Sandstone Trail, Cheshire, England – Part 1

This month I walked in Cheshire, a fairly flat county in England that runs along the border of Wales and is just south of Liverpool in the Greater Manchester area.

The Sandstone Trail runs along a central Sandstone ridge above the Cheshire Plains and is said to be one of the first middle distance walks in England. It runs a total of 55km (34mi) from Frodsham in the north to Whitchurch to the south. I planned to do it over three days, staying in B&Bs along the way as camping grounds are fairly rare. The choice of this hike was because there is a major train station at both ends of the trail, so accessibility is easy.

Section 1 – Frodsham to Clotton 23.3km (14.5mi)

I left my B&B in Frodsham around 10AM and walked the short distance to the Bear’s Paw, the official northern Trailhead. It was once several miles to the south, but was moved to Frodsham to make it more accessible.

dscf8510-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

I crossed the road and headed south past the train station. Unsure if there would be anywhere on the trail to stop for food, I stopped at an Australian cafe for a coffee and to buy a sandwich. I then continued along the road to an alleyway which had a moderately steep climb along it. Within five minutes of walking, I had already climbed more than during the entire Boudicca Way hike. At the end of the alley, I came out near the Overton Church.

dscf8513-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

I continued up the hill passing houses until the trail led me onto the wooded slopes of Overton Hill and a steeper climb. I followed the switch back trail until I came out at a War Memorial.

dscf8520-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

Beyond was a great view out across the Mersey Estuary with Liverpool in the distance. If the rest of the hike had similar views, I was going to enjoy this walk.

dscf8516-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

After my brief photo stop, I continued on along the trail as it cut through the woods to the south. To my left was a fenced off golf course and to my right the occasional view out to Liverpool.

dscf8532-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

The trail followed the edge of the golf course and descended on metal and wooden steps to a lower section of the woods. The trail followed a switchback along the cliff and past Jacob’s Ladder, a series of steps cut into the cliff that was the only way down a hundred or more years ago. As I walked I noted initials and dates cut into the cliff face, some going back as far as the early 1800s.

dscf8523-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

The trail climbed again to arrive at another viewpoint looking West. I followed the trail further and saw story boards relating to an old Iron Age hill fort, so I followed a smaller trail up the hill to investigate. All that was left of this 3000-year-old village is its ramparts, a line of earth mounds in which a wooden wall had once been built.

dscf8536-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

The trail continued, wending its way through the woods, up and down hills for some time through Snidley Moor Wood until it came out on a road. A hundred metres along the road the trail dove back into the woods and past a large clearing used for a scout camp.

dscf8534-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

The trail then followed the base of a wooded cliff across grassy fields edged by nettles. Yes, I decided to wear my shorts again. I crossed roads and other fields, sometimes on wide grassy areas and sometimes on thick nettle covered paths. I followed a road for some time, walking along a footpath before it cut across another field to emerge near a B&B which had conveniently set up a little cafe on the grass. A great place for lunch. Then after a short walk through the village of Manley Common, I followed a path into Delaware Forest Park.

dscf8543-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

The Forest Park is simply a forest with many dirt roads used mostly for cycling and horse riding. There are down hill cycling courses at various places and warnings to walk on the sides of the dirt roads. As it was summer holidays, there were plenty of families riding their bikes around.

dscf8545-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

Forests aren’t my favourite places to hike as they tend to be wall to wall of trees with little else, and that is how I found Delamere Forest Park. Somewhere in the centre, there is Blackmere Moss, a flooded area like a small lake. However, there had been little rain over recent times, so it was not as flooded as I was hoping. I walked on to the south and crossed the Chester-Manchester railway line on a stonework bridge.

dscf8552-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

A short distance later, the trail came out of the forest park onto a grassy field with another wood off to the right. After a couple of hundred metres, there is an alternative trail that leads up to the summit of a hill called Pale Heights, with great views in most directions.
dscf8557-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

At the top, I took several panorama photos, from the Clwydian Range to the north, the Mersey to the east and the distant Pennines.

dscf8555-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

I then headed south again through the woods and across the A54 highway. After a brief foray across more fields, I cut into the Primrosehill Wood, then out again and up a slight hill to the south.

dscf8560-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

I cut along the top of the ridge and across some paddocks before coming over a stile in a field dotted with cow patties…

dscf8566-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

…but there was a view I’d been waiting for all day for, my first sighting of the Beeston crag and the ruins of Beeston Castle.

dscf8567-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

Much of the remainder of the day I crossed animal paddocks, where I avoided the ever-present cow paddies. Then, crossing a road, I was thrust into a corn field.

dscf8573-2017-08-29-14-20.jpg

Eventually after a long day of walking, I emerged at the A51 nearly Tarporley a short distance from my B&B. When I found it I headed inside and grabbed a shower before wandering down to the local pub for dinner and a well-deserved cider.

