Wirral Walk - Royden Park Country Park, Thurstaston
PUBLISHED: 00:08 12 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:11 17 February 2018
Keith Carter joins the dog walkers at Thurstaston and enjoys the far-reaching coastal views
Royden Park Country Park is a Mecca for dog lovers. I’ve never seen so many in the same place. The air is filled with yelping as owners struggle in vain to separate their treasured pup from some other ill-behaved mutt. ‘He’s not normally like this, something must have excited him’. Nothing wrong with this, there’s plenty of wide open spaces and mixed woodland and the Common seems a perfect playground. Walkers are tolerant of dogs and are often dog-owners themselves so there is harmony between the two groups. The café at the Clock Tower is run by dog-lovers too, hence the name, The Barking Mad and I can recommend the scones with jam to set you up for a nice walk.
Thurstaston Common is owned by the National Trust and there is evidence of much conservation work with the trees vigorously thinned and the paths laid out well, creating a thoroughly well-run conservation area if a little over-managed. Our walk includes a visit to Thor’s Stone, a climb to the viewpoint of Thurstaston Hill, a walk along the shore and a short burst on the Wirral Way so it certainly has plenty of variety on top of the vital three essentials, the brew, the view and the loo.
1 Start from the car park by the Clock tower at Royden Park Country Park and take the wide path towards the trees alongside the wide grassy area. The wall has been opened up to let the path go through towards Benty Farm but just before you reach it take a fork to the right through gorse bushes.
This path leads to the huge sandstone outcrop known as Thor’s Stone which, judging by the graffiti carved on it, has attracted visitors for centuries. Sandstone is characteristic of Cheshire as walkers on the Sandstone Trail can testify. It’s a warm, friendly rock that becomes worn smooth by the elements with none of the harsh angularity of grit or slate. When wet it often glows red, becoming a dull rust when dry, my favourite rock. There are various explanations for Thor’s Stone but I think we can dismiss the idea it is man-made. It’s more likely to be a tor such as you find on Dartmoor, left behind by the retreating ice.
2 From Thor’s Stone follow the low wall to the right and we come to a gate at a road-end leading out of the Common. Look to the right and you see a path climbing up Thurstaston Hill which is all of 298 feet above sea level so hardly merits the term of hill. It is certainly worth the small exertion to climb up to the summit column since the view from the top is all-inclusive, the Dee Estuary, the Clwydian Hills of Wales, the Wirral Peninsula and even Black Combe in the Western Lake District on a particularly clear day.
Return to the foot of the hill to the road end and take the path to the right past the back of the primary school to reach a busy road. Turn left and walk on the pavement to a roundabout where there is a roadhouse, the Cottage Loaf, on the left hand side.
Cross the road and go down a minor road on the right, Station Road, which leads to Thurstaston village with the church prominent to the left ahead of you. Turn right at the T-junction then immediate left, the continuation of Station Road, leading straight as an arrow to the shore. As you approach its end there is a café, GJ’s which can be visited if you feel the need for a bacon roll, with or without brown sauce.
3 You have a choice here of joining the disused railway track now called the Wirral Way or continuing down a flight of steps to arrive at the foreshore and walk on the beach, a pleasant alternative to tarmac. Walking along the stony shoreline you can observe the crumbled state of the banking, in places severely eroded. It consists of compacted mud which the double attack of the tide and heavy rain has caused to collapse along several hundred yards of low cliff, evidence of the way the sea gradually nibbles away at the land, its extent several metres a year, possibly more in places.
We leave the beach at the first slipway, the one used by the Dee Sailing Club. Pass to the right of the clubhouse on an access lane then head to the left across heathland to come up to the Wirral Way and turn left onto it. At the first bridge you come to, go up a sloping path on the right which leads into a housing estate.
4 We make our way through first on Mereworth drive then right onto Barton Hey Drive, right onto Croft Drive East only finally leaving these local roads opposite Long Hey Road where we take an opening on the right with a signpost to Thurstaston Hill. This track brings us out on the main road, the A540, opposite Caldy Rugby Club. Cross the road, go through a gap in the wall beside a bus stop and hug the wall for a short distance until you come to a metal fence painted black to your left, the boundary fence of the playing fields. Stay with it through thick and thin only leaving it at the back of the clubhouse itself where the path loses the fence now mostly collapsed where previously it was well-maintained.
5 We are back in the mixed woodland of Thurstaston Common with paths running off in all directions rather like the dogs let off their leads. We managed to find our way to the main transverse thoroughfare where the black and white half-timbered hall of Hill Bark Hotel looms. Within a couple of hundred yards we come to the wall-break which we passed at the start of our walk and we emerge into the broad open field of Royden Park.
The path brings us back to the car park by the Clock Tower and a much-needed cup of tea at the Barking Mad Café amid scenes of excited dogs being rubbed down and loaded into the back of four-by-fours. They probably felt as satisfied as us after all the exercise and fresh air.
Area of walk: Royden Park Country Park, Thurstaston
Distance: 6 miles
Time to allow: 3 hours
Map: OS Explorer 266 Wirral and Chester
Refreshments: Barking Mad Café at Royden Park, GJ’s Café Station Road by the shore.
Accessibility: There are several paths within the country park which are suitable for wheelchair and pushchair users.