A muddy end to the day ….

Thursday 2nd February 2023

Formby – Southport

An early wake-up and breakfast, walking the dogs, half hour drive to Southport, followed by a train ride to Formby – today’s starting point. By this time we were more than ready for a coffee so were relieved to find a cafe as we walked to find the coastal path. As we walked in we got a few looks – was it the walking gear or the spectacle of Steve in shorts!? No, it was because we had entered the world of pottery painting (with drinks as a sideline) … they maybe thought that a couple of old bids were coming into paint a garden gnome!! Luckily they were happy for us to purchase beverages without getting arty … and super delicious cappuccinos they were.

Following the guidelines, we find ourselves walking along ‘Freshfield Road,’ which had some of the most magnificent houses I’ve ever seen – all individual, large and beautifully kept … my house envy scale was overflowing. Shortly after reaching Freshfield we found ourselves crossing the railway line – always a childish excitement!!

From here we entered woodland for a couple of miles – it turned out to be an area known as Ainsdale Sand Dunes – a national nature reserve, home to some of Britain’s rarest plants and animals. It was a beautiful place to walk and provided some ups and downs in contrast to yesterday’s flat paths. It was also a popular cycle path and we had a precarious moment when an over ambitious cyclist overtook another rider in her group …. and almost took Steve out in the process.

After we left the nature reserve we seem to run out of Coastal Path signs but we picked up signs for the Trans Pennine Trail and our Ordnance Survey app indicated that we were going in the right direction. Unfortunately it was taking us along a really busy road – not so conducive to leisurely walking. After a mile and a bit we came to a roundabout that had signs to Ainsdale Beach – we thought we ‘d venture down for a look, if only to find a sheltered spot to have some picnic lunch. There was a Pontins Holiday Camp on the corner – not looking too glamorous. Recent news (and ignorant graffiti) seems to suggest that it is due to be used to accommodate illegal immigrants.

Walking down the road we spotted the Coastal Paths signs – goodness knows how they suddenly appeared. The path was to lead us through sand dunes – not always a great exercise! While enjoying our pate and tomato sandwiches, we got chatting to a chap who assured us that we could walk along the beach all the way to our destination – Southport Pier. So, decision made, a lovely firm sand and shoreline 4 miles it was to be, rather than the risk of soft sand in the dunes. I guess we’re not very good at doing what we’re told!!

The expanse of this wide beach was quite formidable and the tide was well and truly out. Whenever we get to a stretch like this, I can’t help but remember Alice saying when we first started walking the path, all those years ago, that she imagined we’d be walking along beaches all day, every day of the route – how wonderful that would be.

The sand was nice and firm underfoot though, albeit ridgy in places … we moved nearer the shoreline at times to avoid more uncomfortable walking. There was a selection of beautiful shells, including razor clams … my favourite for crunching (better than popping bubble wrap)! All going well.

Ridgy sand!!

A mile or two along we started to find some inlets of water – but with some jumping and wading we managed to splash our way through. Southport Pier still seemed so far in the distance and it was hard to see if there was going to be an easy way through. We opted to move away from the shoreline but it got wetter and wetter … then the slippery mud kicked in and we found ourselves skidding all over the place. After several skids, Steve finally toppled.

But things got even worse and there was no going back!! We found ourselves on a stretch of beach that can only be described as bog land – wet, muddy, clay, with high grass … no clear paths but we could see steps in the distance that would bring us back onto the promenade. It seems that not doing as we’re told has consequences … and boy did we discover that today. I’ve always said that I want to end my days by the seaside … but I didn’t mean being consumed into sinking sand on Southport Beach … and at times that felt quite likely. A lot of prayers were being said!!

But we did survive to tell the tale (and write the blog). After almost 9 miles of walking we rewarded ourselves and celebrated our survival with a luxury hot chocolate at McDonalds.

And we learnt our lesson – STICK TO THE PATH!!

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