Hello people. It’s Joe the Cocker again. I have just been out for another hike with my human dad. Or should I say we went for a bimble on a local trail. I love that word. It even sounds leisurely and slow. It was to be our only long walk between Christmas and New Year. My dad said that he had overindulged over Christmas and we needed to get out to blow off the cobwebs. We have still been doing our regular walks because I won’t let him get away with missing them. Somebody posted on Facebook that I was a ‘poor, poor dog’ because my dad takes me on these hikes. Really? I feel like I am mistreated, not! These are the best days when I can run around and sniff until I am all sniffed out.
We planned to do another flat walk. An out and back hike along a waymarked trail. The weather forecast was for a cloudy but dry day with light winds. Excellent walking weather according to the big feller. I prefer wet weather myself because I can run through mud and puddles. Earlier this year we had walked the northern end of the Wirral Way from Parkgate to West Kirby and back. So, today we were to complete the trail by hiking the southern section from Hooton to Parkgate and back. This would mean that we would walk for approximately thirteen miles and have completed the Wirral Way twice. I think that they call this flip-flopping in the US. Hooton is a village not too far from Ellesmere Port and the railway station is the starting point of the Wirral Way. It is another disused railway line and therefore it is mainly flat with a good surface. It is shared with cyclists and horse riders. The path is split along a lot of it’s length so that the bridleway is separate from the walking path. It is traffic free along most of the way except for a couple of short road/pavement sections. It is ideal if you simply want to walk without navigational issues and no hills. Or if you simply want to detox after the Christmas pigging out period.
After we parked in the huge railway station car park we climbed the only hill of the day. The steps to the bridge over the railway line. My dad tripped on his way up and the day was nearly over before it had even begun. Clumsy but hilarious as he tried to disguise his stumble. After a quick look around to see if there were any witnesses to his antics it was onwards and downwards to the start of the trail. The surrounding area was not exactly picturesque as high temporary fences formed a barrier from the expansive housing project on our right. However, we soon came to open countryside with farm fields and the odour of cow poo in the air. Almost immediately my rather floppy ears were insulted by his singing. For what reason I do not know he started to sing ‘War Pigs’ by Black Sabbath. Not only were my ears offended but my eyes too as he started to play air guitar and air drums. I saw him looking around to see if we were alone because he was a bit louder than usual. Embarrassing, annoying, out of tune, the wrong key etc. are all phrases that come to mind. The worst of it all was he kept this up almost all day. I think that he is losing the plot. Sorry, I digress. Perhaps I am a ‘poor, poor dog’ after all!
Walking for the first couple of miles was pretty much uneventful. I did my usual stuff. I got incredibly muddy by zooming in and out of puddles. I picked up sticks and fallen branches and walked with them until I saw a better one. I was basically rearranging and repositioning as much of the fallen wood on the Wirral Way as I possibly could. I chased the odd bird and one or two squirrels. I was off-lead for a lot of the time except for when other dogs on leads approached. We always greeted each other with caution followed by a butt sniff. So many potential new friends but all I will remember is the smell of their rear ends. Anyway, after thirty minutes we came across a restored railway station at Hadlow Road on the edge of Willaston village. The station office had been restored to look like it did in the 1950’s. There are large advertising signs for Bovril and Hudson’s Soap on the red brick walls. The disused platform was too tempting for me to not run along. My dad said that it was like stepping back to his childhood. How old is he? We had a quick mooch around before we crossed the main road to continue our way along the trail.
The first views of the Dee Estuary soon greeted us with the Clwydian range of hills in the background. Moel Famau was obvious in the haze dominating the distant skyline. We passed through more agricultural land with livestock grazing on the wet grass. After passing the University of Liverpool Institute of Veterinary Science we found a beautifully carved bench for us to sit on. Well, for my dad to sit on. I was a bit wary at first of the carved badger that was peering over the top of it. After a quick sniff of it I realised that it wasn’t real and I jumped on top of the bench. My dad, as usual, decided that this was an excuse for a photo shoot. We had a quick snack there before setting off again towards Neston. We shortly entered the 800 metre long railway cutting that was built in 1866. The sides are ten metre high sandstone walls with tree roots and ferns growing out of the sides. It’s a damp and earie place with it’s own eco-system. There is a low level wall running along one side covered in slippery green moss. I couldn’t resist running along it. It was time to get wet and muddy. And I did. The natural formations and the cuts in the rocks by the navvies picks provide some fascinating patterns and my dad stopped and stared every few metres.
Soon we had to cross a road followed by a short walk along the pavement through a small housing estate on the outskirts of Neston. We passed over a couple of footbridges and were soon next to Neston Cricket Club on our left. There was a men’s hockey match in progress as we passed. It sounded like Brian was having a particularly bad match as Nicky was giving him some verbal abuse. And somebody definitely needed to mark Number 10! As we came to Ropewalk car park we turned left towards Parkgate Parade. Then as the vista opened up over the extensive marsh land we turned right along the promenade. There was a lot of day trippers there with cars either side of the road. It was more like a spring day as the area buzzed with people. Some were eating fish and chips while others licked their ice creams. We headed for Mozkitos, a lovely side street café that we had been to before when we walked the northern end of the Wirral Way. It has an outside seating area at the front and is very dog friendly. The waitress brought me a treat and showed me where the water bowl was. She brought my dad a cushion and a blanket to throw over his legs. My dad had a coffee and a piece of homemade Christmas cake. I had a wee bit of my food and a biscuit. My dad liked it because it was peaceful and friendly.
This was our turning point of the walk and we set off to retrace our steps. It was still busy along the parade and we had to dodge cars as we stepped on and off the pavement due to the large number of pedestrians. Anyway, we were soon back in the peace and quiet of the countryside as we left Parkgate and Neston behind us. I enjoyed walking through the old railway cutting again. It really is an unusual place. It reminded my dad of a scene from a Lara Croft movie where nature was attempting to reclaim a manmade ancient temple. I think that he may be overplaying this comparison but, I know where he is coming from. We had another short rest at the carved bench and then one at the disused railway station. I continued to do my utmost to get as filthy as I could and to pick up and carry as many sticks as possible. The light was starting to fade and as we reached the station car park it started to drizzle. My dad said that the timing was perfect. I wasn’t bothered about that. I just wanted to curl up on the back seat of the car. So, after my dad had an argument with the parking meter because it wouldn’t take payment from his new watch. He had to pay the £1 with a coin. Yes, £1 and he wanted to pay with his watch. Big kid! The end of another fun hike was here. So, I will write another blog soon and thank you for reading!