We’d gone in search of an endangered species and had modest expectations of how many of the critters we would see.
But the red squirrel tally was surprisingly high when we got to the end of our time in Formby, where the bushy tailed mammals are only one attraction.
Thirteen of the little fellas fell in and out of sight but we had to be quiet as we stalked them. Standing still for a few minutes or so provided the encounter we had in mind. A top tip is to listen for the pitter patter of falling bits and pieces from the tree top canopies, where the reds gnaw away at nuts and drop the trimmings to the deck.
For those who don’t know, there are only a few places remaining in the UK where there are communities of the country’s native red squirrels. It’s actually illegal to kill or disturb a red, whereas people who inadvertently (or even intentionally) capture a grey are legally obliged to lend it a hand in meeting its maker.
The story goes that some bright spark imported foreign grey squirrels in order to decorate their luxurious gardens and they escaped and colonised the country, spreading disease among the native reds.
Cute as they are, those pesky greys have gone on to thrive at the expense of the reds. That’s why Formby is so special: it’s one of the few places remaining that provides an island of woodland cut off from locations where the greys are able to bridge the gap and finish the job.
Travel out from Manchester and away from Liverpool city centre and Formby is only one stop along from Crosby and Antony Gormley’s Another Place.
The part you’re heading for if you’re in search of red squirrels is a National Trust property comprising a woodland walk through the natural habitat of the squirrels, beach and woodside parking, and series of paths through to the magnificent sand dunes and on to the beach. There are some stunning wooden sculptures along the way.
Formby is a beautiful place. Wild and close to nature but easily accessible, with a forest of towering pine trees protected from the coastal winds by stunning sand dunes which are fun to explore.
It can be difficult under foot in parts, particularly when trying to navigate the dunes, but Formby is an affordable and enjoyable day out for all ages.
Getting there: Haigh Hall and Country Park
Victoria Road, Liverpool, L37 1LJ.
Parking for a family car costs £5.60)
Telephone: 01704 878591
Website: Click here
Verdict: Take a circular tour of the woods, walking quietly, and you’ll see plenty of red squirrel. Then head down to the beach through the dunes to complete the experience. A great value for money day out.