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Ravenmeols Heritage Trails Officially Opened

Sometimes it is difficult to explain to others just what a local group like the Civic Society in Formby actually does. Indeed, there are so many ways in which the FCS supports the local community and provides opportunities for local people that it is difficult to know just where to start.

Our help and advice is regularly sought to help both individuals and other organisations: our members include people with a vast range of expertise and knowledge and we always do our very best to help. However, if there is one ward that encapsulates what we concentrate on, it is ‘Heritage’. We aim to work with the wider community to do all we can to help people appreciate, understand and enjoy what our local heritage provides and also protect and preserve it. With this in mind, this is just the time to celebrate a facility for local people that has come to fruition last weekend with the opening by Baroness Shirley Williams of the Ravenmeols Sandhills Heritage Trails.

The development of the Trails for local people as well as visitors to Formby has been one of the key projects of ours over the past three years, a project undertaken as joint partners with Sefton Coast and Countryside and funded by Heritage Lottery. The leading figure has been Civic Society stalwart, Dr. Reg Yorke, who said, “We were given a key role to play in a special project which followed on from concerns that local heritage is at risk of being lost and ‘forgotten' and the need to preserve and explain this local heritage (to the wider community...). He added, “(Following) a number of 'Guided walks’, we received very positive feedback... Participants were genuinely quite amazed at how much history there was within the area.” A key to this development, then, has been the involvement of the local community and the opportunity for us all to learn more about the lovely area in which we live and to protect biodiversity.

The area of the Ravenmeols Dunes is rich in history and the newly-opened Walks have a number of excellent way-marked information boards to guide visitors and explain past uses and the previous purposes of points of interest. The information boards and the beautifully-presented leaflet guides take us through aspects of previous Formby life such as the sand quarries, asparagus growing, the impact of wartime and the failed attempt to open a new seaside resort, Formby-by-the-Sea. There are two main Trails to follow: the ‘Lost Resort’ Trail; and the ‘Devil’s Hole Trail’, both being about 2000 to 2500 metres in distance and over unsurfaced sandy track.

On Sunday 11th September, the Trails were officially opened by Baroness Williams of Crosby, PC, who is one of the best known names in British politics over the past 50 years. She shared this honour with Dr. Yorke, the driving force behind the project and who has given so much time and energy to see the whole project succeed. They were joined by members of the Sefton Coast and Countryside team who have enabled this all to come about. Other participants included members of Formby Parish Council and John Pugh, MP.

Reg Yorke, Rachel, David and Dru

Shriley Wiliams, Dru and Reg Yorke signing the book that was

Rachel and Reg Yorke

Ray, John Phillips and Shirley Williams

Ray, Reg Yorke and Shirley

John Phillips and Reg Yorke

By John Phillips of the Formby Civic Society

The Lost Resort of Formby-by-the-Sea

In the late 19th century, an attempt was made to develop a fully-fledged seaside resort on the Formby coast, which would be known as 'Formby-by-the-Sea'.

The story of Formby-by-the-Sea began in 1875, when Formby Land and Building Co. bought 105 acres of land along the Ravenmeols coast, overlooking the River Mersey. The company had big plans - to create a new residential resort rivalling nearby Southport. Roads, Parks, promenades and piers were imagined, all connected to the outer world via a loop line of the Liverpool-Southport Railway.

A promenade was built in the 1870's, together with two main roads and some fine Victorian homes. Yet the resort was a commercial failure. Welfare organisations eventually took over many properties, providing rest and recuperation services for needy children.

The use of Formby-by-the-Sea suddenly ended at the beginning of World War II, when the houses and land were requisitioned for military defence. With no reason to bring them back to life after the war, most fell into disrepair and were demolished.

The new Ravenmeols walks delve into the fascinating history of Formby-by-the-Sea - the modern equivalent of a 'Lost Resort'.

You will see the old houses such as Mount Pleasant, Everton Valley House and the site of Stella Morris, originally designed as a hotel. You will see old curbstones still in position. You will also see the Royal Observer Corps bunker remains and Formby's famous 'Devil's Hole'.

The old promanade steps uncovered

Royal Observer Corps Bunker

Devil's Hole

The Stella Morris building drawn by Muriel Sibley

Promenade 1912 Seabank House

Promenade 1933

Photo credit for all the opening photos to Tony Bonney from Formby Civic Society and to the Formby Civic Society for the old photos.

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