There are not many places left in England where red squirrels can easily be seen. We do, however, have one wonderful exception which is quite close to us. This is at Freshfield Dunes near Southport and I chose a hot day and the squirrels did not disappoint me.


From the M6 turn off at junction 27 and follow the signs for Southport. Look for the A565 which links Southport to Liverpool. At a roundabout at Formby follow the brown signs indicating Freshfield and the dunes. Cross the level crossing over the railway and follow the National Trust signs to an extensive car park in the heart of the sand dunes.


From the car park (pay & display) face the sea and look out for a footpath to the right. Follow this undulating track through the sand dunes. There has been a successful effort to stabilise the sand dunes by planting marram grass and especially buckthorn. On the day of my visit the buckthorn berries were already beginning to ripen. In the autumn these orange tracts provide lots of welcome food for migrating birds. High above my head a skylark was singing – this was very welcome as this lovely songster has become quite rare in recent years.

The route now climbs very gently to reach a picnic site and an observation hut with a viewing platform. This is worth a visit in the winter when there are wading birds to be seen in their thousands. Squirrels do not hibernate and so they can also be seen in the winter.

From the picnic site turn left into what has become known as the squirrel walk. The area consists of a large stand of Scots pines which is the perfect habitat for the red squirrel. Their natural food consists of pine cones, but they also love the peanuts given to them by visitors. On no account should the squirrels be given salted peanuts. There are peanuts for sale at the entrance to the National Trust reserve and where there are also toilets.

Bear left around the squirrel walk and approach the narrow road leading to the dunes.

At the road is the toilet block and there is usually an ice cream van parked nearby. From here turn left and an obvious footpath descends very gently through an extensive area of mixed woodland. This is the preserve of resident birds including the great spotted woodpecker, magpies and jays which are experts in pinching the food meant for the squirrels.

This woodland stroll after about ½ mile leads back to the car park and the starting point.


1) Southport a few miles north along the A565 is an excellent place to relax among the Edwardian architecture with lots of shops and cafes.

2) Southport is modern compared to the nearby Churchtown which has a splendid old church, botanical gardens and thatched cottages.

Nearby is the Ribble estuary national nature reserve which is a wonderful place to visit during the autumn and winter months.