Cycling several times this Summer along the coast between Crosby and Hightown has reinforced how Sefton Council really is terrible at marking and commemorating World War II history and heritage. You can pass within yards of the gun emplacements defending the mouth of the River Mersey and have no idea that they are there. Fields just inland retain pill boxes but there is no effort to work with farmers to give access to these or mark them, explain what they were for. Nothing to see but they are actual physical reminders of that most terrible conflict and the direct effect that it had on every part of our country as well as the rest of the World. Sefton is also pretty bad on countryside access, maybe because the borough is artificially cut off from its rural West Lancashire hinterland. Hightown, a large commuter settlement in the middle of the borough is totally cut off inland from any on foot or safe cycling access to the countryside.
In Bootle (also Sefton borough) along the Leeds Liverpool canal there are some signs indicating engineering to stop flooding being caused by bomb damage during the War. These look like they were put up by British Waterways / the canal authorities, or a local regeneration initiative rather than directly by the Council. Is Sefton however worse than other boroughs in the Liverpool City Region? From cycling and walking on the Wirral it looks like Wirral is nearly as bad. There is some commemoration done by local public spirited citizens, especially the posters remembering ships bombed in the river Mersey pinned up along the Seacombe, Wallasey, New Brighton promenade. Elsewhere on the Wirral there is the same startling ignoring of World War 2 physical history. There are pill boxes guarding a key strategic bridge near the chemical works at Port Sunlight, between historic Port Sunlight and Bromborough. They are there but nothing is done to explain their significance. Surely those younger than us who were brought up on War films in the 1970s may not appreciate this. There is a prestige housing development next door, has the Wirral Council (Wirral MBC) asked if they would contribute to some upkeep and explanation? A very small but extra historic feature for visitors to Lord Lever’s model workers’ village to see.
It is only once you cross the modern administrative boundary from the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral into the South Wirral district of Neston (under the modern Cheshire West and Chester Council) that there is one really clever, innovative and welcome initiative. A war time pill box turned into a bat box. I first saw a neglected looking pill box crossing the road between Neston and Parkgate on a short walk on the Wirral Way. Turn your head to the right, towards the car park (if heading south) and there it is. I’d cycled past it several times before over some years without ever noticing the structure. A closer look – at this pill box in the actual car park – reveals that it is not neglected at all. It has been turned into a home for bats. A fantastic local environmental initiative that also both utilises and recognises one of our important parts of Second World War infrastructure. Well done to those involved.
Explanation for cyclist at pill box photo. Cycling with my friend Dr Jon Clarkson (a World War 2 enthusiast and expert) by chance I saw for the first time this pill box slightly inland of the A565 at Formby. Local GP Jon also pointed out the dragons teeth anti-tank obstacles along the former railway line and drainage ditch at key choke points on Downholland Moss. There are a few still in place of the Quality Street like triangular concrete blocks. These sites are just over the administrative boundary of Sefton MBC into West Lancashire Council. There is no interpretation or information about the features visible.
Parkgate Bat Box. See also about the significance of the pill box location on Station Road explained on the Parkgate Heritage Trail site: http://www.parkgateheritagetrail.org/home/locations/stationroad/
For those interested there is detail on different types of anti-tank obstacle on the Pillbox Study Group site. http://www.pillbox-study-group.org.uk/other-wwii-defensive-structures/anti-tank-obstacles/
The site is a mine (no pun intended) of useful and interesting information.