Local people targeting success in the Wirral
- Credit: Archant
There’s nothing insular about this peninsula. The Wirral has several towns and villages well worth a visit. Here are some of our favourite people and places
Longbow Events, Birkenhead
A specialist shop in Birkenhead is on target to be the largest of its kind in Europe. Jason Powell opened the shop three years ago after seeing the success of his online business shoot beyond his expectations. He now sells traditional archery equipment to people on the Wirral and by mail order to customers across the world.
‘It was a hobby that got out of hand,’ Jason said. ‘I had a go and fell in love with the sport straight away. I started making my own stuff, and then got good and made some kit for other people and before long I had a waiting list and I realised I could make a business out of it.
‘What sets our shop apart is that we’re not a modern archery dealership, we specialise in traditional archery equipment. Archery is on the up for sure, especially traditional archery. There are eight clubs on the Wirral and loads more around Cheshire so there are lots more bows and arrows around now than even a few years ago. We started beginners courses in the shop last year and they’re full every month.’
Among Jason’s customers is Dave Peters of Pensby, the current Cheshire field archery champion, who said: ‘I thought it was very bold of Jason to take on the shop in the financial climate but he’s made it work and has gone from strength to strength. He has a lot of traditional longbow equipment and if he hasn’t got something in, he’ll find it for you.’
Dave first fired an arrow at a game fair on the Wirral and was instantly hooked. That was about 20 years ago and since then his whole family have been involved in the sport – before she left for university daughter Vicky came third twice in the national championships.
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Dave competes in a range of disciplines over a variety of distances from five yards with a tiny target up to 180 yards. ‘I am currently a grand master bowman,’ he said. ‘That places in me in the top one per cent in the country. There are three or four grand master bowmen in Cheshire and a handful of master bowmen too, so the sport is very strong in Cheshire.
‘I think in recent years there has been a move away from the recurve bow and all its bits – that’s the type they use in the Olympics. People seem to be going back to the more simple longbow where there’s nothing else to blame but yourself if you miss the target.’
Holy Cross Church, Woodchurch
There has been a church at Woodchurch since at least the ninth century but exactly when the first worshippers gathered here has been lost in the mists of time. Now, Mike Hendry is hoping to clear those mists and reveal the history of the Grade Two* listed Holy Cross Church.
Mike, a retired website company manager, has been researching the church’s past for a couple of months and is determined to uncover its history – especially after he was told it’s unlikely he’ll manage it. ‘A certain amount is known about the church, back to about 1571 and I have been told that I won’t find out much before that, so that was like a red rag to a bull,’ he said. ‘It’s early days yet, I’ve only been researching the church for a few weeks but I have made some progress.’
Mike moved to Woodchurch in the late 1980s but had only visited the church on a couple of occasions until a conversation with the church secretary earlier this year.
‘It’s a very small church but I’d not been in the church and really looked at it and I didn’t really take much notice of it but when I was talking to the church secretary a switch went on in my head. I felt compelled to research the history of the church. Since I went in after that conversation the building has drawn me back again and again. I have been in churches for various reasons in the past and none has had the pull of this one.
‘I feel I have to do what I can, wherever it takes me, just to help the church. I’m not coming at this from a religious aspect at all, but I do think these buildings are very important parts of our history and we should do all we can to preserve them. It is quite easy to forget little places like this but they are part of our history. The church is a little gem and it needs money to maintain it so I hope that by finding out more about its history I will be able to raise awareness of the building and raise money for its upkeep.’
Mike is sharing his findings with a Friends of Holy Cross Church group on Facebook and he added: ‘The church is made up of various eras and there is a ninth century Celtic cross incorporated into the chancel wall which is a fascinating artefact. I see something new every time I go in.
‘It may have had druid roots but there was definitely a religious settlement on this site for several years before the church was built in the late 900s. It is very difficult to pinpoint the dates. The nave was built in the 1200s, the southern aisle in 1584 and the most recent addition was the northern aisle which was built in the mid-1960s. Standing inside the church it’s possible to see the different eras.’
