Birkenhead Festival of Transport 2012

The Birkenhead Festival of Transport took place over the weekend of 22 and 23 September in Birkenhead Park.  I went along to see what was happening on Saturday which was a bright and sunny day for a change.

The highlight for transport enthusiasts is probably the collection of steam engines.  Some are working engines used in farming or industry for hauling large loads but quite a few are ‘showman’s tractors’.  These steam engines were used to erect, dismantle and generate electricity for fairground rides early in the last century.

The Blaenau Festiniog Mountain Railway had a temporary track laid in the park and a steam engine pulled two carriages full of passengers.

Whilst the festival principally celebrates transport throughout the ages it is also designed as a family fun day with many more attractions.

In keeping with the original use of the vintage steam engines as showman’s tractors there were a range of classic funfair attractions which were popular with many of the visitors to the event.

There were other working vintage vehicles such as a couple of fire engines from the City of Chester from the 1950s.

There was also a selection of classic and vintage cars from various periods from the last century.

The Wirral Model Boat Club had some of their boats out on the lower lake in the Park.

On both days there were two encampments within the park recreating two distinctive historic periods.  The first was a recreation of a Viking Village with demonstartions of how the Vikings cooked, made their clothes and managed their households.

The second historic recreation was from His Majesty’s 22nd Regiment of Foot.  The regiment are a living history group focussing on  the life and times of the ordinary British Soldier during the American  Revolutionary War 1775-1783.  The group represent a Section of the Colonel’s Company of the 22nd Regiment of Foot as it would have appeared in the year 1776.  At that time the 22nd Foot was garrisoned in New York which was apparently a loyalist city strongly opposed to independence from Great Britain. I was too late to see the regiment firing their muskets but got some photographs of them in their camp.

And a favourite with the younger children was the donkey rides.  I caught the donkey’s at the end of the day waiting patiently ready to go back to their stables.

The event was anticipated to attract around 40,000 visitors over the two days.

On the Waterfront

Last Sunday it was a bright sunny morning and I walked along the River Mersey on the Wirral side to Priory Wharf.

From this vantage point you can see both up and down the river and across to the Liverpool Waterfront.

The brilliant blue sky and early morning sunshine has come out in this collection of photographs.

The Liver Building sits majestically at the Liverpool Pierhead looking across the river ready to be photographed once again.

The ‘Friedrich Ernestine’ on the skyline at Cammel Lairds

A new offshore wind farm installation vessel; the first of its kind in the UK; arrived a few weeks ago at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead to be prepared for work offshore of the North Wales coast.  The vessel, named Friedrich Ernestine, has been built and designed to install wind turbines across European offshore fields.

The vessel went into dry dock at the Cammell Laird Shipyard in Birkenhead for final fit out before undertaking further sea trials and then going onto the Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm more than eight miles off the north Wales coast in the Irish Sea.

The Friedrich Ernestine is a ‘jack-up’ vessel costing $126 million and is one of the largest of its kind at 100 metres long and 49 metres wide.  It has been designed and built in both South Korea and Europe.  It can transport and install foundations and towers and will work alongside the heavy-lift vessel, Stanislav Yudin.  The Gwynt y Môr wind farm is the largest offshore wind farm currently in construction in Europe and is due to be fully operational by the end of 2014.

The Friedrich Ernestine will be used to install wind turbine foundations, carrying three sets of components consisting of a monopile and transition piece on each trip in and out of its base harbour in Birkenhead.  At the offshore construction site, it turns into a jack-up rig, from which foundations and wind turbines can be installed.

Cammell Laird as well as being shipbuilders and repairers are now working at the forefront of the wind energy sector.  They have invested in facilities to support the assembly, storage and transporting of all the components required for the installation of a windfarm.

I managed to get some photographs of the Friedrich Ernestine from Monks Ferry and from the top of Holt Hill.  I was going to get a night time shot from the top of Conway Street near to the Queensway Tunnel with the powerful floodlights lighting the vessel whilst work carried on around the clock.  However, the vessel had left the dry dock yesterday ready for its sea trials.

There has been a lot of activity from Cammel Lairds and out onto the River Mersey.  The Viking Barge No 5 has been transporting wind turbine columns out to the wind farm.

The Irish Sea Pioneer is another giant lift boat which is now part of the work fleet in the Irish Sea.  It has a jacking system which raises and lowers four 240-ft. (73.2-m) legs to the sea floor and then raises the vessel to the desired working height.  It has been operating out of the Mersey.

A walk around Ness Gardens

On Sunday morning we went along to have a quick walk around Ness Botanic Gardens which are located just outside the village of Ness in South Wirral.  After a gloriously sunny Saturday the weather was again about to change so we took the opportunity to have a wander around before the rain arrived.

