Travel Report: Crosby Beach, Liverpool.
Crosby Beach, Liverpool.
May 2019. With so much to see and do in Liverpool, you can certainly forgive visitors for concentrating their efforts strictly on the sights in the city centre.
However, if you find yourself in need of some fresh sea air, I highly recommend a thirty minute train ride out to Crosby Beach. While one can’t actually swim or sunbathe, I’d say it’s an unmissable spot due to its excellent open-air art installation, Another Place, by the British sculptor Antony Gormley.
Better known as The Statues in the Sand, Gormley made each 650-kilo iron sculpture from casts of his own body. Initially, he showcased his creations throughout Europe, in locations across Germany, Norway and Belgium.
At some point there was even talk of them settling in New York City, though the proposal never came to fruition. They finally came to Liverpool in the summer of 2005 and have been here ever since as a permanent display.
Around one hundred of Gormley’s statues stand scattered across Crosby Beach. All stare forlornly out to sea, affording the place a reflective and somewhat spectral feel. Which, as it turns out, is right up my street.
The perfect place, in fact, to throw on some headphones and listen to one of your favourite art rock albums. I’m thinking Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or Radiohead’s Ok Computer.
Crosby Beach, Liverpool.
According to Gormley himself, the statues harness the ebb and flow of the tide. His installation is also an exploration of the relationship between humans and nature.
“Time is tested by tide” he explains. “Architecture is tested by the elements and the prevalence of sky seems to question the earth’s substance”. Furthermore, he describes his statues as middle-aged men who are simply “trying to remain standing and breathe as they face a horizon busy with ships moving manufactured goods around the planet”.
You can’t bathe or swim at the beach because of sinking sands, extended areas of mud and rapid, unpredictable changes in the tide. Consequently, many visitors choose to observe the statues from afar on the coastal path that runs along the beach.
Despite these warnings, I really wanted to get onto the sand to see some of the statues close up. Luckily, the tide was far out that afternoon, enabling me to check out dozens of nearby sculptures. It was tricky stomping through the sludgy patches of the beach, but well worth the effort.
Apparently, each sculpture stands at exactly six feet two inches (1.88 meters) high. Which, as you might have already guessed, is Gormley’s height. Despite their uniform look and dimensions, I liked how I never quite knew what I was getting with each statue. One, for example, had been dressed in a blue shirt. Which was just long enough to cover his private parts.
The Statues in the Sand, Liverpool.
In contrast, a nearby statue left nothing to the imagination. And, like many, now stands half submerged in the sand. Another poor guy had almost collapsed altogether, leaning sideways in what looks like a desperately uncomfortable position.
Exposed to nearly fifteen years of the good old British weather, quite a few of these iron men suffer from an infestation of seaweed, barnacles and sea beasties. I found this delightfully ghoulish and wonderful to photograph from close range.
Over time the statues have become much-loved and one of Liverpool’s most visited spots. But it wasn’t exactly plain sailing in the beginning. In the months following their installation there was plenty of negative reaction from Liverpudlians and the local media.
Some protested over the nakedness. Others complained that they were a safety hazard that tempts thrill seekers into dangerous territory. Nevertheless, the statues seem to have won people over for the most part.
Crosby Beach, Liverpool.
Eventually I had to cut my own exploring short. I would’ve loved to push myself just a little further out, but my trainers had gotten exceptionally muddy. Plus, as the warning signs along the beach say, it’s just not worth taking the risk.
You can reach Crosby Beach from any train station in central Liverpool. We came over from Moorfields Station for the half an hour trip to Blundellsands & Crosby. From there we headed north up the beach, taking the train back to central Liverpool from Hall Road.
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Really cool statues. Both beautiful and sinister.
I think I’ve first read about these statues on the beach on Marion’s blog (Little Miss Traveller) … and after reading your post, it still is a very interesting sight to me! Your close-up shot of one statue covered in barnacles somehow reminded me of the characters in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ … and the one with the blue shirt – that’s quite odd.
It was a great article to read, thanks Leighton.
