Hello people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here reporting on a stormy eleven miles around Grappenhall, Appleton Thorn, Walton and Stretton in the Cheshire countryside. Storm Dennis hadn’t affected this area anywhere near as severely as other parts of the North-West. The high winds were still causing problems though and the odd shower was forecast to hit the area. Me and my human dad decided to get outside and to do a bit of investigating. It took us about fifteen minutes to drive to Holly Hedge Lane on the outskirts of Moore, where we parked alongside the humpbacked bridge over the Bridgewater Canal.
We crossed the busy A56 and walked along Park Lane with its infamous ford near to Rowswood Farm. The stream had flooded the road but not as badly as it has been on some occasions when the road had to be closed to traffic. Fortunately, for my dad, there is a raised footpath running along the side of the ford. I wanted to run through it but, my dad stopped me as I would have been soaked and we had only just started our hike. Spoil sport!
The lane took us to Appleton Reservoir which is popular with both Anglers and Twitchers. We dropped downhill along Hough Lane until we came to a footpath that skirted the deserted Walton Hall Golf Course. This led us into the grounds of Walton Hall that were also deserted. It looked like there was only me and my dad that were daft enough to venture outdoors on this day. The gardens were in winter mode with very little colour except for the first daffodils that we have seen this year. I wanted to water them but my dad dragged me away.
Walton Hall was built in 1836-1838 by Sir Gilbert Greenall of the Greenall Brewery fame. Sir Gilbert was a close friend of Lewis Carroll who stayed at Walton Hall and took photographs of the Greenall family. The hall was used as a backdrop for the TV drama, The Zoo in 2014.
As we left the grounds of the Hall we walked towards the village, pausing at St. John the Evangelist church that was built in the Gothic Revivalist style in 1885. It was built for Sir Gilbert Greenall at the cost of £17,500. Further into the village we came to the Walton Arms pub which was originally a halt for horse drawn buses in the 19th century.
Today’s tune was Old Man by Neil Young. Very apt, I thought. Ha! I ignored him as I was too busy listening for birds chirping. I was, much to my dad’s amusement, doing the ‘spaniel nose to the ground’ walk as I kept finding the scent of squirrels. He is not funny. It is serious business!
We joined the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal at this point and walked through the mud back towards Walton Hall Gardens. We stayed on the towpath, passing through Stockton Heath until we reached Grappenhall village. I had a ball, chasing ducks and moorhens along the walk, without success, as usual.
After crossing another humpbacked bridge we walked along Church Lane until we reached the oldest part of the village. The road is cobbled for a few hundred yards until it meets another humpbacked bridge that crosses the meandering Bridgewater Canal again. St. Wilfrid’s Church stands proud in the centre of the village with the original building dating from 1120. The current red sandstone church was completed in 1874. My dad took me into the grounds of the church as it was very quiet. He wanted to find the sandstone carving of a cat that lies below the west window. This is reputedly the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s ‘Cheshire Cat’. He appeared to be quite pleased with himself when he found it. He is easily pleased! A set of stocks sit at the entrance to the churchyard but he couldn’t sit in them for a selfie because they are enclosed in railings.
We continued walking through the village along narrow lanes until we came to Lumb Brook at Dingle Lane on the edge of Dudlow’s Green. We followed this green lane, imaginatively called Green Lane, through woods and along it’s length until we reached the village of Appleton Thorn. The village appeared as Epeltune (the tun where the apples grew) in the Doomsday Book. At the junction with Stretton Lane stands St. Cross Church, another red sandstone building built in the 19th century. The thorn tree next to the church is the only place in England where ‘Bawming of the Thorn’ takes place annually. This is a ceremony where the tree is adorned with flowers and ribbons. It is claimed that the tree is an offshoot of the Glastonbury Thorn that grew from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea.
After our short stop in Appleton Thorn we walked along the B road to Stretton where we came across another St. Matthew’s church. The current building dates from 1827 and is also a red sandstone structure. We passed the Park Royal hotel and the Cat and Lion pub as we walked towards Hatton. As we walked through the village we found a footpath on the left leading to Row’s Wood and on to the A56. We walked for a short way down the main road until we came to Holly Hedge Farm at the end of the minor road that we were parked on. A few hundred yards later we were back at the car. The rain had held off. We were muddy but dry for a change lately. We had completed approximately eleven miles and we both needed a shower. So, we jumped into the car for our short trip home. Till next time!