The Wirral is packed with towns and villages well worth visiting, here are four of our favourites
Where it is: Hoylake sits on the northwestern corner of the Wirral peninsula, on the A553. The centre is a short walk from Hoylake and Manor Road stations
Where to park: There is plenty of free on-street parking and some car parks around Hoylake too
What to do: The eyes of the world were on Hoylake in July when Rory McIlroy won the Open at the Royal Liverpool Golf Course. It’s a bit quieter there now meaning you can walk on the beach and enjoy great views and stunning sunsets in peace. Be careful on the beach though, these sands are one of the best spots in the UK for sandyachting. Back on solid ground, there are a number of restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes to choose from and the village is developing a reputation as a centre of the arts.
Where it is: The village of Parkgate sits on the B5135 close to Neston
Where to park: There is plenty of on-street parking available
What to do: If you do like to be beside the seaside, make the most of your day out by enjoying the coastal views and tasting the ice cream the locals are (rightly) so proud of. This is a great spot for walking, cycling and bird watching too – the Dee estuary is home to a range of birds and other wildlife. And if it’s a bit chilly for all that, there are shops, pubs and restaurants to warm up in.
Where it is: Heswall is on the A540 a couple of miles west of j4 on the M53. The railway station is a short walk from the centre.
Where to park: The pay and display car park on Pye Road is close to shops and restaurants
What to do: Venues around Heswall will host Oxjam this month, part of the UK’s biggest ever charity music festival which will see more than 40 acts perform on Saturday October 18. Oxjam is a music festival made up of hundreds of events around the UK, all organized to raise money for Oxfam. In Heswall there will be a diverse range of acts from indie to acoustic to ukelele to some of the Wirral’s favourite DJs.
Where it is: West Kirby can be reached by the A540 or by the B5139 off the M53. Rail…
Where to park: Dee Lane car park
What to do: Trek across the Dee Estuary at low tide to three islands – Little Eye, Middle Eye and Hilbre – for bird-watching or seal-spotting. Hilbre is also home to a telegraph station which an exhibition explains more about the wildlife and history of the island. On your return trip you can look forward to sampling the delights on offer at the town’s 15 restaurants and four pubs.
For the more adventurous walkers or cyclists, the Wirral Way begins in the town, following the old railway track 12 miles to Hooton and offering majestic views of the Dee estuary and the local countryside.
Check tide times before you visit Hilbre. Call Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371 or see the notice board beside the Marine Lake in West Kirby.
Four more to visit
Make sure these are on your itinerary next time you head to the Wirral
Ness Botanic Gardens, which are owned and managed by the University of Liverpool, have wonderful views across the Dee estuary and are home to impressive collections of rare and important plants. There is a varied programme of activities and events as well as courses, workshops, tours and exhibitions.
There’s plenty to see and do in Port Sunlight, the model village built by the Lever brothers for workers in their soap factory. Chief among the treasures is the Lady Lever Art Gallery which houses collections of paintings, sculpture and furniture,
Caldy Hill is one of the highest points on the Wirral peninsula and from the top you’ll be able to see across the Dee Estuary to Hilbre Island, Snowdonia, Blackpool and the Pennines and on a very clear day you may even see as far as the Lake District and the Isle of Man. And at the summit of the nearby Thurstaston Hill you’ll find the enigmatic Thor’s Stone which is shrouded in legend.
Wirral Country Park, which opened in 1973, was the first designated country park in the UK and is great for walking, cycling and horse riding. Wirral also has five Local Nature Reserves – Bidston Moss, Dibbinsdale, Heswall Dales, Hilbre Island and Thurstaston Common – and plenty of parks; Eastham Country Park, Arrowe Country Park and Wirral Country Park are three of the most notable.
Where to stay on the Wirral
There are scores of great hotels, guest houses and self catering places to stay in Wirral offering all kinds of accommodation, from cheap and cheerful to the lap of luxury. You’ll find lots of information online at visitwirral.com, but here are three of our favourites.
The five star Hillbark Hotel and Spa sits in 250 acres of parkland at Frankby and has views across the Dee estuary. It is a beautiful building with 18 en-suite bedrooms, two classy restaurants and a host of awards.
Inglewood Manor at Ledsham is the current holder of the Wirral Accommodation of the Year title. It is a three star Edwardian country house hotel with 29 bedrooms and a friendly family feel and many features of the original 1915 building.
The Leverhulme at Port Sunlight has four stars and 19 bedrooms, each individually decorated in Art Deco style. The restaurant Richard Fox at Leverhulme has been mentioned in the Michelin Guide twice.