Next, Part 2 of my three day hike On the Sandstone Trail.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Advertisements

Boudicca Way, Norfolk, England – Part 2

I recently walked the Boudicca Way in Norfolk, England. See here for Boudicca Way, Norfolk, England – Part 1

Day 2 – Saxlingham Green to Gissing – 28km (17.4miles)

After a night in a tent and a B&B style breakfast, I packed up and headed out. I had planned for today to be the longest day of this walk, so thought it best I get started early. The trail went quickly through a field to a small lane then onto a major road for a hundred metres or so before diving back onto cropland.

dscf8498-2017-08-1-15-06.jpg

I started to see horses in paddocks as I walked and chatted to several as I went past, some coming to the fence to check me out. As I cut around a small copse of trees, I began to hear the highway ahead. I crossed another paddock and over the road where I could. I then walked between a pair of fields with horses and ponies roaming around before onto a small lane that again led to a rural road. I followed this to a small village before turning left and along for fifteen minutes to the large village of Tadburgh.

There is a pub on the far side of the township, and I was keen for a coffee, so I walked along the major road to it. It was closed. It seemed pretty standard for Norfolk not to find anywhere open that sold food. I sat on an outside seat and ate some trail mix before heading off again.

dscf8503-2017-08-1-15-06.jpg

I walked on again along tight country roads for some time, standing aside for the occasional car that came by. I turned right and headed onto farmland again along permissive lands provided for my walk. I crossed more wild trails fending off nettles with my walking poles. Over a major road,  I walked into more fields, passing some trees called, ‘Devil’s Wood’ then along a path to the village of Fritton. As I walked, I wished for a seat, and when I got to the corner there was one waiting near a phone box. I sat down and ate more of my trail mix. Again, like the other villages, there was no place to stop to buy any food, not even a corner shop to grab a snack.

dscf8504-2017-08-1-15-06.jpg

After a rest, I headed south with the threat of rain looming in the sky. It spat a little as I walked under a row of trees, but nothing more. Then it was back into farmland and across more wheat fields before heading south into Tyrell’s Wood, the first I was allowed to walk through. It seemed popular with dog walkers. When I got to the carpark, I took another rest, taking off my boots. Today my boots have been hard on my feet and ankles, and I could start to feel some strain on my Achilles’ tendons. So when I put the boots on again, I made sure to keep them loose.

Rain threatened again as I headed off again along country lanes. After ten minutes the rain finally came down. I was prepared for it and had brought a small umbrella with me. With it open, I stood under a large tree while a heavy barrage of rain came down for 30 minutes or so.

When it stopped, I headed off again and five minutes later had to cross a wheat field with a path cut through it. It was a little slippery, but the wet dirt had yet to turn to mud although my boots and legs got wet from the wet plants.

dscf8507-2017-08-1-15-06.jpg

I eventually made it to Pulham Market, a larger village with a pair of pubs close together. But time was getting on, and I estimated I still had another 2 hours to walk, so I didn’t want to stop for too long. I had no idea how far I had walked since leaving camp nearly 8 hours earlier, but my legs were growing sore and seized up each time I stopped. So I pushed on. My left Achilles tendon was still sore, so I tried to go easy on it, adjusting my boots again to give some comfort.

dscf8506-2017-08-1-15-06.jpg

I pushed on south along the road and then a country road that led onto more fields. I again cut across wheat fields and along grass verges hiding nettles until I reached another major highway. It was here I was to leave the trail to get to my accommodation another 5 miles away.

I walked through more country lanes, past houses and farms, through the village of Tivetshall St Mary to the remains of St Mary’s Church where I stopped for my final rest. I was just about to leave again when it again began to pour.

dscf8508-2017-08-1-15-06.jpg

Once it had finished, I set off but was again stiff. I crossed a railway bridge then followed a muddy trail across yet another wheat field and a grass paddock. One more road and I arrived at my B&B. My legs were sore, and I was knackered after a 10 and half hour day, nine of them walking. I looked forward to a shower and a walk to the pub for dinner.

After my shower, I could barely walk. Then because a local fete had been on that day, I discovered the pub was not serving food and delivery from Diss was going to cost me a fortune, so I resigned myself to eating trail mix again. But again, my host offered to cook me dinner. It was amazing. Afterwards, I watched some TV before collapsing into a comfortable bed.

Day 3 – Gissing to Diss – 10km (6.2miles)

Rain rain rain, all night long. It would be a short walk today to my end point where I was catching a train late in the day. My hosts told me I could stay as long as I liked, and I made a plan for when the rain stopped.

My host dropped me off back on the trail, and I waited in a pub for the rain to stop, but alas, it did not. The pub did not serve food on Mondays but could heat up a sausage roll for me. I eventually gave up waiting for the rain to stop and caught a bus to the train station in Diss where I hung out for several hours waiting for the train. Not the way I wanted to end the walk, but neither would be getting rained on and having to cross muddy fields.

dscf8469-2017-08-1-15-06.jpg

Overall
Honestly, while it was an interesting walk along roads and through paths across farms, there was not that much to the Boudicca Way. It was good exercise and got me used to a heavy pack again, but there were very few scenic views or places of interest. The difficulty finding accommodations and there being practically nowhere to eat made it a rather annoying trip. I’m glad I walked on this side of the country, but next, I will be off on what I hope will be a more decent hike, Cheshire’s Sandstone Trail.

The Lone Trail Wanderer