'Approaching landing level; please take care,' the automated female voice repeats as each customer passes a sensor on the escalator connecting George to the Food Hall at Asda, Huyton. I discovered this while searching for the loos in there this morning.
‘Approaching landing level; please take care’. Useful advice for me as I dragged my weary feet just a few miles further, on a Huyton - Page Moss - Court Hey - Broad Green cycle linking M62 J6 and J5 and ending (as the motorway itself ends) at J4, The Rocket, at lunchtime today.
I’ve landed back in Liverpool. I took care to be aware of the precise point when this happened. Avoided crossing Page Moss Lane when I noticed that the telltale wheelie bins were different colours on each side of the road. Page Moss Lane marks a boundary, so I elected to continue walking among the brown bins of Knowsley, keeping my distance from Liverpool’s purple bins for just that little while longer.
The precise point where I entered into Liverpool was on the crossing where Roby Road, Court Hey becomes Bowring Park Road and there is a break in the concrete walls separating the deeply-channelled M62 from the golden-treed suburbs above it. A concrete footbridge crosses the motorway here, carrying walkers through an arch under the Liverpool - Huyton railway line on the Swanside side.
I stood in the centre of the bridge, surveying the wide upward sweep of the motorway to the crest marked by Motorway End and 40 mph signs, from which it descends to the flyover at The Rocket, suddenly integrated into the city’s south-central A-road jumble.
The Rocket, for the uninitiated, is besides the Philharmonic perhaps the most famous pub on Merseyside. Unlike the Philharmonic this is not because of its decor (though it’s nicely done up inside) nor its history (though its name of course recalls a pioneering transport experiment which happened on the railway just here 178 years ago). It is famous because numerous times daily local media traffic reporters mention its name. Usually in connection with tailbacks, sometimes with accidents blocking exits. As much of the traffic arriving in or leaving the city passes through The Rocket junction at Broad Green, it often clogs up, and when it does thousands are affected.
No clogging for me today; plenty of space to wander up and down the side of the carriageway taking many pictures of no interest to anyone but myself: pictures of road signs telling me that at last, after all these miles and under all that silly sunshine over the past 55 days, I am back in my home city. I was delighted to be greeted on my arrival by three good friends who came variously by bike, taxi and car to share a celebratory drink or two at The Rocket.
‘Approaching landing level; please take care’. That’s the challenge for me now, as the walk continues for a few days more, on into central Liverpool and around the city for a bit. Take care to land well, and carry well all I’ve brought with me, without dropping it or forgetting it. It’ll be interesting to see if ‘home’ seems different, to notice whether I’m seeing it differently or not. The Rocket certainly felt different this lunchtime. But like Huyton’s Bluebell Estate and Bowring Park and Golf Course (‘The First Municipal Golf Course in England’), today was actually the first time I’d been there. So, even in a city I mistakenly believe I know, the discoveries go on.