ADVENTUROUS youngsters had a chance to stroll through America's most famous park from the confines of a Birkenhead shopping centre.

As part of the Junior Rangers scheme at Pyramids, children communicated online through a specially designed "mission control desk" with the organisers of a similar scheme in New York’s Central Park.

The pioneering summer programme, run with support from Wirral Council, gives youngsters in the town a chance to enjoy regular live virtual tours of the park at the heart of the city they call the Big Apple.

Central Park staff are using a mobile camera to walk around the site with the footage being broadcast live via the mission control desk on to a huge screen set up in a unit in Pyramids.

The link-up is the latest stage in the growing relationship between Birkenhead Park, which is situated close to the shopping centre, and Central Park.

Birkenhead Park, the first publicly funded park in Britain, was the model for Frederick Law Olmsted's design of Central Park.

Birkenhead Park Ranger Paul Davies: "The fact that Birkenhead Park has such an important historical link to Central Park is a fact that is becoming more widely known.

"The mission control desk link-up is a great way to celebrate the connection between the two parks.

"The virtual tours will give our youngsters an idea of what Central Park is like and also help them realise that with the rocks, fountains and lakes, how similar their own park is to America’s most famous public park.

"We want to promote the use of Birkenhead Park and also promote its history and heritage, including the link with Central Park."

In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won a design competition to improve and expand the park.

Construction began the same year and was completed in 1873. It is now the most visited urban park in the United States.

Designated a National Histroic Landmark in 1962, it is managed by the Central Park Conservatory under contract with the city government and has an annual budget of $37.5 million.

According to Olmsted, the park was "of great importance as the first real park made in this country - a democratic development of the highest significance," a view probably inspired by his stay and various trips in Europe during 1850.

He visited several parks during these trips and was particularly impressed by Birkenhead Park.