Across Storeton Fields

Earlier this month when we had a long sunny day we walked from Storeton village to Thingwall across the fields. This entails using public foot paths maintained by the local council.

There are around 75 miles of public rights of way in Wirral, taking in woodlands, heathlands, parklands, promenades, beaches, country parks or paths like these across farm land.

On this occasion we couldn’t go all the way on our usual route as urgent work to replace the Stanley Wood footbridge across the stream that leads into Prenton Brook some half a mile away near to where the M53 motorway crosses Landican Lane and the Bidston to Wrexham railway line.

Walkers in many cases take it for granted that footpaths are maintained so that we can get out and enjoy the countryside.

The old timber bridge was in a poor state of repair. The 12m wooden footbridge in Stanley Wood received emergency repairs in the summer of 2017 to extend its life until July 2018 with a replacement bridge being designed and priced for replacement this summer. Back in March Wirral Council announced that dozens of roads and bridges across Wirral would see major improvements as the council said it would allocate more than £2.5m to improve highways.

The bridge at Stanley Wood is included a long with more than 150 roads being upgraded including surface dressing and foot way works. The Council has said like most highway authorities, that its roads network was deteriorating, and action was now needed to reduce spiralling costs in future.

The Council’s funding allocation includes £150,000 worth of works to bridges including Stanley Wood Footbridge and bridge retaining walls at Storeton Road and Brimstage Road.
With the very heavy rains in late 2017 and early 2018 the path across the fields from Storeton to Stanley Woods became quagmires. Without major expenditure, there is little that can be done to ensure better draining after substantial rainfall. The Council are looking to make some surface improvements although on our walk after a prolonged hot summer the ground was as hard as concrete!

The bridge across the M53 motorway is now quite overgrown as it is not used by very many farm vehicles but walkers in the main.
We can be grateful in this age of austerity that our less well-known rights of way are continuing to be protected for our communities to use in the future.

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Art in the docks

On a bright crisp late February morning I had a wander around the Twelves Quays area.

The ‘four bridges’ crossing of the docks between Birkenhead and Wallasey has been closed for some time whilst the Council’s contractors replace the aging bridge structures and renew the highway.

Close to the Wirral Met College Wirral Waters campus a public art installation has been put into place. Three double sided panels contain artwork commissioned by local Wirral Methodist Housing Association with a grant from the Arts Council of England and assistance from Peel Holdings who own the dock estate.

The art project called ‘And the River flows on’ involved professional artists led by Robin Woolston helping a number of groups in the community develop their artistic skills to paint images that tell the story of the history of Birkenhead Docks.

The area where the art panels have been installed is still derelict and undeveloped. The panels sit on land adjacent to the new college building.

The college on Tower Road opened in September 2015, with approximately 35,000 square feet (3,300 square metres) of space. It provides courses focusing on construction. Students were involved in every stage of the development which won a Royal Institute of British Architecture award in 2016.

A trip over the Mersey Gateway Bridge

I took a trip over the new Mersey Gateway Bridge which opened to traffic after midnight on the morning of Saturday 14th October. It is a new six lane toll bridge over the River Mersey between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes. It also takes traffic over the Manchester Ship Canal which links Liverpool to Salford. My article about a trip down the Manchester Ship Canal from 31 May 2017 has some images of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge during its construction phase.

The Mersey Gateway Project was a major civil engineering scheme to build a cable-stayed bridge with three pylons at 2.3km long with a river span of 1km. The main bridge deck is made from reinforced concrete and the spans are supported by steel cable stays attached to pylons rising up to between 80 and 125m above the river bed. It also included the construction of a 9.2 kilometre road network connecting the new bridge to the main motorway network.

It was built to relieve the congested and ageing Silver Jubilee Bridge. However, in order to pay for the new bridge both the new Mersey Gateway Bridge and the Silver Jubilee Bridge are subject to a £2 toll charge each way. The Silver Jubilee Bridge is currently closed for refurbishment following the opening of the new bridge.

The Mersey Gateway Crossings Board Ltd was set up to deliver the project working closely with the Merseylink consortium, which was appointed as the project company responsible for the building and operation of the bridge over the next 30 years. The £1.86 billion lifetime cost of the new bridge includes the design, build, finance, operation and maintenance of the project through to 2044. The majority of the funding comes from the tolls paid by road users, but there is also a contribution from the UK Government. The build element of the costs is £600m.

The construction used 127,415 cubic metres of concrete, had more than 1,000 people working on the site at peak times and took 1,200 days from start to finish of the construction phase. However, the project took over 23 years from inception when in 1994 the Mersey Gateway Project was set up to develop a new bridge over the River Mersey. In 2006 the Government gave outline approval to the project with funding being agreed in 2011 and a tendering process commenced to appoint a suitable construction consortia. This culminated in 2013 with the Merseylink Consortium being appointed as the preferred bidder for the project with work starting in 2014. The consortium including funders, infra structure and construction companies from Australia, Britain, Spain and Korea.

The bridge is expected to be paid off in 25 years at which point it has been promised that a review on tolls would be conducted. However there has been a mixed response to the new crossing with some people welcoming the new bridge but many others are unhappy at the daily toll costs.

Protests have been staged opposing the decision to implement tolls on both crossings. Campaigners say that the extra transport costs will have a detrimental effect on the area and the local economy.

It is however a very impressive structure to drive over and it certainly does cut the congestion that was associated with the previous single crossing over the Jubilee Bridge.