Hey, thanks for the kind words. It’s a unique and fascinating sight and yeah, one or two of the iron men have a touch of Bill Turner about them! Thanks for following my Liverpool series.
I’m yet to visit here. It looks lovely 😍
Thanks Natty, pretty sure these guys aren’t going anywhere for a while. Hope you get to visit soon!
Another great post Leighton. I didn’t notice any statues that were falling over so I wonder if these have been straightened to prevent them from breaking. They might of course still have been there and we just missed seeing them though. I like the way you zoomed in on some of the statues highlighting the barnacles growing over them. Luckily we both seemed to get good weather for our visit there. Thanks for sharing. Marion
Oh that’s an interesting thought, regarding the possible straightening. Wouldn’t be an easy task I’m guessing, but perhaps necessary to stop them from succumbing to the elements altogether? Thanks for your considered words Marion.
Wow! What an amazing installation. You actually risked sinking sands to get close to them? That’s so risky!!!
I know, I was a bit crazy. I really wanted those photos! Thanks for reading.
This is such an incredible art installation. It’s a great way to draw visitors to the beach even if swimming isn’t permitted.
Glad you like it! I have never seen anything like this, definitely a fun one to write up.
These statues are like the stages of life and perhaps that was intended by the artist. Love Barnacle Bill. He looks like a crusty old guy. Allan
You’ve probably hit the nail on the head re the stages of life. It’s a bit depressing really if you stop to think about it ha ha. Thanks for dropping by Allan!
What an incredible art installment! I love the symbolism of being stuck looking towards the horizon while everyone keeps moving and doing around you. I think we all have moments of feeling stuck and overwhelmed with life but the horizon offers hope of something better to come. I thought it was so interesting to see the different statues in different states and depths.
So happy you liked this! One of my favourite Liverpool pieces to write up. For the most part I could just let the photos speak for themselves. Thanks for your thoughts, as always.
Thanks for risking your shoes to get us a close up look at these statues. What a fascinating art exhibit. Interesting how they’re all different. I expected them to be copies of each other.
It’s a wonderful installation. And one I didn’t even know about until I was in Liverpool and my friend spontaneously suggested we go. Thanks for reading!
This is an interesting idea. In a few centuries they will be looking for the Chinese emperor who conquered England, and was buried with his army here.
Ha ha, nice imagery. Very Planet of the Apes.
Eerie? Ya Think? Take that shot of the one in the blue shirt and put some shades on it and it could be a Leighton selfie. Definite sci-fi material. and then you had to bring in Pink Floyd. I know what I’ll be dreaming about tonight. Well done! (But I won’t be visiting that beach.)
And here we have the first reader not impressed by the beach. You can’t please everyone I guess, but hey, Dark Side of the Moon is still a great record! 🙂
No insult to Pink Floyd or Dark Side intended. The juxtaposition of that with the eerie sculpture was just too much for me. Sorry mate. Keep up the good work!
You were smart to heed the signs and not venture farther out if Crosby Beach is anything like the deadly mud flats of Cook Inlet around Anchorage, Alaska. There a person’s weight can change the orientation of the grains of sand making a quicksand from which it is impossible to self extricate.
Interesting history on how the statues got there. They remind me a bit of the statues on Easter Island although most of them face inland.
I’d never heard of Cook Inlet, so just had a google. Really beautiful in addition to deadly I see. Easter Island is something I’d love to see one day, thanks for getting in touch John.
Good to hear about these interesting facts of Crosby Beach!! Great sharing!!
Thanks for reading and commenting, as always!
Gormley’s statues are a combination of quirky, abstract, and vaguely haunting. The symbolism behind it is deeper than we imagine, as one might just see them as superfluous decorations on the beach. But the history behind the installation of the statues is fascinating, and to check out Crosby Beach for that (besides just the water itself) would be a unique experience to have!
Very unusual… not sure whether sad, creepy, or triumphant over nature, in a way. Definitely good fodder for photos! Odd that they are all from his own body. The fact that the tide is so extreme interacts with the figures.