A short distance from the A540 Chester to West Kirby road, the historic market town of Neston nestles into the Cheshire countryside providing a peaceful setting for its regular, Historic Friday Market.
Free car parking makes it an attractive place to stop and its close proximity to the Wirral Country Park provides access for walkers and cyclists alike. A matrix of local walks links the surrounding villages with the town and the spectacular views of the Dee estuary and the Welsh hills is always within range.
Boasting more than 85 local organisations in the area, the town caters for young and old alike. Its distinctive architecture is an indication of its historic roots and many of the old coaching houses provide for local pubs and places to eat. Parks and gardens contribute to the relaxed image of the town.
Little Neston grew up as a settlement around The Green, although the 1960s and 70s saw major expansion with the building of several housing estates. Today the village has two shopping areas: Town Lane is next to The Green and has a Post Office and a range of other shops including a newsagent, a fast food takeaway, two hairdressers, and an off-licence.
The other shopping area, on West Vale, has a similar variety of shops. The village also has a doctor’s surgery, clinic and pharmacy in Mellock Lane. Little Neston has four churches, two primary schools and three pubs: The Royal Oak on The Green, The Lady Hamilton on Henley Road and The Harp on Quayside.
Next to The Green is the Girl Guide headquarters where rainbows, brownies, guides and rangers meet, while the mobile library visits West Vale every other Friday between 11.05am and 11.25am.
Little Neston is surrounded on all sides by open countryside with many paths suitable for walkers, some of which link up with the Wirral Way. Today Little Neston nestles in the shadow of its namesake, yet it has always been a distinct settlement. The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book when it was recorded that Robert the Cook held the land. In 1066 it was worth 13s 4d and in 1086 16s.
There are a number of 18th century houses with date stones near the Green. White House has the date 1732 with the initials of George and Jane Bedson and 26 The Green has the date 1731 which possibly commemorates a rebuilding of the house by Hugh and Anne Bennett. This house was the former Durham Ox public house, which closed in 1928.
The Royal Oak was an ancient single storey thatched building which burnt down in 1901 when it was replaced by the present building. The Methodist Church was built in 1872 and St Winefride’s Roman Catholic Church was opened in 1843 and it was designed by Augustus Pugin. Coal mining started in 1757 in the area around the Harp on the Ness side. John Stanley the colliery owner built Denhall Quay in the 1760s and the coal was shipped to North Wales ports and to Ireland. The colliery had two underground canals to bring the coal from the coal face to the bottom of the pit shaft. The coal field was in decline by the mid 19th Century as the accessible coal had been worked out.
A new shaft was sunk in 1874. This mine had a railway link to the line on what is now the Wirral Way. The colliery closed in 1927 and some of the waste tips are visible on the right at the bottom of Marshlands Road. Read more about the history of coal mining at Little Neston Neston.
Today Ness village is dominated by the botanical gardens laid out here more than 100 years ago by a Liverpool cotton baron.
Ness Botanic Gardens were started by A K Bulley who moved there in 1898 after making his money as a cotton broker in Liverpool. He planted shelter belts of trees and laid out the gardens. He started a commercial nursery, which became Bees Limited. He used the gardens to promote his products.
A K Bulley was also a very important sponsor of plant collectors, which led to plants from overseas being established in Britain. After his death his daughter gave the gardens to Liverpool University in 1948. Today the gardens are a major tourist attraction and botanical research centre, researching, among other things, the effects of global warming on shallow lakes.
Mealors of Ness were well known horse drawn plough makers in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Joseph Mealor held two patents on ploughs, which were granted in the 1890s. Their ploughs were sold all over the country and had a good reputation. They also made metal railings and park benches. The company moved from Ness to Queensferry in 2010.
Emma (birth registered as Emy) Lyon, who was to become Emma Hamilton, mistress of Nelson, was born in Ness, before moving to Hawarden, after the death of her father.
The visitor to Parkgate will find it a bustling and unusual place; a long straight road bounded on one side by a sandstone sea wall and a huge (10,000 hectare) expanse of salt marsh. Views stretch over the 4 mile wide Dee estuary, a well known bird reserve, to the hills of North Wales.
Parkgate boasts a rich mixture of quaint and grand buildings, many of them listed and some dating back to the 17th Century. They reflect the interesting history of this area, most recently as a fishing village, struggling to survive the encroaching salt marsh, but more notably a century of use as a port for Chester, a sea bathing resort, terminal for packet ships to Dublin and ferry point for crossing to Flint.
The origins of the name Parkgate lie in the deer park, which was enclosed about 1250. 350 years later this estuary anchorage and the few houses that had sprung up in the park were first referred to as Parkgate. Wilfred Grenfell, the well known missionary doctor who set up hospitals in the wilds of the Labrador coast of Canada was born at Mostyn House, the large black and white building, which until July 2010, was a school run by the Grenfell family.
Emma, Lady Hamilton, mistress of Admiral Nelson, was born in nearby Ness and returned to stay at Dover Cottage to take the sea-bathing cure for a skin complaint. The Parkgate Old Baths were an attraction of the village between the 1920’s and 1940’s.
On sunny days visitors flock to this Conservation Area for the views, the award-winning ice creams, locally caught shrimps, renowned bird watching, leisurely lunches in the cafés, pubs and restaurants and a walk along the Parade. Several times a year when the tides are high the sea reaches the wall, flushing out many small creatures, thus attracting birds of prey and more bird watchers!
In 2016 the Donkey Stand was refurbished, and seven plaques were placed on interesting buildings. These and other buildings are described in Parkgate Heritage Trail (£2 from Mozkitos and Nicholls Ice Cream Shop).
Once a purely agricultural community, Willaston is now largely a commuter village for the surrounding towns. However, it has its own churches, primary school, branch library, health facilities, pubs, garages, and a selection of shops and a weekly country market. The Johnston Recreation Ground is home to football teams and a tennis club, and the adjacent meadow and woodland (cared for by the Friends of Willaston Meadow) are popular with walkers; there are also waymarked village walks.
Entertainment is provided by a drama group and a choir, and a concert society organizes trips to concerts and theatres. There are two Women’s Institutes and a thriving horticultural society. Organisations for children include a mother and toddler group, and there are Cubs and Scouts, Brownies and Guides, as well as Rainbows and Beavers for the younger ones.
Willaston Residents’ and Countryside Society is a village forum that comments on planning matters and co-ordinates occasional communal events.
An attractive village, with lots of old world charm, Burton is now a dormitory for the retired or those commuting to Chester, Liverpool and Manchester. It no longer has a pub or post office, but beneath its sleepy exterior is a vibrant network of activities.
The main centre for these events is the Gladstone Village Hall and associated sports club where every weekend and most evenings something of interest is taking place. From gardening to tennis, from bowls to picture painting, there is something for everyone. The opportunities to socialise and meet other residents are almost limitless: with a licensed bar available at the Gladstone Hall Social Club (membership necessary) and the many clubs.
Although Burton Manor College has closed as an Adult Eduction Centre, the Walled Garden and refurbished Victorian Glasshouse and Manor gardens are open to the public thanks to Friends of Burton Manor Gardens.
There is a strong resolve amongst the residents to maintain the charm of the village and a well-supported Burton Residents’ Association keeps a watchful eye on any proposed developments. A Welcome Pack, which contains details and contacts for the clubs and activities, is given to new residents.