Posted by: brigid benson | April 10, 2016

Shipping News!

IMG_1027River Mersey south bank drama

The wonderful Wirral peninsula oozes maritime history. Viking invaders liked the place so much they moved in; Thingwall village became their great meeting venue, the first parliament to be established in Britain.

Medieval Benedictine monks from Birkenhead Priory made the first Mersey river crossing. Rowing 90 minutes to Liverpool, their route was made more famous by the iconic Mersey Ferries that ply daily between  landing stages at Seacombe and Woodside on the Wirral, and the  Pier Head in Liverpool. While the monks are long gone, the 850 year old priory remains and is a fascinating visit.

Shipbuilders at the Cammel Laird yard have launched many famous vessels that contributed to significant world events including  the CSS Alabama, a ‘commerce raider’ sloop built in 1862 for the Confederate states of America to do battle with Union merchant ships.


CSS Alabama sloop-of-war

For the Royal Navy, the yard built two Ark Royal  aircraft carriers, the first in 1937 and the second in 1950, this legendary warship was the largest vessel to be commissioned by the Royal Navy.


The Queen launches  Ark Royal at Cammell Laird, May 3 1950

The great tradition of the Navy’s Ark Royals began in 1558 with the English fleet’s flagship in the Spanish Armada campaign.


CSS Alabama sloop-of-war

Grabbing the headlines in 2016 is a polar research ship named in honour of Sir David Attenborough, though it made a narrowly infamous escape from the more jolly moniker of  Boaty McBoatface in a public poll.

In a diplomatic resolution to the delicate problem of what might be deemed an appropriate name for a Very Important Ship,  a lucky sub sea vessel operated remotely from the Sir David Attenborough won the Boaty McBoatface title. David and Boaty are due for completion in 2019.


The best view of the Liverpool waterfront is from Birkenhead docks; go and be astounded. If you are lucky, you might see one of the famous road bridges across the Great Float, a vast inlet of water, rise to allow ships passage to or from the Mersey, the event is especially spectacular when small and mighty tugs are called upon to assist.

This video reveals some of the drama.



Discover Wirral in Weekend 14 of my award winning book 52 Weekends by the Sea, published by Random House Virgin Books and available from booksellers and Amazon.







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