Last summer, I took my children to an overgrown path on the Wirral Peninsula that I remember playing on at about their age. It’s choked with bushes and saplings that die before they’re very old due to the lack of light, and a small stream runs along it. Getting our feet wet and our arms scratched, we followed this path from its starting point at Thurstaston Country Park, along the cliffs and down towards the Dee estuary. Once upon a time, it was a smugglers’ path, used by local villagers to spirit away illicit booty that was brought up the Dee, away from the Customs’ checks at nearby Birkenhead and Liverpool. I’ve also heard stories of wreckers who operated along the Wirral coastline, lighting bonfires on cliffs and beaches to confuse ships heading to or from Liverpool Bay. Apparently the cliffs and sandstone bluffs in this part of the Wirral are riddled with the caves and passages once used by these men.
Ever since that summer visit, an idea for a story ticked away in my mind. Being possibly slightly over-preoccupied with the current novel, I didn’t do anything about it until I saw a short story competition being run by Bloomsbury’s Writers & Artists, in conjunction with Retreat West. The story could embrace any genre but it had to use a beach for its setting. Well – it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. I wrote and I submitted, and then, a few weeks later, was rather surprised to see my name and story title on the short list. I’m lucky enough to have been short listed in several competitions in the past but have never gone any further – until Tuesday, that is, when an email pinged onto my screen, briefly obscuring the guide to HR law for SMEs I was writing. My story, “Of Cabbages and Wreckers” had won.
You can read it here, along with the two excellent runner-up entries by Mark Mayes and Alexis Wolfe.
Smugglers Path – hidden by the vegetation to the right of the boardwalk path. The child in red is standing where the path comes out onto Thurstaston Beach.