For the first time I went to this year’s Birkenhead Transport Festival in the town’s main park, Birkenhead Park, which opened in 1847 and is the oldest public park in the UK. Designed by Joseph Paxton it was built on what was then swamps outside of the new town, which itself had only started to grow from a centuries-old hamlet into a modern town. Then based around Hamilton Square and the nearby shipyard of William and John Laird, the town’s developers were farsighted enough to realise the town would spread very quickly. Therefore they chose to build a park to provide a “breathing space” for the growing industrial population. The park was eventually surrounded by urban development, although some of the land set aside for big houses around the park remained unoccupied well into the 20th century as a result of long economic depressions in the late 19th century. Some of this unused land was eventually incorporated into the park itself. The park is split into two sections – the Upper and Lower Park – covering 90 hectares. As a high-school student in the 1970s I went to Park High School, which had two campuses, one in each part of the park, and would often have to walk between the two schools through the park. We used the park to play cricket and rugby, the latter we played on a large field in the Lower Park which today was occupied by the Chinese State Circus.
Above: The visiting Chinese State Circus and the Swiss Bridge (1847) – both in the Lower Park
Today, the Transport Festival was being held in the Upper Park, which had been sealed off except for the entrance where you could pay the admission. To get there I walked through the Lower Park from the main entrance to it on Park Road North – known as the Grand Entrance. While doing so I took some photos and videos, which are on my YouTube Channel. (below)The Park has been restored in the last few years after decades of neglect. The Swiss Bridge and Boathouse were both magnificently restored. Both date from 1847. The Swiss Bridge was damaged by an arson attack around 18 months ago but thankfully has now been restored – again. You can now walk across the Swiss Bridge again. For several decades the bridge was deliberately cut off from the rest of the park after constant vandalism. I walked across it last year for the first time since the mid-1980s (and that was when the lake was frozen over). You can see the photos I took on that day last year on my Flickr Site. Birkenhead Park today is looking magnificent again after so long being forgotten, underused and misused.
Above: The Grand Entrance on Park Road North, the Boathouse (1847) and the now-accessible Swiss Bridge. Photos 22 June 2015
The Transport Festival was fantastic with lots of vintage cars, buses motorbikes,, steam engines, fire engines and British and US military vehicles. They’re was even a Spitfire, with a man and a woman dressed as Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine walking around a World War 2 display of which the Spitfire was a part. There was also a fairground, including a Ferris wheel, a carousel, side stalls and the terrifying-looking Sky Ride. There were displays of horses and dogs and many stalls selling food & drink, souvenirs, jewellery and various other things.
Above: motorbikes, buses and steam engines – plus “Winston and Clementine Churchill”
Above: military vehicles, World War 2 period displays and vintage cars galore
Above: a “GI” and a “Tommy” pose for my camera, carefully hiding their polystyrene (styrofoam) cups they had just bought
their coffee in behind their backs; The Sky Swing ride; a small steam engine; the carousel and Ferris wheel