The stocky Wirral Peninsula, opposite Liverpool, separates the vast estuaries of the Mersey and the Dee.
In a visionary move, in 1973 a derelict railway between Hooton and West Kirby was designated as Britain’s first Country Park. Chunks of countryside are strung out like a necklace along its length, spangling the Wirral’s west coast with opportunities for adventure.
Sunset over Thurstaton, Wirral ©Getty
A park of many parts
Wirral Country Park’s face changes depending on where you approach it. Reedbeds and sea-marsh, boulder-clay cliffs and sandy beaches, woodlands and wild heaths all provide enticing chances for a touch of R&R. The grassy downland at Thurstaston’s former railway station, a great spot for a relaxing picnic (source hamper-fare from Whitmore & White deli in nearby Heswall, or sarnies and pasties from Thurstaston’s JustBaked@Church Farm), is at the park’s heart and has a useful visitor centre with information on walks, plus large terrapins in the pond.
Rippling greensward dappled by pocket woods, pines and bird-rich scrub rim the shore; from here are magical views across the silvery Dee to the green hills of North Wales.
Depending on the tide, thread down steps to the foreshore for some strandline beachcombing, birdwatching, paddling or simply toes-in-the-sand traipsing. Keep an eye out for shrimping boats, or larger vessels in the main shipping channel off the far Welsh shore.
Drink in expansive views over the Dee Estuary and as far as Wales from Thurstaston Common ©Getty Getty, korhil65
On to the common
If the tide’s incoming (it rises very fast so beware; see ntslf.org for tide times), then seize the opportunity to walk inland up the approach road to Thurstaston. Take the lane past the church (on your right), then fork right along farm tracks and paths before turning south to seek the area’s only waterfall, a modest spout secreted in The Dungeon woods. Descend to the Wirral Way and turn right back to base.
Alternatively, at Thurstaston head left along the main A540 road. Just past the Cottage Loaf pub is a wide path on your right (National Trust sign) into the woods fringing Thurstaston Common’s heathland and sandstone spine. Views can include North Wales’ mountains, the West Pennine Hills, Bowland Fells and Liverpool’s two cathedrals. Nearby, Thor’s Stone tor recalls the area’s Viking heritage.