Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Friday, 16 September 2011

Widnes

Kay & I have been on tour for the last couple of days, we've enjoyed catching up with parents in our home town of Widnes. Its 20 years since we left the shores of the Mersey and so much has changed! 
I guess the town's most iconic image is that of the Widnes-Runcorn bridge, opened in 1961 to replace the earlier "Transporter Bridge", there is a great deal of similarity between Widnes' bridge and the one in Sydney harbour.
The Bridge from West Bank
I think it could well be a full two decades since I was last in West Bank on the promenade where the above photo was taken so whilst there my Dad & I went on to Spike Island. Its incredibly difficult to picture this place as the heart of a thriving British chemical industry manufacturing soap & alkali, I can recall from childhood the remnants of the factories in this area, names such as Gossage, Deacon, Brunner and Mond are etched on my memory. Below is a picture of the Sankey Navigation, which I always knew as "The Cut"-  again its hard to envisage barges laden with the output of processes like that developed by Leblanc for the production of alkali plying their trade along this stretch of water.

Looking upstream in the direction where ICI's Pilkington-Sullivan works used to produce Paraquat and Saffil the Mersey looks like a big river and another of Widnes' iconic sights can be seen - the eight towers of the Fiddlers Ferry power station! (I only got four towers in the photo). I can remember well the windy day when one of the towers imploded and for some time the eight became seven!!

This "post-industrial" landscape now forms part of the Trans Pennine Trail a 215 mile way marked route connecting Southport on the Irish Sea with Hornsea on the North Sea Coast and now provides a stopping point for the geese rather than a source of employment to thousands in the manufacturing sector.

A Gate Valve From One of the Alkali Plants
So the "chemics"have become the "vikings" and Spike Island has given way to the Mersey Multi Modal Gateway where no longer do ICI, Fisons, Albright & Wilson make the chemical building blocks that support the World's economies but Eddie Stobart distributes produce made elsewhere. In a week that the Widnes Weekly News reported the potential arrival of a further 2,000 new jobs via an Amazon distribution centre at the multi modal gateway I guess this looks like the next stage in the development of the town's commercial future. 
The town centre itself has changed beyond recognition with the arrival of the most of the well known high street giants - the new Tesco store still under construction - appears to be of immense proportions and judging by the car parks they all seem to be doing well. The Peel House Lane & Widnes Road ends of the old main street, however, appear in need of some urgent regeneration.
It was great to be back, we enjoyed seeing the changes and reflecting and reminiscing as to how it used to be - we will try to get "home" more often in the future.
 

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