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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

An early morning walk in New Brighton

After seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert this week in Manchester I took the opportunity this bank holiday weekend to go down to Merseyside’s own ‘New Jersey Shore’.  Not quite Atlantic City, but New Brighton is situated at the entrance to the Mersey on the north-eastern tip of the Wirral Peninsula, overlooking the Irish Sea and the Liverpool Bay.

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At its peak in the early 1900’s New Brighton was the most popular resort for Merseyside with its own ferry terminal connecting it to Liverpool across the River Mersey.  Amongst other attractions the resort boasted the New Brighton Tower with its own ballroom and at one time Europe’s largest open air outdoor swimming pool on the main promenade.

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Sadly, neither of these attractions now exists.  For years the town has seen many restoration projects fail such as the plans to transform Victoria Road into a shopping centre to match London’s Covent Gardens.  There were plans to develop the stretch of costal area between New Brighton and Wallasey village into a Disneyland type of venture as well as an ambitious ‘Pleasure Island’ scheme to rival Blackpool but neither of these schemes proved viable.

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But New Brighton has now become a ‘New’ New Brighton with the completion in 2012/13 of a major £60 million redevelopment program.  This has included a replacement of an old worn out theatre with the modern Floral Pavilion and the redevelopment on the promenade with the new Marine Point leisure complex with modern restaurants and bars as well as The Light cinema and a hotel.  But there are still the traditional pleasures of the original funfairs, entrainment arcades, large marine lake, a model boating lake and ten pin bowling alley and Laser Quest adventure centre.

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The final part of the New Brighton redevelopment was the construction in 2014 of ‘The Prom’ apartments which comprises of 24 luxury apartments offering sea views, across Liverpool Bay, and the historic Fort Perch Rock and Light House.

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It’s interesting to hear how New Brighton got its name.  In 1830, a Liverpool merchant, James Atherton, purchased much of the land at what was Rock Point, which enjoyed views out to sea and across the Mersey and had a good sandy beach. His wanted to develop it as a desirable residential and holiday resort for the growing number of well off business people.  His aim was to create a resort similar to Brighton on the south coast, one of the most elegant seaside resorts of that Regency period and hence he called it ‘New Brighton’. Development began soon afterwards, and housing began to spread up the hillside overlooking the estuary.  This was aided with the closure of a former gunpowder magazine in 1851.

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During the latter half of the 19th century, New Brighton developed as a very popular seaside resort serving Liverpool and the Lancashire industrial towns, and many of the large houses were converted to inexpensive hotels. A pier was opened in the 1860s, and the promenade from Seacombe, further down the River Mersey, was built through to New Brighton in the 1890s. This served both as a recreational amenity in its own right, and to link up the developments along the estuary.  It was later extended westwards towards Leasowe, making it the longest in the UK.

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The New Brighton Tower, rivalled the more famous Blackpool Tower.  It was actually the tallest tower in the country, opening in 1900 but it closed in 1919, largely due to lack of maintenance during World War I. Dismantling of the tower was complete by 1921 leaving only the ballroom that was at the foot of the tower.

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However after World War II, the popularity of New Brighton as a seaside resort declined dramatically like many other traditional holiday resorts. The Tower Ballroom located in its own grounds continued as a major venue, hosting numerous concerts in the 1950s and 1960s by local Liverpool groups including The Beatles as well as other international stars. But the Tower Ballroom was destroyed by a fire in 1969.  The site is now grassed over and used as a football pitch.

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Another blow to the resort was when the last Ferries across the Mersey to New Brighton ceased in 1971, after which the ferry pier and landing stage were dismantled.  By 1977, the promenade pier had gone as well.

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One of the more peculiar sights is Fort Perch Rock which is a former defence installation situated at the mouth of Liverpool Bay. It was built in the 1820s soon after the Napoleonic Wars to defend the Port of Liverpool.  It was proposed as a fortified lighthouse to replace the old Perch Rock Light, however a separate lighthouse was subsequently built.  The fort was built on an area known as Black Rock, and was cut off at high tide but with coastal reclamation it is now fully accessible. At one point the Fort was armed with 18 guns, of which 16 were 32-pounders, mounted on platforms. It was nicknamed the ‘Little Gibraltar of the Mersey’.  It is now a tourist attraction and museum. It has been, and is still used as a venue for musical concerts and has been listed as a Grade II building.

