The Sefton Coastal Railway threads past England’s most extensive sand dunes, offering an easy escape from the hurly-burly of nearby Liverpool. This inter-station walk reveals an ancient forest, visits what some call England’s longest nudist beach, and promises a grand view across the sea to shapely mountains. Plan your walk for a falling tide on a sunny evening to get the best of the sublime sunsets and evening shadows on this lovely coast.
There are two estuaries in the Greater Liverpool area. The Mersey is world famous – the River Alt is hardly known, even to locals. To find it, leave Hightown station’s Southport-bound platform and fork right along Lower Alt Road.
Keep ahead beyond the roundabout to reach a boatyard. Turn left off the bend, beside the Alt Centre, joining the Sefton Coastal Path (SCP) above the creek. This is the River Alt, one of England’s shortest rivers. It springs to life in Huyton, all of 38m (124ft) above sea level, and snakes over the West Lancashire Plain
for 15 miles before reaching the Irish Sea at Hightown.
The Alt’s modest estuary is, however, immensely rewarding. Designated an internationally significant wetland, it has a plethora of shore birds to watch and, in summer, colourful sea-asters and fringing wildflower meadows.
Keep faith with regular SCP wayposts to reach Blundellsands Sailing Club. Immediately before it, look for the board directing you right to the beach and Submerged Forest on a short path. At low tide, you’ll see the blackened stumps and trunks of trees inundated by a rising sea level during the Bronze Age 4,000 years ago, roughly the time that Stonehenge was constructed.
1. ONE MILE
Return to the SCP and turn right. The braided way through the dunes is waymarked by white-topped posts, winding between low-growth creeping willow and sea buckthorn shrubs. The dune-slacks are home to lizards and toads, and it’s a great place for skylarks and meadow pipits.
Out to sea, you may spot some of the gas platforms tapping the Morecambe Bay gas field. Myriad paths in the dunes allow easy exploration; just keep largely right, towards the shoreline, before reaching the coastguard station at Hall Road.
2. TWO AND A HALF MILES
Walk the promenade, or join the beach. Littered across the sands are the 100 bizarre naked humanoid sculptures, Another Place. Created by Antony Gormley, these life-size cast-iron figures are of his own body. They are placed looking out to sea and many are submerged at high tide – a skinny-dipping spectacular! Their empty gaze is fixed across the bay to the distant mountains of north Wales. If the sunset and tide are right, this is a truly memorable panorama.
Upon reaching the point (300m short of the docks) where SCP turns inland between lakes, follow it across Crosby Marine Park, bordered by a strand of elegant villas. Cross into and walk 400m up South Road to reach Merseyrail’s Waterloo station for trains to Liverpool.
Mostly on sandy paths through the dunes, with easy walking on the promenade and residential streets. The complete walk is not accessible to wheelchairs, though Crosby Marine Park and promenade are.
For tide times see
HOW TO GET THERE
This is a linear walk between stations on the Merseyrail Northern Line. Park at Waterloo’s Marine Lake (Crosby Marine Park), walk inland along South Road to Waterloo Station and take a Southport-bound train to Hightown (3 stops), or park road-side at Hightown and return there by train from Waterloo.
By public transport:
Trains run every 15 minutes (Sundays half-hourly)
until late evening on Merseyrail’s Northern Line (Southport service) between Liverpool (Central and Moorfields stations),
Waterloo and Hightown.
☎ 0871 200 2233
Stamps Too Bar
99 South Road, Waterloo
☎ 0151 280 0035
Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps 275 and 285.
Grid Ref: SD 300 036
08 Place, Whitechapel, Liverpool L1 6DZ
☎ 0151 233 2008