Among the dunes at Formby Beach. Photo by Visit Southport

From pre-historic footprints to Natterjack Toads there are so many ways to have a wild day out in and around Southport which, with the Sefton coastline spanning 22 miles, proudly boasts one the most beautiful and expansive coastlines in the country.

The Sefton Coastal Path is a mixture of wildlife, sandy beaches and coastal marshes meaning you can be sure to find something different every time.

And you can breakdown into smaller walks so if you have the kids with you the walks can be shortened to suit their little legs.

 Here Marketing Southport suggests 6 wild ideas to get you started……

1 – Squirrel Cycle Route

A red squirrel in the National Trust Nature reserve at Formby near Southport Photo Chris Horan

A red squirrel in the National Trust Nature reserve at Formby near Southport Photo Chris Horan

Visitors to the Eco Visitor Centre in Southport can hire a bike and opt to take a number of routes packed with wildlife encounters.

These include the Squirrel Cycle Route which links Southport to Formby and passes several Nature Reserves.

You will travel along the line of the old Cheshire Lines Railway, passing the Queens Jubilee Nature Trail, Birkdale Nature Reserve, the Sands Lake Nature Trail and Pontins Holiday Park.

You then pass-through Ainsdale Sand Dunes Nature Reserve, home of the sand lizards and natterjack toads, before reaching Formby Golf Club and Freshfield Dune Heath Nature Reserve.

You will also pass RAF Woodvale before reaching the end of the route at the entrance of the National Trust site, famous for its Red Squirrel population.

 2 – National Trust Formby

Formby is a coastal nature haven and as well as miles of coastal walks you can see a cavalcade of creatures and rare species among some of Europe’s best sand dune habitats as part of National Trust Formby’s amazing and ever-changing landscape.

Enjoy breath-taking sea views after winding through the pine woods and spotting red squirrels. It is a full day out, with fresh air, nature, and a stunning changing coastline.

There’s also the chance to see natterjack toads, great crested newts and lizards and visitors can also look out for ground nesting, wading and sea birds including oystercatchers and sanderlings.

And if that wasn’t enough why not take the family on a stroll along the Asparagus Trail, a hidden gem nestled in Formby’s National Trust site.

More details, prices, and parking information here.

 3 – Botanic Gardens for birds, ferns, and fabulous flowers

Botanic Gardens in Churchtown in Southport. Photo by Andrew Brown Media

Botanic Gardens in Churchtown in Southport. Photo by Andrew Brown Media

Originally opened in 1874, these Victorian gardens in Churchtown are bursting with floral splendour and colourful displays, lake, and multitude of pathways and tunnels to explore.

Bird lovers will be in their element as there is also an open-air aviary.

It also boasts the Victorian Fernery, which open all year round houses a wonderful display of ferns of all shapes and sizes.

The popular Botanic Gardens Cafe specialises in homemade food and snacks as well as selling a variety of gifts and toys.

More information here.

 4 – Hesketh Park

Based in Park Crescent and less than a mile’s walk from Southport’s famous Lord Street lies picturesque Hesketh Park, a 12-hectare Victorian Park with ample free on street parking and a perfect place to lose track of time.

There’s a large children’s play area, mini golf course in a woodland setting. There are numerous nature trails throughout this picturesque park, containing varied wildlife and resident ducks on the lake.

Other features of the park include the American, Clock, Specimen, Herbaceous, Mixed Flower and Rose Gardens.

The park has undergone £3million of improvement works, which has seen the gardens and ornate fountains restored and reconstructed, to bring the park back to its former glory. Funding has also been secured to repair the park’s historic and iconic conservatory.

It is also home to a historic astronomical observatory which is opened on a regular basis for visitors thanks to the efforts of volunteers from the Southport Astronomical Society. 

More information here.

 5 – Wish MOO were here – cows on the dunes! 

A stunning shot of the Longhorn cattle at Birkdale (Picture: Theresa Hobes)

A stunning shot of the Longhorn cattle at Birkdale (Picture: Theresa Hobes)

If you spot cows on the sand dunes along the Southport coast – do not worry your eyes aren’t deceiving you!

Sefton Council carries out its annual schedule of habitat management works at key sites along the coast and as part of this vital undertaking its Green Sefton service brings grazing animals onto the Local Nature Reserves to help control vegetation growth.

In recent times cattle moo-ved to the reserve at Ainsdale for grazing until the spring has included Herdwick sheep from Cumbria alongside Belted Galloway cattle from neighbouring Lancashire.

The cows are an essential tool in the management of Sefton’s scientifically important sand dunes and their notable presence encourages diverse plant species to grow and dune specialists such as Natterjack Toads, Sand Lizards and Northern Tiger Beetles to thrive.

 6 – Prehistoric footprints at Formby 

The Formby Footprints are located along a 4km stretch of the coast between Lifeboat Road and Gypsy Wood.

As the University of Liverpool puts it the footprints “provide an intimate glimpse into the past” and were formed when the region comprised muddy saltmarshes.

These saltmarshes flourished on and off across a period extending some 8000 years.

It is speculated that the reason the human footprints are not within animal footprints is due to the high regard humans had towards animals sharing their landscape.

More details can also be found at 


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