My First Time at a Northwestern Beach!

I’ve been spending over half of my time at Liverpool since autumn 2016 while I complete my studies at university here, and one thing I had never managed to do in that time was visit a beach up here. Well, no more! Last Monday, I and two housemates hopped on a train to Formby Beach.

We actually hopped on two of the same train, in the end – we didn’t realise that you have to go one stop further than Formby, to Freshfield, to get to the beach at first… the nice man at the station told us we were one stop short!

The beach was about a kilometre’s walk from the station, which was pretty much in one straight line down the road, and then we walked in through the National Trust entrance. We hadn’t really looked up what was at the beach before going, having heard by word of mouth that it was good, so it was a nice surprise to find out how much forestry there was around it.

Processed with VSCO with  preset

The photo above was from the side of the car park. It was a beautifully sunny day, which was a bit of a surprise – it was far warmer than the forecast had predicted! On the opposite side of the car park to these trees, however, there was an ice cream van situated by a sign pointing towards the beach. After a quick stop for my friends to grab an ice cream each while I took photos, we dutifully ambled past the sign and into the trees.

Processed with VSCO with  preset

It turned out we took quite the nature walk before arriving at the beach! There weren’t really any signs once you got into the forest, although after about ten minutes, we did find a fallen tree by the side of the path, on which was painted ‘BEACH’ with an arrow pointing to the left. With my friends busying themselves with their ice creams, they basically followed my lead as I assumed that as long as I followed the fence, we’d probably arrive at the beach at some point…

… and then I got Google maps out when they lost faith in my leadership. But we were going the right way! We just needed a little assistance at the end.

Processed with VSCO with  preset

We emerged from the trees into a series of sand dunes, which I won’t lie, got me a bit excited. As a former geography student whose field trips were largely situated on beaches with sand dunes, it had been a while! I got very picture-happy and sort of rushed off ahead, both in search of the actual sea and just because I felt like it. My friends did decide to call me Dora (the Explorer) for the rest of the day, though…

Processed with VSCO with  presetProcessed with VSCO with  preset

In the distance, we could see the wind turbines from the Burbo Bank offshore wind farm. I know some people don’t like them, but I really do – both because of the clean energy they produce, and because I think they look quite serene. They could definitely have designed uglier turbines, that’s for sure.

We’re fairly certain the land mass we could see in the distance to the left, some distance behind the wind turbines, was Wales, and according to the GPS on my phone, we were actually directly across from Dublin. (Couldn’t see it, of course, but it was nice to know.)

We put our towels down on the flat sand at first to eat lunch, because we were all really hungry by then, but we were on the north west coast of England, so there was a fair amount of wind chill! So, once we’d eaten with the sea view in front of us, we retreated back into the dunes so we were protected from the wind a little more.

At this point, none of our phones had any signal, which was a bit of an odd sensation considering we weren’t that far from civilisation. But seeing as we’re all arts and humanities students, we’d all packed a book each to take with us, so we spent a good few hours switching between reading and chatting (and, in my case, wandering up and down the dunes).

Processed with VSCO with  preset

Around half four in the afternoon, we decided we probably ought to start heading back from the beach in order to find food. We weren’t exactly sure on which direction we had come from, so we proved just how youth-in-the-21st-century we were and had to rely on the GPS telling us which direction we were facing while I led us to the car park – at which point, we discovered a far easier route to/from the beach than the one we’d taken! But what’s life without a bit of adventure?

All in all, it wasn’t quite what I’d expected from my first time visiting a northwestern beach in England. I had harboured suspicion that there’d be more touristy shops like the ones you’ll find at many south coast beaches, where you can get buckets and spades etc., but I suppose that’s unlikely at a National Trust reserve! And I’d also expected rather worse weather and rougher tides, though I’m sure on a day with worse luck that’s probably what you would find… What actually happened was that I got very sunburned feet.

So that’s that! I leave you with this: it turns out northwestern beaches in England can actually be far more pleasant than you might expect, and never put your sun lotion on while wearing socks unless you’re 100% certain you won’t be taking the socks off.

A Trip to Kew Gardens

On Saturday 3rd September, I finally went on my trip to Kew Gardens. I was given a voucher for free entry for two people for Christmas last year and was meant to go during August initially, but because of work and then results and being busy sorting out things for university, it didn’t happen. But, finally, I found a good time to go.

I was so annoyed with myself when I was about half way there (it took us not too far off two hours to get there, despite living just above London), because I realised that despite thinking about this trip for months and knowing I’d blog about it, I forgot my camera. I mean, it wasn’t a total disaster because I still had my phone with me, which has a pretty decent camera, but still. My actual camera would have been better, so if these pictures aren’t quite up to standard, please forgive me…

IMG_20160903_111655

IMG_20160903_115146

I decided to go with my mum, because we are quite close, and it seemed like a nice thing to do before I go to university and might not see her for three months at a time as I’m going 200 miles away, so can’t just pop home every other week. It turned out to be a really nice day, though it wasn’t the gorgeous sunny day we’d have had back in August, and it started raining towards the end of our day. But, to be quite honest, we didn’t mind walking in the rain.

IMG_20160903_133034Kew Gardens is, no doubt about it, beautiful. I didn’t really know anything about it before, but really there’s not that much to know – it’s a beautiful area in London full of plants from around the world, amazing trees, good food (though a little expensive) and makes for a great picture day. I’m not ashamed to say, the day did involve a little tree hugging, and we also named some of the more impressive trees – meet Cecil the Chestnut:

Cecil the ChestnutOne thing I really loved was that they have a lot of things around in support of bees, which are fast becoming endangered, and that’s not good for humanity or the planet. Plus, bees are so cute. They just buzz around, keeping to themselves unless they sense they’re in danger. Best rule when it comes to bees? Leave them to themselves, and you’ll get on great.

Plus, it was nice to see the gardens at the turn of the season; it’s just starting to become autumnal, the leaves are beginning to turn, and starting to fall. I feel like it’s the time when the colours are becoming really rich, but the temperature hasn’t fallen too much yet. It makes me excited for the two months to come, when the conkers drop and we can bring out the scarves and hats again, and I can finally start wearing rich autumn colours again.

IMG_20160903_153942

IMG_20160903_140306

IMG_20160903_135839

The treetop walkway was brilliant – it was during this that it started to rain properly, and it got a bit blustery (I cannot use that word without thinking of Winnie-the-Pooh), which made the walkway sway from side to side without warning. It was fun to look out at the tops of the trees and walk through them. Trees look amazing from above.

IMG_20160903_154848

So, that was my day. I hope you liked the pictures – I definitely recommend going to Kew Gardens if you get the opportunity. I know I’ll be going back; I really want to see the trees in all seasons, they’re so beautiful. And plus, it’s a place without all the litter or buildings of the rest of London. (You do get planes headed to land at Heathrow flying overhead, but it’s easily ignored.) I wish I could go towards the end of October, actually, at the height of autumn when all the trees will be shades of orange and brown… Oh well. I’ll definitely be visiting again at some point!

Katy x