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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At the top, I took several panorama photos, from the Clwydian Range to the north, the Mersey to the east and the distant Pennines.
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.
I cut along the top of the ridge and across some paddocks before coming over a stile in a field dotted with cow patties…
…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.
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.
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.
The Lone Trail Wanderer