Bridges, bridges & more footbridges

I blogged a while back about Lydiate footpath No.5, which links Southport Road to Eagar Lane, as a bridge over a stream needed replacing. Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/07/01/lydiate-footpath-no-5/

Well, it took a bit longer but the new bridge is now in place. However, concerns have been raised that the step up to the bright blue bridge is too high at around 14 inches**. Lydiate Parish Cllr. Edie Pope* tells me that a Sefton Council officer agrees it’s too high a step so I’m guessing that an additional step will be added? Here’s Edie at the bridge:-

I’ve been wondering why the bridge is bright blue as not so far away a couple of footbridges on paths linking Lydiate, The River Alt and Ince Blundell have also just been replaced and they are a far more discrete brown colour – see below:-

No, I’m not asking for a repaint, just curious about why some footbridges are brown and some blue.

* A section of this footpath actually runs along the boundary of Cllr. Edie Pope’s Church View Farm and she tells me that at some point in the distant past before she owned the land the footpath seems to have been moved from one side of the stream to the other. This must be back in Lancashire County days i.e. well prior to local government reorganisation in 1974. This being the case, if the path had been on the other side of the stream, there would have been no need for a bridge.

** Many local footpath bridges have steps up to them and I have previously pondered on this, amongst other reasons, being a form of obstruction to deter motorcycles. Our historic footpath network in England has never been disability friendly so such steps usually don’t make the paths any more inaccessible. It’s only very modern public rights of way where disability has been/is catered for.

RIP Barry Griffiths & Ron Coffee

I’ve learned in recent days about the deaths of two former councillors that I served with.

Barry Griffiths was a Conservative member of Sefton Council until 2012 and I recall him being a very polite and good-humoured chap. During my time as Leader of Sefton Council (2004 – 2011) Barry was a senior member of the Tory Group on what was then a balanced council with no one party in overall control. As Leader I often felt a bit like a Circus Ringmaster as I tried to corral differing views into a common way forward. Often things were tense but I recall that on odd occasions Barry would take the trouble to come up to me and say a few encouraging words. I appreciated his kindness over what I suspect was a very wide political gap between us.

Ron Coffee was a Liberal Democrat member of Lydiate Parish Council in the late 1980s through to the early 1990s if memory serves correctly. I think he was on the council for around seven years having originally won his seat at a Parish Council by-election. Ron, who lived in Lydiate for many years, was a college lecturer by trade. My distinct recollection of him was that he had a deep interest in public transport and would often be found commenting on the performance of buses, trains and Merseytravel. My apologies for the poor quality photo of Ron.

RIP Barry and Ron

My Kirkby and Maghull/Hornby worlds have come together

The other day I received by post a booklet titled ‘Steaming Back To Kirkby Loco – Life on the Lines in the days of Steam – At Kirkby in Ashfield Loco Shed’. The booklet has been written and published this year by David Amos and Keith Murray. Here’s the front cover:-

As a Kirkby lad by birth (I lived there until I was 6) I found the booklet very interesting and informative. My understanding is that my Uncle Ken Calladine (on my Mother’s side of the family) was both an engine driver and he worked, at least for some of his working life, out of Kirkby Loco Shed*. He was born on Urban Road Kirkby, yards away from the railway.

I’ve resided on Merseyside since I was 10 and for 33 of those years, I lived in the town (Maghull) where world-famous toy maker Frank Hornby made his home. Some years ago now I became a trustee of the Maghull-based Frank Hornby Charitable Trust which runs the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre within Meadows Leisure Centre & Library in Maghull**.

A view of the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre

So having mentioned Kirkby In Ashfield and Maghull, what’s the connection other than my living in both communities at some point in my life? Well, the connection was made by my reading the booklet referenced above because the authors talk about a certain class of steam locomotive which was based at Kirkby Loco Shed* – a Stanier Class 8F steam engine. The point is that I would have stood looking at that class of loco with my Grandad Walter Calladine at the level crossing on Urban Road Kirkby in the early 1960s. But what makes this interesting is that Hornby made a model engine of an 8F with the number 48073. That loco was based at Kirkby shed!

You may have guessed where this is going now? Well yes, I’ve just purchased a second hand Hornby 8F with the number 48073, which in due course will be loaned to the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre in Maghull. OK, it cost me a few Quid and I may have a bone to pick with David Amos and Keith Murray for them leading me to part with my hard-earned pension but actually, I’m rather delighted to have made another connection between Kirkby and Maghull. And here’s a photo of said model complete with its original packaging:-

And here’s a photo of a real fellow member of the 8F Class after it had a rather unfortunate accident at Kirkby Loco Shed in 1959!:-

* Kirkby-In-Ashfield Shed Codes – Sept 1938 to Sept 1955 – 16C, Oct 1955 to August 1963 – 16B, Sept 1963 to October 1966 – 16E

** The opening hours of the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre reflect those of Maghull Library. The present days/hours (November 2021) are Monday to Wednesday & Friday 10am – 4.30pm, Thursday Closed, Saturday 10am – 1.30pm. Please note at the time I posted this blog piece the website of Sefton Council was still showing the restricted Covid Lockdown opening times for Maghull Library. We are trying to get them to update it.

