Wirral Walk - Royden Park, Frankby

Track through what was once RAF West Kirby

Track through what was once RAF West Kirby - Credit: Archant

A rich portion of nature, some wide open spaces and a slice of military history...that’s what we get with this month’s walk on the Wirral, writes Howard Bradbury

After strolling through rolling acres of farmland, it is a quite a surprise to chance upon this handsome memorial, left, - a propellor shackled to a large stone.

But some kind of reminder is sorely needed here. For nature has erased what was once known at RAF West Kirby. As we walk beyond the memorial on Saughall Massie Road and down a track into what was once the military base, we are surrounded by ever-thickening vegetation. Others with sharper eyes may correct me, but on this walk, I saw no clues at all - except for the memorial - to what once happened here.

From 1940 to 1957, RAF West Kirby was a hive of military activity. Over 150,000 young men are thought to have passed through, either in transit to service in other countries or as recruits being licked into shape by drill instructors.

The camp may be gone, but it’s not forgotten. Browse the RAF West Kirby Association website and you see lots of black and white photographs of camp life, discussions about which dance the young servicemen were allowed to attend and reminiscences about the ‘camp followers’ - the girls keen to get close to the boys in blue (though the massive American air base at Burtonwood, Warrington, would always prove a much bigger draw for the young ladies keen to snag a man in uniform).

Memorial to RAF West Kirby

Memorial to RAF West Kirby - Credit: Archant

That’s all history now, but spare a thought as you wander across the ground where that history was made.

1. We start at the car park in Royden Park, postcode CH48 1NP, which you get to by turning into the park entrance on Hillbark Road, near the junction with Montgomery Hill. Walk out of the car park the same way you drove in (with the warden’s office and tea servery behind you) and when you reach the tarmac drive, cross over it and carry straight on the track, following the sign for Frankby Mere and Montgomery Hill. If you fancy a diversion here, follow the sign to Frankby Mere, a wetland where you will see butterflies and dragonflies in summer. The woods here are home to great spotted and green woodpeckers.

Frankby Green

Frankby Green - Credit: Archant

2. Return to the original path and continue towards Montgomery Hill, and you soon reach the road. Turn right up the road, then 50 metres later, go left into Birch Heys, then immediately right following the sign for the public footpath to Grange. Expansive views open up to your left, while Frankby Cemetery lies to the right. The path eventually brings you to another road. Cross over it into Frankby Stiles, a tarmac track passing by some very well-kept private fishing ponds, then Larton Livery. Keep going straight down the track.

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3. When you see a metal gate and a field ahead, turn left into a very overgrown path, then right a few yards later, over a bridge, through a wooden gate and into the field, keeping to the left edge. Passing through another wooden gate, follow the footpath signs diagonally across the next field, heading for a black and white signpost you will see in the distance (if your eyesight is sharp!). To the right of a rusty field gate, hidden behind a tree, you find a wooden gate which brings you to a road. Go right up the road, passing China Plate Farm, until you reach the junction with Saughall Massie Road. Turn right along the road, passing Newton Hall Farm, then take a wide footpath to the left just a few yards later.

Ponies at Manor Farm

Ponies at Manor Farm - Credit: Archant

4. The path takes you along the right hand edge of a field, then bears right around a bend, continuing across a field (the footpath is clearly marked). Just before you enter the next field, turn left (again, following the yellow footpath sign) down the field edge, then cross the ditch on a little bridge made of boards. Walk along the left edge of this field and at the next stile, turn right, following the field edge hither and thither until it brings you to Oldfield Lane, with Oldfield Manor farm to your left.

5. Turn right up the lane and you reach Saughall Massie Road. Cross over it see the RAF memorial, then take the track to the right of it. The track bends to the left, immediately after which you turn right into a track which runs straight for some distance. Continue on through an old wooden gate and stay on the path as it narrows and becomes more overgrown. You reach a bridge over a ditch into a field. This may be very muddy. This field held horses on my visit, so dogs should be on a lead at this point.

Follow the left-hand field edge, past a pond, through a stile, then follow the footpath round the edge of Manor Farm, emerging through a green metal gate and up to Frankby Road.

6. Turn right along the road, then soon after take a left into Hillbark Road. Just beyond the Farmer’s Arms is the entrance to Royden Park and journey’s end.

Area of Walk: Royden Park, Frankby, Wirral

Distance: 4 miles

Time to allow: 2 hours

Map: OS Explorer 266

Refreshments: Tea Servery in Royden Park, just beside the car park; Nose Bag Cafe at Larton Livery, The Stiles, Frankby Road; The Farmer’s Arms, 167-9, Hillbark Road.