The gardens cover over 18 hectares and have a wide range of plants, so there’s a lot to see.  We had the morning to explore just a small part of the gardens.  The interest changes with the seasons so we set off to see what the late summer display was to be.  It was a warm day and there were lots of insects and butterflies in the gardens.

Ness Botanic Gardens started when the Liverpool cotton merchant Arthur Bulley, with his considerable wealth, began to create a garden here in 1898.  He was interested in introducing new plant species from across the world.  He was sure that Himalayan and Chinese mountain plants could be established in Britain and he sponsored expeditions to the Far East to collect new plants to prove his theory.  He introduced hundreds of new plants to Britain including rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.

At Ness Mr Bulley propagated the plants they had collected and many of the seeds from the Far East were first cultivated here and he set up a plant and seed company, Bees Ltd, from this pioneering work.

Mr Bulley died in 1942 and his daughter Lois presented the gardens to the University of Liverpool in 1948 with an endowment of £75,000 with a stipulation that they continue be kept as botanic and ornamental gardens open to the public as a tribute to the memory of her father.

But during and following the Second World War it had not been possible to maintain the gardens as they had been and by the time the University took over they needed a lot of attention.  The University developed a more naturalistic setting for the plants and spent the next three decades achieving Mr Bulley’s dream.

The old building is still there but a new building the ‘Horsfall Rushby’ Visitor Centre opened in 2006, with a central courtyard area with reception, indoor cafe with outside seating area, shop, lecture theatre, conservatory and exhibition space.  It has a ‘green’ ‘living’ roof made up of sedums and mosses.  Along with propagation glasshouses there is an apiary where members of the public dressed in suitable protective gear are shown how the bees are kept.

The University continues to manage the gardens and there is an increasing emphasis on research, conservation and educating the public particularly schoolchildren.  There are around 10,000 types of plants grown in the gardens including many rare and interesting specimens.

Irish Sea Tall Ships Regatta

The Tall Ships were back in Liverpool this weekend.

The inaugural Irish Sea Tall Ships Regatta saw a fleet of Tall Ships race from Dublin on Sunday 26th August 2012 arriving in Liverpool on Wednesday and Thursday 29th/30th August 2012. The eleven tall ships in the regatta docked in the Albert and Canning Docks in Liverpool until Sunday morning.

There was plenty of activity at the Albert and Canning docksides over the weekend with many of the Tall Ships open to the public accompanied by events including, street theatre, dancing, craft workshops, storytelling, community choirs, shanty groups, and children’s arts and craft activities.

Albert Dock in Liverpool is the largest collection of Grade I listed buildings in the UK and provided a beautiful backdrop for the Tall Ships berthed there with the three graces (the Liver Building, Port of Liverpool building and the Cunard Building) in the background as well as the new Liverpool Museum on the waterfront.

The regatta has been organised by charity ‘Sail Training International’ which teaches young people sailing skills and is one of the world’s leading providers of races, events and other services for the sail training community.  For the Tall Ships race half of the crew must be aged between 15 and 25 and they learn from the experienced crew members.  In the race from Dublin to Liverpool the overall winner was ‘Challenge Wales’ a Bermudian Cutter.

The Dublin to Liverpool race ended this year’s series of tall ships races. The Tall Ships Races 2012 started in St Malo, France in July with the fleet racing across the Bay of Biscay to Lisbon in Portugal, before carrying on to Cádiz in Spain and then onto A Coruna in Northern Spain.

From here the fleet left on 13th of August to head north for the Irish Sea and Dublin.  This was the final port of call for the Tall Ships Races 2012.  The ships docked in Dublin between the 23rd to the 26th of August.

However for this year eleven of the tall ships fleet of 40 sail boats took part in this the first Irish Sea Regatta leaving Dublin to come to Liverpool.

The ships which came to Liverpool are: the British barquentine ‘Pelican’; the Polish schooner ‘Kapitan Borchardt’; the Dutch gaff schooner ‘Gallant’; the British gaff schooner  ‘Johanna Lucretia’; the British gaff ketch ‘Maybe’; the Norwegian Bermudian ketch ‘Prolific’; the Estonian Bermudian sloop ‘St Iv’; the Dutch gaff ketch ‘Tecla’; the Belgian Bermudian sloop ‘Tomidi’; the British Bermudian sloop ‘Black Diamond of Durham’ and the Welsh Bermudian Cutter ‘Challenge Wales’.

The Regatta fleet prepared to leave on Sunday from 10.30am, the vessels mustered and got into formation as they undertook a Parade of Sail in the river from around 1pm.  The tall ships came out from the Albert Dock which was thronged with spectators.  They went up river and escorted by the veteran tugboat the Brocklebank, which is owned and run by the Merseyside Maritime Museum, they took the tide and came back down the River Mersey passing the Liverpool Pierhead, Wallasey Town Hall and Seacombe Ferry on the Wirral side of the river.  They then went out to sea returning to their home ports across Europe.