What the locals really think of Birkdale
PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 February 2015 | UPDATED: 14:15 11 February 2016
© WENN Ltd / Alamy
This bustling coastal community is stepping out of the shadow of Southport with an interesting array of independent traders and friendly service, writes Rebekka O’Grady
Although it’s most famous for its golf club, there is more to Birkdale than meets the eye. The Victorian village, split by the Southport-Liverpool railway line, features many shops tucked below architectural canopies – and those shops are keen to stage a revival.
‘High streets are dying,’ said Pat Parry, co-ordinator of the Birkdale Traders’ Association. ‘Birkdale village is a vibrant and unique place full of independent traders, and that is something we don’t want to lose.’
Pat, along with chairman Malcolm Browne, set up the association in summer 2013 to support and create opportunities for the continual development of the village, which is also a designated conservation area. ‘More people are becoming involved’ said Pat. ‘There are around 50 businesses in the village and 90 per cent of the traders are involved.’
As a shopkeeper himself, Malcolm was keen to get the association off the ground. ‘When Pat approached me with the idea to form the BTA, I thought: “at last!’” said Malcolm, who moved his shoe business, Schunanigans, from Southport into Birkdale five years ago.
The other member of the committee is vice-chair Joanne Halliday, the owner of Halliday of Birkdale fish mongers.
‘Around 30 traders will attend any one meeting and we try to get together every other month depending on events,’ added Malcolm. Events are something the association is enthusiastic to promote. Last year, they organised a summer fair and Victorian Christmas event in the centre of the village.
‘People were dancing in the street,’ laughed Malcolm. ‘Due to the success, we are hoping to organise these events again as well as a St George’s Day fair event on April 25, which we are looking for sponsors for.’
A village that comes alive during the day and night, both Pat and Malcolm are urging the local community to make more use of the amenities that they have here. From independent grocers and bakers to quality butchers and fish mongers, people can purchase their weekly shop from their local traders.
‘We have achieved the right balance in the village,’ said Malcolm. ‘The bars and restaurants aren’t taking over retailers and this creates a really nice atmosphere. People just need to take the time out to stop and really have a look here.’
In an effort to boost the village’s increasing evening economy, the trees that line the high street will be adorned with lights that will be switched on 365-days-a-year.
‘They will look really attractive in the evenings,’ said Pat. ‘We want Birkdale to be a place where people can visit for a number of things, whether it be a family day out or shopping, to an evening meal or a few drinks in the wine bar.’
A cut above
A familiar sight on Birkdale’s high street, the award-winning Brough’s Butchers has been owned by Dave Allen and Tony Brough since 1993. A real family business, Tony also owns butchers in Ainsdale, Formby, Ormskirk, Kew and Dockside. In his partnership with Dave, Broughs of Birkdale became quickly established as the go-to place for quality meats in the village and Southport.
The store has been managed by Steve Deven for 12 years, who moved up from London after marrying his wife who is from Liverpool. ‘Birkdale is a cracking place to work in,’ said Steve, who lives in Waterloo. ‘You come in here and get a real personal touch and service – something you don’t have in a supermarket.’
Steve, who describes Brough’s as a traditional butcher with a contemporary difference, says that you have everything you could possibly want in the village. ‘Birkdale is a foodie heaven.
‘We just have to try to entice people to come here and have a look around instead of going straight the way through to Southport.’
Name in lights
John and Laura Napp have been trading in Birkdale for the past 18 years. Their business, Birkdale Antiques, specialise in antique and vintage chandeliers, lamps and wall lights. ‘Our original store is located by Royal Birkdale Golf Course,’ said Laura, who in November 2013 extended their business to include a property within the centre of the village. ‘It’s a busier location here. We have now turned the other store into a workshop.’
The husband and wife team source their items from all over the world and John often flies to Italy, Belgium and the Czech Republic to find interesting items the couple can then restore into their former glory. Birkdale Antiques are also a stockist for luxury Italian umbrella brand, Pasotti. These handmade umbrellas feature glamorous handles that are often adorned with Swarovski crystals.
‘We really enjoy working in Birkdale,’ said Laura. ‘The village has such a nice feel and the annual events organised by the traders’ association are great fun.’
Homage to fromage
‘What Birkdale offers is such a great variety,’ said Joanne Matthews, owner of the Birkdale Cheese Centre which is situated in the heart of the village. ‘All of the traders and shops liaise and work really well together to promote each others business.’
Although the fromagerie has been in Birkdale village for over 20 years, Joanne has been running the business for the past three years. ‘I really wanted to bring back a total focus on cheese,’ said Joanne, who was born in Southport. ‘We have recently started to make our own cheddar too.’
Birkdale cheddar, which is produced in Preston, was started during the village’s summer fair in 2014. ‘It’s really popular with ex-pats of the north west who want a taste of the area with them.’
Birkdale Village shops
Proprietor, Lorna Kemp, and waitress, Sophie Mistry with customers at Villaggio Cucina
Comic duo Laurel and Hardy are a feature inside Schunaigans Shoe Shop
Schunaigans Shoe Shop proprietor and chairman of the Birkdale Traders Association, Malcolm Browne, with Coordinator, Pat Parry, and shop assistant, Christine Waind
Laura Napp with an armful of decorative umbrellas at her Birkdale Antiques shop
Joanne Matthews at The Birkdale Cheese Centre
Manager, Steve Deven, and assistant, Josh Rimmer at Broughs Butchers
Window shopping at Brough's Butchers
The Barrel House
Manager, Jane Timothy, serving customers at The Barrel House
Birkdale in brief
Where is it?
Just over one mile away from Southport, Birkdale sits in West Lancashire near to the coast. Postcode for sat-nav: PR8 4AZ
Where to park?
You can park on the main high street, Liverpool Road, for free for two hours. Birkdale Railway Station is also easily accessible, running across this main road. Regular rail services run through to Liverpool and Southport every 15 minutes from Monday to Saturday and every 30 minutes on Sunday.
What else is there to do?
Red Squirrel Nature Reserve. If you take a short train journey or drive to Formby, you will arrive at the National Trust’s Red Squirrel walk. Perfect for a stroll or perhaps even take a picnic. Sand dunes. Birkdale is part of the Ainsdale and Birkdale sandhills local nature reserve, one of the largest areas of wild dune land left in Britain. Wrap up warm and take a walk along the Velvet Trail.