Sefton Borough – Back to the old days & ways!

The East Parishes (Park, Sudell and Molyneux wards) of this Merseyside Borough played second fiddle (or even 3rd) to the coastal communities – Bootle, Crosby, Formby & Southport – from day one of the Borough’s creation in 1974. And after a period when this injustice was righted it seems that the old way of doing things in Sefton has been adopted again.

I raise this as things have been stirring in the Labour Party grasses in recent times as some of their East Parishes Borough and indeed Parish Councillors have found themselves at odds with the Labour-run Borough. It’s led, as far as I can see, to 3 Labour Borough councillors either leaving, being chucked out or deselected.

Obviously, I don’t know the detail of the troubles as I’m not a Labour member and indeed am an opponent of Labour as a Social Liberal of the left. However, recent events have brought me to the conclusion that things have reverted to how they were before I set about changing things back in 1999.

I won a seat on Sefton Council in 1999 in Molyneux ward and it did not take me long to realise that Sefton was all about its coastal communities and the East Parishes were just a bit of an irritant. My view was that this approach was both within the political parties and senior officers of the Council too; it looked to me like settled opinion and nothing would move it, or so it seemed. And then via a run of unrelated political events something that had never happened before took place – a Sefton Council Leader was elected from the East Parishes and it was me! Well if this was not the time to rebalance the Borough then it would never happen.

So I set about challenging the old political and senior officer outlook and at every opportunity banged away along the lines of ‘and what about the East Parishes’ when proposals came forward that excluded them. This approach slowly turned around the oil tanker that was Sefton Council and as a consequence we got Meadows Leisure Centre built and opened in 2010. I think I got what was then a balanced council (no political party with a majority) to look at the East Parishes as an equal partner. However, I stood down as Council Leader in May 2011 having done the job since 2004 and it did not take long for the old ways to start to regain traction. This happened because the Council was going back to the days of its leaders coming from one of the Borough’s political power bases (these had always been Bootle or Southport) and ever since I’ve felt the influence of the East Parishes slipping away. I would add that it was never my wish to make the East Parishes dominant, just simply to ensure they got their fair share.

I ‘left’ Sefton Council in 2015 at the invitation of the Park ward electorate (I’d moved East Parishes wards in 2011) as they’d had enough of me but that movement, back to the old ways, has sadly gained even more traction since and its the cause of the present difficulties. In my view, the 3 East Parishes wards need Borough Councillors who are a pain in the leadership’s neck otherwise the area will not be heard. It may well have taken rather too long for this penny to drop again but clearly, it has now! However, the big problem that the areas 9 Borough Councillors face now is that they don’t have the advantage which I did. That advantage was the then balanced council where the 9 (then Lib Dem members) could be an effective awkward squad with one being the Council Leader!

I wish those who are challenging not only Sefton Council but the political leaders of their own former party well and I hope they find a way to recreate the kind of rebalancing of the Borough that I managed back in the day.

Maghull/Ormskirk – Cracking 1960s railway photos & beautiful paintings

The other day I had a chance meeting with a fellow Flickr user/photographer, formally residing in Maghull and back visiting relatives, and it led to me being able to make this posting.

Via my encounter, I found out that they’d commissioned two paintings of the local railway scene in the 1960s as a visible reminder of those happy days growing up in the steam era.

The paintings have been created from two of their own original photos of Liverpool Exchange to Glasgow trains. Here are the photos and paintings, first at Maghull, then at Ormskirk:-

If you’d like to see more 1960s/steam era photos have a look at this link to their Flickr photo album:-

www.flickr.com/photos/filmanddigital/albums/72157692716023844

I think readers of this posting will agree that both the original black and white photos and indeed the paintings are of the highest quality so you’ll not be at all surprised that I asked for permission to share them. I am, of course, delighted that my request met with agreement.

Notes – Please click on each photo/painting to enlarge for viewing. You’ll notice a couple of subtle additions to the Ormskirk painting. If you only want to look at old images from Maghull, just type in Maghull Railway Station or Maghull North in the box at top right-hand side of the Flickr link marked ‘Photo’s, people or groups’, to which there are 14 assorted images. The images are all under “creative commons licence”. Therefore, if anyone wants to download them for their own personal use, they are free, but for commercial use, a fee must be agreed in advance!

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.

Maghull/Lydiate – Cycling the A59/Northway

This is a subject I’ve blogged about quite a few times previously. It’s one where progress is being made yet some confusion seems to surround it (as well as some significant gaps) so I’ve taken up a number of queries with Sefton Council once again. Here’s the current situation as I understand it to be:-

Starting at Switch Island the cycle path/track has been upgraded over almost all of the stretch to the traffic-lighted junction with Liverpool Road South (Alt Junction) yet odd things have clearly not been done. There’s a stretch of maybe 100 yards over the River Alt where the track/path has not been widened yet either side of this isolated stretch has been. Moving towards the Liverpool Road Sth junction there’s no signage showing cyclists how to safely cross L’pool Rd Sth to access the safe cycling route (or for drivers to be aware too) along the service road to reach Hall Lane junction.

When you reach the Hall Ln junction, having used the service road, again there’s no signage for cyclists to access the recently widened footpath/shared pedestrian/cycle space northwards towards the newly rebuilt Damfield Lane junction. Indeed, there are no signs to say that the widened path is indeed a shared pedestrian/cycling space.

Looking southwards towards Maghull Town Hall/Hall Lane junction with the new and widened shared space path.

There’s presently no cycle track/path north of the Damfield Ln junction to the Westway junction so we’ll leave that section out for now pending Sefton Council finding the resources to provide such.

