Monday, 28 March 2016

West Bank, Widnes (Cheshire)

West Bank, Widnes (Part 1 of 2)

Not somewhere where breath taking architecture can be enjoyed but a place rich in some excellent views and a wealth of 19th and 20th century history. West Bank, an area of the post industrialised town of Widnes in the north west. Not much remains of the pre-war industries that once littered this peninsula on the cusp of Widnes, but there is still evidence of what once stood. In this blog I'm going to look at what West Bank is today and explain what remains, it's certainly a interesting little part of the world that is well worth a visit if your nearby.

Starting from the Spike Island end of the promenade, the construction of the new Mersey Gateway toll bridge is visible still well over a year away from completion on the time of writing.

Looking back from this point offers a view across a belt of grass towards Spike Island, overlooked by a row of 1970s terraced houses. At the end of this shot is the Catalyst Museum where the areas history is documented in full, the Catalyst will be covered along with spike island in the second part of this blog.

From the same spot facing out towards Runcorn views of "The Deck" apartment blocks and the Astmoor industrial estate all hid behind the Manchester Ship Canal can be seen. Just on from the first shot are the foundations of a old industrial unit seen from behind the wire fencing. Overgrown and littered with broken glass and debris this area is earmarked for redevelopment with apartment blocks similar to them seen across the river in Runcorn due to be built here.

Directly across the road is St Marys church, a grade II listed building built in 1908. A prominent local landmark that can be seen as far away as Daresbury.

Leading down from a set of steps cut into the sandstone wall is the modernised promenade. Lined by a snaking iron fence and greenery, the brick layered pathway is pleasant and well maintained.

 Advancing along, above the sandstone wall is a local park accessed from St Marys road. Pretty unremarkable but a break in the wall is afforded for a set of steps that lead up to St Marys road, as well as being clad in graffiti the wall has a plaque set into it that commemorates the former Widnes Borough Council abolished in 1974.
Looking out towards Runcorn again through a break in the riverside wall, at this point there are a set of steps leading down onto the sandbank bellow. The steps are blocked by iron bars that prevent anyone from accessing the river, not that anyone should want to as it's not pretty!
West Bank is directly in the flight path of the nearby Liverpool JL Airport. In this shot an EasyJet flight is seen making its final approach.

 The path straightens out to face the Runcorn Bridge or the Silver Jubilee Bridge to give it its official name that appears to only be used by the council. Built in 1961, it is still a impressive feat of engineering and as of 2016 remains the 25th largest arch bridge in the world. Beyond the road bridge is the Runcorn Railway bridge, the Britania Bridge being the official name.

The sandstone retaining wall ends and the prom opens up into a small patch of green space that is all very well maintained. Perched at the top of the hill is a public toilet that on the day was either out of used or more than likely closed for the day as it was about 18:00 at the time.

The green space ends and is replaced by a half pipe sandstone wall topped with more metal railings, at the top lies a plain garden that, although nice, appears to have not been given much attention recently and lacks life. I continue on and just coming into sight is something that makes the prom stand out and give it more character...

The so called "mini pier", used more recently as a meeting point to play dominoes the building has been disused for some time now. There is a on going battle by local residents to save this historic landmark but current efforts have been to no avail and it still remains disused. As can be seen in the second shot the condition of the hut is poor and it desperately needs attention.
Here can be seen the former power house for the transporter bridge. Once the largest transporter bridge in the world, it was demolished in 1961 when it was replaced by the current road bridge. Note the tunnel underneath that would have previously lead to the loading pier, now this leads down to the "beach".

The local watering house is The Mersey, the last remaining public house in West Bank after the closure of The Swan Inn in 2013.

Looking back up towards the Catalyst Museum the street is lined with Victorian style terraced houses both sides, these continue off down various side streets. I cut down one of the side streets that lead towards the bridge...
Directly above are the concrete approach roads for the bridge. At the time bellow the bridge was a makeshift contractors yard as there is on going maintenance works on the railway bridge.

Looking west towards Pickerings Pasture nature reserve the path continues on for a mile or so before reaching Halebank. I continue on down the path towards the site of the old West Bank dock.
Looking back at the railway bridge. Just as impressive as the road bridge and the older of the pair having been completed in 1868.
Facing west again the path is quite tranquil on a pleasant, crisp spring evening. Across the water more rows of new build apartment blocks in Runcorn are visible and just beyond these a ship can be seen docked in the Port of Runcorn on the ship canal.

 The last remains of this areas previous life as a bustling sea port can be seen from the footpath. In the first shot a semi-submerged vessel can be seen left abandoned in the water. The second shot is taken where the main lock to the docks once was, this in now filled in but the old lock gates are still visible. The third shot is again part of a lock that would have entered the docks, now also filled in.

The site of the docks is now covered by a large Tesco distribution centre and is now also home to a inland port owned by Stobart Group as well as several large industrial units. The sites are separated by a brook running in between.

The public right of way continues on down the rear of a factory that doesn't smell to fragrant (I believe it deals with animal wastage). I continued on down the path towards Halebank where I explored Pickerings Pasture and its surroundings, that is however for another blog. Thanks for reading if you've read this far and please feel free to comment or get in touch.