Aughton – Beware the presently closed footpaths

Folk walking around Aughton enjoying the local footpath network need to be aware that a number of public footpaths in Aughton Civil Parish are presently closed due to major works that are being undertaken there by United Utilities contractors who are laying a new pipeline.

This is a long ongoing project affecting a huge area. Here’s an example of a notice from Lancashire County Council about part of the closed footpath network:-

The notice was at the beginning of a footpath in Brookfield Lane, Aughton which goes across the fields, over the the Liverpool – Ormskirk railway line (via Bowkers Green Pedestrian Level Crossing)and on to Mickering Lane.

Emergency Services – Austerity causes innovative and welcome/unwelcome thinking

We are all sick and tired of austerity which has in effect been inflicted upon us as a consequence ‘casino banking’ and the subsequent financial crash. And yes it has caused great harm to the public services we all rely on.

But one, maybe the only positive consequence is that public services which for years have operated in glorious isolation from each other have had to look at innovative solutions to service delivery. Basing ambulances in fire stations or other similar solutions that bring together sometimes all 3 emergency services under one roof is an example.

Having said that the principle is good I was personally not supportive of the local solution which put ambulances, once based in Lydiate, in a fire station in Netherton. I wanted the Lydiate Ambulance Station and Maghull Police station merged onto the Maghull Police Station site but sadly no one was listening and the joined up thinking was not joined up as the Police were separately (and seemingly in glorious isolation) planning to shut down Maghull Police Station and sell off the land…….

But another innovative solution to service delivery is just up the road from my Lydiate home in neighbouring Aughton where the local Police Station is actually on Town Green Railway Station’s Liverpool bound platform. See photo below:-

As for Maghull the Police Station, we are told, it is going to occupy space within Maghull Town Hall. This may well have been a welcome and innovative solution if it had not meant the loss of the Town’s only surviving publicly funded youth facility. Plus that facility also doubled up to house the Town’s CAB but that has also now gone and a joint community the size of Maghull/Lydiate now sadly has no CAB.

So readers will understand why I am not at all happy with Maghull/Lydiate’s rather unwelcome public service delivery ‘solutions’. When the move of the Police Station to Maghull Town Hall will actually happen we don’t presently know as all has gone quiet on the matter.

Great divides? Community boundaries – Mean a lot, mean a little?

I have often pondered on boundaries especially those associated with local government. What forms a boundary, why was it chosen and who chose it?

Here are two boundaries close to my Lydiate home. One is with Maghull and the other with Aughton:-

Maghull Brook - On the left Lydiate (and me) - on the right Maghull.

Maghull Brook – On the left Lydiate (and me) – on the right Maghull.

Sudell Brook - On the left Lydiate - on the right Aughton

Sudell Brook – On the left Lydiate – on the right Aughton

In both cases the boundary is obviously a stream and this can often be the case with local government boundaries where watercourses have been chosen to divide communities up.

The boundary between Maghull and Lydiate simply divides the two Civil Parishes of Lydiate and Maghull and the only real obvious difference this creates is the amount of Council tax or Precept that the residents of these two communities pay to either Lydiate Parish Council or Maghull Town Council. Both Civil Parishes are in Sefton Borough and both are a part of the Liverpool City Region/Merseyside.

The Lydiate – Aughton boundary is of far greater significance though as it is all but an invisible barrier rather than a boundary because Aughton Civil Parish is in West Lancashire Borough and the County of Lancashire. The world does not look any different on either side of Sudell Brook but in fact it is as the Sefton Borough – West Lancashire boundary has, since 1974, become a local government barrier. Why you can almost hear senior council officers saying ‘we are a Metropolitan Borough [Sefton] and they are just a County’ and of course the reverse will apply too. Sadly, whilst I may well be exaggerating here the reality is that since 1974, in local government terms, Sefton’s communities and those in West Lancashire have mainly planned for their futures in glorious isolation – a great divide indeed.

Considering the massive boundary between West Lancashire and Sefton you would think there would be a huge amount of cross-border co-operation and planning for the joint communities. You would think so but I assure you there is not.

I recall during my time as Leader of Sefton Council I went to Ormskirk to meet the Leader of West Lancs Council to try to kick-start closer working relationships but it seems that those who followed us have not developed things further. What sense does separate transport planning in the two Boroughs make? Environmental protection issues must be similar surely? Health issues surely do not stop at a stream do they? Why we even have an NHS Hospital Trust on split between Southport and Ormskirk either side of the great divide.

I recall when Sefton and West Councils were planning for building on the Green Belt and on the highest grade of agricultural land in England that I started to ask questions about how closely the two two planning departments were sharing and consulting each other. The answers I got were hardly an example of close cooperation in my eyes and I wondered if the contact was little more that phone calls with one side saying ‘we are doing X’, ‘well we are doing y’, ‘OK speak again next year maybe’.

The bottom line is that Merseyside and Lancashire are very different worlds in local government terms. Is this something that is hammered into local government officers from an early age akin to religious indoctrination? Whatever the case it is very much to the disadvantage of communities which are near to a significant local government boundary in my view.

North West Development Agency (NWDA) gone but not forgotten on an Aughton grass verge

The NWDA was abolished by the Coalition Government some 5 years ago. It was a quango giving out Government cash towards worthy infrastructure/economy developing causes across the north west of England.

Like most quangos it was not much loved and few will have mourned or even noticed its demise. So what brings it to mind now?

Well walking along the busy A59 in Aughton, literally on the Sefton/West Lancashire boundary I found this lying in the grass verge:-

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It’s glass plaque on a stone plinth saying that a project was supported by the NWDA. So what was the project? It took us a couple of minutes to work it out but it seems it must have been the gateway planting of trees and shrubs on the Sefton – West Lancs boundary. I wonder how that project will have driven the West Lancs economy forward?

Aughton – Getting rather sheepish, or not?

There’s something rather odd about the sheep in a field off a certain lane in Aughton – they don’t move! Well not under their own steam anyway.

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Click on the photo to enlarge it

Who are Ewe looking at? – Well I don’t know – looks like a sheep, stands like a sheep but it’s not a sheep.

Bleating? – Not a sound even when being worried.

Fleeced? – How much is too much to pay for an ornamental sheep?

The photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Aughton – A trip up Christ Church Bell Tower

It's a long way up!

Sheila, Keith, Jan and I took the opportunity last Saturday to climb up to the top of Christ Church Bell Tower to see some spectacular views across Lancashire and Merseyside. The tower and church were open as part of the free Heritage Open Days opportunities to see things that are not normally open to the public.

The narrow spiral 107 steps

The narrow spiral 107 steps

The Church sits at the highest point in Aughton so climbing all the 107 steps to the top of the tower afforded a great vista.

Wooden plaque from 1945 in bell ringing room

Wooden plaque from 1945 in bell ringing room

What’s more we were also given a lesson in church bell ringing and got to have a go at it! Pity the poor residents living nearby though as we pulled a rather odd tune! Keith had real trouble getting his clanger going but that’s another story!

Looking down hill towards Ormskirk

Looking down hill towards Ormskirk

Looking in the direction of Southport.

Looking in the direction of Southport.

We had a great time and there were a lot of folks taking the opportunity to climb the tower. Thanks to the church for giving us the chance to see our local environment/area from a very different perspective.

The second and 4th photos are also on my Flickr site at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/