Wirral Conservation Service Update

Wirral Conservation Areas’ Forum Respond

Wirral Conservation Area Forum-Newsletter-September-2014As reported in our previous post, there is an impending threat to the future of Wirral’s council-run Conservation Service. Wirral Conservation Areas’ Forum have responded to this in their newsletter which you can download in full from this website.

Here is their quoted response to this worrying news:

In a shock announcement at a meeting between Forum officers Alan Chape and David Allan and the Council’s Head of Regeneration David Ball, it was disclosed that Wirral’s Conservation team, together with the post of Tree officer, was being disbanded.
David Ball gave an assurance that the Council will still deliver its Conservation service but in a different way. It would mean they would cease to employ specialist in-house officers but would set aside a sum of money to buy-in specialist advice previously provided by the Conservation team and Tree officer.

At the moment the conservation officers provide advice to the case officers on planning applications that have conservation and heritage implications. In the future, where specialist advice is required, this will be provided either by in-house, re-trained case officers or by buying in such advice from external sources.

In relation to the Tree officer the Council has a Technical Services department responsible for the care and maintenance of 6000 trees. This resource of staff would be linked to tree work applications together with specialist advice provided by external sources.
The Forum representatives expressed deep concern that the consultation process was being limited to staff and trade unions to the exclusion of the Conservation committees. Given the statutory obligations of the Council to Wirral’s 26 Conservation Areas, including two of international renown and several which had been designated ‘at risk’ by English Heritage, it was felt that the proposals would lead to an unacceptable diminution of service. They pointed out that the proposals did not address a whole range of other matters relating to maintaining the character of Wirral’s Conservation Areas such as overseeing their simple day to day care and management.

Forum chairman, Alan Chape has written to Wirral’s Chief Executive, Graham Burgess expressing concerns about both the process and the content stressing the need for wider consultation with local Conservation and Civic societies who make up the Wirral Conservation Areas’ Forum. Subject to agreement by the Chief Executive, David Ball will attend the General Meeting of the Forum scheduled for 15th October at Port Sunlight where he will explain his proposals and answer questions.

The Wirral Society will be following all future developments on this issue and offering their support where necessary.

Storms & Erosion At Thurstaston Beach Reveal More…

In a previous post on this site, the continuous erosion of Thurstaston cliffs was discussed, including the deposits of an old Wirral sandstone building that is gradually finding its way onto the beach below. The post mentioned a stone slab lying on the beach, “some sort of Granite stone with a semi-circular worn groove” that had disappeared. Well, nearly 12 months on, whether it be by the power of the tides or something else, the elusive piece of rock has turned up again!

It’s not Granite at all, but made of local Sandstone and no doubt cemented into the building somewhere. The semi-circle has definitely been deliberately carved in and there even appears to be, on closer inspection, a square post-hole that shows remains of the rusted iron object that once sat cemented in place. Again, we are left with the question, “what was it?

Well, after a bit more digging and a helpful email from Andy McPherson, it looks as though it may have served a purpose somewhere in the extraction of Lime…

Thurstaston’s Forgotten Lime Kiln Revealed?

Using the excellent Cheshire Tithe maps online service and modern online maps, it is possible to get an idea of what was in this particular part of Thurstaston in previous times. Today, the area is very near to the Wirral Way and Wirral Country Park and although the cliff-tops are on private land (and dangerous to attempt traversing), the beach below the cliffs is a popular place for walkers and the like, visiting the area.

The obvious man-made marker point in the cliffs today are the modern wooden steps going from the beach up to the pathway that eventually leads back to the Wirral Country Park visitor centre. These steps are laid almost quite precariously (though fastened into the earth), climbing up an ancient ravine known as ‘Tinker’s Dell’, but also known as ‘Tinkers Dale’ a couple of centuries ago. By using the Cheshire Tithe maps, it is possible to see who owned the land and in some cases, how it was divided up into plots and what the plots were used for.

Researching the Tithe maps for Thurstaston, it appears that in the approximate area of the fallen sandstone building, there was a working Lime kiln (at least in 1875 but not by 1910). It would seem that there is a distinct possibility that the Sandstone slabs we are seeing falling to the beach in recent landslides are the old foundations of the disused Lime Kiln. No doubt the top part of the building would have been dismantled and used recycled in other local buildings.

