Seaside Villages, Industrial Landscapes and the City of Liverpool – The Wirral and the Mersey Estuary

The stretch of coastline covered in this article borders the Wirral Peninsula and the Mersey estuary, including the port city of Liverpool. It starts at the England/Wales border on the Dee estuary close to Chester, and ends at Bootle, a port town located on the northern outskirts of Liverpool.

This section of the English coastline begins at the England/Wales border, which is located on the eastern side of the Dee estuary, at the most south-western extent of the Wirral peninsula. The coast along the eastern side of the Dee estuary is mainly characterised by extensive marshland, that gradually turns to sand flats, as it reaches the mouth of the River Dee, at the northern end of the Wirral peninsula. This side of the Wirral is generally rather picturesque; areas of rural farmland are interspersed with several residential seaside villages, including Little Neston and Parkgate. To the north of these settlements, Thurstaston Beach lines the coastline – this is a beautiful, sandy beach that is backed by a row of low cliffs.

The town of West Kirby is located at the north-western extent of the Wirral peninsula, where the Dee estuary meets the Irish Sea. As well as containing a selection of pubs and independent shops, this tranquil and picturesque seaside town is known for its Marine Lake, a vast man-made marina that was constructed on the tidal sand flats. From the town’s quay, great views of the North Wales coastline can be seen, as well as Hilbre Island. This small rocky island is located close to the boundary between the Dee estuary and the Irish Sea, and can be accessed by foot during low tide [1].

The coastline on the north side of the Wirral also consists of large sandflats stretching out to sea during low tide. East of the small seaside villages of Hoylake and Meols is the North Wirral Coastal Park, which includes sand dunes and a large expanse of greenery that includes grassland and woodland. Here, Leasowe lighthouse stands out amongst its green surroundings – built in 1763, this is the oldest brick-built lighthouse in Britain. The seaside town of New Brighton is located at the north-eastern corner of the Wirral – as well as a fun fair and a large amusement arcade, a large fortress dominates the seafront. Built between 1826 and 1829, Fort Perch Rock was intended to defend the Merseyside ports, which were by then becoming a burgeoning industrial area, from the threat of invasion [2]. Travelling down the eastern side of the Wirral, from New Brighton to Birkenhead, great views of Liverpool can be seen across the Mersey estuary.

With its large docks and ferry ports, the town of Birkenhead is an important industrial hub. Although its industrial activity has declined over the last few decades, many warehouses continue to exist, and a large shipbuilding facility still exists today. In fact, industrial activity is still maintained down the eastern side of the Wirral, with docks, chemical storage facilities and factories being fairly common between Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port. However, a few pockets of relative tranquillity exist along the western and southern side of the Mersey estuary, including the seaside village of New Ferry, Eastham Country Park, and the Ince Banks marshland to the east of Ellesmere Port. The marshland ends at the port town of Runcorn, which also marks the head of the Mersey estuary.

The north and east sides of the estuary are bordered by the port city of Liverpool, its suburbs and some rural marshy landscapes towards the head of the Mersey estuary. However, this rural area is rather short-lived – travelling towards Liverpool, the estuary is bordered by Liverpool John Lennon Airport, and the port town of Garston, with its docks and numerous warehouses. However, sandwiched between the two is Speke Hall – overlooking the Mersey, this old manor house dates back to the Tudor times, and contains a beautiful garden and luscious woodland [3].

As previously mentioned, the large and historic port city of Liverpool dominates the majority of this side of the Mersey estuary. The coastline along the city, up to the port town of Bootle, is characterised extensively by docks, some of which are used today for recreational purposes, but others that are still in action today for trade and industrial usage. The large number of docks is a relic of Liverpool’s historical importance – at the beginning of the 19th Century, 40% of global trade passed through Liverpool’s docks. However, while the docks near the city centre were once used for industrial activity, they have since been regenerated and hence form a vital part of Liverpool’s leisure and tourism industries. Liverpool Marina is located within a dock that was converted into a recreational harbour – many yachts are moored here, and the marina itself is lined with modern apartments [4]. Other tourist amenities also attract visitors, including a large Ferris wheel, a convention centre, hotels and restaurants.

An important historical attraction along the Liverpool docklands is the Royal Albert Dock. A key centre of international trade in the 19th Century, this iconic dock, and its surrounding Victorian warehouses, are a huge draw for visitors alike, and are seen as one of the symbols of Liverpool. Since their refurbishment in the 1980s, the warehouses around the Albert Docks are used for restaurants, bars and live entertainment venues [5]. Other landmarks are located along Pier Head, the name given to the promenade that runs along the Mersey estuary in the centre of Liverpool. These include the historic Liver Building – towering above the rest of the Liverpool docklands, this is another symbol of the city, which today contains a museum and a look-out tower that provides extensive views of the city and across the Mersey [6].

The Mersey estuary carries on further north for another 5km (3 miles) – as it does so, the docks along the coastline become less recreational and are instead increasingly used for industrial and trade purposes. At the port of Bootle, located on the outskirts of Liverpool, not only are the docks larger in size, but they are lined by warehouses and other industrial units. A more modern-style large container port is in operation as well – known as the Royal Seaforth container port – this facility allows many goods to be imported from overseas. An extension to this container port, which was named ‘Liverpool2’, opened in 2016. This shows that, even to this day, the Mersey estuary remains very important for British trade. This section of the coastline also sits at the mouth of the Mersey estuary – in other words, the point at which the coastline starts to border the Irish Sea.



[1] https://www.visitwirral.com/explore/towns-and-villages/west-kirby

[2] http://www.fortperchrock.org/Fort_Perch_Rock/Home.html

[3] https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/speke-hall-garden-and-estate

[4] https://www.liverpoolmarina.com/

[5] https://albertdock.com/history

[6] https://rlb360.com/




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