The countryside has returned to its original state after the destruction caused by the blitz, as detailed in Jennifer Jones’ country diary.
The Coastal Path in Crosby attracts winter hikers heading north towards Hightown. Along the way, the River Alt, which winds through North Merseyside, meets the Mersey and flows into Liverpool Bay. This area is surrounded by the estuary, beach, and vegetation, and the presence of stable sand dunes adds to its allure.
Today is extremely frigid, with a harsh and piercing chill, but also energizing. The sky is clear and bright, typical of a winter day. The once flower-filled and fertile lawn is now flattened and decorated with frost. A vole rushes through the grass, utilizing the rigid frozen plants as a path.
Crosby beach is not your typical beach. It is known as “blitz beach” due to the presence of debris covering the sand. The debris, which includes remnants of walls, chimneys, and other architectural elements, is a result of the 1941 May blitz on Liverpool and Bootle. These artifacts serve as a reminder of the animosity between nations during that time. The debris was originally brought to the beach to protect the coast from storms, but after 75 years, it has been transformed by the elements and is now returning to its natural state as river sediment. The patterns, textures, and colors found in the debris make this beach truly unique.
The past and the environment come together in this place, where remnants of war provide a home for plants and shelter for birds to rest. This is not a place that sleeps, even in the off-season. Sea beet flourishes among the ruins. Cormorants glide above, while restless redshanks cry out. Oystercatchers make their distinctive call as turnstones search through reshaped bricks, which resemble the pebbles they typically scavenge for food. Large groups of stonechats flit from frozen stems to fence posts, their vibrant reddish breasts as comforting as a warm drink.
The main attraction is an abnormally large group of grey plovers. They are positioned along the bottom edge of the beach with their white wing feathers outlined. Some face the ocean while others face the land. Gathering in such large numbers offers safety and warmth from predators. As the tide rises, the birds move further up the beach to seek temporary shelter on the rocky area. As the tide continues to rise, there is no more space for them to rest. In a coordinated effort, they take off in a flurry, displaying their white rumps and black “armpits”. Despite the cold weather, I feel comforted.