According to the book, ‘Wirral Walks: 100 Miles of the Best Walks in the Area’ by Anthony Annakin-Smith, he mentions a large Lime Kiln in Moel y Gaer in North Wales and the reason for their existence, before going on to mention Thurstaston’s Lime Kiln:

Lime was extracted which was then used in building and agriculture. Lime is an agricultural fertiliser and the kilns were a big factor in helping feed a rapidly growing population in the early 1800’s.

Limekilns were also built on the Wirral – I know of ones at Little Neston and Thurstaston, though they were probably smaller than this one. Limestone would have been transported across the Dee from Wales by barge.

Referring to the Tithe maps, the plot where the Lime Kiln was situated was owned by John Baskervyle Glegg, occupied by a Charles Hancock and was named, ‘Stromby Hay’.

Coastline Shrinkage Shows Up More Of Our Agricultural Past

The end of 2013 saw some of the fiercest storms to hit the Wirral coast for over 30 years and Thurstaston beach has taken its fair share of the assault from the elements. As the cliff erodes on what seems to be an almost weekly basis, more of the previously mentioned Lime Kiln foundations slide towards the stone and shingle covered beach below. We can only guess how far this building was situated from the cliff edge in comparison to 2014. Judging by the size of the stones that have ended up below, the builders didn’t cut any corners and laid down some serious footings quite deep into the land, probably never imagining that their work would eventually be destroyed by nature.

A few yards walk further up the beach towards Heswall, evidence of even more landslip and cliff erosion is in abundance, with more pieces of the landscape’s hidden past revealed. Visibly protruding out from the collapsed heap of clay, there could be seen to be three Terracotta coloured pipes, apparently unbroken by the pressure of the earth movement. On further investigation, it appeared that these were small bore pipes and only about 12” in length. Logically, it would be assumed that these pipes were sunk underground and served some sort of drainage purpose for the field system that has been eroding away over the centuries.

Fanciful thoughts might turn to the Wirral coastline’s infamous and nefarious preoccupation with ‘wrecking’, the pipes making ideal receptacles to stuff with small valuable items, bunged up at both ends and then secreted under the earth for future exhumation when the heat had died down…but this is of course, wishful fantasy and they probably had a far more boring job to do!

In the absence of any archaeological experts, we can only guess at their age and use. The material they are made of appears to be unglazed and they look almost to have been hand-rolled, cut when still wet, then baked. It may again, be a stretch to far and imagine they were Mediaeval or even Roman, so we must assume that they are more recent part of history.

Once again, according to Tithe maps, the field that used to hold the Terracotta pipes was owned by John Baskervyle Glegg, occupied by a Charles Hancock, had a plot name of ‘Lower Hays’, covering an area of “13 acres, 1 roods, 26 perches” Unfortunately, there is no statement of land use on the map.

If anyone is familiar with the sort of pipes shown on the photographs here, please get in touch with any information you may have about this style of pipe making and its use in our past.

As the edge of Wirral erodes, so it gives up clues to its past. Although the Wirral Society are primarily engaged with matters affecting Wirral now, we also have a collective interest in Wirral’s history, often reflected in the talks given at our social evenings. Quite often, historical uses of areas can often make a difference to the way they are treated under modern planning laws, so a healthy interest in local history is a welcome attribute from our membership, new and old. Trying to find answers to Wirral’s past can only enrich the appreciation of the area we love and strive to protect.

Public Benches – Who Is Responsible?


The following is an individual viewpoint expressed by a Society member and may not fully represent the collective views or opinions of The Wirral Society.

Photograph of The Pines, West Kirby Hill, Wirral
‘The Pines’ to locals – ‘Little Italy’ to one or two others…

The Wirral Peninsula is home to some stunning views; with two contrasting riversides to choose from, one an iconic reminder of the golden age of shipping, the other looking over to the hills to another country, it is hardly surprising that people want to sit and absorb the ambience when it is offered in abundance.

Over the years, memorial benches have sprung up at various Wirral viewpoints, often commemorating a lost loved ones favourite resting place. In particular, Caldy Hill in the West Kirby area (owned by the National Trust) has a number of benches positioned overlooking various picturesque views of the River Dee.

