Barbara Yorke March 2003
The beautiful spring weather is tempting many people to enjoy our pine woods and sand dunes, but many visitors to Formby do not realise that the woods are of comparatively recent origin. The first area of woodland to be planted was by the Formby Family in 1784 and is known as ‘Firwood’ in Albert Road. The area from St. Luke’s Church to Wicks Lane was next, followed by the area south of Lifeboat Road to Alexander Road in 1901 – 1902. Later a further area from Alexander Road to Range lane was planted.
Thus many of these beautiful Plantations are about 100 years old. When first planted access to the area was strictly controlled and permission to enter the plantation had to be obtained.
Having been successful in their experimental planting, the Formby Family were followed by the other main landowner Mr. C.S. Weld-Blundell. His first area was from Wicks Lane to Victoria Road. Giving evidence to the Government Commision in 1911 he described the development thus “Planting with fir trees by my highly trained and skilled staff conducted at very great expense and heavy loss”.
Never the less the scheme worked well enough. The British Association Hand Book for 1896, describing a walk down Wicks Lane to the dunes says “having now entered on the sandhills proper, beyond the last attempts at cultivation, we see a large area planted with minute Pine trees. It is an experiment that has been tried during the last few years and apparently with a prospect of success as the plants took well, though growing very slowly”.
Having started, the Blundells continued to establish the woodland northwards. Over the years many trees have been lost to coastal erosion, insect and wind damage. In the 1950’s the trees were being attacked by a beetle resistant to all known insecticides. The only remedy was to collect them by hand, put them in empty match boxes and take them home for destruction!
Trees have been felled and replanted to maintain the original plantation. During the 2nd World War German Bombers mistook the woodland at night for darkened Liverpool and dropped bombs, causing extensive fires.
The Pine woods are of course. the home of our beautiful and unusual colony of red squirrels. Legend has it that about 1940 a local resident was asked to look after some Scandinavian red squirrels for a friend. This he duly did and they lived happily in his green house until one day they escaped and established our local red squirrel colony!