Libraries – Lost at an alarming rate but will we ever get them back?

This is former Aintree Ratepayer Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at a meeting to try to save his local library in 2013.

Libraries have been lost at an alarming rate across the UK because of austerity which, I might add, was backed by all 3 major political parties in the 2010 General Election. So whichever party had won back then the consequences would have been as they turned out to be or even worse across most public services. Indeed, it has been argued that under Labour in the 2010 – 2015 Parliament the cuts would have been greater as they planned to make £1b more than the Coalition Government actually made. The Treasury/Institute of Fiscal Studies chart below illustrates my point:-

But for me one of the greatest losses in our communities has been the demise of libraries, indeed I put a great deal of effort into trying to save Sefton’s closing libraries along with many other community campaigners. The loss of Aintree Library caused me the most concern as until 2011 I had been a Borough Councillor for Aintree Village. Others of course will have felt just as keenly the loss of their local library be it in Churchtown, Ainsdale, Crosby (College Road), Birkdale, Litherland or Orrell as Sefton Borough lost 7 of its libraries to cost cutting by the Council.

All that, as they say, is history. However, my question is will we get any of the lost libraries (in a suitably modern form) back? Well we won’t be getting Birkdale or Aintree Libraries back in Sefton Borough as the sites both now have housing on them. Here are before and after shots of Aintree:-

Me outside the former Aintree Library

The same site in 2017 when the houses, now completed, were being erected.

Libraries are far more than places where books are kept and borrowed from and I say that as a hoarder of books. A library is a community meeting place, a hub for the community, a place where lonely and isolated people can meet others. Yes they provide IT access and they should all have coffee shops within them too, like at Liverpool Central Library. Their foundation was all about the joy of reading together with gaining knowledge and such worthy aims are still quite valid to my mind.

Readers of this blog-site will probably know that I found Sefton Council’s unwillingness to run libraries, that it could not afford to run, in innovative ways using volunteers most perplexing (and that’s being polite about it!); it was a though the Council saw volunteers as more trouble than they were worth. But other models of running libraries have been successfully established across the UK where councils did not use their dead hand to stop such innovation.

Such innovations have regularly gone though my mind as I’ve come across them and then recently on a visit to the north east I saw this in Tynemouth:-

What’s more it was directly opposite a flat we had rented for a week’s holiday. Wow I thought, that’s great a library to visit and explore. And then the cold light of reality struck me, it was a closed library although not obviously so until you got right up to it. As you can imagine my heart sank when I realised I’d witnessed another gone library. Then this appeared a couple of days later:-

North Tyneside Council mobile library

Well a mobile library is far better then no library at all but whilst any kind of library will make me smile there is a part of me which looks upon them in a similar way to a rail replacement bus, if you get my drift. And so I thought, well at least Tynemouth has a mobile library as some council’s have withdrawn them too and my mind, such as it is, wandered elsewhere.

Then almost by chance I saw a local newspaper in our flat called the News Guardian and in flicking through it and smiling at some of the local articles of the kind you only find in local newspapers:-

‘Man bites dog – dog to sue’
‘Council leader thinks new traffic island is fantastic’
‘MP has a cup of tea and a cake with with potholing club members’

(and yes I did make these headlines up for the avoidance of doubt)

my eyes fell upon this article:-

Well that’s innovation and a future for Tynemouth Library I thought and my spirits lifted until that is I thought back to the lack of library innovation back home in Sefton Borough of course!

Libraries are still worth saving and personally I’d like to see a new modern network of them being re-established….

Click on the photos and newspaper article to enlarge them

Maghull – That pond/grotto on the former Ashworth South Site

Not so long ago I had a good look around the Poppy Fields new housing site adjacent Maghull North Station.

I was particularly looking to see what had happened to the pond/grotto that had long been within the grounds of the former Moss Side Hospital/Ashworth South Hospital. I found it and took this shot through a building contractor’s fencing:-

I recall my old former Maghull Town Councillor colleagues John Sharman and Bill Chambers talking about it, as at the time they both worked at Ashworth Hospital. I refer of course to before the Ashworth South Site closed.

I then went searching for some background information about it and came across this in a Ecological Impact Assessment of the Ashworth South Site conducted by Atkins in May 2014 as part of the planning application process for the house building*.

‘Pond 3.4.5 A large pond is located within the woodland and is approximately 400 m2 in size and considered to have poor suitability to support great crested newts (HSI score 0.47, rated poor). At the time of the survey mallards were present in the pond as well as wrapped straw bales located within the pond which are understood to be a method of controlling pond algae. A stone built grotto approximately 10 metres long is connected to the pond (TN 29). The grotto has high bat roost potential and is a known bat roost (see 3.5.2 for more details). Peacock butterfly and moth species were recorded in the grotto at the time of the survey. No evidence of bats was recorded.’

* There had been a previous planning application process as the original intended use for the site was to have been for a new prison. Indeed, the access road into the site and the traffic island on School Lane were both constructed for the new prison. However, government changed its mind and decided to stop the prison construction with the site being sold off for the housing, which is presently being built.

