Formby Beach and Pinewoods are
a popular tourist spot both for holidaymakers looking for summertime fun and for
wildlife-watchers, thanks to a beautiful stretch of coastline which is as easy
on the eye as it is an ideal natural habitat.
|Formby - nationally
important nature spotting|
walk takes a circular route comprising woodland and coastline, beginning at Freshfield
Station, taking you through the famous Red Squirrel reserve and along to the sand
A walk along the beach takes
you via Mad Wharf to Formby Point, where you then cross back over the dunes and
head back via grassland path to the man-made lake and Wicks Woods, ending on Kirklake
Road which leads to Formby station.
Time: One and a half to two hours
Visitors are advised to pick up a map of the various footpaths from the Warden's
* Birdwatchers will benefit from bringing binoculars to watch rooks
and tits in the high branches of the pinewoods.
* Some useful items to bring
- a camera, wet wipes (to clean your feet of sand), and sun protection cream/sunglasses
on hot days.
Start - Freshfield Station
the Merseyrail Northern Line to Freshfield Station. Turn right off the platform
and walk down Victoria Road towards the squirrel reserve.
1 - RED SQUIRREL RESERVE
the National Trust Red Squirrel Reserve is a popular tourist attraction, the walk
does not include a tour of the squirrel walk as a feature.
wish to do so may enjoy a brief detour at this point to watch the comical Red
Squirrels scurrying from tree to tree - nuts for feeding the squirrels are available
at a small cost from the Warden's Office.
To continue on the walk, return
to the main pass and walk straight ahead towards the beach car park, where you
will see the sand dunes and a glimpse of the Irish Sea.
Red Squirrel reserve is the perfect spot for wildlife watching as the squirrels
are quite used to humans and will come much closer to you than most wild animals.
a camera for some great photos - here are our top tips:
Crouch as low on the ground as possible and stay still and quiet.
your elbows on a static object, for example a rock, to keep your gaze steady.
If possible, avoid using the flash which may startle the squirrel or cause your
pictures to come out red-eyed.
* Don't waste shots in motion - wait until
the squirrel settles momentarily and then snap several pictures, which will help
you capture a more interesting pose, for example nibbling on a nut.
- wildlife comes first - if you appear to be distressing the animal or causing
it to miss out on food, move away and find another subject.
2 - SAND DUNES
main pathway to the beach leads you to the main stretch of Formby's famous sand
dunes, which are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to their geological
The dunes, overlooking the Irish Sea, provide great views
extending as far as the fells of South Cumbria and the Lake District, or even
Blackpool Tower, depending on visibility and which direction you look in.
sandy habitat, widely populated with marram grass and sand lizards, is home to
a wide array of insects as well as the famous natterjack toads, which are best
seen at dusk when they can be located by their loud call.
3 - THE BEACH
crossing the dunes you will see a wide stretch of beach open up in front of you.
This area of Formby Beach is called Mad Wharf, and leads southwards towards
Formby Point, where the walk continues..
When the tide is out, visitors
can collect shells and spot small crabs and jellyfish washed ashore.
clusters of fish eggs also wash up on the sand, providing rich pickings for a
host of marine birds including Knots, Gulls, Bar-tailed Godwits, Oystercatchers,
Sanderlings and Dunlins.
History fans will also be interested to know that
Formby Beach has long been considered an important archaeological site, with ancient
footprints baked into the mud underneath the sand.
These are believed to
date from when the Vikings invaded Formby, originally called "Fornebei"
- meaning "village belonging to Forni".
from collecting shells and making sandcastles, there are plenty of other fun and
interesting activities to do on the beach.
Looking for beach debris, such
as interesting items washed up on the shore, is a good way to find out about the
day-to-day life of a particular coastline.
When the tide is receding, walk out towards the wet sand, which is more compact
and easier to walk on.
* Look out for rippled patterns in the sand, left
by waves when the tide came in, and try to spot small wormholes and lugworm trails.
Common items to wash ashore are dried-up mermaid's purses (small leathery cases
containing the eggs of a small shark called the lesser-spotted dogfish), as well
as clusters of fish eggs, small jellyfish and miniature crabs.
are very interesting to look at but should not be touched for fear of bite or
STAGE 4 - FORMBY POINT
South along the beach brings you to Formby Point, the westernmost part of the
Exit the beach at this point when you see a small wooden
boardwalk, signposted with a yellow beach marker, which leads you over the dunes
and onto a partially-covered wooden pathway down to Kirklake Path.
5 - GRASSY FIELDS
Path, marked by wooden posts with a green band, cuts through acres of open grassland,
widely populated with many different heathers and flowering shrubs.
the gravel path, winding along to the right through the shrubs, until you reach
the Lifeboat Road car park and noticeboard, displaying the various species of
plants and flowers which grow in the area.
