A Romp On The Breck
The Childhood Joys Of One Of Wallasey's Wild Places
Written by Margaret O'Reilly in 1991
There can surely exist no purpose-built adventure playground anywhere to beat Wallasey's Breck, at any rate as it was in that age of simple pleasure, the 20's and 30's. It had everything, offering a wide range of activities for sturdy youngsters, and it can't have cost the council a penny in maintenance, since all its features were natural ones. These included interesting rock information's, and the surprising thing was that there were three distinct types of rock in close proximity.
The entry-lane off St. Hilary's Brow appeared to have cut through pure red sandstone, but the stone in what remained of the old quarry was of a yellowy colour; while in the centre of a flattish area stood a tall isolated block of stone resembling an upended shoe-box, and this was smooth and grey. It was about fifteen feet high, and the summit could only be reached by way of a specific sequence of precarious hand-and foot-holds. I envied those who managed to master them, and lie on the flat, smooth top, to gaze across Bidston Moss to the windmill.
There were no half-measure about climbing the rock. Either you could nip up in seconds as adroitly as a mountain goat or you couldn't even get started. I came into the later category.
The quarry had yielded the stone for the foundation of Leasowe Road. A narrow path skirted the outer rim - dangerously eroded in places, and children who negotiated it for the first time felt a pleasant sense of achievement. You could only do it if you didn't look down! Halfway along, a particularly deep fissure often caused timorous first-timers to experience an abrupt change of heart; but once committed, there was no going back! Turning round was too dangerous with the sheer quarry-face beneath you! Once you gained the safety of the far end, however, it all seemed worthwhile!
The old Wallasey Mill had once stood at the top of the entry-lane, but this was long gone, replaced by a big house called Millthwaite. In all the years I played on the Breck I never saw any signs of life in this house, though I was told that a large happy family lived there.
To one side of the Breck lay a high platform-like grassed area reached by a rocky ledge. I rather fancy that when the quarry was being worked the administrative building would have stood here, as nowhere else was level enough. It was very good for the flying of twopenny paper kiss! The kites had short lives, as they were apt to descend abruptly into a blackberry bush!
But the main attraction of the Breck lay in the myriad of little hills and dales covered with scrub, for here were the dens! You had to arrive early to take your pick! Late-comers found the best ones already occupied. Each den consisted of a small secluded space, big enough to hold three or four bodies, hedged in with gorse and brambles and back by, perhaps, elderberry bushes or birch trees. The 'floor' was smoothed by generations of youthful feet and bottoms, and peepholes had been made here and there by pulling apart the thorny branches. What did we do in them? Well, not a lot, really, except sit, proud in possession, gloating over our snug sheltered privacy, and peering through the peep-holes at the occupants of other dens! It doesn't sound much, does it, by the standards of today, the TV and computer age! But it was enough for us, and if we had in our pockets an ounce - one old pennyworh - of sweets, our contentment was complete.
If all the dens were taken, or when you were tired of crouching behind bushes, hide-and-seek held endless possibilities. Good hidey-holes abounded, and the old common rang with shrill cries of triumph, occasioned either by catching somebody or by managing not to get caught yourself!
If you were bursting with energy, and simply needed to let off steam, all you had to do was race up the hill till you were ready to drop, then go and lit flat on the grassy kite-place to recover your breath!
Alas for the blackberries! What a waste! How many hundreds of pounds of jam might have been made from one season's crop if only we could have left the fruit to attain full ripeness, but we never did! The moment they were darkish red we picked them, on the principle that if we didn't, somebody else would! And sadly the Breck was almost the only place in Wallasey where blackberries grew in any quantity, the only other I can think of being the Gorsehill in New Brighton and the hedges that bordered Green Lane, that led from Wallasey Village to Leasowe.
A steep scree made of loose stones stones led to Breck Road, and as you slithered pleasurably down this, with no regard to shoe leather. hard on your right lay the Old Grammar School. The tiny cottage, built in 1799 from red sandstone, had replaced the original 16th Century building, part of the fabric and run under the auspices of St. Hilary's church. The cottage looked as if it had a dozen pupils would have filled it, but it must have been bigger inside than was suggested by its exterior, for in 1854 a complaint was made by the Rector of St. Hilary's, making an inspection at the request of the Trustees, that the school's full potential was not being realised, as the roll had dropped to twenty! They must have been crammed in like sardines!
The Rector also reported with some acerbity that the schoolmaster was ill-informed and discipline lax, after which the poor man had no choice but to resign before he was sacked!
A short distance behind the old cottage, on the edge of Breck Road, stood the ancient pinfold, or cattle pound, where for many centuries stray cattle had been corralled until claimed by their owners. It was a perfect rectangle before the war, only lacking a gate. Today mere vestiges remain.
As tea-time approached we would head reluctantly for home, perhaps taking the short cut over a tolerant farmer's field, at the far side pf which a ha-ha dropped conveniently into Wallasey Road. We were dirty and tired, our legs were scratched, our clothes snagged on thorns, our sandals scuffed and our stomachs queasy from a surfeit of unripe blackberries; but our hearts were high! A fun-filled day was over, but there'd be others! So home we trudged, leaving the old Breck alone with its memories, beneath the setting sun!