Hello people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here again reporting on an afternoon in the Cheshire countryside. I was feeling restless after playing in the park in the morning. Every time my dad moved a limb I was watching him like a hawk so he finally gave in to me and asked me if I wanted to go hiking. He doesn’t have to ask twice because ‘hiking’ is one of my favourite words. Walk, treat and lead are some of my other favourites. The weather was looking promising. It was overcast and mild with no forecast of rain in the area. So, where should we go to? Rather than plan a route he decided to take us to Marbury and to ‘wing it’.
We drove the twenty minutes to the Anderton Boat Lift car park and we had about three hours of daylight left. So, it would be a nine mile hike otherwise my dad’s headtorch would have to come out. The plan was to simply explore the area with no route in mind. The area has woodland, meadows, rivers, canals, lakes, farmland and country park to explore. I don’t mind wherever we walk, I just simply enjoy walking and getting up to no good, so he says. If there are birds, squirrels, mud and water to get into then I am in my element. This area had all of the above! I won’t even attempt to describe the route we took but, I will try to paint a picture of the areas that we visited.
The entrance to Uplands Wood is on the opposite side of the Trent and Mersey Canal from the Uplands Marina and this is where we started our hike. The marina was jammed full of narrow boats of all colours and sizes. On either side of the path there are private angling lakes that were both very quiet on the day. These birch and oak woodlands are home to many grey squirrels and here was where my first chases of the day took place. I lost out on every race with my enemies as they scurried up to heights that I could never reach. The path that runs through the woods leads to an open meadow where I was allowed to run free for a while before returning to more woodland. Where the path passes over Marbury Brook, at Lesley’s Leap, evidence of recent flooding can be seen. The brook is an innocent looking meandering stream but when the nearby River Weaver overflowed it’s banks the area must have been more water than land.
Today I was treated to a rendition of my namesakes classic ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’. It would have been fine if he hadn’t tried to sing it in Mr. Cocker’s style. Fortunately, he didn’t attempt the hand movements!
More woodland was walked through and more grey squirrels were chased. I also had a run-in with quite a few blackbirds that were sneakily hiding in the trees and undergrowth. I had no success again! After crossing the Trent and Mersey Canal we walked along public footpaths that took us into Marbury Country Park. We crossed and then walked around the perimeter of a few large fields before we reached Hopyard’s Woods. The lime avenue was soon reached in the more formal grounds of the country park. We had a quick look at the outdoor swimming pool that is obviously closed for the winter. Next to the pool there is a small dog agility training area. I had a few minutes play on the ramps and tunnel. My dad seemed to be very pleased with me because the first time we had visited Marbury I refused to entertain him by using the obstacle course. This time I loved it and I received lots of praise. We had a quick walk around the site of the old Marbury Hall. The original house was built in the thirteenth century by the Marbury family. It was requisitioned during WWII and became a prisoner-of-war camp and later sold to ICI, the chemical company. It fell into ill-repair and was demolished in 1968.
We walked along the shore of Budworth Mere which is a haven for birdwatching. The views over the lake to the reedbeds and as far as Great Budworth’s St. Mary’s and All Saints’ Church was both tranquil and stunning. The mere had moorhens, ducks and grebes swimming on the nearby shallows. Obviously, they were taunting me and I tried to run into the lake but, I wasn’t allowed so, I tried to chase squirrels instead. My dad said that I was being a ‘total pain’ today but I was just doing dog stuff. He doesn’t understand. The chaffinches and tits in the trees were also driving me mad and I had to walk to heel for a while to ‘calm me down’. We came to the end of the path at Forge Brook and followed the route into Forge Wood. More squirrels teased me as they ran across the path only a few yards in front of me. By now I was getting way too excited according to my dad and I had to be calmed down.
After crossing Dairy House Meadows, which was once farmland, we followed a short section of the North Cheshire Way. Neumann’s Flash, another lake, was the next area to be visited. This is one of a number of small lakes in the area created from reclaimed lime beds. After circling the lake we visited the bird hides but, sadly on this day hardly a bird was to be seen. We walked by the old Lion’s Salt Works as we headed towards the outskirts of Northwich. We crossed Willow Brook a couple of times before we entered Marshall’s Wood on the banks of the River Weaver. The path took us through Anderton Nature Park with its numerous waymarked paths, along the edge of the river.
The light was starting to fade but my dad wanted to see the Anderton Boat Lift from the Weaver Navigation side. So, we picked up the pace and got as close as we could to it along the towpath. The structure lifts boats from the Weaver Navigation fifty foot up to the Trent and Mersey Canal. It can be viewed in use from the viewing platform on the canal level. Unfortunately, dogs are not welcome in the visitor area or on the boats lifted by the structure. Anyway, it was closed when we arrived so my dad took a photograph and we turned back to walk to the car.
We walked through the empty park, through the deserted car park, which was due to close at any time, and to the canal towpath. It was fortunate that we hadn’t parked in the pay and display area. The smell of food cooking in the moored narrowboats was taunting both me and my dad. He said that someone was having a curry. We were soon back at the car and driving back home. It had been an easy eight mile hike and it hadn’t rained. Another good afternoon hike with the big feller even though he had been moaning at me for trying to catch squirrels and birds. Oh yes, and for getting incredibly mud covered again. That’s me! Till next time!