From the crest, you gain a panoramic view stretching from the Wrekin and Shrewsbury, round past the line of Clwyd Hills (including Moel Famau, which every Merseyside schoolchild, including Wilfred, seems to have climbed) to Chester, the Wirral peninsula, Birkenhead and the towers of Liverpool.

Here was the landscape of Owen's childhood, laid out before him.

But I soon came to realise just how different the real thing actually was: a bit like Ancre mud, it was cold and messy but impossible to ignore.

His poem "Miners" begins, like a good story, by the fire: There was a whispering in my hearth, A sigh of the coal, Grown wistful of a former earth It might recall.

New York's Central Park was modelled on Birkenhead's, and the first cinema outside London was established here.

Walking around its run-down backstreets, I found the three houses the family had lived in; the site of Birkenhead Institute, where Owen was a star pupil; and Christ Church, an all-important focal point in those early years.

It seems, from this moment, as if poetry and religion might be something the young Owen would have to choose between. Otherwise, it seems a calm, Edwardian time of plant identification, of collecting rocks and fossils.

He led classes: I began to realise how much of a teacher and a leader Owen was used to being, even from an early age.

His sonnet, and probably his most famous poem, "Anthem for Doomed Youth", is still nine months ahead of him, but already he is comparing the men, albeit rather less compassionately, with livestock: What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons...

As soon as I began to go in search of Owen on the ground (for BBC Radio 3's Owen season, broadcast all next week), I realised how little I understood this complicated but fascinating man and his poetry. I'd imagined - naively - an officer, appalled by what he was seeing, scribbling instinctive verse in trenches between barrages and raids.

The young Wilfred grew up in an Evangelical atmosphere: frequent services took place at home, as well as in church, and I discovered how Wilfred liked dressing up, donning the priestly robes. Despite this, a major epiphany seems to have occurred out in the countryside to the south-east of Birkenhead, above the Cheshire hamlet of Broxton, in about 1904, and it had nothing to do with the church.