Our diverse Wirral landscape
The Wirral Countryside is a banner used to refer to the group of properties which now includes Burton Wood in South Wirral and Heswall Fields on the Dee coastline in addition to Caldy Hill, Harrock Wood, Irby Hill and Thurstaston Common.
The properties, although small, contain within them a great variety of features: rolling open country, dense-canopy woodland, lowland heath and farmland, coastal cliff and some outstanding views.
Thurstaston Common lies adjacent to the Thurstaston Village Conservation Area and much of the Common’s significance derives from historical function as the manorial waste, the impression of which remains due to the extent of the survival of the original area of common.
The late Enclosure Act of 1883 and limited development since that time, reinforces the sense of the common belonging to the village.
A ‘head-dyke funnel’ is evident on the Tithe Map and earlier Estate Plan by Valentine Vickers (1817), through which livestock could be driven into the village from the common. Manorial rights of pasture and turbary were held by some commoners, but these had fallen into disuse by the mid to late 19th century.
The National Trust has restored grazing to part of the common, recognising the value of this traditional practice in reducing birch saplings and coarse grasses which compete with the more desirable heathers and dwarf gorse.
100 years and counting
The established tradition of quiet enjoyment of the countryside has endured on parts of Thurstaston Common for over 100 years.
It's still possible to get the feeling of a wild and remote place on parts of the common, and imagine how Wirral once was in a time before major development, when most of the uncultivated land was heath.
The property provides a very important 'green lung' for the communities of Merseyside and is a good example of the Trust's early ideals, which are still relevant today.
This is also true of Caldy Hill where the outlook is one with fine views over West Kirby and the mouth of the Dee estuary to the Clwydian Hills. Here is a place to rest a while and contemplate.
The sandstone outcrop of Hilbre Island lies just off shore, as Caldy itself would have done when the sea filled the deep valley separating the hill from Thurstaston. Sandstone was quarried from Caldy Hill to build many local walls and buildings. T
The property contains a fine example of one of these old quarries served by a series of trackways between the quarry and the road below. The remnants of lowland heath here complement the plantation woodland, which fall within the Caldy Conservation Area.
Woodlands in our care
Woodlands in our care include Irby Hill and Harrock Wood in Irby, and Burton Wood in South Wirral. Harrock Wood comprises remnant Wych Elm woodland with other hardwoods including oak, beech and ash standing alongside the Arrowe Brook.
Harrock Wood adjoins a small water meadow and with the adjacent farmland, helps to break up the urban environment and give an open feeling to the area, which is much appreciated.
Early Scout camp
The birch, oak and pine woodland of Irby Hill has developed on former heath. Within the wood there is localised evidence of quarrying. The site is known to have been the site of one of the earliest Scout camps following the pioneering work by Baden Powell in nearby Birkenhead.
Perched on the hill at the back of Burton Village, Burton Wood, otherwise known as Burton Mill Wood, is popular with local residents. The major archaeological significance here is the site of the old mill, just off our land.
The peg mill was erected on the present site in 1629 although ruined in 1882. The southern slope of the property offers glimpses of the Dee Estuary and Welsh Hills. Arthur Kilpin Bulley, the founder of Ness Botanical gardens a few miles to the north of the property, was the major donor of the property and this may have been one of the sites that he considered for the gardens before building them at Ness.
The mixed mature woodland bears fine oak, beech and Scots pine and a number of large sweet chestnuts and cedars not typical of local woodlands.
Wirral’s only Neptune property, Heswall Fields possesses a strong sense of old rural charm. The feeling of remoteness cannot be bettered on Wirral, enhanced by its position next to the shining waters and mudflats of the Dee Estuary.
The cry of curlews on the wing above, the sight of sheldrakes and waders feeding in the channels below, and the freshness of the sea breeze, all add to the therapeutic quality of the place.
The low- intensity management of the fields and the collection of marl pits, dense hedgerows and grassy field margins make this property important for many species, notably brown hare and grey partridge. Many thousands of wading birds use the estuary in the winter months and the fields afford safe roosting sites at high tide.
This magical place typifies the off-beat attraction of the Wirral countryside, where our holdings contribute to a sense of freedom, helping to link people and place.