Wirral Country Park will mark the 50th anniversary of its official opening with a busy programme of events this year.
The Green Flag Park, which opened on 2 October 1973, was Britain’s first designated country park.
To mark the golden anniversary, there will be everything from miniature traction engines, a teddy bear picnic and wildflower art installations to a photographic exhibition and organised walks, horse and bike rides.
Parts of the park are locally designated Wildlife Sites and nationally protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest and there will be opportunity for people to learn about the park’s biodiversity at events about bats, bees and birds.
On Monday 3 April there will be stone re-dedication ceremony in which the Mayor will unveil a new plaque marking the park’s 50th anniversary, on the original stone which celebrated the official opening of the park in 1973. A new entrance to the Wirral Way will be opened in West Kirby this Autumn and Cheshire West and Chester Council, who look after half of the Wirral Way, are developing the entrance at Hooton.
Ashton Park in West Kirby will be hosting May Day celebrations on 1 May and The Friends of Hadlow Road Station will be celebrating the King’s Coronation on 7 May.
Cllr Liz Grey, Chair of the Environment, Climate Emergency and Transport Committee at Wirral Council, said:
“We are lucky to live in a peninsula with so much natural beauty and Wirral Country Park’s 50th anniversary will give everyone an opportunity to celebrate the very best of Wirral. It’s wonderful that so much will be going on throughout the year for people of all ages to enjoy”.
Leading up to the 50th anniversary a series of improvements has been carried out at the park, including resurfacing 1800 meters of the Wirral Way and widening the clifftop path. Picnic areas have also been refurbished, new lighting columns and restoration of the old station platform has taken place at Thurstaston, as well as improvements to the pond and its access path.
The current list of events can be found online, with announcements about exciting bigger events expected soon.
For nearly 100 years, from the height of the Victorian era onwards, a busy railway linked Hooton, on the main Chester-to-Birkenhead line, to West Kirby. In 1962 the line was closed, and the track lay derelict. Captain Lawrence Beswick DSM campaigned for the 12-mile site to be reused as a country park and in 1968 a draft scheme for the construction of Wirral Country Park was prepared by Cheshire Country Council, stating ‘The scheme would provide a country park of great worth’. Work began on the park in 1968 after investment from the Countryside Commission and Wirral Country Park was officially opened in October 1973 by Lord Leverhulme.
Over half a million people visit Wirral Country Park each year. Forming the backbone of the park is the Wirral Way, a 12-mile footpath, cycle and horse-riding path that runs along the old West Kirby to Hooton railway line. Visitors can see a waterfall at a wooded area known as ‘The Dungeon’, the picturesque disused railway station at Hadlow Road, the wildlife at Dawpool Nature Reserve and enjoy spectacular sights over the Dee Estuary from Thurstaston and Cubbins Green.
As well as being a popular leisure destination, about 5,000 schoolchildren visit the site at Thurstaston each year to undertake ranger-led curriculum studies including activities such as seashore searches and minibeast hunts. A campsite gives scouts, guides and community groups a chance to stay overnight in the park.