Cut through the car park, steering
right towards the red and green signpost, which leads to a tree-lined gravel path.
this point you can take a brief stop to look at a typical Natterjack Toad habitat,
just over the sandy mound down to a small area of marshy bog where the rare toads
breed before crawling out and heading towards the dunes.
6 - WOODLAND PATH
taking the path, look up and to your right as you walk to see an unusual statue,
carved from local wood.
This particular path is bordered with bramble bushes
and nettles, an ideal landing place for moths and butterflies but watch your legs!
When the path splits into a fork, veer to the left until you reach a walkway
leading over a small stream where small newts and pond insects can be seen.
next marker to look for is marked with a red and green band and a white R - at
this point veer left onto a woodchip path through the fields.
straight ahead until you reach the man-made lake.
7 - MAN-MADE LAKE
man-made lake is a picturesque haven for birds, fish and amphibians among the
reeds and shaded by the surrounding trees.
The lake is divided into two
sections by a small bridge, providing an ideal viewpoint to watch the many birds
which congregate there.
From Mallards to Moor Hens and even the occasional
Swan, the lake is a safe haven for birds all year round and you can even spot
small frogs and frogspawn in the water and on the banks, depending on what time
of year you decide to visit.
Walk around the wooden pathway to enjoy views
from every angle, before taking the sloping steps up towards the woods and turning
left past the picnic area to continue the walk.
8 - WICKS WOODS
the top of the hill by the lake are Wicks Woods, bordering onto the Ravenmeols
Nature Reserve and the Lifeboat Road area.
Like the rest of the pinewoods,
this area consists of mainly Scotch and Corsican Pine, many up to 100 years old
dating from when the woods were first planted.
Aside from the famous Red
Squirrels, other creatures which can be found in the pinewoods include Greater
Spotted Woodpeckers, Yellowhammers and even Foxes.
Walk through the woods
in a south-westerly direction towards a green wooden marker until you join the
main gravel path and continue towards the exit gate to Kirklake Road, which leads
straight along and up the hill to Formby station.
If in doubt or if the
marker is not clearly visible (it can be quite difficult to spot through the trees),
you will also see a small field off to your left.
This area is divided by
a small pathway providing an alternative pathway to the Kirklake Road exit, which
is marked by a sign which reads "Gateway to the Mersey Forest".
note: visitors who wish to drive to the site should park at the squirrel reserve
and can to return to this point at the end of the walk by turning right at the
top of the man-made lake and following the fenced path to a gated exit at Wicks
Turn left onto Larkhill Lane and walk
alongside the field until you reach Victoria Road. Turn left here to return to
the squirrel reserve.
Health and Safety
are several health and safety tips which visitors should be aware of during the
* Formby beach is currently an unsupervised area - swimmers should
be aware of strong currents and beach debris, either in the water or underfoot.
* Comfortable shoes are recommended as the walk covers multiple terrains.
* You may need to bring a change of shoes, for example sturdy open-toed
sandals, to walk down to the beach comfortably.
* Visitors are advised
not to go barefoot as there may be stones and other sharp objects buried in the
* Walkers crossing the dunes should stick to the main access points
to the beach, as the dunes are shifting with time and can be unstable.
Visitors should be aware of tide times before attempting to walk out to the sea,
as the tide comes in very quickly and can leave people cut off.
follow the Countryside Code - be safe and plan ahead, leave gates and other property
as you find them, protect wildlife and take your litter home, keep dogs under
control and consider other people.
When to go
Beach and Pinewoods is open all year round but as with any outdoor spot, there
are better times to go than others.
Although many will be attracted to
the site by hot weather, it's generally best to avoid peak periods such as the
summer holidays, when the area is populated with hundreds of noisy children who
might disturb any wildlife-watching opportunities.
aside, a general guideline is to visit the area in the morning or late afternoon,
when it will be much quieter with less chance of wildlife being disturbed.
Ice creams and cold drinks are available from ice cream vans situated around the
site. Visitors are advised to take their own snacks.
There are several seating
areas available along the route - at the squirrel reserve, beach car park(s) and
man-made lake - as well as several benches along the marked pathways.
Parking is available at the Squirrel Reserve and beach car park, which is free
to National Trust members and £3 for other visitors.
Part of the
beach car park is closed at 5.30pm daily from March - October and at 4.00pm from
November - December.
Access: This walk is only
partly accessible for disabled visitors as suitable walkways and paths do not
extend through the whole area.
Public and disabled
toilets (open 9am - 5.30pm) are available opposite the main noticeboard
at the entrance to the squirrel reserve.
A map of accessible routes is
available on request from the warden's office.
and walk design by Carolyn Garlick.