About briansimpsons

A fifty something living in the Wirral UK

King’s Day at Birkenhead Town Hall

I’ve taken photographs of Birkenhead Town Hall before in a few articles on this blog.  But as I walked past on Thursday 27th April I noticed that rather than the union jack flying overhead there was the national flag of the Netherlands flying.

Well the 27 April is the Netherland’s national day; it is the King’s official birthday and is known as King’s Day or ‘Koningsdag’.  In the Netherlands it is celebrated with parties, street markets, concerts and special events to celebrate the royal family.  Some people set up stalls to sell second-hand goods and King’s Day themed products in many city and town centres.  The day features official musical performances and many people spontaneously sing “Het Wilhelmus”.  This is a poem written in 1574 and describes the life of William of Orange (William the Silent) and his fight for the Dutch people.  Each year, the royal family visits some of the venues and they are entertained with displays and performances around local historic events. Royal family members generally join in with the games in a good natured way and greet the thousands of people who turn out to see them.

Well there was none of that in Birkenhead but a number of civic dignitaries and Dutch nationals currently residing in the Merseyside area held a civic reception along with the Mayor of Wirral Councillor Pat Hackett in Birkenhead Town Hall.

Interestingly in October 2016 the Council adopted a protocol for flying flags at Wirral Town Halls which will be overseen by the Council’s ‘Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee’.  Whilst the rules are in the main about flying the union jack or the Wirral Council flag it seems unclear to me as to when the flag of other nations can be flown at the town halls in Wirral.  It’s an interesting aside to the usual civic protocols.

Liverpool2 Container Terminal

The relatively new Liverpool2 container port has become quite a landmark on the Liverpool bank of the River Mersey.  I took some photos from the west coast of the Wirral peninsula of the giant cranes at the Liverpool2 container terminal as part of my blog about Thurstaston back in January 2017:  https://briansimpsons.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/around-thurstaston-common/

However if you visit New Brighton you are right opposite the container terminal and you can get a real close up of the giant red cranes which dominate the skyline.

The cranes were built in China and were transported up the River Mersey in November 2015 having set off from Shanghai on the Chinese ship the Zhen Hua23 in August 2015. They arrived after a long 18,000 mile journey travelling through South East Asia, past India and the Arabian Peninsula before rounding the Cape of Good Hope and South Africa.  They lay in port in the Canaries for a few weeks awaiting the final works to be completed at the Port of Liverpool ready for their installation.

The super-structures were produced by Chinese company, Zhenhua Heavy Industries, who are reputably the largest heavy duty equipment manufacturer in the world.  The contract with Peel Ports; who have developed the new deep water container terminal; is said to be worth more than £100m. A total of eight ship-to-shore megamax cranes and 22 cantilever rail-mounted gantry cranes are being supplied to Peel Ports as part of the company’s £300m investment programme to expand and develop the Port of Liverpool.

Each crane measures 92 metres high to the top of the frame, approximately the same as the Royal Liver Building, and 132 metres high when the boom is raised. Each crane weighs around 1,600 tonnes.

The construction of the terminal started in 2013.  Following its opening in November 2016 Liverpool2 became the UK’s largest transatlantic deep-sea port and container terminal and the investment in facilities allow it to accommodate the majority of the world’s current container fleet, including the very largest of modern container vessels which are just too large to navigate the existing Liverpool container terminal.  The new facility employs around 500 people.

The cranes will have the ability to operate at speeds in excess of 30 moves per hour and they will be capable of picking up 24 containers up to 10 high on deck.   The fleet of cranes is supported by a multi-million pound investment in quayside facilities and support technology.

The construction of the new terminal necessitated laying 30,000 cubic metres of concrete, the installation of 15,000m of steel piles and 6,100m of new crane rails. Dredging the river involved removal of approximately five million cubic metres of material from the river bed.  More than 500,000 cubic metres of material was deposited around Taylor’s Bank and other licensed offshore sites.

The new container terminal is just one of the projects that the land owner Peel Group wish to undertake with their Liverpool Waters and Wirral Waters projects which they hope will transform the River Mersey waterfront over the next twenty years.

