Saturday 2nd July and the WARP brigade are on the television trail as we tour Merseyside seeking out filming locations from some iconic Liverpudlian TV series…
To Liverpool: I meet the chaps outside Wolverhampton Station and we narrowly avoid someone having a fracas as we head inside to catch our 9:19 train. London Midland operate a good service to Liverpool, running every half hour or thereabouts using a fleet of Class 350 Desiro trains that are always smartly presented.
Touch down in Merseyside: We arrive at Lime Street at about 10:45 and quickly purchase our £4.60 Saveaway tickets, excellent value for a day riding local buses, trains and ferries. Rog is in need of a nicotine fix so we head outside where I can get the camera into gear with shots of the war memorial and Radio City tower. Queen’s Square bus station then beckons for our first bus of the day, not to mention a sighting of the ever-growing D9 bald spot…
13: The Stockbridge Village Circular provides our connection to location #1 and I really enjoy the ride down through West Derby. There are plenty of intriguing landmarks including some derelict pubs for Roger (the Newsham Park) and some gas ones for Andy (the Sefton) whilst West Derby Village Hall also catches my eye. We alight on Mab Lane and a short walk around the corner brings us to Brookside Close.
Brookside: I never watched Brookside much when I was a kid but the opening titles and theme tune still carried a certain resonance as the soap broke new ground in British TV history. The programme was filmed around a self-contained cul-de-sac that was home to the likes of Sheila Grant, Jimmy Corkhill and Ron Dixon. The set became virtually abandoned when the show was cancelled, and today the builders are in converting the houses ready for standard residential use. Some photos of the Close itself are followed by group shots around the Brookside sign and luckily Roger escaped without becoming the next body under the patio!
12: Back to the City Centre then and all my sprinting during the Digbeth trip came in useful when the return 12 bus hove into view for a TUAR ‘turn up and run’. The route seemed very busy, particularly heading down West Derby Road through Tuebrook, so the thick blue line on the bus windscreen was highly appropriate.
Lunch: Alight at Queen’s Square once more and we file into the Fall Well Wetherspoon’s for lunch and a couple of pints. Needless to say I opted for my regular gourmet burger, washed down here with some Black Cat from the Moorhouse Brewery in Burnley. The local scammers obviously know an easy target when they see one as Rog got conned into giving a ‘homeless’ chap some change – or perhaps he just mistook Rog for Freddie Boswell!!
C4: Talking of the Boswells, it was time to make our way to location #2. This necessitated a ride on the C4 Cumfybus to the Dingle estate – three of us can vouch for the bus indeed being very comfy but poor Andy had to shoehorn himself in above the wheelarch and there wasn’t much scope for D9ing there. After a tour of the City Centre we negotiate the streets of Toxteth to arrive at Park Hall Road.
Bread: Following Mr Wood’s expert instructions we head around the corner to find Elswick Street, the terraced row looking down to the Mersey that doubled as the home of the Boswells in the 1980’s BBC hit sitcom Bread. We had a few misgivings about the general area but I think I’ve visited worse closer to home, and the thing that stood out for me was a real sense of community spirit.
C5: The comedy hasn’t finished yet though as we now have the farce of trying to catch our return bus, an experience not helped by the fact the C4 and C5 do convoluted loops of the Dingle that cover the same roads twice in quick succession. We contrive to miss one C5 then have the C4 passing us twice whilst we wait for the next C5 along. To top it all Andy has to make an emergency bladder stop and Rog visits a local off licence that would put a bank to shame with it’s wall of security screens.
Liver Birds: Finally the C5 does collect us and after a further tour of Dingle we head out to the salubrious surroundings of Falkner Square. Woody’s plan is again right on target as we find Huskisson Street, somewhere along which is the flat where part of the Liver Birds was filmed. We’re not exactly sure which residence it was though, and there’s nothing in the way of plaques or commemoration to help us – in fact none of today’s sites had been marked in any way, perhaps the Liverpool powers-that-be are missing a trick in not pinpointing this aspect of the city’s cultural heritage. At least I can get a variation on a bald spot photo by way of consolation…
86B and Albert Docks: From Huskisson Street we literally turn up and go on a Stagecoach 86B down to Liverpool One Bus Station, the driver forgetting we were on board so we have to alight in the parking zone. We can’t resist a look at the famous Albert Docks, for many years home to This Morning although we can’t convince Woody to recreate Fred Talbot’s weather forecasts (minus the floating map of course). With a quick nod to Billy Fury we then head down to Pier Head to wait for our 4pm ferry departure to Birkenhead.
Ferry: It takes a while for everyone to get on board but the experience is worth waiting for, cruising across to Seacombe whilst admiring the city skyline with the Three Graces taking centre stage. Rog bravely battles his sea sickness (or was it the shock of seeing Mr Wood’s hair move?!) whilst the on-board commentary tells us about the development of New Brighton and the use of the ferry boats in the First World War. We touch down at Seacombe to wait for our connecting bus and find that the Seacombe Ferry pub has closed down.
Birkenhead: the 409 arrives promptly and thankfully there are no raised lift bridges to hold us up this year, hence it’s a quick ride down via Woodside terminal and Hamilton Square. At Birkenhead Rog introduces us to the Mackenzie, a rather basic local pub that claimed to provide the “spirit of Scotland” but just seemed very average to me - I had to agree with Andy’s assessment of it being a PPP (purple pavement pizza) type of place but it did us alright. A short walk back to the bus station brings us onto First’s 1 route taking us through the Mersey Tunnel to complete its run from Chester and Ellesmere Port.
Liverpool: a final look around the centre before our train home, so we squeeze in a couple of drinks. Firstly we try an Irish American bar where there’s some lively karaoke taking place; I was pleased we were in the quieter room as the rendition of Roy Orbison’s ‘Penny Arcade’ we heard being screeched might have scarred me for life. We then take cover in the Crown where I get to sample some Shepherd Neame Spitfire ale and collect a Cains beermat – the pub is firmly establishing itself as our chosen place to finish off our Liverpool outings.
Homewards: we stock up on goodies from the M&S foodstore in Lime Street Station then take our seats on the 18:48 Euston departure, changing at Stafford onto the Wolverhampton connection, arriving back at 8pm on the dot. Mr Wood and Mr Chance then set off to jinx their 256 bus on its way back to Stourbridge whilst Mr D9 and I toast an exceptional day with a swift pint in the Tap & Spile – and that’s that!
Cheers to a great plan, a great day and a great city!