Bootle – As seen by an article in the Liverpool Post

Bootle New Strand shopping centre

I found the article (linked below) by Joshi Herrmann in the Post very interesting.

www.livpost.co.uk/p/bootle-retains-optimistic-air?r=bhrt5&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&utm_source=

I spent my whole working life in what used to be called Bootle’s ‘Mini-Whitehall’ i.e. the collection of 1960s office blocks full of civil servants. Those jobs were brought to Bootle throughout the 1970s and into the 80s as part of what some called ‘Exit London’. The idea was to bring decent jobs into a deprived area whilst saving government the high costs of buildings and employing people in the southeast. It always struck me as a good policy but now my former employer HMRC is upping sticks and moving into central Liverpool and abandoning Bootle. I have long struggled with the new policy direction as to me it seems to simply overturn a good idea with a poor one and Bootle has clearly lost out, not least with the spending power of civil servants in the likes of The Strand.

Bootle Town Hall

My other issue is the lack of political competition in Bootle as everyone knows that a Labour MP will be returned together with a collection of Labour councillors. To my mind, this breeds electoral stagnation and I think places like Bootle would benefit from a proportional electoral system (wouldn’t we all) maybe even more so than other communities. New ideas outside of a Labour Party which has always seemed to me to be rooted in political battles of the past may emerge, you never know.

I’d like to see Bootle do well, I really would but I also fear it’s a community where the far-right may try to exploit the poverty.

Ignoring desperate poverty by focusing on working poor

The Guardian Oct 2013 – ‘Labour will be tougher than Tories on benefits, promises new welfare chief’ – The article (see link below) was commenting on the views of Rachel Reeves MP; she’s now Labour’s Shadow Chancellor –

www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/12/labour-benefits-tories-labour-rachel-reeves-welfare

I must admit I’ve had a big downer on Reeves ever since October 2013 because, in my view, desperate poverty, which neither Labour nor Tories are willing to address, is actually just as much if not more so within the ignored part of our population, the non-working poor.

The reason Labour and Tories ignore the non-working poor is that they’re significantly less likely to vote. Yes I know that’s an appalling situation but it is how our antiquated political system works. Presently, pretty much the only focus of both our main parties is on the working-class right-wingers as they’re seen as key to who wins swing/marginal constituencies. If you don’t live in a swing/marginal seat where that section of the electorate holds sway then the politicians of Labour and the Tories really aren’t bothered what you think.

I realise that measuring poverty is often difficult but my own test of it growing across the UK is the need for foodbanks. Launched in the year 2000, Salisbury Foodbank was the first Trussell Trust foodbank in the UK. I think there are around 1,200 of their food banks these days. So to my mind poverty is growing and our two major political parties pay lip service to tackling it.

The solution is pretty clear to me, it’s Universal Basic Income (UBI). I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it. The only good news on this front is that the Welsh Government has said it will conduct pilots to try to develop a formula – payments and taxation – to find a workable form of UBI. We’ll see, it could be a kicking the can down the road exercise but at least they’ve listened.

Remembering Dr Jim Ford

Jim Ford was a founder member of OPSTA (Ormskirk Preston & Southport Travellers Assn) or OPTA (Ormskirk Preston Travellers Assn) as it was originally constituted. He’d certainly been at meetings ever since I joined and that must be 30 years+ and counting.

Jim was an interesting man and you could not but like him. I’ve heard him described as an ideas man and that fits him well.

I last met him only days before he died when we had an OPSTA Committee meeting in his Southport garden surrounded by his model railway. Little did we know then that Jim would have what proved to be a fatal heart attack and die on 16th September following heart surgery.

Jim was a medical doctor specialising in occupational health and on one occasion earlier this year he described himself as the Clinical Directed and his dear wife Fiona as the Clinical Director, yes Fiona’s a doctor too.

He was very much a politician, being a member of the Labour Party but he was far from being tribal about his politics and would bend the ear of any colour of politician to make his often telling points about local railway matters. He specialised in making Freedom of Information requests to find out what some public bodies would rather not publicise. I recall him being very supportive of John Pugh the former Lib Dem MP for Southport whom he clearly had a bit of a soft spot for. His comments about John, at least in my Liberal earshot, were always positive.

On one occasion we were having an OPSTA meeting in the Heaton’s Bridge Pub and I’d ordered a pint of one of my favourite tipples – Morrhouses Black Cat. To my embarrassment, I then realised I’d left my wallet at home! Jim immediately stepped in and paid; that was the kind of chap he was.

There are some lovely tributes to Jim in the latest edition of the OPSTA magazine Connexion, see scan above. I’ll miss engaging in conversation with him about trains and politics. RIP JIm