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Right next to Fort Perch is what is now known as New Brighton Lighthouse originally known as Perch Rock Lighthouse.  Construction of the present structure began in 1827 though a light had been maintained on the rock since 1683. It was designed on the lines of the Eddystone lighthouse by Mr. Foster and built of marble rock from Anglesey by Tomkinson & Company.

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New Brighton has two churches dominating the skyline and which can be seen from the River Mersey. On Victoria Road is the Anglican St James Church by Sir George Gilbert Scott notable for its thin broach spire and a polygonal apse. It now incorporates the New Brighton Visitors Centre.

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The second is St Peter and Paul’s Roman Catholic Church is at the top of Atherton Street, completed in 1935.  This is a very prominent Grade II listed building in the Roman Gesu style, featuring a large dome on a drum. Nicknamed the “Dome from Home” by returning sailors, the church was closed in 2008, but after a public outcry it subsequently reopened in 2011.

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Just as sad as the demise of the tower was the closure of the open air swimming pool in1990.  The old pool is now the site of the new Marine Point development with a Morrison’s supermarket and car park taking up much of the original bathing pool foot print.  The story started in June 1934 when Lord Leverhulme declared open the finest and largest aquatic stadium in the World.  The popularity of this once magnificent and eye catching bathing pool was shown by the fact that 100,000 people passed through the turnstiles in the first week.  It was built on sand, covering an area of approximately 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres) and cost £103,240 being constructed of mass concrete covered with a rendering of white Portland cement.

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The pool was designed to obtain as much sunshine as possible and facing south; it was sheltered from the north winds. Lights which lit up under water were placed at the deep end for night bathing and a 10 metre regulation standard, high diving stage was provided suitable for international diving competitions.  The pool was built also to allow for Championship swimming events and it held some 2,000 spectators for events.  The Pool contained 1,376,000 gallons of pure sea water, filled through the ornamented cascade with the water constantly changed being fed from the adjoining Marine Lake, which acted as a huge storage tank.

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In the 1950s through to the late 1970s ‘bathing beauty contests’ had mass appeal and were popular as they were seen to bring a little bit of ‘glamour’ to the post-war seaside resorts.  The outdoor pool was used extensively during this period with the first Miss New Brighton Bathing Girl contest starting at the Pool in 1949 with the last event in 1989.

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The pool was used for other events such as firework displays and pop concerts including in May 1984 ‘New Brighton Rock’ when Granada Television staged a £100,000 Pop Spectacular at the pool.

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However on 26th and 27th February 1990, hurricane force winds measuring more than 100 mph caused severe damage to the New Brighton bathing pool. With estimated costs of over £4 million to repair the damage it was decided to demolish the building. The then Merseyside Development Corporation (MDC) which had taken over responsibility for the sea front area cleared the open air baths in the summer of 1990 and it lay grassed over until the Marine Point major redevelopment scheme started some twenty odd years later.

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A happier tale has been the Floral Pavilion theatre.  Up until World War II there were seven theatres in the wider Wallasey area including the Palace Theatre, the Pier Pavilion, the Tower Theatre, the Irving Theatre, the Winter Gardens, the Tivoli and the Floral Pavilion.  Whilst the other theatres closed during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s with the advent and growing popularity of television, the Floral Pavilion carried on.  It was opened in May 1913 by the Rt. Hon the Earl of Derby as an open air theatre with a pavilion called ‘The New Victoria Gardens’.  In May 1965 when the glass structure of the theatre was replaced it re-opened as ‘The Floral Pavilion Theatre’. Since then theatre has staged many one-night shows with a variety of artistes.

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As part of redevelopment on the New Brighton promenade the Floral Pavilion was demolished in 2006 and a new £12 million 800 plus seat Floral Pavilion and Conference Centre was built. The theatre was the first phase of the redevelopment scheme and the new complex opened on 13th December 2008 featuring the nationally famous comedian but local legend Ken Dodd who has had a long association with the Floral Pavilion, making his first appearance there in 1940.  The Floral Pavilion’s architect Ken Martin said he had designed the new building to be “theatrical on the inside and outside”, with a wave-shaped roof, bandstands and lighting colonnades. This design captures and is a celebration of the spirit of the old Floral Pavilion.

