It’s hard to believe, when you’re enjoying a breezy cycle ride from Seacombe ferry to New Brighton, that this stretch of Wirral’s Left Bank used to be an indistinct and treacherous no-man’s land.
A wild frontier of swamps and mudflats. Of crumbling cliffs and smugglers' caves. Walking along the ‘sea road’ from Seacombe up to the sharp end of the Peninsula, you’d be taking your life in your hands.
With the second highest tidal range in the UK (the Mersey rises from four metres at neap to ten metres at spring tides) many an unfortunate local would be caught unawares, and washed out to sea.
It was, unlike the orderly system of docks taking shape across the water, a place where nature ruled. All of which was music to a Victorians engineer’s ears. ‘No problem’, said Perthborn George Turnball, ‘I’ll have that coastline as straight as a railway in no time.’
Which is, more or less, exactly what he did. In 1845, Turnbull - who was the first railway engineer in India - drained the infamous Seacombe marshland by erecting a massive stone sea wall.
Over five metres high, and a metre thick, the wall eventually turned the corner and moved along the New Brighton seafront until, in 1927 plans were hatched to build the Kings Parade: the longest promenade in the country.
A full 35 metres wide, with 46 acres of public gardens, a huge marine lake and open-air lido. By the time it reached Harrison Drive, the great seawall had reclaimed half a million square metres of fertile new Wirral land, shoring up the coastline against the ravages of time and tide.
That’s the Victorians for you. So, when other cities talk up the idea of creating a linear park, remember this: we started ours over 150 years ago.
Because that’s the way we do things on the Left Bank.