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Trust Flora: Formby – A student-friendly Northern National Trust travel guide

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Featured image: VisitLiverpool

Flora Jackson showcases the beauty found in National Trust sites around the North and gives ideas for the perfect day out for students and visitors alike in a new series for aAh! Magazine.

First to kick off Trust Flora is – drum roll please – Formby.

Getting there

By Foot: If close to Merseyside, the Sefton Coastal Path passes through National Trust Formby. However, straight from Manchester will be a 12-hour walk so we recommend getting there by train or car.

By Train: Both Manchester Victoria and Manchester Picadilly have trains to Freshfield Station, on Merseyrail Northern Line, approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. Then a 1 mile (1.6 km) walk to National Trust Formby

By Car: 2 miles (3.2km) off A565. Follow brown tourist signs from the roundabout at the north end of Formby bypass (by BP garage). You can park at the National Trust car park at Victoria Road, Formby (car park charges apply for non-National Trust members) however, there are plenty of other places to park if you don’t mind a little walk.

The Route

Start: The main notice board opposite the toilets at National Trust Formby. (grid ref: SD280082).

Cross the road and take the path (marked Cornerstone path) to the left of the toilets, heading down a ramp into the woodland. Continue to follow this clear, broad path with its white and purple marker posts through the woodland until you meet another path at a T-junction with a set of large wooden chimes on your left-hand side.

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To The Beach

If you arrive at Formby by train, you may wonder if you are in the right place. But while the local station, Freshfield, feels urban, a mile or so down the road is one of the country’s most spectacular coastlines. Formby has its own micro-climate and can be bathed in sunlight when there is rain elsewhere along the coast. From the highest points of the dunes, you can see Snowdonia, Anglesey, the wind turbines of the Liverpool Bay, Blackpool Tower and, on a clear day, the Lake District.

Follow the Sefton coastal path, marked with big wooden yellow arrows, and you will eventually leave the tall tree woodland and head out into the open dunes. Continue along the path as it passes through a small cut in the dunes. At this point, the path bends to the left and at a path junction by a bench you will leave the Sefton Coastal path and take the path straight ahead, over the dunes and on to the beach. Staying along the beach, you will notice as you walk along that there are big yellow wooden wayfinder posts along the sand marking the main paths back over the dunes.

Walks & Trails

Prehistoric Footprints

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time: 1 hour 45 mins
  • Distance: 3 miles (4.8 km)

The beautiful Sefton Coast at National Trust Formby contains a glimpse into the lives of our ancient, hunter-gatherer ancestors. On warm days as long ago as 6000BC the footprints of the humans that lived on the coast and the animals that sustained them were preserved in sand and mud. The sediment beds that contain the footprints are exposed by tidal erosion and offer a unique insight into the prehistoric life of the area.


Shipwrecks off the coast at Formby tell stories about the area’s maritime history. At low tide, the stunning sight of two shipwrecks is revealed just off the coast. These ships were calling into Liverpool with a refrigerated cargo of meat, cotton and fruit when they ran aground in 1939. The coastline around Southport and Formby were once full of sailing ships and steamships, many of them heading into Liverpool, which at one time was the world’s busiest port. However, the Irish Sea and the local coastline could be a treacherous place, full of rolling fog and changing tides, and many vessels met their doom at Formby.

Rare Red Squirrel Walk

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Distance: 1.8 miles (2.9 km)

On entering the pinewoods from the car park, there are signposted squirrel walks through the woodland and nuts for feeding the squirrels are available at a small cost from the Warden’s Office. The squirrels are quite used to people and will come much closer than most wild animals. The paths are marked out by low wooden fences, but there are areas of woodland where visitors can walk freely under the trees. The pine woodlands were planted from the late 1800s by the Weld Blundell family, whose estate covered the woodland area. Before the trees were planted the area would have been sand dunes covered in grassland – if you look closely, you can still make out the shape of the dunes underneath the trees. 

Over the years the trees have acted as a valuable windbreak for the fields used for asparagus farming however, they are now home to the rare native red squirrel. The red squirrels, devastated by the squirrel pox virus in 2008, are recovering well and are a great sight to see when visiting Formby.

For more places to visits, read more of Trust Flora

For more information, check out Formby via the National Trust website.

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Flora Jackson

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