It’s becoming increasingly likely that 2020 will be the year of the staycation. Whilst some countries are beginning to lay out plans for a gradual reopening following the peak of COVID-19, international travel is going to be one of the last things to return to normal. That can be a bit of a depressing thought, but once the ‘new normal’ begins again in the UK, there are still plenty of amazing places to explore. Given I’ve just returned after living abroad for years, it’s quite exciting to plan adventures in my home country.
Before lockdown kicked in, I managed to discover a somewhat hidden beauty just outside the city of Liverpool. Whilst Liverpool is more traditionally known for The Beatles and football, its position on the UK’s North West coast means it’s a fantastic beach destination. The UK’s questionable weather means these beaches aren’t really sunbathing spots, but the open, rugged landscape makes for great walks. Particularly interesting is the beach in Formby, which is surrounded by towering dunes. It was the last thing I expected to see so close to a large UK city.
Getting to Formby is easy on MerseyRail, the metro which serves Merseyside. From Moorfields or Liverpool Central (both close to the city centre), take a train north towards Southport. A return fare is £5.80. The journey takes about half an hour and there are two stops you can alight at – either Formby or Freshfield. It’s quite a good idea to get off at one and then return from the other. Formby has got more in the way of shops, pubs and restaurants if you’re wanting to eat/drink before or after your walk.
There are so many winding paths to get to the coast, it’s difficult to recommend a specific route. Either use an offline map app or just happily get lost. The walk starts by going through woods where, if you’re lucky, you might spot some red squirrels. Eventually though, the ground starts to get sandier. It’s an interesting transition – deep woods turning to sandy beach isn’t a landscape I’ve seen before.
By the time I stepped out of the woods, the good old British weather was kicking in and it was getting windy and rainy, but the view was spectacular. Behind me were rows and rows of trees and ahead of me were undulating sand dunes and the Irish Sea. It really was quite a sight. I decided to brave climbing some of the dunes which was hard work but good fun. Some of them go pretty high and it ends up being a bit of a workout on the legs. When the wind picks up, it gets pretty difficult too.
After navigating various sweeping dunes, I was able to descend onto Formby Beach which is huge and was largely deserted. It’s a brilliantly bracing beach and you’ll never be short of space, especially if you go on a weekday. It was interesting to see the large clumps of sea foam which was being blown across the sand – another thing I’d never seen before.
I wandered along the beach for a while and then took one of the paths back through the dunes towards the woods. There are a lot of exit points but navigating back towards civilisation was a bit tricky due to the sheer number of paths and trails. After a lot of U-turns, I finally made it to the park entrance (there’s a toilet here too… and an ice cream van) and headed straight up the road back to Formby station.
A frustrating aspect of the UK compared to Hong Kong is that quite a bit of this country’s natural beauty is difficult to access without a car. So I was really pleased to find a unique and interesting landscape just a short hop away from the city on the train. It’s definitely somewhere I’ll be exploring again.