The day after Storm Doris: New Brighton Lighthouse

Storm Doris hit NW England on Thursday.  It didn’t cause as much damage as anticipated.  While the seas were calmer the day after there were still choppy waters around New Brighton Lighthouse.

ok3a3127v2

Originally named the Rock Light, the lighthouse has been called Black Rock Light, Rock Perch Light, and it wasn’t until 1870 that the name Perch Rock Light became commonly used but nowadays everyone refers to it as New Brighton Lighthouse.

A light has been maintained on the rock since 1683.  The rock, known locally as Black Rock or Perch Rock gets its name from the Perch which was the tripod like structure which held a fire as an early form of beacon to mark the rock. The light marked the approach for Liverpool bound vessels guiding them away from the sandstone reef that has always been a hazard to shipping using the entrance to the River Mersey.

ok3a3143v2

When foreign ships, passed the old perch, they were charged sixpence for its respect and upkeep.  However the wooden post or ‘perch’ was often washed away and a boat had to be launched to recover it from Bootle Bay.  In February 1821, the pilot boat “Liver” collided with the perch and carried it away.  It was washed away in March 1824 and not recovered until the December but the cost of replacing it all the time grew too expensive and it was decided to build a new purpose designed lighthouse.

The foundation stone of the new lighthouse was laid on 8th June 1827 by Thomas Littledale, Mayor of Liverpool.  It was designed on the lines of the John Smeaton’s Eddystone lighthouse off the Devon coast by John Foster.  Interestingly it was built of marble rock from Anglesey by Tomkinson & Company. It is 28.5 meter (90 feet) high and is located behind the historic Perch Rock Fort; a Napoleonic defence guarding the mouth of the River Mersey.

ok3a3124v2

The granite cost one shilling and sixpence (or 7 ½ pence in today’s money) a cubic foot and each piece of stone was interlocked into the next.  The whole of the stonework was coated with what is known as “pozzuolana” a volcanic substance from Mount Etna used by the Romans which, with age, becomes rock hard.  The first 45 feet of the lighthouse forms a solid base with the entrance door above this giving access to a spiral staircase leading up to the lighthouse keeper’s living quarters.  Above this is the lantern house.  A ladder has to be used to gain the necessary height to reach the 15 iron rungs of the lighthouse as the door is 25 feet from the base.

ok3a3138v2

The revolving light was said to be the first in the country. Overall the lighthouse cost £27,500 to build at that time.  Work was only possible at low tide and it was not completed until 1830.  Its first light shone on the 1st March 1830 and consisted of two white flashes, followed by one red.  The light had a range of 14 miles and was 77 feet above the half-tide level of the river.  The light was at first was powered by Sperm Whale oil.  In 1838 experiments with Acetylene gas were unsuccessful but it was eventually connected to the mainland electricity supply.

ok3a3154v2

The lighthouse was originally maintained by two or three keepers who took up residence when they were on duty.  However in 1925 the keepers were made redundant when the operation of the light was made fully automatic.

ok3a3130v2

The Lighthouse last shone its light on 1st October 1973 as it was replaced by a radar system operating in the River.  The lighthouse was sold to Norman Kingham, a local businessman and owner of the adjacent fort.  He had plans to turn it into a holiday home, however it is currently empty.

ok3a3164v2

When the lighthouse was decommissioned the lighting apparatus was removed and a fog bell that originally hung from the tower was also removed although the bracket from which it hung still remains.

ok3a3150v2

The whole tower was restored and painted in 2001 with Millennium project funding; this included the placement of a decorative LED light inside the tower, which flashes Morse Code messages including the names of all who lost their lives in the Titanic tragedy

Around Thurstaston Common

At the weekend I walked around Thurstaston Common a part of West Wirral popular with walkers and outdoors enthusiasts.  The weather was not the best for taking photos but there was a weak winter sun in between the showers and dark clouds and foreboding skies in the late afternoon.

