not you’re there for the festival, there’s plenty to see and do in Port Sunlight, the model village built by the Lever brothers for workers in their soap factory. Chief among the treasures is the Lady Lever Art Gallery which houses collections of paintings, sculpture and furniture,

4 The sporting life.

The eyes of thee sports world will be turned on the Wirral next year when the best golfers on the planet converge on the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake to contest the Open Championship. And whether you could be a challenger for the claret jug or not, there’s plenty of other courses on the Wirral where you can hone your skills. But if you prefer your sport faster and wetter, try your hand at jet-skiing, windsurfing or sailing – the waters of the Dee and Mersey estuaries offer perfect conditions, while the sands in west Wirral are ideal for the high octane pursuit of sand yachting.

5 Get revved up.

The two day Birkenhead Festival of Transport will take place in Birkenhead Park on September 14-15, when the theme will be transport through the ages particularly the Victorian and Edwardian era, featuring steam traction engines, steam boats, steam powered fairground, brass bands, trade stands and vintage buses.

6 Head for Hilbre.

No matter how many times you do it there’s always a thrill when you walk across the sands from West Kirby to Hilbre Island, Cheshire’s only island. The island was once home to monks from Chester Abbey until the dissolution of the monateries ended their devotions. In the 18th century it was a base for piracy and smuggling centred round the island’s only pub, The Seagull Inn. Now it is a haven for wildlife with many varieties of wading birds, rockpools teeming with creatures and grey seals.

* Check tide times before you visit. Call Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371 or see the notice board beside the Marine Lake in West Kirby.

7 Go star gazing.

Cheshire’s ‘golden triangle’ might be the obvious place to spot celebrities, but it is far from being the only place to look. Ok, so Daniel Craig won’t always be walking out of the sea in his slightly too tight trunks but he did grow up here, as did musician Miles Kane and Fiona Bruce who returned last year to present an episode of Antiques Roadshow from Port Sunlight. Plenty of other star names – actors, sporting heroes, comedians, writers, politicians, you name it – have connections with the area too. Paul McCartney is said to rely on the fact that no-one expects to see him strolling along the seafront with an ice cream to take the opportunity to stroll along the seafront with an ice cream undisturbed.

8 Art of Wirral

The two week Heswall Arts Festival starts on September 28 and venues around the town will host music, comedy, drama, literature, dance, art and other activities until the curtain comes down on October 12. To find out more go to heswallfestival.com.

9 Twin peaks.

Clamber to the top of Caldy Hill – one of the highest points on the Wirral peninsula – and you’ll be able to see some of the finest views in Cheshire. From the summit on a clear day, there are super views across the Dee Estuary to Hilbre Island, Snowdonia, Blackpool and the Pennines and on a very clear day you may even see as far as the Lake District and the Isle of Man. Nearby Thurstaston Hill is worth the effort too. At the summit is the enigmatic Thor’s Stone. Children apparently used to gather each year to dance around the sandstone outcrop and various romantic stories have grown around it – that Viking settlers built it to hold religious ceremonies here, for instance – but the more mundane truth is that is was probably carved out in the last Ice Age.

10 Go wild.

Wirral Country Park was the first designated country park in the UK and opened in 1973 after four years of work to clear 30 miles of railway line. Today around 250,000 people visit the park every year for walking, cycling, horse riding, kite flying or paragliding. It’s also popular with bird spotters and is a good place to see butterflies such as the Common Blue and Small Copper. Wirral also has five Local Nature Reserves – Bidston Moss, Dibbinsdale, Heswall Dales, Hilbre Island and Thurstaston Common – and plenty of parks. Eastham Country Park, Arrowe Country Park and Wirral Country Park are three of the most notable.

11 Access all areas.

The annual Heritage Open Days scheme gives access to all sorts of places and buildings usually hidden from public view. This year the doors will be opened on more than 40 buildings across Wirral, including Bidston windmill, Birkenhead Priory and Leasowe Lighthouse. There is also a packed programme of walks talks and events planned for the week which runs from September 7-15. More details are online at visitwirral.com.

12 A shopper’s paradise

Napoleon dismissed us a nation of shopkeepers but, as he found, we keep a decent stock of fighting spirit behind the counter. And it’s a good job we do.

In recent years the rise of the internet and the growth of out-of-town shopping centres have hit our independent traders hard – and that’s before the recession gave them another body blow.

Once the proud preserve of the traditional butcher, baker and friendly general store, our high streets are now battle grounds where small shopkeepers are struggling to stay in business.

But in Heswall, which has retained a healthy number of independent businesses, traders are fighting back. The town’s business association fizzled out eight years ago but was re-started earlier this year and is now buzzing with ideas for encouraging more people to shop locally.

Former chairman Andrew Cain, who runs a men’s fashion shop, said: ‘The group is very fresh and all sorts of things are being planned. There are some great independent stores in Heswall but we are never going to beat the multiples and the internet shopping companies on price alone. We have to make more of what we have which is knowledge of our products, the personal touch and the extra service that independent shops can provide.’

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