In the year AD 915 the area south of the River Mersey was under the Kingdom of Mercia and was overseen by a Princess named Ethelfleda. She was the daughter of the Saxon King Alfred the Great. If you’re of a curtain generation then you may remember being taught this at school – Alfred was the king who burnt the cakes (teachers taught you about proper history ‘when I was a lad’). Being the daughter of the king, Ethel was given charge to control the land of Mercia in this area up to, and including, the south shore of the River Mersey (the river derives its name from a Saxon word meaning ‘boundary’). The land to the north was controlled by the Danes (or Vikings if you like).
In more recent times the towns folk of Runcorn and Widnes got to gether and celebrated the naming of the railway bridge to their favourite daughter Ethelfleda.
There is a point to this…when you travel across Runcorn Bridge from a southerly direction you can see adjacent to the road bridge a sandstone constructed railway bridge (Ethelfleda) – both of these cross the River Mersey at the narrowest part of the Upper Mersey estuary.
A car passengers view of where the Peregrine usually sits up on the railway bridge.
Peregrine chasing Wood Pigeon. Image by Nigel Case.
Over the last few years I have noticed something that you can only observe when you are being driven across in a car from the south. There are four heraldic shields depicting, two of Britannia seated and holding shields, one of a bird (which looks like a Black Stork but is probably a Cormorant) and one heraldic shield. Just below both of the Britannia shields is a metal via ferrata type ladder. Some days (normally during the winter months) you get a really good (but very brief) view of a fine adult Peregrine Falcon just perched up on the ladder. If there are feral pigeons on the bridge then it’s likely there will be no falcon.
Note of caution! If you travel along this road make sure that you are the car passenger! Safety is paramount and at a moments distraction a driver can cause an accident! So, remember only look if you are the passenger!
Ethelfleda Railway Bridge where the Peregrine rests up (viewed from Mersey Road, Runcorn).
The iron ladder is the site where the Peregrine rests up. For the safest view, you should set your scope up at the west end of Mersey Road, Runcorn – it’s also a good site to watch the winter Starling roost (wear a hat – it can get quite messy!).
Today 07.11.12. I saw the adult female perched on the ladder on two trips across the bridge in the morning and in the afternoon.
Image 4 by Nigel Case, image 5 by David Stewart and all other images by WSM.
Post updated 04.07.16.