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Port Sunlight River Park, Wirral, UK

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Wonders of The Wirral
Port Sunlight | King Edward VII Memorial Clock Tower | Williamson Art Gallery | Birkenhead Priory
Birkenhead Park | Port Sunlight River Park | Hadlow Road Railway Station

Port Sunlight River Park opened in August 2014. It mainly consists of a 37m high mound offering visitors views across the Wirral and over the River Mersey to Liverpool. The bank of the Mersey is a Ramsar site, meaning that it is protected under the Ramsar Wetlands Convention. There is also a lake and reed bed in the Park which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The land is owned by The Land Trust, and the Park is managed by Autism Together, the Wirral society for autistic people, alongside partner organisations including Unilever, United Utilities and Biffa.

The Park is situated on land that was reclaimed from the River Mersey to make the Bromborough Dock, which served the nearby Sunlight Soap factory in Port Sunlight from 1931. The Dock closed and the area was used as a landfill site from 1991 to 2006. The land was allocated to landfill for those 15 years on the condition that it would be turned into a public park as soon as it was safe to do so - waste was loaded into specially designed cells so that when the landfill eventually closed, plants would grow on top and the ground would be more solid than if the waste had just been piled in loose.

Development of the Park started in 2012. A lot of time was spent in clearing the site of items that had not been well covered by vegetation and which were not secure in the cells. Then paths were laid, benches were added and pedestrian access to the site was established.

The Park is popular with dog walkers and fouling can be a problem. Dog owners and other visitors also need to be aware that the Park rangers can't guarantee that the grass areas away from the paths are completely free of metal chunks or other things that could be harmful, so signs around the park encourage people to stay on the paths for safety. Keeping to the paths is also helpful for wildlife - the aim eventually is for the grassy areas to become home to a wide variety of plants and animals so it is important that there are areas of ground that are not disturbed by dogs or people.

As well as views of Liverpool and Port Sunlight, the Park offers a good vantage point to study the United Utilities wastewater treatment plant that is adjacent to the land. Visitors do need to note that the plant can be a bit smelly1 if the wind is blowing in the right/wrong direction. The methane that is generated by the plant is collected, though, and used as fuel to run the plant.

There is a small car park including spaces for disabled people who have a Blue Badge, and parking bays have been constructed at the sides of the road leading up to the Park entrance. The paths up the mound are quite steep in places, but there is also a path around the base of the mound leading to the banks of the Mersey and then the lake. Various events take place in the Park including mass runs and nature walks, and there is a Friends group working to improve the facilities available to visitors and continuing to develop the Park.

1To say the least.

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