Wirral Peninsula, Merseyside, UK

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The Wirral Peninsula is in the North-West of England and is bounded by the River Dee on the West and the River Mersey on the East. Running down the centre of the peninsula is the M53 motorway which could be said to be the backbone of the area but which, more truthfully, divides the rural west of the pensisula from the heavily industrial east. The nearest cities are Liverpool on the other side of the Mersey and Chester at the very south of the peninsula.

West of the M53 are many little villages with large house and country pubs, for example Irby, Ness and Raby. The largest communities here are West Kirby replete with marina (and cyanobacteria in the water), Heswall and Neston. Perhaps the most intriguing town is Parkgate which is now most famous for its ice cream shops but was a major tourist destination and a thriving port before the Dee silted up.

The east is a much more urban, with many major manufacturing centres, such as Lever Brother (home of Persil) at Port Sunlight [this model town has its own entry elsewhere in the guide] and Vauxhall Motors (home of the Astra) at Ellesmere Port. The most famous of these factories, the ship yard of Cammell Laird at Birkenhead, has long stopped producing and is now a centre for refurbishing vessels. Birkenhead is the commercial centre of the Wirral although many no longer shop there, preferring the larger shops of Liverpool city centre or the first British retail village (close to Ellesmere Port). This has resulted in decline in the services available.

The Wirral is blessed with its own professional football team, Tranmere Rovers who play at Prenton Park. They are an English first division side and for the forseeable future will not trouble their premiership neighbours at Everton and Liverpool.

Entertainment on the Wirral is limited to the many pubs (among the best are the Cherry Orchard, Arrowe Park; the Chimneys, Hooton; the Ring o' Bells, West Kirby and the Travellers Rest, Bebington), a few clubs (Ruperts, Sherlocks and Stairways, Birkenhead and Ritzy, Bromborough - although I have heard of more fights in Birkenhead than in Liverpool) the cinemas (in Birkenhead, Bromborough and Ellesmere Port) and sport centre (Bebington).

For those among you who are into walking, I can recommend the Wirral Coastal Path running along the North of the Peninsula or the Wirral Way from Hooton to West Kirby.

Getting to the Wiral is fairly easy by car - drive North from Chester or through one of the Tunnels from Liverpool. Public transport is not the world's most reliable, but the ferries are fun.

Should global warming proceed as predicted, the Wirral will all but disappear, with only Bidston Hill and the old oceanographic observatory at its summit remaining.

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