Newest Review: ... facilities and wonderful, cliff top views. The visitor centre is easy to find and is signposted off the main A540 Chester to Hoylake roa... more
A real gem of a country park
Wirral Country Park (England)
Member Name: markos9
Wirral Country Park (England)
Advantages: No charge for entry or parking. Lovely scenery and good facilities.
In Victorian times, a railway ran from Hooton, on the Chester line, to the busy, popular, seaside resort of Parkgate, then on to West Kirkby at the North West end of the Wirral Peninsular. The railway ran for twelve miles, for most of its length overlooking the Dee Estuary, taking town's people on excursions to the seaside.
With the diversion of the main channel of the river, the estuary silted up so that Parkgate and the other lower estuary seaside towns lost their seafront and their visitors.
The line finally closed in 1962, but was developed and opened in 1973 as Wirral Country Park; Britain's first.
The twelve miles of the country park is set in lovely countryside, with spectacular views across the five miles of estuary to Wales and the mountains of the Clywdian Range. Walking, cycling, and running are all popular in the country park; the locals enjoying the scenery and the peace and quiet. Parallel to the walking/running path is a separate path for horse riding.
Although the 'Wirral Way', as the footpath is known, can be joined at many points along its length, the best access point is the visitor centre at Thurstatson. This is the main focus for visitors to the country park and boasts great facilities and wonderful, cliff top views.
The visitor centre is easy to find and is signposted off the main A540 Chester to Hoylake road. There is a large, free main car park and an overspill field for when the centre gets really busy.
From the tree encircled car park, the visitor passes straight into the environment of the park. Here, a huge expanse of lushly grassed rolling hillocks meets the eye, with the far side of the Dee Estuary visible in the distance. Stands of bushes and trees break up the view, and tiny ponds are scattered around the area (these are full of frog and toad spawn in early spring, and tadpoles later on).
The open space invites kids to just race across, but parents should be aware that, out of sight in the distance, are the mudstone Thurstatson cliffs. These cliffs are unfenced so need care when near them, but give wonderful views of the golden sandy beach sixty foot below.
The grassed area is ideal for kids to play on; flying kites or playing football and the grass is nice and soft for adults to sit on, too. This is also an ideal picnic spot and there are several sturdy wooden benches and tables for this purpose.
In the evening, the dedicated barbecue area is often busy, and the mouth watering smell of (hopefully) well cooked burgers and steaks wafts across the fields.
A very steep set of steps leads down to the beach. Here, the beach consists of lovely, golden sand, which is ideal for making sand castles. The sand stretches for over a mile, so there's plenty of space; even on a busy day you'll be able to find a reasonable patch of ground to sit and play.
If the tide is in, the water comes up to the sand, allowing the kids to paddle in the clean waters of the Dee. When the tide's out, however, the receding water uncovers mud that prevents people walking down to the sea away from high tide.
The Dee Estuary is one of the most important estuaries in Britain for birds. In the winter, over 100,000 birds feed on the rich mud of the estuary, and when the tide's out at Thurstatson, a substantial proportion of these birds will be in front of the beach, feeding frantically, before the restless tide covers their feeding grounds up for a while.
Oystercatchers, dunlin, shelduck and knot will be there in their thousands, occasionally taking to the air en masse to avoid the attentions of a marauding peregrine falcon.
Even in summer, the rich estuarine mud attracts thousands of birds, so for the sunbathing visitors, there's always something interesting to see if they tire of the beautiful scenery.
Back up the steep steps, is the visitor centre. This houses a little shop, the toilets, a small exhibition about the estuary, a bird hide overlooking feeders, and a small snack and refreshment stall with tables outside overlooking the large pond. This pond has a walkway across it giving the visitor great views of the ducks, coots, and fish that live here.
The Wirral Ranger Service is based here, and you can chat to them about the area and its history and wildlife. The rangers organise guided walks here, too. A list of events can be found at http://www.deeestuary.co.uk/news.htm#events.
Just outside the visitor centre is a lovely café. This serves great food and is not too expensive: a nice place to replace some of the calories burnt off in the park!
With all the activities on offer, there really is something for everyone to see and do at Wirral Country Park. This beautiful area is a lovely place to be on a nice summer's day. The park is all the more impressive when one considers that it's free to enter and there's no car park fee. This is a wonderful resource for local people and visitors. My family and I never tire of visiting the country park and always enjoy the facilities and spectacular scenery.
Summary: A wonderful place to visit on a nice day.
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