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The new Floral Pavilion theatre and conference centre continues to attract a number of touring plays and musicians and ending on the Bruce Springsteen theme where I started this post, Nils Lofgren part of the East Street band has played the theatre on a couple of tours, the first time in its old form and his last appearance earlier this year in the new completely rejuvenated venue.

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Wirral Historic Vehicle Rally 2013

On Sunday 21 July it was the historic car rally which toured around the Wirral organised by the Wirral Classic Car Club.  Last year I took some photographs of the cars en route around Thingwall and Barnston near to where I live.  This year I went down to Fort Perch in New Brighton where the cars were on display before they departed on their morning run. There were quite a few people out looking at the cars.

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This year there were 71 cars entered, the oldest dating back to 1907 and the most modern being from 1972. The drivers and their passengers were encouraged to dress in period fashion to the age of the car in which they were travelling in. Some were in the 1920s and 1930s.

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Many cars were from the 1960s.  Kenneth Massey driving a 1963 Porsche 356 Super was re-living the ‘swinging sixties’.

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Ken O’Brien driving a 1965 Lotus Elan S2 was wearing a ‘Gold Leaf’ Team Lotus jacket. This was the Lotus Formula One racing team in the early 1960s.

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And as the badges on the side of the Lotus Elan testify the team were World Grand Prix Constructors champions in 1963 and 1965.

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Malcolm Brewer and his passenger were convincing Chicago gangsters in their 1938 Buick Century along with a ‘tommy gun’.

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Michael O’Donnell and his family were dressed as ‘hill billies’ in their 1915 Ford Model T.

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Others were more refined in their ‘Sunday best’ ready to take their 1935 Daimler Sportsman for a spin.

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The cars at the display were parked in ‘age order’.  The oldest car a white Paterson 30 was parked in between a 1928 Rolls Royce 20 horsepower and a 1925 Chrysler Tourer 4. They all had a tale to tell.  Richard Gardner found the Paterson in a field in the US and he brought it back to the UK and put it back on the road in May 2011.  Graham Moore bought the Rolls Royce from a car mart in 1963 and restored it over the next 30 years.  The Chrysler Tourer was built in Canada in 1925 and was then shipped to Australia and then taken to New Zealand until 1970 when Jopie Lang bought it and her husband restored it.

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There was a real variety of cars from all ages.  A Morris Oxford from 1928.  Like many of the other cars being displayed this car was bought in a neglected state in 1989 and was restored by Richard Gardner in eighteen months.

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A rare Brough Superior from 1936 was a particularly interesting vehicle.  It has eight cylinders and is one of only thirteen of the eight cylinder cars known to still exist.  It was built on a Hudson chassis and assembled by George Brough of Nottingham who was better known as a motor cycle manufacturer.  The driver and owner, Nick Brough, is George Brough’s sixth cousin three times removed.

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And there were cars which offered more modest motoring such as the 1931 Austin 12/4 saloon and an Austin 7 from 1933.  Austin 7 saloons were the most popular British car of the 1920s and 1930s.

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A 1949 Triumph Roadster was a popular post war sports car.  A similar burgundy Triumph Roadster was driven by Jim Bergerac in the 1980s ‘Bergerac’ TV detective series set in Jersey.

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A particularly rare car was the 1929 Singer Porlock which was named as it was so successful in the Porlock hill climbs on the edge of Exmoor.  This was one of the longest hillclimb courses in the UK..

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More modern cars included a Morris 1100 from 1972 which were very popular in their day as cheap family motoring.

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A workhorse from the 1950s was a Ford Thames small van.  Very few of these cars have survived through to the present day.

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There was a lot of interesting detail on the classic cars that you don’t get these days.  The well recognised Jaguar ‘big cat’ on a 1950 Jaguar Mark V.

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They had matching jaguars on the back seats as well.

