Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here after another 7.5 mile local hike with a bit of history thrown in for good measure. My dad has always been a fan of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the celebrated mathematician and photographer. OK, I think that he is more famous under his pseudonym, Lewis Carroll, the author of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’. He was born in the parsonage of Daresbury, Cheshire on January 27th 1832. Being the eldest son in a family of 11 children, born to a local clergyman, his house was a crowded one. Daresbury is only a few minutes drive from where we live and we walk there often but, we have never really investigated its Lewis Carroll links. So, my dad decided to take us on the Lewis Carroll extended walk.
There was a storm due later in the day but the weather on this morning was beautiful. It was chilly with a slight ground frost in places. The wind certainly hadn’t arrived, the sky was becoming clearer as the early morning mist was burning away. It was going to be a perfect morning for a few hours enjoying the Cheshire lanes and fields.
Daresbury has only relatively recently come alive to the fact that a great literary giant was one of their own, well, for his first eleven years anyway. As you pull into the village, just before the Ring ‘o Bells pub and All Saints Church, the village sign greets you with a big smile from the Cheshire Cat. We parked in the church carpark, which was completely empty at 8:30 on a Saturday morning in February. The church has a Lewis Carroll visitor centre in a small annexe recently erected. It was obviously closed when we pulled up but my dad planned to have a quick walk around it and the church when we returned later.
We had a rough plan of our walk. We would follow the Lewis Carroll waymarked trail as a basis for our morning but, we would ‘play it by ear’. On leaving the carpark we walked a hundred yards east along the B5356 until we crossed the road and entered a field with a Lewis Carroll Walk sign at its entrance. A couple of grassy fields were skirted and then one crossed diagonally on a well signposted route. We left the fields at Newton Lane which we walked along and crossed the M56 via a road bridge. We turned right at Summer Lane and followed this minor road until a left turn took us along a farm lane. This soon became another path crossing fields. The sun was dazzling by now as it rose just above the horizon. We had a quick chat to a few Shetland Ponies in an adjacent field that had an electrified fence running along its edge. One pony received a nasty zap from the fence so my dad shortened my lead to keep me safe. We turned right as we reached Morphany Lane and walked the 500 yards along it, passing a small pond, until we reached Lewis Carroll’s Birthplace.
His actual birthplace, the parsonage was destroyed in a fire over 100 years ago. All that ‘remains’ is a ground level brick outline indicating where the building used to stand and its internal walls. The National Trust maintain the site and is a small peaceful garden that within a few weeks will be adorned with yellow daffodils. Wrought iron sculptures give the garden some interest. The most elaborate being the well surround and cover. It has been suggested that the well was the authors inspiration for the Rabbit Hole in his famous children’s book. A few information boards paint a picture of life in the Dodgson family house during Lewis Carroll’s childhood and later in his life as a photographer and mathematics lecturer.
We left the site and walked on to Higher Lane where we turned right along a relatively fast road. After a short distance we came to the Lewis Carroll Centenary Wood. It is a small fenced-off broadleaf woodland planted by the Woodland Trust to celebrate the millennium and the centennial anniversary of the authors death. It is a quiet place where I was allowed to have a run around due to us being the only visitors. My dad had a short rest on a bench while he ate a snack or two.
After our short visit to the woodland we continued along Higher Lane. For the first time on the walk there was no signposting. We could see the continuation of the walk across a field on our right but the way was blocked by another electrified fence. So, we followed the edge of the field until we were back on track. Carrying a map definitely aided navigation in this area. After crossing fields and passing a small wood to our right we came to the dreaded muddy sections. The worst parts were where the ground had been churned up by farm vehicles and filled with rainwater. We just had to grit our teeth and go for it. Yuk, it was mud and cow manure combined. As we passed a farm on our right the signposting became non-existent again. The mud was horrendous even for me and we both got a good soaking in it. We followed the path until we arrived at Summer Lane again. The nearby views across the fields towards Preston-on-the-Hill with Frodsham Hill in the distance were crystal clear on this now warm and windless late morning. We turned left along the road and then right along a farm track that took us through the farmyard. On leaving the farm the track took us under the motorway to a green lane. It was time for a run for me and a few blackbirds to chase. We joined another lane and when we came to a crossroads by Slaughter’s Rough we followed the path through a field with a horse grazing in it. Me and the horse eyed each other up and down but we both went on our way without incident.
We were very shortly in the farm fields on the outskirts of Daresbury village. Soon we joined Chester Road and headed through the houses and into the small village. On our left was the village school with its Lewis Carroll inspired weathervane. We passed the Dormouse Tea Rooms and No. 1 The Square with its Alice’s Adventure sliding door at its cobbled drive entrance. A few yards later and we were back at the car. My dad nipped into the church to see the visitor centre and the famous stained-glass windows, the lower part of one being a Lewis Carrol inspired design. He said that it was well worth a visit with its complimentary coffee or tea and small gift shop. It had been a good walk in the calm before Storm Ciara was to batter us. Good timing dad! Till next time!