Warrington Guardian: Hoylake beach

Visiting Wirral - Things to see and do

Wirral is blessed with an abundance of attractions and and offers a perfect blend of arts, culture and heritage to anyone visiting the peninsular.

With beaches, parks, galleries, theatres, woodlands, museums, ferries and a wealth of independent and high-street shops, there's something to suit everyone.

Here is just a taste of what's on offer - why not check some out for yourself?

The Floral Pavilion Theatre, New Brighton

Warrington Guardian: Floral Pavilion

Situated on New Brighton’s bustling seafront, the Floral Pavilion Theatre has been a jewel in Wirral’s entertainment crown for more than a century.

Opened by the Earl of Derby in May 1913 as an open-air summer theatre within Victoria Gardens it offered a programme of variety turns under general manager Howard Innes.

In 1925 it was covered by an iron and glass roof. The star attraction that year was concert party 'The Super Optimists', a show which featured Frank Terry.

He brought the company back in 1931 in a revue called ‘Pleasure On Parade’ and by the end of the season the BBC had broadcast the show more times than any other British concert party. Such was its success that it ran until 1937.

Other variety shows include Jackson Earle’s ‘Melody Inn Review' which began in 1948 and played to audiences of 80,000 people each summer. It was still running long after Jackson Earle’s death in 1971.

During the mid-1960s the theatre was largely rebuilt, with a full metal roof.

The theatre closed in 2007 for redevelopment and re-opened on New Year's Eve 2008 as Floral Pavilion Theatre and Conference Centre. It was the first phase of developer Neptune's scheme to regenerate New Brighton.

Performing that night was Ken Dodd who has had a long association with the theatre and first appeared at the venue in 1940.

According to box office records more than 130,000 tickets were sold for shows in its first year with average audiences running at 85 per cent sold out.

The theatre has also established links with local schools and is involved with ongoing educational projects.

Among the hundreds of performers who have trod its boards over the years are funnymen Ken Dodd, Tim Vine and Jimeoin, Grammy-Award winning singer Billy Ocean and former Dr Hook lead singer Dennis Locorriere.

In a Globe interview before his retirement last year, former manager Paul Holliday said: "The fact that there has been a performance venue on the same site in New Brighton for the last 100 years is a real cause for celebration. The theatre’s got a very exciting future.

"It's now recognised as one of the premier venues by the country's top producers. We are now able to stage much bigger shows than we could in the past."

Find out more and see what's on at the Floral Pavilion at www.floralpavilion.com

Fort Perch Rock, New Brighton

Warrington Guardian: Fort Perch Rock

Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton has stood proudly on banks of River Mersey for almost two hundred years.

Built in 1829 it was intended as a permanent fortification to protect the Port of Liverpool in times of war and covers an area of about 4,000 sq yards.

The guns on its towers have only been fired twice at the outbreak of both World Wars, but never in anger. They were also fired as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations in 1951 before being removed in 1954.

The fort is now privately owned by Doug Darroch and regularly hosts music events.

It also provided the stunning back-drop for a Pop-Up Pirates Day, in aid of soldiers' charity Help For Heroes and Macmillan Nurses.

For more information about Fort Perch Rock visit www.fortperchrockmarineradiomuseum.co.uk

Birkenhead Market, Birkenhead

Warrington Guardian: Birkenhead Market

Birkenhead Market has been a feature of the town since 1835 and was originally located on the site of the present Land Registry building in Hamilton Street.

In 1974 fire engulfed the market marking the end of an era, but the old clock was saved and restored and now takes pride of place in the main entrance at the new market.

The market features more than 300 indoor and outdoor stalls, with two nationally acclaimed fishmongers.

For more information about Birkenhead Market visit www.birkenheadmarket.co.uk

Birkenhead Priory, Birkenhead

Warrington Guardian: Birkenhead Priory

The iconic Birkenhead Priory was built in 1150 as a small monastery for Benedictine Monks.

Looking out across the River Mersey to Liverpool the Grade-II listed building, in Priory Street, is one of only four surviving Benedictine sites in the North West.

Merseyside's oldest building, it was re-opened to the public in April 2013 following a major refurbishment project costing £750,000.

It is a scheduled Ancient Monument and includes a range of Grade I listed structures. The site includes St Mary's Tower which is what remains of the first parish church of Birkenhead.

In October 2013 The Priory was awarded a funding boost of £393,100 to conserve the north and west range Priory buildings and complete other restoration works in order to remove it from the Heritage At Risk register.

