Undiscovered Formby

National Trust Formby, Victoria Road, Freshfield, Formby, Liverpool, L37 1LJ

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Early morning sunlight streaming through pine trees at Formby © National Trust/Gordon Parmenter

Early morning sunlight streaming through pine trees at Formby

Freshfield Caravan Park © National Trust/Andrew Brockbank

Freshfield Caravan Park

Adult Natterjack Toad emerging from breeding pool at Formby © National Trust/Gordon Parmenter

Adult Natterjack Toad emerging from breeding pool at Formby

Red deer footprint found in prehistoric silt beds on foreshore at Formby © National Trust/Andrew Brockbank

Red deer footprint found in prehistoric silt beds on foreshore at Formby

Pinetrees Caravan Park being buried by dunes in late 1970's © Pinetrees Caravan Park

Pinetrees Caravan Park being buried by dunes in late 1970's

Site of former tobacco waste dump at Formby. © National Trust/Kate Martin

Site of former tobacco waste dump at Formby.

Hebridean and Herdwick sheep grazing. © National Trust/Kate Martin

Hebridean and Herdwick sheep grazing.

Asparagus spears © National Trust

Asparagus spears

Red Squirrel sitting in sunshine on woodland floor at Formby © Richard Taylor

Red Squirrel sitting in sunshine on woodland floor at Formby

Route overview

Discover Formby's hidden secrets, past and present.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Undiscovered Formby Walk Map
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: The main notice board opposite the toilets at National Trust Formby, grid ref: SD280082

  1. Cross the road and take the path (marked Cornerstone path) to the left of the toilets, heading down a ramp into the woodland. Continue to follow this clear, broad path with its white and purple marker posts through the woodland until you meet another path at a T-junction with a set of large wooden chimes on your left hand side.

    Show/HidePine woodland

    The pine woodlands were planted from the late 1800s by the Weld Blundell family, whose estate covered this area. Before the trees were planted this area would have been fixed sand dunes covered in grassland and if you look closely you can still make out the shape of the dunes underneath the trees. Over the years these trees have been a valuable windbreak for the fields used for asparagus cultivation and the neighbouring residential area. Of course now they are most renowned as the home of the rare native red squirrel.

    Early morning sunlight streaming through pine trees at Formby © National Trust/Gordon Parmenter
  2. Turn right at this junction and follow the wide stone path. As you come out into an open glade look through the trees on your left hand side to catch a glimpse of Freshfield Caravan Park. Continue along this path following waymarkers for the Sefton Coastal Path (yellow arrows on a white and grey background).

    Show/HideFreshfield Caravan Park

    The caravan park holds approximately 60 privately owned caravans. This is actually the second location that the caravan park has inhabited since the National Trust took over this property in 1967. The first was abandoned due to coastal erosion in the early 1980s and you will see the legacy left by the old caravan site further along this walk. Unfortunately as the coastline continues to erode, the sand dunes are creeping ever further inland which leads to an uncertain future for the existing caravan site.

    Freshfield Caravan Park © National Trust/Andrew Brockbank
  3. Following the Sefton coastal path you will eventually leave the woodland and head out in to the open dunes. Continue along this path as it passes through a small cut in the dunes and passes an old natterjack toad pool on the right. At this point the path bends to the left and at a path junction by a bench you will leave the Sefton Coastal path and take the path straight ahead, over the dunes and on to the beach.

    Show/HideStunning sand dunes

    The sand dunes at Formby are recognised internationally as being an important habitat for a number of rare animal and plant species. These include the Vernal Mining Bee, Northern Dune Tiger Beetle, Dune Helloborine and Hound's Tongue. Nature puts on her best display here in spring and summer when the dunes become awash with the colour of many wildflowers and the air is alive with the buzzing of insects. You might even be lucky enough to hear the call of the rare Natterjack toad that breeds in the dune pools nearby.

    Adult Natterjack Toad emerging from breeding pool at Formby © National Trust/Gordon Parmenter
  4. Turn left and, keeping the dunes on your left, continue along the beach. You will notice as you walk along that there are marker posts along the beach denoting the main paths over the dunes.

    Show/HidePrehistoric footprints

    Whilst on the beach you may be lucky enough to see a piece of prehistoric life frozen in time. On a number of days throughout the year, silt beds are exposed beneath the sand, approximately 100-150m from the base of the dunes, which hold human and animal footprints that date from the late Mesolithic to the Neolithic, 7500 4500 years ago. Alongside the human trails found, there are the footprints of a number of animal and bird species including red deer, wolf, crane and aurochs, the ancestor of the modern domestic cow.

