Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here reporting on a local hike in the hills around the town next door to where we live. The only hill we had climbed lately was the wooden hill to Bedfordshire! We had already been for a walk in the park in the morning. I managed to find the one smelly muddy puddle in the entire park. So, what do I do when I discover a vile smelling black muddy puddle? Correct. I lie down in it. The big feller didn’t seem to be as happy as me about it. I was in disgrace again. I usually have a shower after relaxing in a mud bath but, this time I wasn’t even allowed in the house. I had to stand in my paddling pool in the back garden while my dad attempted to clean me up. Even after he had finished washing me down, he said that I was still a smelly pooch.
He decided that we should spend the afternoon in the local hills. The weather was beautiful, if a bit nippy, with no rain forecast. My dad packed the daysack with a few goodies and a few essentials. The essentials being food, treats and water for me and the goodies being food, treats and water for me also! Frodsham is a ten-minute drive from our house and my dad needed an excuse to drive a few miles after the turbo had been replaced in his car. It was two days since lockdown restrictions had been reduced so, he could combine testing the car and taking a short drive to exercise. He decided to combine a walk around Frodsham Hill and Helsby Hill so, he found a promising looking route on Viewranger. It was a 7.25 mile walk posted by Simon Duffy. The plan was to navigate using a paper map and compass rather than by plotting our position by the GPS function of the app. It was a quite straightforward route with a number of twists and turns, and ups and downs. It would be a nice little practice for his navigational skills using old school methods. He prefers this method because it is how he learned to navigate in the old school days!
We parked in Castle Park car park, just off the A56, as it leaves Frodsham. After walking through the park grounds we turned right into Howey Lane. We soon left the road as we turned left, in Netherton, along a very narrow overgrown footpath between houses and gardens. The path led us to the popular footpath that skirts Frodsham Hill. Turning right and then left we headed up the dusty path through the oak and beech woodland toward the top of the hill, sometimes called Overton Hill. The climb is gentle initially, with a sharp incline along a short section of the Sandstone Trail. We could hear song thrushes, rooks, chaffinches and blackbirds twittering in the trees as we neared the summit of the hill. The big feller identified the birds by using an app on his mobile phone obviously, because he is not that smart! We took a slight detour from the route that we were taking to visit the viewpoint at the rear of the Forest Hills Hotel. The war memorial is sadly encircled by temporary fencing while it is being either cleaned or repaired. The view over the Mersey Estuary, the Cheshire Plain and the Welsh Mountains was perfect in the clear air and blue skies. The hill is the site of an iron age fort at the northern end of the sandstone escarpment that runs south to Tarporley. My dad kept a nervous eye on me as I moved too close to the cliff tops while he was taking photographs. I spend half my life waiting for him to take photos!
Todays tune from my tone-deaf dad was ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ by Lou Reed. Fortunately, he kinda talked the song rather than sang it. Except, of course the part that goes ‘Do-do-do, do-do, do-do-do’ etc. etc. Over and over and over again, all afternoon. I suppose that it keeps him amused. It’s a pity that it doesn’t amuse me!
We dropped down the hill to join the Sandstone Trail again as we initially contoured the side of the hill and later dropping into Dunsdale Hollow, a steep sided valley. Steel stairs have been placed to help humans to climb up and down the slope. I had to walk along the side of the steps because my paws would have slipped through the holes in them. I thought that they we a bit dangerous for pooches. We came to a junction in the path where we had to scramble over sandstone rocks. I enjoyed this part but, I had to wait while the big feller made a meal of clambering over the well-worn rocks. He had to use his front paws just like me. After this section of the route the path wove in and out of the trees and I had a good run around while I hunted for grey squirrels.
The walk flattened out for a while as we contoured the hills. As we reached Woodhouse Hill we were gifted the odd view across the Mersey Estuary and the tidal marshes. Woodhouse Hill is the site of another ancient hill fort and part of the largest block of broadleaf woodland in England. We stopped for a short break while my dad plotted our route toward Helsby Hill which we glimpsed in the distance through the trees. As we entered a clearing in the birch and oak woodland, I was chasing butterflies. As usual, I didn’t catch any but, my dad still told me to leave them alone. We saw plenty of cabbage whites and two yellow butterflies that my dad thinks might have been clouded yellow butterflies but, he wasn’t sure. We skirted around Foxhill before passing a pond covered in green algae and shrouded by clouds of flying bitey insects. We rushed past and joined a track that led us to The Ridgeway. We turned right along the narrow lane until we exited on the left along Burrows Lane. We left the lane to walk along the perimeter of a couple of fields with crops peeping through the tilled and dry soil. At the end of the field we joined Tarvin Road where we turned left uphill toward Alvanley. Then, opposite a residential mobile home development we turned along a green lane. It was time for another short break where I drank plenty of water and ate a few treats. Then, I stood drooling as my dad ate his chocolate biscuits. He doesn’t share chocolate with me because he says that it is toxic for dogs. I am not convinced. I think that he is simply selfish and greedy. I would share my beefy bone shaped treats with him!
Suitably refreshed we plodded on through more fields before turning left up Hill Road North and past Harmer’s Wood. On the right we passed a farm with a large duck pond at the end of the lane. Helsby Hill was signposted right at this point but our route took us straight on along a track leading downhill. My dad wondered why our route was taking us down this way until the views over the Cheshire Plan opened up on our left. We soon took a right-hand path leading uphill toward Helsby Hill summit.
Helsby Hill is the site of yet another iron age hill fort. The steep sided cliffs provide an awesome viewpoint over the Mersey Estuary, the Cheshire Plain and the Clwydian Mountains. We didn’t spend long on the top of the hill as there were a few other people there. How dare they share our hike! My dad took some photographs, as usual but, he was disappointed because a couple of people were sat on the top of the crag that he wanted to shoot. So, we headed north and downhill into more woodland. The well-worn path weaved in and out of the oaks and birches as dazzling rays of sunshine found their way to the bluebell covered forest floor. The hillside was densely covered by rhododendrons adding flashes of colour to the green tunnels that we were heading along.
We soon came to the outskirts of Helsby as we walked along more incredibly narrow footpaths. We crossed a few more fields before reaching Chestnut Lane and continuing westwards toward Woodhouse Hill again. As we reached the foot of the hill, we joined a forest path heading north, in the direction of Frodsham. This path ran parallel with the higher path that we had walked earlier. It was peaceful and deserted. I had a good run again, off-lead for just under a mile until we walked past Foxhill House with its sandstone perimeter walls. The footpath climbed steeply up a flight of sandstone steps until it emerged from the forest onto a rough track heading into Netherton. From that point we retraced our steps back to Castle Park where we were parked.
My dad said that he had really enjoyed this walk as it had been the first hillwalk that we had completed for over two months, since the Covid-19 restrictions were implemented. He said that it had felt good to get his heartrate increased and some air in his lungs. It had only been 450 metres of ascent but every hike that we had done lately had been flat, flat, flat. I loved it too because I had had a good run off-lead and a sniff around the woods and fields. The weather had been kind to us and we hadn’t seen many other people around. Oh yes, his car was ok too so, he was happy. Also, I had a shower when I got home because my human said that I still stank like a skunk. The cheek of him! Till next time.