Last week I stayed local, just venturing a few miles up the coast to Ravenmeols Nature Reserve close to Formby.
My objective was Devils Hole where I intended to photograph some of the wild flowers but I ended up following two waymarked trails.
We parked close to St Luke’s Church and headed south following the Sefton Coastal Footpath. After about a mile we turned right and soon spotted the waymarks for the Devils Hole Trail. It was hard going walking through the soft sand as we approached the dunes. The trail seems to loop round the ‘hole’ and we had to make a small diversion to reach it.
It is a dune blow-out but it is huge covering an area of about 200 x 100 yards. Most dune-blow-outs are naturally occurring features but it is thought that this one was the result of bombs being dropped during WWII. The target was probably the ‘Starfish Decoy’ a lighting system that was set up to act as a decoy and draw bombs away from Bootle and Seaforth Docks.
It has been an unusually dry winter and Spring and the water table is abnormally low. There was no water at all in the ‘hole’. Bad news for the Natterjack Toads that breed here. However it gave us the chance to walk out into the hole and see what we could find.
I spotted some Dune Helleborine. Epipactis dunesis. This member of the Orchid family is quite rare and only found in a few locations in the UK. It was a bit early in the season and for most of the plants only the leaves were visible but I did find a few that were in flower.
The flower stalks are made up of small cream coloured flowers which have dark crimson centres.
Returning to the trail we headed north and met a couple a walkers. They said they were heading for the mine!. I did not know of any mines in the area. We parted company but then met up again 10 minutes later at some concrete and brick ruins.
There was a bit of a shaft, but it was not a mine. It was a Royal Observer Corp Nuclear Monitoring Bunker opened in 1962 during the cold war. It was abandoned due to erosion between 1966 and 1968. The base of a former Royal Navy observation tower stands nearby.
Heading back towards our car we saw a waymark for the ‘Lost Resort Trail’ This was new to me. We just had to follow it. In the late 19th century the idea was to build a resort here on the coast to rival nearby Southport. It was to be named ‘Formby-by-the-Sea.’Located at the end of Alexandra Road, an unmade road leading to the sea. In the dunes at the end of the road are the remains of the first hotel, the Stella Maris. The flat roofed building faced the sea but was only used as a hotel for a short period of time. It later became a convalescent home for priests, a holiday home for Catholic children and later a radar station during World War II.
Just before Alexandra Road and Albert Road converge there is an area of open land. This was once an asparagus farm and at the beginning of the 20th century it was selected as the proposed site of a railway station which was to be built to service the resort of Formby-by-the-Sea. However due to a downturn in the economic climate it was never built and the idea of the resort fell away.
There is now little to see but I enjoyed finding some orchids amongst the dunes.
Returning to the beach we passed the remains of Formby Lifeboat Station. Built at Formby Point it was Britain’s first Lifeboat Station.
Wandering along the beach we found a skeleton. Was it a fish or was it a monster.
Turning up Lifeboat Road we made our way back to our car. We had only covered 3.8 miles but the walk had been full of interest.
I had first visited Devils Hole in April 2016 when it had looked completely different with up to three feet of water in the basin.