I started a degree course in photography in September 2017 and with the best will in the world I decided to take the bus. I thought it would give me time to read and watch course related videos. Unfortunately, I had so much equipment to drag back and forth that I abandoned this as a regular commute. Later in my course I was asked to produce a project called roadtrip and remembered my earlier trips on the 89. I started to get back on the bus and quickly discovered a wholly different world to what I expected. The bus takes you through a variety of landscapes, towns and villages and I decided I would use my day ticket to document a day trip as a tourist event.
My commute is from Gateacre, but the bus route starts in Speke at the airport, so I decided to take it from there and explore the sights and scenes that I could get to within a few hundred yards of the bus stops. I also wanted to focus on areas where wildlife and nature could be visited and on areas where I could explore some historical sights. I was also keen on highlighting free, or inexpensive access.
Speke (Liverpool John Lennon) Airport is a small regional airport. Mainly low-cost flights to Europe and some small, private aircraft so unless you are a particularly avid plane-spotter it is probably best to just get on the bus. First stop of interest is just around the corner where the bus stops on Hale Rd. From here there is an expanse of scrubland stretching down to the river. I did not have time to wander all the way, but managed a couple of hundred yards in where I was taken by the sound of numerous birds singing their heads off. I’ll be returning for a better look around in the summer.
Back on the bus and on through Speke, a sprawling 60s housing experiment, that doesn’t appear to have much to stop for. Across Speke Boulevard to Hunts Cross and a second point of interest for me. If you walk down towards Mackett’s Lane you come to the loop line, a cycle and walkway built on the old railway line. It’s a lovely walk and if you carry on to Gateacre, a couple of miles away, you can get back on the 89 and carry on your journey.
Stay on the bus and the next stop is Woolton Village. Interesting places here are the church and graveyard where Eleanor Rigby is buried. (Father) McKenzie is also here as well as Bob Paisley, the former Liverpool FC manager. Woolton Village houses an independent cinema and nearby Woolton Woods are worth a visit.
Back on the bus to Gateacre and the oldest music shop in Liverpool, Moran Sound. There are some interesting old buildings here and a small church and of course you could take a walk up the Loop line to Hunts Cross.
Past the Bellevale shopping centre you could stop at Bellvale Park if you felt like it. It is fairly small, but not bad. On through Netherley towards Huyton and on Naylor’s Lane I found a small wooded area and got off to explore. I was surprised to find the ruins of a house, covered in moss and leaves. On later investigation I found this to be Wheathill House, formerly owned and lived in by various members of the Pilkington Glass family in the 1850s until after WW1. Through the woods and out the other side I found a piece of waste ground that had been used as a race-track by joy-riders. Two cars had been stolen, driven around, burn’t out and left to rust. On a sunny winters day they looked very picturesque.
Through Huyton and a surprising oasis of loveliness at the Huyton Wetlands. It’s small, but full of birds, insects, frogs and plants. It’s a beautiful place to sit and think.
Across the M57 and a right turn takes you to Carr Lane Woods another beautiful park with ponds, water birds and trees. It’s a bit bigger so a good place to stretch your legs.
On next to Prescot which sports a fine church in the centre which has a beautiful, well-maintained churchyard. I’m not at all religious, but I love the buildings and the graveyards are fantastic places to sit and contemplate. Reading the inscriptions on the stones can be very humbling.
The main shopping street has a good selection of local shops still hanging on against the monolithic presence of the evil empires of corporate superstoredom that lurk on the edges of every town. There is also a museum and a soon to be built, Shakespeare Centre.
Onwards through Whiston, past the Hospital and turn up where there is another small park with a fine set of outdoor play equipment for the kids, and the young at heart adults.
Up the hill and on to St. Helens, a faded giant of the industrial revolution still hanging on to the remnants of the once mighty Pilkingtons empire. My first stop is at Taylor’s Park which I’d passed numerous times in aprevious job. It seems to be tucked away behind some very nice houses on Prescot Rd. At first glance i thought it rather small, but upon entering it opens out to a fantastic wooded area with a huge lake with a fountain in the middle. There are fields to walk through or picnic in, play areas for the kids, an education centre and a cafe. I could quite easily while away a whole day here.
Next stop before the end is the Blue Building, a huge multi-storey building once used as Pilkingtons office and training centre. Now used by a variety of companies there is also a lake with a fountain in it somewhat reminiscent of the opening titles of the Champions, the faded, damaged and abandoned training block that it sits beside gives it an added zing.
Finally to St Helens, where this journey ends. There are still many things to see and do in St. Helens, but i can’t name them all here. The town is a bit on its uppers, but is still trying to fight back. It has a fair smattering of parks, a mid-week outdoor market, some fabulous architecture, the Dream sculpture atop Sutton Manor colliery, (try and get on one of the volunteer led walks around here, it really is fascinating) and, well everything else really. Get on, and off that bus for a change. I’m sure you’ll love it.
My day ticket cost me £4.30 and has now increased to £4.40 but is still a bargain.