Later in the walk, getting to start points will present difficulties. However as the previous day’s leg finished at my house, I had zero travel time to the start. I headed out over the small hill at the back of where I live, territory I only know from dark early morning trips to the paper shop – seeing it in daylight (albeit dark and drizzly) was a novelty. Like many people, I have made surprisingly little headway exploring the immediate vicinity of my home on foot. Little wonders like the Gorse Lane Nature Reserve, a few yards from my house, are less familiar to me than places many miles away…
(Local Scouts have done some good work contibuting to the upkeep of the Reserve and working towards their Tree Hugging badges.)
A good thing about a purposeful journey like this is that there’s no pressure for it to be ‘nice’, ‘pretty’ or ‘spectacular’. So walking in gloomy mud and rain was fun and didn’t feel like a waste. It played havoc with my stuff though – the map has turned to papier mache and I came home mud-spattered. I recently bought a nice pair of black Berghaus boots, so smart that I’ve worn them in their pristine splendour as my main leisuretime footwear, even to work, a sort of ‘I may look like a regular guy strolling along the high street but I could head out for the hills at a moment’s notice – and my feet would stay dry when I got there’ look. Now they look like something Grizzly Adams would discard as being insufficiently stylish.
I had a vague idea of getting over to the Cheshire Lines, but once I reached the Leeds & Liverpool Canal it seemed best to stick with it, virtually all the way to Maghull.
In Lydiate I went looking for a packet of crisps. An off license looked like the best bet – it had a glass wall inside, with hatches for handing over money and receiving purchases. Superficially resembling a museum display or Damien Hirst installation, presumably this is a security feature like the metal grilles I saw in bunker-like off-licenses in Belfast and Glasgow 20 years ago. I took this to mean that this was a relatively deprived and/or high-crime area. However, the houses backing on to the next stretch of canal were very large, detached, distinctive residences with enormous gardens, sometimes with boats moored outside, suggesting a well-heeled neighbourhood. Perhaps the big-house residents are wealthy to the point of incandescence, their money transfomed to a deadly light, so that the off-license staff need to be protected like scientists at an A-Bomb test. (A more prosaic explanation could be that Merseyside neighbourhoods of wildly different types exist side by side.)
Finally came into Maghull, past St Georges Church, where a shrine still carried some winter green and the walls an unfortunate message:
The walk took nearly three hours. The train journey back, 10 minutes.
Distance: 7 miles approx