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To the less well recognised such as the silver eagle on the bonnet of the Alvis TD21 drophead.  Alvis  was a British manufacturing company in Coventry founded in 1919.  After becoming a subsidiary of Rover in 1965, car manufacturing was ended but armoured vehicle manufacture continued until this was sold off in 1982.

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And an eagle bonnet mascot on the 1954 Riley RME Cabriolet.  Riley was a British motorcar and bicycle manufacturer from 1890. Riley became part of the Nuffield Organisation in 1938 and was later merged into British Leyland. ln July 1969 British Leyland announced the immediate end of Riley production.   Today, the Riley trademark is owned by BMW.

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Cars had pressed steel wheels before alloy wheels and the chrome hubcaps on the MGA were highly polished.  Like so many other British cars The MG Car Company which was founded in the 1920s became part of British Leyland which eventually became MG Rover which went into administration in 2005.  The Nanjing Automobile Group purchased the rights to the MG brand and the assets of the MG Rover creating a new company MG Motor.

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The 1967 Morris Minor convertible proudly displayed a Morris Centenary badge celebrating 100 years of Morris Cars which was founded in 1913.  Morris merged into larger organisations and the Morris name remained in use until 1984 when British Leyland’s Austin Rover Group decided to concentrate on the more popular Austin brand which itself eventually disappeared in favour of the MG Rover name. The Morris trademark is currently owned by the China-based automotive company Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.

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The last car I photographed was one of the marshal’s cars.  It was a 1974 Morgan 4/4. The Morgan 4/4 was the Morgan Motor Company’s first car with four wheels. It appeared in 1936. Its model designation “4/4” stood for four wheels and four cylinders. Earlier Morgans had been three-wheelers with typically V-twin engines. Apart from a break during World War II (and the period March 1951 to September 1955) the 4/4 has been in continuous production from its debut right up to the present day. This version was in bright yellow with its foxy lady emblem.

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The cars set off mid-morning on their tour of the Wirral.  We will probably see some of them again this year at the Wirral Festival of Transport in September which is held in Birkenhead Park.

“Out of the Blue” lantern parade New Brighton Marine Lake

On Saturday night I went down to New Brighton where a lantern parade was taking place around the Marine Lake.  The event called “Out of the Blue – a Winter Celebration of Wirral’s Coastal Treasures” was being held to celebrate the end of Wirral’s Year of Coast and Countryside which I had been unaware of up till now.

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There was a large crowd which thronged the parade and some local residents had grandstand views from their flat windows.

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The procession started by the sailing centre at the new Marine Point development snaking along the Marine Lake to Fort Perch and then along the promenade where the various strange sea characters moved in and out of the crowd.

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The sea creatures included a giant sea bird, illuminated fish and glowing maritime characters such as bird people and illuminated sea ladies.  The event was accompanied by music which all seemed to be about being a lighthouse keeper, from what I could hear it sounded like a concept album which was played through at least twice.

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The event was organised using Liverpool 2008 ‘Capital of Culture’ Legacy funding which had to be spent by the end of this year  The Liverpool Lantern Company who were responsible for a Halloween event in Sefton Park in October put on this lantern carnival parade.

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The end of the procession was accompanied by a fireworks display from a pontoon in the middle of the marine lake.

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As the music finished and the fireworks faded the large crowd drifted way with some taking the opportunity to sample the fish and chips and the candy floss before heading home.

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Kites over the Mersey

Wirral’s annual kite festival ‘Kites over the Mersey 2012’ was held at The ‘Dips’ in New Brighton.

There were kite flyers from Britain and across the world attending the Wirral International Kite Festival which was held on 9th and 10th June.

There were a variety of spectacular show kites on display, including artistic kites, giant inflatable kites, sports kites and power kites.

It was a little overcast but the sun kept trying to get out and there was a light breeze.  It was well attended with lots of families enjoying the spectacle.

The Chinese dragon kites were particularly impressive and took quite  a lot of control.  They had a dragon’s head with a vey long tail.  They were difficult to get up and get down again in the breeze.

Another dragon inflatable kite was equally impressive but the kite flyers found it difficult to launch in the conditions so it never got fully into the air.

The event was held over two days and the kites were changed around with new kites on display on a regular basis.