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Formby Red Squirrel Trail

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Formby Red Squirrel Trail
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 27 Nov 2013 Walk rating : Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Merseyside, Formby
Walk Type: Woodland
Formby Red Squirrel Trail
Length: 2 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A 2 mile circular walk around the National Trust’s Nature Reserve at Formby. There is plenty on offer here including dramatic sand dunes, sweeping coastal pines and mixed woodland plus a rare and healthy population of the native red squirrel. Early mornings in spring and autumn are the best times to see the squirrels.

The route follows stone and mud paths through the woodland and dunes and, whilst generally firm, they can get a little muddy in winter and after rain. There are a few slopes throughout. There are no stiles or gates on route. The reserve is open every day (except Christmas Day) from dawn ‘til dusk, but can be extremely busy at peak times so it is better to visit early in the day, on weekdays or in the winter months if you can. Dogs are welcome throughout the reserve, but must be kept under control and need to be on a lead through the red squirrel reserve (the last half mile of the walk). There are public toilets in the car park at the start, plus several picnic areas along the way. Allow 1 hour.

Formby is located on the west coast, between Liverpool and Southport. The walk starts and finishes from the Formby Nature Reserve. The car park is located at the end of Victoria Avenue, and is marked with brown signs. Approximate post code L37 1LJ. The fee for parking is £5 per car (correct November 2013) or free to National Trust members – the fee covers entrance to the whole reserve and is used to support the squirrel conservation work.

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Walk Sections

Start to Wooden Chimes
Start to Wooden Chimes

Start point: 53.5655 lat, -3.0888 long
End point: 53.5675 lat, -3.0915 long

From the long narrow parking area make your way back towards the vehicle entrance and, just before this, you’ll see a large notice board on the right and the toilets on the left. Turn left down the fenced path (signed as ‘Path to Beach and Cornerstone Walk’) which is immediately to the left of the toilets. Follow the main fenced path winding down into the woodland.

In September 2005 the woodlands at Formby became part of a National Red Squirrel Refuge and Buffer Zone, along with the rest of the Sefton Coast woodlands. In 2008 the population was decimated by squirrel pox and approximately 80% of the squirrels were lost leaving as few as 20. Since then there has been a steady recovery with numbers currently around 250. Keep your eyes peeled for squirrels all the way round, although your best chance of spotting them is towards the end of the walk.

The fences end and a little further on you’ll pass a bench at an open clearing. Keep left here on the broad path following the white/purple topped markers. Continue until you reach a T-junction with a wooden chimes sculpture to the left.

Wooden Chimes to Sand Dunes
Wooden Chimes to Sand Dunes

Start point: 53.5675 lat, -3.0915 long
End point: 53.5647 lat, -3.0957 long

Turn left, signed to the Beach. Pass by the first two white/purple markers and then, just before the third marker, turn left (leaving the waymarked path) onto a wide path heading through the woodland. The path passes through a small picnic area and then climbs steadily back to the main access road.

Cross over with care and then keep left for just a few paces. Immediately after the picnic area, turn right and take the right-hand of the two paths which heads downhill into the woodland. Keep ahead on the path passing a marker post with a yellow arrow and then a low pale green topped post on the right. A few paces later you’ll come to a subtle fork (with a wooden post with white/orange triangle). Keep left at this fork and then right at the next one to pass between some wooden bollards to reach the sand dunes.

Sand Dunes to Blundell Avenue
Sand Dunes to Blundell Avenue

Start point: 53.5647 lat, -3.0957 long
End point: 53.5595 lat, -3.0939 long

After the bollards, bear right and pass a bench and bin on the right to reach a T-junction. Turn left here signed for Lifeboat Road. Follow the sandy path with the sand dunes to the right, held back with wooden retaining boards. You will be able to hear the sea beyond the sand dunes to the right.

Take a moment to appreciate the dunes. Covered with marram and sea lyme grasses, the ever shifting sand dunes are one of Formby's fantastic features. Erosion of the sand here has revealed some exciting discoveries, including footprints that date back to the late Neolithic era (7000 years ago).

Follow the main path ahead which leaves behind the dunes and continues with mixed woodland on the right and a pine plantation on the left. You will notice the trees on the right all sweep towards the path, shaped by the prevailing winds from the sea. As the fenced plantation on the left ends you’ll come to an obvious fork. Keep right (marked with a green/white arrow) following the path through a more mature section of pines.

Stay on this path as it leaves the woodland, swinging left. Further along, ignore the path off to the right (signed with a green/white arrow to Lifeboat Road). Simply keep straight ahead and the path will lead you out to a T-junction with the road.

Blundell Avenue to Grass Clearing
Blundell Avenue to Grass Clearing

Start point: 53.5595 lat, -3.0939 long
End point: 53.5624 lat, -3.0882 long

Turn left along the road, taking care of any occasional traffic. Continue past Sandfield Farm on the left and round the gentle right-hand bend. Follow the road over the brow of the hill ahead. About 30 yards later, just before a litter bin on the left, turn left onto a path into the woods.

Keep ahead over the first crossroads and follow the main path as it swings right, heads down into a dip and then climbs again to the left. The main path leads you over a small hill and down into a large grass clearing.

Grass Clearing to End
Grass Clearing to End

Start point: 53.5624 lat, -3.0882 long
End point: 53.5656 lat, -3.0887 long

Cross straight over the clearing and take the path opposite, climbing fairly steeply between wooden panels retaining the tree roots each side. (Note: From this point you are heading into the heart of the red squirrel reserve so please put dogs on leads).

Continue until you reach a crossroads of paths with a bench to the right. Ahead/left is a fenced section of woodland and if you look into the trees you will see a caged feeding platform, one of the feeding stations installed in 2011 for the squirrels. The mesh is large enough for the red squirrels to pass through, but prevents the larger grey squirrels (and magpies) from getting access to the food. Spend some time here and, if you’re lucky (as we were!), you may see red squirrels on the station or in the surrounding trees.

Turn left at this crossroads, following the path steadily downhill with the fenced squirrel wood on the right. This path soon becomes a boardwalk. Follow it as it swings right around squirrel wood. At the end of the boardwalk, turn right up the slope. At the top of the slope, turn left and after just a few paces you’ll come to the notice board within the car park where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2013 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


1 responses to "Formby Red Squirrel Trail"

A pleasant, easy walk, although the slopes might be difficult for those with limited walking abilities. It was lovely to see the red squirrels.

By mariafrances on 2016-11-15 17:00:38

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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