North of the Westway junction there is a safe cycling route, again using the A59/Northway service road, to the Dodds Ln junction and beyond that but not as far as the Kenyons Ln junction so there’s another missing link. An aside here is that a traffic engineer tells me that they’ve tried to tweak the traffic lights at this junction so that the pressure pads better recognise cyclists.

Kenyons Ln junction

North of the Kenyons Ln junction, again there’s no safe cycle facility to the next junction at Robins Island, however, whether I like it or not (and I don’t) the agricultural land abutting this section of the A59/Northway (known locally as ‘Tyson’s Triangle’) is to have a new housing estate built upon it. However, the silver lining here is that it throws up the distinct possibility of Sefton Council being able to negotiate with the developers via what is termed a Section 106 agreement. It means the developer will need to pay for some local infrastructure improvements and I’ve thrown my two penneth in along the lines of some of that money being used to create a safe cycling route between Kenyons Ln and Robins Island. I’ve also asked Sefton Council to extend the cycle path, which is already in place north of Robins Island, back into Liverpool Road so that cyclists are no longer forced to use either the pavement or Robins Island. This is really a minor piece of work but it will make a significant difference for cyclists.

So there you have it. The goodish news is that I’ve been able to engage in a dialogue with some of the traffic/highway engineers at Sefton Council to discuss these issues and I’m pleased to say that we seem to be on a similar agenda. Indeed, I was delighted when one of the engineers told me that he is a fellow cyclist so he clearly understands things from a cyclist’s perspective.

I don’t know how long it will be before there’s a clearly built and signed cycle track/path alongside the whole of the A59/Northway corridor from Switch Island to the West Lancashire boundary, which is just north of Robins Island, but I’m more hopeful than I have been for a long time that the campaign to have it constructed is making slow if steady progress.

More news when I have it.

Maghull – New Damfield Ln/A59 junction under pedestrian fire

I commented on this newly traffic-lighted junction back in April referencing it to Maghull’s ‘Berlin Wall’ i.e. the A59 which splits the town in half and makes getting from one side to the other on foot or on a cycle hard going. Here’s a link back to that previous posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/04/11/cycling-and-crossing-maghulls-berlin-wall/

And here’s a photo I took back in April whilst the new junction was being constructed:-

Firstly, let me say that that this junction really did need upgrading as there have been some really bad accidents associated with it. After completion, I tried crossing it from the western side by bike and I found it OK as the pedestrian phase accommodates cyclists too and unlike the newish ‘Alt’ junction the route is direct.

I thought no more of it until I approached the junction from the south by car wanting to take the Damfield Road slip road to Liverpool Road North. What immediately struck me was that the traffic lights guarding the pedestrian crossing over this slip road have a shroud/filter over them so that drivers don’t confuse them with the new junction traffic lights. The trouble is you can’t see what these shrouded lights are showing until you are quite close to them. Couple this with vehicles leaving the A59 at high speed and I wondered if things were set up safely. Those thoughts lay there until the other day a Maghull resident raised the very same issues with me and indeed other local councillors.

It is the red outlined traffic lights which are difficult to see until drivers are on top of them.

So there you have it. Beware of the pedestrian crossing over the slip Road at this junction as it certainly concerns both myself and another local resident who has told me that ‘In my own case I have now opted to resume taking my grandchildren to school over the footbridge as a safer albeit more time-consuming option.’ Let’s hope Sefton Council reviews the set-up of this new junction as a matter of urgency.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Today would have been Uncle Albert’s 100th birthday

My good friend Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker at Birkenhead Tramway Museum next to a restored Wallasey tram that he rode on as a boy.

If my dear Uncle Albert had made it he would have been 100 today; frankly many of us who knew him well very much expected him to make the milestone but sadly it did not come to pass and my obituary from 2017 is linked below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/01/11/goodbye-uncle-albert/

I don’t really commemorate such anniversaries but I make an exception in Uncle Albert’s case because he was exceptional. A man whom I did not get to know until he was 74 became a very close friend indeed and I loved being in his company. He was funny, cheeky, well informed, and had led a fascinating life which he loved to tell folks about. All you had to do was to sit down and listen to him and take in his wartime and wider experiences and you learned so much. His mind seemed to be one of a young man which was open to learning more and he was able to make friends with anyone he came across. I never met anyone who did not like Charles Walker – Uncle Albert was his nickname which many of his friends used.

I still miss him terribly as I could run things past him, seek his advice, and as I said before learn from his wide range of experiences.

Andrew Blackburn and I would tease him unmercifully about him being the living embodiment of the part played by Buster Merryfield in Only Fools and Horses and he loved it. Indeed, he even changed his name badge at a conference we attended with him to ‘Uncle Albert’!

Happy Birthday Uncle Albert; I know you’re not looking down on me as I’m an atheist and don’t do heaven and earth. However, the other big tease we had with Charles was that if he went anywhere it would be downwards due to the terrible and very rude RAF songs he would occasionally launch into! The first time he did it was on a car journey with Andrew Beattie (who sadly passed on in 1999), Andrew Blackburn, and myself. To say we were taken aback is putting it mildly but the 4 of us became very firm friends from that day onward – we knew we’d come across a right one!

Note – Charles lived in Poverty Lane Maghull from 1960 until his death and was a Maghull Town Councillor for 15 years or more up to the age of 90. He was originally from the Wirral but had also lived in Bootle. His daughter Carole, son-in-law Phil, grandsons, David, Michael, and their families are today holding an online quiz in his memory as he loved to attend the quizzes that were once a weekly fixture of Maghull Town Hall.