I can’t remember what the Covid rules were in September 2020 but I do recall hardly leaving the Wirral Peninsula for most of that year. Instead, I’d go for long local walks; exploring areas which should have been familiar to me but which never failed to throw up new findings.
Just off junction 4 of the M53 motorway there is a roundabout near to the entrance to Clatterbridge Hospital. For as long as I can recall there has been a garage there. A car showroom and a petrol station which always seemed to be more expensive than anywhere else, so I never filled up there.
In my car I never had cause to stop there but, on foot, it was worth a wander round the closed forecourt. I’d not realised that the garage had closed down but, then again, I’d hardly driven my car since March.
I noticed a bench which I’d never seen before. It was strangely close to a tree and something made me wander over for a look.
At the base of the tree was a memorial stone.
In the bright summer sunshine it was difficult to get a clear photograph; the inscription read “This garden has been dedicated to the memory of our good friend Mike White”.
Garden?! It was just one tree in a scrubby patch of litter-covered grass next to a closed-down garage near a very busy road. I immediately feared for the memory of Mike White. Did his good friends know that the garage had closed? Did he work at the garage? Or maybe at the hospital? Would his memorial stone be moved by people who cared? Or destroyed by people who didn’t?
A quick internet search didn’t reveal anything about who he was so I made a mental note to do a bit of research when time permitted.
I felt the urge to protect Mike’s memory from the demolition crew, so I added a photograph to geograph and mentioned his memorial stone.
I went that way on my bike today and stopped by to see what had changed in the 17 months since I was last there. The stone has gone; there’s just a rough patch of concrete where it had stood. Hopefully it has been taken to a place where Mike’s friends can continue to remember him.
I don’t hold out much hope for his tree or his bench if the old garage is to be demolished, but it was nice to see the blossom.
There is a planning application for this plot which can be seen online: https://planning.wirral.gov.uk/
“Demolition of Existing Buildings and Development of New Petrol Filling Station with Convenience Store (Use Class Sui-generis) and Drive-thru Coffee Shop (Class E) with associated access, parking and landscaping.”
The planning application refers to “….improvements to the landscaping of the site through shrub, and potentially tree, planting within the grassed areas to screen the car parking and soften the form of buildings.” Hopefully Mike’s tree will be spared.
The earliest photograph I could find of how the site used to look was from 2009 on Google Streetview. This photo from 2016 shows that the bench would have been quite a comparatively pleasant place to sit on a break from work at the showroom or petrol station.
If you remember Mike White please leave a comment. I’m interested to know what has happened to his stone and will it be re-laid in this location when the new petrol station is built.