14 May Students complete Formby Asparagus Walk
Reward for Learner’s hard work
As a reward for our learner’s hard work in preparing for three weeks of exams we gave them all a day off by taking them to complete the Formby Asparagus Walk. The walk shows how this one crop helped to shape the Formby of today. The walk covers three miles and is achievable for most people.
This walk, which was opened in 2015 at Formby Point by the National Trust, offers an insight into the traditional farming of asparagus in the dunes. A surfaced track leads from one information point to another and is ideal for buggies or wheelchairs as the inclines are very slight. Our Learners loved the various wooden carvings and the two audio points; the walk will take much longer if you read all the information available.
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.
When looking at the sand dunes you may notice something that at first appears to be out of place: lines and lines of Christmas trees. Some areas of the dunes have become vulnerable due to the loss of Marram grass, the natural dune stabiliser, caused mainly by trampling. This leaves the dunes bare which means that the wind can blow the sand off them leading to flattening of the dunes and the blown sand covering the road, paths and car park. The trees are part of a restoration project to help to reduce the sand movement and stabilise the dunes.
The woodland known as Nicotine Wood takes its name from the area seaward of the trees where, during the 1950s and 1960s, thousands of tonnes of tobacco leaf waste were dumped by the British Nicotine Company. The waste was dumped on old asparagus fields that were no longer in production. This wood has an interesting natural, as well as industrial, history. The gnarled broadleaf trees that can be seen here are native black poplar and it is thought that this is one of the most northerly places where this species can be found in the UK
Formby is famous for its asparagus and the cultivation of this crop has left its mark on the landscape. Most of the areas of flat land and fields that you see throughout this walk are not natural but are areas where the land has been levelled in the past for asparagus cultivation. To help to continue the asparagus growing tradition of Formby, the National Trust has leased out a field at Sandfield Farm to the Brooks family who continue to grow asparagus on this site.
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.
Having completed the walk we tucked in to a well-deserved picnic lunch and drinks before setting off home.