ok3a2946v2

ok3a3001v2

Thurstaston Common is a unique area which together with the adjacent Royden Park comprises an area of almost 250 acres (100 hectares) of parklands, woodland and natural heathland.  It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is a Local Nature Reserve.  The site is jointly owned by Wirral Borough Council and The National Trust and is managed by Wirral Rangers.

ok3a3009v2

ok3a2953v2

Starting from Telegraph Road you are soon at the top of Thurstaston Hill which is a modest 298 ft (91m) in height.  But it offers extensive views across the Wirral Peninsula and beyond.

ok3a2996v2

On one side there are views of the Dee Estuary (itself a Site of Special Scientific Interest) and over the River Dee to the Clwydian Hills of North Wales.

ok3a2969v2

If you look closely enough you can make out the Point of Ayr on the North Eastern corner of the North Wales coast with the Great Orme in Llandudno behind it.

ok3a2999v2

ok3a2959v2

On the other side of the Wirral peering toward Birkenhead you can see Arrowe Park Hospital in the near distance with the City of Liverpool in the far distance with both cathedrals and various city centre tower blocks being visible.

ok3a2976v2

Further round are the docks at Seaforth and the newly installed giant red cranes which are part of the new £400m Port of Liverpool terminal 2 development.

ok3a2980v2

On the third side of the peninsula are the towns of Hoylake, Moreton and Leasowe with Liverpool Bay beyond them and the wind turbines at Burbo Bank offshore wind farm at the entrance to the Irish Sea.

ok3a2994v2

The clear white painted Leasowe Lighthouse shines like a beacon but while it no longer safeguards the Wirral coast it leads the eye out to the far coast of the Mersey which extends from Crosby through to Formby Point.

ok3a2979v2

In clear weather, Snowdonia, the Pennine Hills, the Lake District are all visible but not today.

ok3a3026v2

ok3a2985v2

A brass viewfinder plate was installed on top of the Triangulation point column on the Hill in memory of Andrew Blair, founder of Liverpool and District Ramblers Association to help visitors find their bearings.  However the brass map was stolen from the viewing point in August 2016 and has not been found.  Wirral Council has promised to install a replacement plaque to be produced using photographs of the original brass map.  To this end the Council has appealed to members of the public to provide information or photographs of the original design.

ok3a3085v2

ok3a3030v2

As you approach Royden Park from Thurstaston Common you can see the Grade II listed building of Hillbark reputed to be one of the finest examples of Victorian half-timbered designed buildings. The house was originally built in 1891 for the soap manufacturer Robert William Hudson on Bidston Hill.  In 1921 the house was sold to Sir Ernest Royden, and he arranged for the house to be dismantled and rebuilt on the present site, at Royden Park, between 1928 and 1931.  Sir Ernest Royden died in 1960 and left the house to the local council and up until the mid-1980s it was used as an old people’s home.  It closed in 1984 and fell into disrepair until in the early 2000s it was converted into a five star hotel.

ok3a3080v2

ok3a3032v2

In the middle of the common is a relatively new memorial stone erected last year.  Sir Alfred Paton gave Thurstaston Heath to the National Trust in memory of his brother, Captain Morton Brown Paton and the other men of The Wirral who died in the Great War 1914-18.  Captain Morton Brown Paton served with the South Lancashire Regiment and he died in action on 7 August 1915 age 44 at Helles, Turkey.  He was a successful cotton merchant in Liverpool.   The plaque on the memorial marks the anniversary of the family’s donation to the National Trust.

ok3a3025v2

ok3a3084v2

The habitat of the Common varies from mixed woodland dominated by birches, oak, sycamore and rowan to wet and dry heathland.  Locally rare plants such as marsh gentian, oblong-leaved sundew and round-leaved sundew are found on the common. Animals include common lizard, dragonflies and birds such as yellowhammer and meadow pipit feed and nest in the heather.  Tawny owl, jay, sparrowhawk and woodpeckers can also be sighted in the pine plantations.  Today as I sat on the hill an inquisitive Robin nestling in the gorse, which was out in full bloom, was my main sighting of the local wildlife.