    Red deer footprint found in prehistoric silt beds on foreshore at Formby © National Trust/Andrew Brockbank
  5. Continue along the beach.

    Show/HideOld caravan site and car park

    On the beach you may notice rubble and debris that is falling out of the dunes. This is the remnants of the old caravan site and car park that stood here. The dunes at Formby roll inland at a rate of 4 metres per year and during the late 1970s-early 1980s the old caravan site and car park succumbed to the sands. The remnants you see today, including old caravans, sheds, flagstones and lots of brick rubble, are what was left behind when the sites were abandoned. We now spend many £1000s each year removing these materials.

    Pinetrees Caravan Park being buried by dunes in late 1970's © Pinetrees Caravan Park
  6. After you have walked approximately ¾ mile (1.2km) along the beach you will reach the Blundell Path marker. Turn left and leave the beach via the path over the dunes.

  7. As you come over the dune you will see a clear path going off to the left through a thickly vegetated area. Take this path and follow it as it passes along the landward base of the sand dunes.

    Show/HideTobacco waste

    If you are undertaking this walk in spring or summer you will notice the difference between the lush green vegetation in this area compared to the paler dune vegetation elsewhere. This lushness is not natural but comes from nutrients leaching from the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of tobacco leaf waste that was dumped here by the British Nicotine Company in the 1950s and 1960s. You may also have noticed this tobacco leaf waste on the beach and in the frontal dunes where it forms cliffs and small 'boulders' of compacted earth-like material.

    Site of former tobacco waste dump at Formby. © National Trust/Kate Martin
  8. Continue along the path as it makes a sharp right bend before going up a slope. When the path descends take the clear path on the right heading into a woodland of gnarled black poplar trees.

  9. At a path fork, take the right path which leads out onto a T-junction with a wide stone path. Turn right at this junction. After a short distance the path curves round to the right and at this point take the sandy path to the left which leads between two fenced fields.

    Show/HideGreen sheep

    During the summer months there are a number of fields here that are home to a small flock of Hebridean and Herdwick sheep. The sheep graze these areas for conservation purposes by closely grazing the faster growing grasses to allow a variety of wildflowers to flourish.

    Hebridean and Herdwick sheep grazing. © National Trust/Kate Martin
  10. Continue on and follow the fence on your left until the end of the field. At this point turn left along a grass/sand path until it meets a sandy path at a T-junction. Turn right at the junction and pass through a small area of woodland before coming out onto a grassy field. Continue straight ahead.

    Show/HideAsparagus

    Formby is famous for its asparagus. The areas of flat land and fields that you see throughout the our site are not natural but are areas where the land has been levelled in the past to grow asparagus. Since the end of asparagus production in the 1990s these fields have been left to grass over however the remnants of the asparagus cultivation can still be seen today as ridges and furrows.

    Asparagus spears © National Trust
  11. At the end of the field take the sandy path on the left that ascends a short steep slope into the pine woodland. Continue along this path until you reach a fenced path at a crossroads with a bench on your right. Go straight ahead at this junction and follow the fenced path as it makes a left hand bend. Shortly after the bend there is a path going off to the right. Take this path to return to the walk start.

    Show/HideRed squirrels

    National Trust Formby is part of the Sefton stronghold for the native red squirrel, one of 17 strongholds in the North of England. Autumn and spring are when the squirrels are most active but they can be seen out and about in these woodlands all year round. Have a look out for the feeders in the trees as this is often a good place to catch a glimpse of these shy creatures.

    Red Squirrel sitting in sunshine on woodland floor at Formby © Richard Taylor

End: The main notice board opposite the toilets at National Trust Formby, grid ref: SD280082

Great British Walk

null © Richard Taylor
  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles (4.8 km)
  • Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • OS Map: Explorer 285 Southport and Chorley (Not all paths are marked on OS map)
  • Terrain:

    Varies throughout walk and includes stone, compacted earth, sandy and grass paths as well as a long section of beach walking. This walk also contains some short steep climbs over sand dunes. Please check the tide times and heights before undertaking this walk as during high spring tides the beach section of this walk may be impassable.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: Sefton Coastal Path passes through National Trust Formby

    By cycle: National Trust Formby 3 miles (4.8km) from NCN62

    By train: Freshfield Station, on Merseyrail Northern Line, 1 mile (1.6 km) walk to National Trust Formby

    By car: 2 miles (3.2km) off A565. Follow brown tourist signs from roundabout at the north end of Formby bypass (by BP garage). Park at the National Trust car park at Victoria Road, Formby - car park charges apply for non National Trust members. Sat Nav: use postcode L37 1LJ

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