In particular, there is viewpoint at the top of a ridge above a road (Kings Drive) known to some locally as ‘The Pines’. Until the time of writing (end of August 2013), there were two benches installed at that point, overlooking the River Dee as it travels south-east towards Chester. Both benches have (had) memorial plaques attached to them, the one closest to the edge of the ridge being the only bench that still has an attached plaque.

As a regular dog walker in that area – and someone who has enjoyed this public open space since the early 1970’s – I can vouch that the place has remained pretty much untouched by vandals and generally respected, bar the odd case of juvenile arson in the hot summers of the past. It was also a favourite stopping point of my late Mum who said it reminded her of an Italian view she knew from her visits to Italy, from which, she renamed it ‘Little Italy’!

Image of Bench at 'The Pines' - Pulled out of its footings by vandals
Pulled out of its footings, hanging by a thread…

Unfortunately, whilst I was up there with my dogs during July, I noticed that the bench without its plaque had been pulled out of its footing holes, loosening the wooden joints that held its frame together leaving it in a state that rendered it easy pickings for firewood. Obviously the work of vandals, so after muttering a few un-publishable expletives, I grappled with the bench until its joints were back in place and the frame inserted into its footings. It was only a temporary job and would have needed a proper DIY type (not me!) to get it solidly set in place, but for now, it was at least useable.

Two Weeks Later…

Image of Destroyed Bench
That’s it then, they’ve gone and done it…ruined

It was a dismal sight as I entered the Kings Drive public access path to the hill, seeing half of what remained of the unmistakeable bench I had tried to fix earlier, lying next to the entrance gate to the woods. No doubt the evolutionally-challenged visitors had returned to finish their job, achieving who-knows-what in cave-dwellers status points? Walking a few more yards up the path that leads to ‘The Pines’, there was visible evidence of an attempt to make a fire; maybe they had been hunting and needed firewood to cook their catch?

Image of empty space where bench used to be
What, no bench Dad?

Viewing the new empty space at ‘The Pines’ invoked a few more of those un-publishable expletives to emanate from my irate mouth before I started to wonder, who exactly is responsible for these memorial benches? I am guessing it must have something to do with the National Trust, but I also suspect that the benches were probably installed and paid for by the relatives of the person they wanted to commemorate.

Now I don’t profess to have led an angelic childhood. Amongst the misdemeanours on my juvenile rap sheet you will find me jointly guilty of:

  • Aiding the setting of a fire in a public bin
  • Stealing Apples from trees on private property (AKA ‘Scrumping’)
  • Throwing water bombs at Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • The use of catapults in a public place resulting in the weapons being confiscated by the Police
  • Removing out-of-date yoghurts from a Hoylake supermarket bin and engaging in a public ‘yoghurt fight’

Not ever, did I or my accomplices consider trying to remove a public bench and setting fire to it. Maybe we weren’t hardcore enough; or perhaps we had evolved just that little bit further to understand where the line was?

Image of empty space at 'The Pines'
Missing something here…?

Whatever the reasoning behind the destruction of this public amenity by those of seemingly greater needs, the fact remains; there is now a piece of useful public furniture missing which not only provided a place of rest, but also commemorated a life once lived. My suspicions are that this bench was a privately funded venture (as many of the others on the hill will be) and unless the family who paid for it want to install a replacement, a new empty space will remain at that viewpoint. The National Trust will no doubt have more pressing matters for their funds and naturally I’d offer to build one; but I was too busy getting up to minor mischief than to learn my woodworking joints!

In the absence of any rich benefactors who have a few quid spare to donate for the benefit of the weary behinds of walkers, it seems there will be an empty space up on ‘The Pines’ for the foreseeable future.


Thurstaston Beach Erosion

Old Farm Building Lost To Eroding Cliff

Photo of Thurstaston beach cliff erosionThe west coast of Wirral is eroding – it’s official. Perhaps, one of the best areas to view this invasive activity is from the beach at Thurstaston, constantly at the mercy of the incoming tides sent up the River Dee from Liverpool Bay.

This was the subject of consultation between interested public parties and the Environment Agency back in 2009 when there was a Wirral Society presence in attendance at a meeting held in Hoylake to discuss the problem. The immediate result of discussions seemed to be to do nothing and let nature take its cours Continue reading “Thurstaston Beach Erosion”