ok3a3095v2

ok3a3092v2

Within the Common close to Thurstaston Hill is the location of Thor’s Stone, a place of ancient legend.  Thor’s Stone is a large rectangular red sandstone outcrop that is around 50 feet in length, 30 feet wide and 25 foot high which has been eroded over thousands of years.

ok3a3060v2

ok3a3066v2

This part of Wirral was settled by the Vikings as part of a Norse colony centred on Thingwall which was the local parliament in the 10th and 11th centuries and local folklore says that the rock is named after the Norse thunder god Thor.  Viking settlers according to legend used the stone as a pagan altar when religious ceremonies were held here at Thor’s Stone.  The stone was also known locally as ‘Fair Maiden’s Hall’.

ok3a3045v2

This is a fascinating period of Wirral’s history.  The Vikings began raids on the Wirral towards the end of the ninth century, travelling from Ireland; they began to settle along the River Dee side of the peninsula and along the sea coast.  The settlement of the Wirral by the Vikings was led by Ingimund, who had been expelled from Ireland in around 902 and gained permission from Ethelfleda, Lady of Mercia and daughter of King Alfred the Great, to settle peacefully on the peninsula.  Most of the village names around the peninsula derive from ancient Norse.

ok3a3052v2

Geologists and historians now think that Thor’s stone is a natural formation similar to a tor, arising from periglacial weathering of the underlying sandstone with the rock being moulded by water flows under the ice at the end of the last Ice Age.  It was later exploited by quarrymen in the 18th and 19th centuries and weathered by subsequent erosion.  The small pool to the left of Thor’s Stone is one of the wetland areas to be found on the heath.

ok3a3046v2

 

ok3a3051v2

Today the soft sandstone has been an easy rock for countless people to have carved their names or messages into for posterity.  There is not an inch of it which doesn’t appear to have been carved upon.

ok3a3077v2

ok3a3048v2

The top of Thor’s Stone can be reached by a choice of easy scrambles up the heavily eroded rock. The outlines of 230 million year old sand dunes can be detected in the rock layers, a reminder that the area was an equatorial desert in the Triassic period.

ok3a3063v2

From Thor’s Stone it was a short walk back to Thurstaston Hill and back down the other side to the car park on Telegraph Road.

ok3a3014v2

ok3a3019v2

End of Year Statistics 2016

It’s that time of year again when I reflect on what I’ve published on this blog during 2016. I’ve uploaded eleven new blogs during the year.

This year saw another record of 9,849 views with 6,564 separate visitors from 86 different countries coming to the blog site.  The Top Ten countries viewing my blog were in order of views:

  • UK                             6,024
  • USA                          1,562
  • Germany                   473
  • France                       332
  • Australia                    213
  • Russia                      159
  • Canada                     142
  • Netherlands              101
  • Spain                         66
  • Brasil                         53

The top ten most visited articles were mostly from previous years with only the posting about the Littlewoods Building making it from this year’s postings.  The most visiting postings in order of popularity were:

  • On Four Bridges
  • Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
  • The Welsh Streets Part 2
  • On Bidston Hill
  • About Wirral
  • The Hillsborough Monument Memorial
  • Thingwall to Landican
  • Littlewoods Building on Edge Lane Liverpool
  • A trip to Jerusalem
  • A walk along Hoylake Promenade

I’ve uploaded 107 posts since I started the blog in March 2012 with 36,945 total views and 20,386 separate visitors during this time.

Let’s see what subjects I cover in 2017?

I will end by saying thank you to everyone who has taken the time to follow my blogs and photographs during the last twelve months and look forward to seeing you in the forthcoming year.

Best wishes to you all for 2017.