The museum is also set to be revamped to help create interactive activities for visitors with a digital learning pack for schools and a public performance programme based on the Priory's heritage. Funding for the project came from Heritage Lottery Fund North West (HLFNW).

Sara Hilton from HLFNW said: "Birkenhead Priory is such a beautiful building and stands as an impressive reminder of the town’s historic beginnings, providing a place of tranquility amongst the hustle and bustle of 21st-century life."

"Local people will be able to, for the first time in many years, truly understand the Priory’s local and international significance and benefit from a variety of exciting events and activities."

For more information about Birkenhead Priory visit www.birkenheadprioryparish.co.uk

Birkenhead Park, Birkenhead

Warrington Guardian: Birkenhead Park

The picturesque Birkenhead Park is believed to have been the inspiration for parks around the world.

It was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton who wanted to create an idealised countryside landscape of open meadows, naturalistic woodland belts and beautiful lakes.

The park also boasts rivers with views across to features such as the Boathouse and Swiss Bridge.

The park is thought to have been the model for many parks around the world, including Central Park, New York.

The park is home to an adventure playground for children, two cricket clubs, tennis courts, bowling greens, football pitches and fishing.

For more information about Birkenhead Park visit www.friendsofbirkenheadpark.org.uk

Port Sunlight Village, Port Sunlight

Warrington Guardian: Port Sunlight

Stunning architecture and well-planned landscapes await visitors to Port Sunlight Village.

The area was created by Bolton-born businessman William Hesketh Lever in 1888 for use by his Sunlight Soap factory employees.

Among the village’s many attractions is the Lady Lever Art Gallery. Created by Lever in memory of his wife it boasts a fine collection of decorative arts and sculptures.

The Port Sunlight Museum, which reopened in 2013 following a refurbishment, allows visitors to find out about the architects who designed the houses, principal buildings and landscapes and see what it was like to live and work in Port Sunlight during the village's heyday.

Within the exhibition visitors can get an insight into different characters who lived and worked in the village during its early years.

The museum’s refurbishments have led to permanent exhibitions and the creation of a brand new special exhibitions gallery.

The village church, 'Christchurch', is also the place were both Lord and Lady Lever are buried.

The Gladstone Theatre in nearby Greendale Road opened in 1921 and occupies what was the dining hall for Lever’s workers.

An estimated 35,000 visitors attended the village’s 125th anniversary celebrations in September 2013.

For more information about Port Sunlight Village visit www.portsunlightvillage.com

U-Boat Story, Birkenhead

Warrington Guardian: U-Boat story

There's the chance to see what life was like on board a real German U-boat at an award-winning attraction in Woodside.

Featuring original film archive and interactive displays it tells the story of Second World War submarine U-534.

Visitors can look into the U-Boat, now in four sections with glass viewing partitions, view its amazing interior and discover its surprisingly well preserved artefacts including a rare Enigma machine.

Through the exhibition's interactive and audiovisual exhibits you can gain a unique insight in to life on board a submarine during wartime and learn of the enduring mystery of U-534.

The £5m attraction was named winner of Merseyside's Small Visitor Attraction 2011 and highly commended as a tourism and leisure attraction in the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors North West Awards 2010.

The exhibition is open daily from 10.30am to 5.30pm.

For more information about U-Boat Story visit www.u-boatstory.co.uk

Wirral Country Park

Warrington Guardian: Wirral Country Park

When Wirral Country Park opened to the public 40 years ago it was the first of its kind in Britain.

Covering a 13-mile stretch from West Kirby to Hooton, the ‘Wirral Way’, as it is better known, runs alongside the Dee Estuary.

Take a walk off the path and stand on top of boulder-clay cliffs for spectacular views of Wales.

It is home to many types of flora and fauna; badgers and foxes hunt in the quieter parts, birds nest in the dense hedges or feed on the berries in winter, and you may see up to 10 kinds of butterfly in summer.

For more than 70 years, from the height of the Victorian era onwards, the busy railway linked Hooton on the main Chester-to-Birkenhead line to West Kirby 12 miles away at Wirral's tip.

The line was closed in 1962 and the track lay derelict but, in 1973 and backed by money from the Countryside Commission, the old railway line was opened as Wirral Country Park.

Today it is a must for a family day out and its facilities include picnic areas, cafes and a visitor centre.

For more information about Wirral Country Park visit bit.ly/N2tY3S

For more information about what's on in Wirral and where to stay during the Open Championship 2014 visit www.visitwirral.com

Warrington Guardian: Birkenhead Park 2


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