Click on the photo to enlarge it

Another isolation cycle ride – Lydiate, Maghull, Netherton circular

Farm access bridge over the former Cheshire Lines Railway between the former Lydiate and Sefton & Maghull Stations.

My exercise as we all try to keep safe is solo cycling around the East Parishes part of Sefton Borough and into West Lancs and South Sefton.

One of my recent rides (on a glorious Sunday morning) was from my Lydiate home down the Cheshire Lines Path/Trans Pennine Trail from the site of the former Lydiate Station down to the site of the former Sefton and Maghull Station, then on via Old Racecourse Road to regain the path at Meadway. From there through Jubilee Woods to the new Brooms Cross Road and into Netherton joining the A5036 cycle path at Copy Lane and back into Maghull via Switch Island, the A59 (Northway) and local roads and lanes back home. It was 9.5 miles in total.

I took a few photos along the way and here they are:-

I spotted this sign on a tree right next to the farm bridge in the lead photo above. It seems to be part of a trail by Altside Scouts but I’ve not seen any of the others.

Looking north from a bridge over the River Alt. Sefton Church can be made out in the background.

I wonder what the back story is to this road nameplate just off the Northern Perimeter Road in Netherton?

Commemoration boulder at Switch Island

A closer look – It’s Maghull’s very own Cliff Mainey now living in retirement in Maghull’s Gainsborough Avenue.

The road works which have been driving local folk around the bend at the Alt in Maghull. Still more to be done as the junction is upgraded.

I hope I can keep going with my solo cycling around our local lanes, roads, tracks and cycle paths during health crisis. You never know I might detail more of my rides……….

Alastair Campbell’s guide to surviving isolation

Like Gordon Brown and ex-US President Jimmy Carter, Alastair Campbell is someone we’ve probably come to respect far more after they’ve left the top job which made them famous. I’m sure there are other examples you can think of too.

I like this 20 point guide by Alastair on how to survive isolation. Go on have a read and look past the politician you maybe once cared little for as he is far more than that. Here’s a link to his blog article that may just help you through the coming weeks:-

alastaircampbell.org/2020/03/twenty-tips-for-guarding-against-depression-and-anxiety-in-the-era-of-self-isolation/

But look at number 9 again and then look at this video:-

twitter.com/campbellclaret/status/1213100165579579392?lang=en

Yes Campbell and Kennedy were good friends and what a haunting tribute to his old chum…….

And the photo at the head of this posting? Because it is peaceful and tranquil………..

Merseyrail/Northern – As the trains reduced frequency or stopped running – Our local lines

As our health crisis deepens here’s a snapshot of the consequences on our local railway networks as of today

End of the line from Wigan at Kirkby Station

Kirkby – Wigan: replacement bus (as it has been for last few days) every two hours

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground would have been Preston bound but it’s being replaced by a bus now.

Ormskirk – Preston: replacement bus every two hours and finishing early evening

This one is still running once an hour to Manchester – A Southport bound Class 156 DMU at Burscough Bridge Station on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line.

Southport – Manchester: hourly service to Victoria finishing early evening

Southport Station.

As I penned this posting Merseyrail was running a half hourly service across its network

But of course no one wants anyone to use the remaining trains or replacement buses unless they are key workers or the travel is absolutely necessary.

Aintree – Is the mothballed Nth Mersey Branch a Port of Liverpool access opportunity going begging?

Just south of Aintree Station there’s still a rail connection to the overgrown and mothballed North Mersey Branch, which heads off in the direction of the Port of Liverpool and Bootle. Here and above are a couple of shots of the rail connection as it is now:-

Both shots were taken from the end of the Liverpool bound platform of Aintree Station.

Surely it (the Nth Mersey Branch) could be, at least in part, a sensible contribution to the accessing the expanding Port of Liverpool. I might add that Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson wants a railway in a tunnel but Labour-run Sefton Council wants a road tunnel. Friends of the Earth are calling on Labour Mersey Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham to come out against the surface road solutions – I’m not aware that he has. Presently, Highways England are pressing ahead with their plans for a new road down and through Rimrose Valley Country Park.

The North Mersey Branch once went all the way to the docks (Gladstone Dock) but the the dock connection was removed many years ago, it connects the Southport – Liverpool and Ormskirk – Liverpool Merseyrail lines these days but it’s not been used (mothballed) for many a year. Merseytravel, the public transport arm of the Liverpool City Region, say they have long-term plans to reopen the branch for passenger traffic which was withdrawn from it and the former Ford and Linacre Road Stations in April 1951.

I recall going to the first public consultation event (a few years back) about how the expanding Port of Liverpool could be accessed by freight. On seeing only Highways England there I asked where Network Rail were so that the rail options could be talked through too. The answer was along the lines of they weren’t there and were not in reality a part of the process! I despaired then and I still do now…….

Click on the photos to enlarge them