Sefton & West Lancs – Encounters on a bike ride

It was a beautiful day for a bike ride yesterday so I set off from my Lydiate home through Maghull, Melling, Simmonswood, Aughton and Downholland back into Lydiate. It was a ride of just over 12 miles but quite a bit happened along the way.

Firstly, a van overtook me whilst I was negotiating the roundabout by the new Maghull North Station and the Poppy Fields housing development. To say the van was too close is putting it mildly; less than half a meter from me I would guess when the recommended amount of space to leave around a cyclist when overtaking them is 1.5m! Fortunately, the name of the firm was on the truck so when I stopped I Tweeted the Preston-based company asking them to advise their driver not to put cyclists at risk by driving so close to them.

Then I went down Spurriers Lane, which turns into Outlet Lane when it leaves Melling Parish and enters Simmonswood Parish in West Lancs. I had a brief look at the hugely controversial caravan site off the beginning of Spurriers Lane, near Carla Lane Animal Centre, and saw 4 or 5 caravans on it. My recollection is that the Champion newspaper recently reported that Sefton Council is having the landowner return the land back to its original condition as the development does not have planning permission. There was no sign of remedial works taking place.

I pressed on down Spurriers and into Outlet Lane and then a dog encounter, which I have never had before down that particular lane. I stopped a good 20 yards from the two dogs that were running free in the lane and retreated. The problem is you never know as a cyclist what dogs running free will do so its best to avoid them. Even friendly dogs can jump up and knock a cyclist off causing injury. When I stopped later for a brew in Town Green I e-mailed the West Lancs Dog Warden asking them to speak to the owners about keeping their dogs under control and I await a response. I also Tweeted the company of the too close van as mentioned above and I await their response too.

Then it was up and over Clieves Hill and what a view it was on a lovely sunny winters day. I also encountered the volunteer litter picker who often cleans up at this local beauty spot. Regular readers of this blog site will recall that I posted a while back about my encounter up there with a West Lancs Council litter cleaner who told me how bad the littering was and that there was a chap who did some volunteer litter picking. Well, I’ve now met the chap and we had a good chat about the mucky buggers who create so much mess in and around this lovely spot.

Down the hill into Downholland and I find myself approaching the Green Lane/Eagar Lane canal swing bridge over the Leeds Liverpool Canal but there were workmen on it and the bridge had clearly been closed. It soon became apparent why – one of the safety barriers had snapped off in the high winds as always seems to happen at this exposed spot. Indeed, the barrier was in the canal and was being fished out by contractors working on behalf of the Canal & River Trust. A narrow boat was waiting to get through the bridge and it was able to whilst I was there as the work had been completed and a new barrier is on order. Here’s a couple of shots of the activity around the bridge:-

Snapped off bridge barrier being hauled out of the canal

Narrow Boat at Eagar Lane canal swing bridge after bridge is reopened

Quite a lot of things going on on one short bike ride around Sefton and West Lancs.

Aughton – Gorse Hill Nature Reserve

www.facebook.com/events/227208221377516/?notif_t=event_calendar_create&notif_id=1526975458190728

An event there on 3rd June is advertised on the Reserve’s Facebook Page – see link above

I have walked some of the public footpaths through this nature reserve in the past and a pleasant area it is too.

There will be a free guided walk on 3rd June to parts of the Reserve not normally open to the public from 1 pm to 2.30 pm under the the theme ‘Contrasting Woodlands’. Access to the reserve is via Holly Lane.

The reserve is run by the Northwest Ecological Trust and their web site can be accessed via this link:-

nwecotrust.org.uk/

Maghull – Returning to the condition of Millbank Lane

I have posted previously about the state of the road surface in Millbank Lane. My last relevant posting is available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/11/23/maghull-lydiate-last-nights-rain-storms/

Without rehearsing too much the history of this lane and how land owners have some significant responsibility for the maintenance of the road surface the situation seems to be like this. Because the lane is a public right of way Sefton Council does have some responsibility for the surface to be in reasonable condition for pedestrians. The responsibility for the lane being suitable for vehicles is definitely with the land owners of this unadopted road.

What has now happened is that Sefton Council has taken some action to try to repair the worst of the potholes where they affect pedestrian access. I understand that at the same time the relevant land owners have been reminded that it is their responsibility to provide a surface suitable for vehicles.

Sadly the stones that Sefton have put into the ruts seem to have been churned out by vehicles or at least that’s what I’m guessing has happened. The photo’s below were taken on 28th January:-

And the next photo is interesting! You can hardly read it as it’s buried in a hawthorn hedge just inside the Maghull/Sefton Borough boundary as you cross over Sudell Brook into the Town from Aughton/West Lancs. It says ‘Lancashire County Council – Private Road – Public Footpath Only’

The sign must therefore predate local government reorganisation in 1974 as it is in Sefton not Lancashire. The things you find when out and about.

Cheshire Lines Path/Trans Pennine trail through West Lancashire

It’s many years now since the Cheshire Lines Path was created on the trackbed of the old Cheshire Lines and Southport Extension Railway and of course it subsequently became a part of the Trans Pennine Trail.

Sadly the part of the Path/Trail through the Great Altcar part of West Lancashire has not been maintained and the surface is now rough and narrow considering that it is for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The photo above illustrates one particular part of the path where agricultural vehicles regularly cross over it – this particular site is the extension to Cabin Lane off Altcar Lane in Great Altcar. After the recent heavy rain it’s a horrible muddy mess for walkers and cyclists.

Yes I know austerity will have played into the lack of maintenance but in reality the decline in the surface well predates the financial crash. In terms of cycle riding areas of the path are now only really suitable for mountain bikes in my view. I fear that if something is not done reasonably soon this long distance path is going to be compromised such that folks will stop using it especially in the winter months.

I have made my views known to those who have responsibility for the path in the hopes of some plan to redress the decline.

Click on the photo to enlarge it

My thanks to Champion Newspapers for publishing an article based on this blog posting on 7th February

Ormskirk – That Gingerbread Town in West Lancs

A packet of Ormskirk Gingerbread

I posted a while back (May 2016) about the market town of Ormskirk and made reference to it being famous for Gingerbread. That posting can be accessed via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/05/01/ormskirk-end-of-the-line-well-end-of-two-lines-actually/

Quote from my previous posting – ‘The market town of Ormskirk (famous for its gingerbread and for having a very rare Parish Church with both a tower and a steeple) nestles in a rather awkward spot sandwiched between Preston, Southport, Liverpool, Skelmersdale and Wigan.’

Well there I was recently standing outside M&S Ormskirk wondering about the large gingerbread man outside the store when I caught sight of this poster:-

And the Community Partnership web site which promotes the connection between Ormskirk and gingerbread can be accessed via the link below:-

www.ormskirkcp.org.uk/gingerbread-project

Nice to see that an important part of Ormskirk’s history is being celebrated.

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.