What makes Southport such a special place?
PUBLISHED: 11:13 14 June 2011 | UPDATED: 21:34 20 February 2013
We find out what makes this coastal resort so blooming good for residents and tourists. Amanda Griffiths reports Photography by John Cocks
Southport has long been known as the Garden City. This elegant title was used to describe the coastal town for years before the marketing men re-branded it as a Classic Resort.
Now, with a prestigious entry into the nationwide Britain in Bloom competition, Southport is blooming once more.
The floral offerings from the flower beds on the promenade to the hanging baskets in Lord Street are more important than ever - not just to enhance the experience for competition judges but also for the people who live, work in and visit the town.
With a 2.5 million renovation under its belt, Hesketh Park could well be the deciding influence on whether Southport wins the title of Best Large Coastal Resort against rivals Cleethorpes, Plymouth and Bangor.
The renovation of the park has been a long time in the making; but it was finally completed at the end of last summer. Local councillor Tom Glover is chairman of Hesketh Park Heritage Group who were able to secure funding for the project from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
It all dates back to that Sunday the news broke that Diana died, he says. We knew as part of the lottery bid we had to prove there was visible public support for the park.
We did a survey on that day and recorded more than 600 visitors; that was a day with intermittent rain and more importantly a day when a lot of people were inside all day watching the television to find out more about Dianas death.
Those numbers indicated a high level of support and we were able to
push ahead with the funding bid.
On our open day at the end of August to show people what wed
done to the park we received more than 10,000 visitors.
Securing funding took more than five years but eventually the 12 acre Victorian Park saw a complete overhaul to restore its original grandeur, the highlight being a replica of a water feature at the main entrance which had been removed before the war.
Other projects included the repair and dredging of the lake, the restoration of the observatory, which houses one of the best small telescopes in the country and is regularly used by Southports Astronomical Society. The glass conservatory was stripped back to its original ironwork and restored.
Were looking at making another heritage lottery bid to build a visitor and education centre, Cllr Glover adds. Weve already got 6,000 raised from various events which would support a 20,000 bid and provide us with a nice building. Its also my groups idea to, hopefully, put a stage and temporary seating on the site of the old aviary to make an open air theatre.
Hesketh Park has always played a big part in Southports North West in Bloom offering and Im sure it will put on its normal good show as far as the judges are concerned. Likewise, in the town centre Im sure that despite the council cuts, we will also have an award winning display on show.
The news that Birkdale Civic Society have also secured another 50,000 of lottery funding to restore Southports Rotten Row, three quarters of a mile of flowerbeds and herbaceous boarders, will also be a boost to reinstating Southport as Garden City even though it came too late for this years Britain in Bloom judging.
And winning an award in Britain in Bloom can only have a positive
effect in terms of tourism, although Southports tourist trade has been steadily increasing in the last few years.
Weve certainly seen some interesting figures this last year, says Steve Christian from Sefton Borough Council. Last year the tourist information centre had a 13 per cent increase in visitors. Its unusual because these days you find people access information more on websites, (and website hits are also up), so you assume there are more people coming into the town.
I think its a combination of things, hopefully the marketing of it as a Classic Resort does appeal to people who want a different experience; then with the economic situation people have been being a little bit more cautious going for short breaks or days out in the UK and Southport has seen those benefits.
The addition of 250 four star bedrooms with the new hotels has improved our offer in terms of conference business too.
I think the thing that makes Southport special is the space. A lot
of seaside towns are quite closely built up with hotels backing onto shops onto the prom but in Southport thats not the case.
Around and about
Theres plenty to see and do in Southport itself, but if youre staying here or live here and fancy a quick trip out, the surrounding area has plenty to offer; starting with the picture postcard pretty village of Churchtown; a tranquil village which dates back to the Domesday Book.
With a blend of thatched roof cottages, independent specialist shops its a pretty special place to visit. While youre here make sure you pop into the Botanic Gardens too, you can even join a guided walk to find out more about the place.
At the other end of Southport theres Birkdale village which again is home to a number of quirky independent shops as well as restaurants and bars and of course the Royal Birkdale Golf Club which has hosted the Open Championship on nine occasions so far and hopefully the tenth time in 2016.
Further along the coast Ainsdale beach is a family favourite because of its golden sand dunes. Its also favoured by kite surfers because of a flat run of sand but no matter how busy the day youll always be able to find your own secluded spot to get away from it all.
Formby Point is another fantastic place to unwind, surrounded by miles of coast, pinewoods and sand dunes, its just breathtaking. And of course no trip around the area would be complete without mentioning Antony Gormleys iron man statues on Crosby beach.