Full disclosure: I have a teeny, tiny bit of an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I value symmetry above almost anything. I like to see order and structure in things. And I like to find patterns in random things - it makes me feel a whole lot better.
The line from Birkenhead Central to Chester is most familiar to me, because I use it for work every day, and in my head I've sort of divided it up into little slices. Rock Ferry, Green Lane and Birkenhead Central - they are all grouped together as the "urban" stations, all grit and grime. At the other end, there's the pleasing symmetry and sort of inter-related names of Bromborough Rake, Bromborough, and Eastham Rake - something about those three names is just so satisfying to me.
And in the middle, there are the "twin" stations: Bebington and Port Sunlight. Both stations are up on viaducts, they're pretty simple at platform level, and they both serve the Port Sunlight village - viz:
In full OCD mode, can I say how much I love that they swapped "Port Sunlight Village" and "Lady Lever Art Gallery" over between signs? It was probably done for some tedious geographical reason, but I like to think that the man in charge of ALFs just wanted to make it interesting. (However, he'd lost his inspiration by the time he got to the Evil Repeating Birds of Leasowe & Moreton).
So I started at Bebington, my usual departure station. The light was bad, and it was extremely difficult to get in a position, which is how I ended up under the bridge, and... well basically, this is one big apology for the shittiness of this shot. I'm sorry Bebington. I let you down.
Anyway, onwards and upwards. It's a straight line from Bebington to Port Sunlight - the road follows the railway embankment - but I took a diversion and wandered through the village itself. (As you may have deduced, I was in no hurry to get to work). If you're not familiar with Port Sunlight, it was built to house the workers for the Lever factory in the village - yes, that's Sunlight as in Sunlight soap. The Lever family constructed a whole town for the employees, with a pub, village hall, church - even an art gallery. This was just for the rank and file; the managers were housed in Thornton Hough, which is further down the Wirral and is like a Disney English village - everything is designed to look like it's been there since Ye Olde Days, even though it's only about a hundred years old.
The whole village is now a conservation area, and they are incredibly strict about preserving it, as they should. Normally I hate new buildings that pretend they're old. Chester is full of them and they make me want to scream. If it's the twenty-first century, build a twenty-first century building, and don't shove a load of mock-Tudor bobbins all over it. Somehow, though, Port Sunlight gets away with trying to look older than it is. Perhaps it's their social significance. The houses must have been astonishing for the factory workers at the turn of the century, people who were used to slum conditions. In fact they're better than some houses being built today. At least these ones have space and light and room to breathe. You don't get that on a Brookside estate. And can you imagine employers building a village for their employees now, or if they did, actually making it somewhere you'd want to live?
If you get the opportunity, do go and take Port Sunlight in. The Lady Lever Art Gallery does some very nice cakes. There; now you have no reason not to go.
Anyway, I eventually had to drag myself away and go to the station. It was built in keeping with the village, though it was actually constructed some time later, and it's lovely; like a little country cottage. It's also amazing what a difference a few hanging baskets make.
In fact it's so nice I now feel doubly guilty about how crappy Bebington looks next to it. I might have to revisit I think.
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