If you live up North or have traveled on the M62 since 2009 then you will have likely thought about or even googled ‘the head on the side of the M62 motorway’! For those of you who have not, let me explain a bit.
Up in the lush green woods surrounding the M62 near St Helens and Widnes is an unusual looking white head just peeping from the hill. For many of us it has been a talking point on car journeys and subject to many stories, both made up and potentially real!
The M62 view
We have been passing by this head on many a journey to a camping holiday and we would consistently google it or add it to our list of places to visit (as it is really quite close to home) and eventually we would visit it. After around 7 years of saying the same thing each time we passed, we decided that it was now that we would visit. To tell you the truth, it started with ‘shall we try to find the head on the side of the M62 motorway and have a walk around there’.
Discovering that it was a mere minute or so off the M62 (and because we had to drop the remaining cakes from the Horticultural show off to Jit’s colleagues in Salford) we decided that it was fine for a swift afternoon trip. It would get our step count up which was a big thing as we’d been busy doing house things in the morning – picture trimming crazy hedges.
Because of the time of year, you only get to spot the top of the head from the motorway (you can just see it peeping over the trees in the picture above!) and from the bottom of the hill you see even less, so it is quite exciting setting out to discover what lies ahead.
There is no car park at the postcode and entrance to the park, so you just mount the curb and set up there (it is wide and there are no yellow lines so you’re safe from getting booked) and you just follow the path into Bold Forest Park. Inside there are signs that explain about the head and lead you around the path to learn more and meander up to the top. There is apparently an audio tour available (which we didn’t know about) to download onto your phone if you fancy it.
The views on the way up are stunning! You would seriously not believe that you are just a stones throw from a really busy motorway – well, except for the light hum of the traffic which you overcome very quickly. It is a nice easy walk on even paths that take you around the hill and up to the sculpture. Take in the views on your sides on the way up though, you’ll see some of that stuff again as we carry on adventuring.
I have to say that it is really eye opening when you spend time next to motorways – we have visited Brockholes too, which is insanely quiet and still even with the motorway running right next to it. I don’t know about you, but in all the years that I have been traveling on the motorway I never realised the beauty that lies just outside and beside it. I am definitely adding more motorway places (not service stations – unless I have a flask and some sarnies) to my places to visit list.
So the head on the side of the M62 motorway is in face called the ‘Dream’ and it was part of a programme called ‘The Big Art Show’ (which now I think back, we did watch!) It is strangely eerie because of the perspective of the head and our natural need to recognise the way faces should look. It is a lot bigger than you imagine too, at a whopping 20 metres.
I love that there is so much history and story behind it that it makes it all worth for the years of speculating and imagining. It doesn’t disappoint with the background either of which I will share with you in brief (for more click here) It is situated at the top of Sutton Manor Colliery, which was a coal mine that was the biggest industry for St Helens at the time. The sculpture is based on the community dream of a memorial for the site and the artist took the inspiration from ex-miners to move away from a mining memorial and something that was more aspirational to help create an inspiring space for generations to come.
The Dream by Jaume Plensa
You can see the sheer scale of it by the people relaxing underneath it. I certainly think that by the amount of people visiting and spending time here that it has been inspirational for the area. (yeah, there might be some run down bits, but where doesn’t?)
Walking around it and seeing it from all different angles doesn’t really help with the whole weird feeling and illusion. As you will see from my pictures, every angle creates a new face. I really enjoyed the way it worked and how the light contributed to the distortion too.
Without giving in to our curiosity, we would not have discovered and explored such a fantastic sculpture. With our curiosity of the sculpture cured, we set out to have a look around the area too – we noticed on the map a place called ‘Clock Face’ which sounded pretty cool!
While heading down the hill, we came across a few oddities and curiosities like this school sign. Yes, we did explore into the woods at that point but found nothing of significant interest. No weird witch school this time, I’m afraid!
The pathway leads around the area and there are lots of signposts to keep you on the right track. We chose to head towards Wigan as there is a Waterfront there which sounded like a good place for a cuppa and a piece of shortbread.
The hum of the motorway seemed to increase a little once we were on the lower path, but it certainly didn’t affect the experience. The bugs and bees were having a hey day with the weeds in full bloom and the seeds floating about between us and the path.
I know I’ve said it before, but you seriously can’t believe that there is such gorgeous, lush and pretty quiet places lurking along the sides, beneath and around our motorway routes. Many unseen by most of us. From what we gathered while we were wandering the routes, it is mainly people who live in the areas that use them – and it seems more for fitness than for enjoyment (well, I know they go together, but you know what I mean!)
And as our exploring came to an end for the day because time was slightly against us at this point and we had a hankering for a cup of tea. We headed back through Bold Forest Park, passed by the head on the side of the M62 motorway and back down the winding paths to the car ready for our short drive home (and in-car Ricolas!)
Do you live near any hidden, or not-so-hidden walks? I’d love to hear about them so please do share them in the comments!
Stay curious and keep exploring!