Hamilton Square Christmas Lights switch on

ok3a2869v2

dsc_0594

ok3a2889v2

On Friday night I went down to Hamilton Square in Birkenhead to watch the Christmas lights being switched on along with a lot of other people keen to soak up the festive atmosphere.

ok3a2916v2

ok3a2938v2

ok3a2912v2

This was the first time for ten years that the Square has had Christmas lights.  This year’s event was organised by Birkenhead First and Wirral’s Chamber of Commerce.

ok3a2927v2

ok3a2937v2

ok3a2870v2

Birkenhead First is a Business Improvement District (BID) which enables businesses within a designated area to fund initiatives and improvements over and above those provided by the local council.

ok3a2880v2

ok3a2932v2

dsc_0567

The Business Improvement District is a partnership between local businesses and Wirral Council, led by a private sector steering group.  Birkenhead First aims to encourage more visitors to and greater investment in Birkenhead town centre. As part of its approach to brightening up Birkenhead they sponsored and funded the Christmas lights this year.

dsc_0558

dsc_0566

ok3a2940v2

There were a range of local stores selling everything from chocolate to locally made gin as well as a range of entertainment.  This included a number of attractions for children including Santa and his sleigh, characters from the film Frozen, Fusion Dance Academy and drumming displays from Wirral Samba.

ok3a2922v2

ok3a2876v2

ok3a2924v2

The team from Wirral Radio entertained the crowds and there was music and Christmas carols from local schools.  Liverpool FC and England footballing legend John Barnes switched on the Hamilton Square Christmas lights at 6pm.

ok3a2907v2

ok3a2918v2

ok3a2892v2

The couple walking on stilts around the crowd were popular as were the street merchants selling lights and lanterns.  As well as the lights and a Christmas tree outside the town hall there were lights in the trees and on the Square’s ornate street light columns.

ok3a2919v2

ok3a2917v2

ok3a2929v2

The area around the town hall was certainly jam packed so much so that I couldn’t get anywhere near the stage, but I did manage to get a few shots of the lights and activities around the Square.

ok3a2930v2

ok3a2939v2

dsc_0597

Liverpool Waterfront by night

As the clocks go back and the nights draw in I went down to the Woodside Ferry terminal in Birkenhead on the Wirral side of the River Mersey to take some images of the World renowned Liverpool water front in the fading light of the day.  If anything the darkness and the artificial lighting of night enhances the views of the Pierhead and waterfront buildings.

ok3a2661v2

In December last year Liverpool’s waterfront was named as England’s “greatest place”.  Liverpool came top in a nationwide competition organised by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).  Over 11,000 people voted from a shortlist of ten places aimed at highlighting areas which town planners have created, protected and enhanced for communities.   Liverpool was the overall winner in ‘England’s Great Places’ competition.  The High Street in Thame, Oxfordshire and Saltaire, the World Heritage Site-designated historic village near Bradford were second and third respectively.

ok3a2670v2

The RTPI organised the competition to show what planning and planners can do to make the most out of England’s stunning heritage to create vibrant, beautiful places for people to live and work.

ok3a2675v2

ok3a2665v2

Liverpool’s waterfront is arguably the jewel in the city’s crown and is a source of immense civic pride. The iconic Liver Birds, the Three Graces (the Liver Building, the Port of Liverpool building and the Cunard Building) along with the Anglican and Catholic cathedrals and other landmarks such as St John’s beacon provide a stunning backdrop to the River Mersey.  UNESCO World Heritage Site status was bestowed on the city’s waterfront in July 2004.

ok3a2673v2

ok3a2663v2

There is now so much to see and do on the waterfront with the Tate Liverpool art gallery; the Merseyside Maritime Museum; the International Slavery Museum and the Museum of Liverpool; the Echo concert arena and the BT Convention Centre, the 60 metre high Liverpool Big Wheel and the recently opened Exhibition Centre Liverpool – are all within a stone’s throw of one another.

ok3a2674v2

ok3a2666v2

There have been other developments over the years including the re-instatement of the cruise liner terminal at Prince’s Dock and the building of a number of tower blocks such as Beetham Tower and Its close neighbour and the tallest building in Liverpool, the West Tower.

ok3a2667v2

As well as the big cruise liners, the river is regularly used with the Belfast ferry from Birkenhead and the Isle of Man Steam Packet company ferry from Liverpool.  Both were moored in the river tonight.

ok3a2648v2

ok3a2669v2

The waterfront has been transformed over the last few years and makes a great subject for photographers.