Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here to tell you about some of the places that we have visited lately in our local town of Runcorn in Cheshire. Rather than report about one single walk, this blog is about a variety of walks that we have enjoyed on our wanderings. If you visit Spike Island in Widnes and look over the River Mersey toward Runcorn it is amazing how much of the town is dominated by trees and woodland. Me and my human love to walk amongst the trees especially in broadleaved woodland. Cultivated plantations of pines and firs are fun too but the diversity of natural and semi-natural woodland creates a doggy paradise for me. There are plenty of shrubs and bushes for me to sniff around and lots of wildlife for me to chase. So, we decided to check out all our local woodland and tell you all a bit about their flora and fauna and history. The Woodland Trust manage over twenty areas of woodland within the boundaries of Runcorn so, we decided to visit a few at a time and to write a few blogs, rather than one long one.
Our first area that we explored was around Manor Park and Astmoor, where there are a few sections of woodland, some accessible and some not so.
MANOR PARK & ASTMOOR
PITTS HEATH WOOD
This woodland is located alongside Moore Meadows, part of the Moore Nature Reserve, and can be accessed from Runcorn Road, just after the Sandymoor roundabout at Keckwick Lane. It was formerly farmland and part of Halton Moss, an area of low lying mossland. Drainage ditches keep the woodland a lot dryer than it was in years gone by. We couldn’t find any footpaths into the trees but, with a bit of determination, we found a few overgrown areas that were walkable. This was my idea of paradise. There were bushes to sniff under, sticks to pick up and run with and squirrels to chase. The big feller just complained because he bumped his head on low branches, caught his legs in brambles and stung his legs with nettles. I suppose that we have different needs!
The Greenway, a formal footpath, runs around the perimeter of the trees in places. The walk through the meadows, which we have written about previously, is a pleasant one and popular with dog walkers. A bridleway follows the line of the footpath through the area. The 10.1 acres of woodland is managed by the Woodland Trust. I had a good run, off-lead, as we walked along the footpath. There wasn’t another person or pooch in sight.
The 21.7 acres of broadleaf woodland known as Green Wood can be accessed from a small car park in Manor Park Road, just off the Daresbury Expressway. It is a quiet and less frequented area than Moore Meadows. There are rough footpaths winding around the mature woodland. The area is managed by the Woodland Trust and was previously owned by the Brooke Family who lived at, the now demolished, Norton Priory Mansion. There is a large pond, restored by the Water of Life group from the Guinness Packaging Plant in 1997, within the woodland. We saw a heron fishing and the bright blue flash of a kingfisher as it zoomed in and out of the trees.
Birch, oak and sycamore dominate the canopy with holly, ivy and nettle at lower levels. Some of the oaks are veterans, just like my human! My dad found the nettles quite easily, as he was not paying attention, when he was taking photographs. Keckwick Brook flows along the north western edge of the woodland as it weaves its way to the Manchester Ship Canal. We like this woodland as we rarely see any other people or pooches. It sounds like we are anti-social but we just like to have the countryside to ourselves on our hikes.
This area of woodland is another of our favourites, and we combine it regularly with a walk around Green Wood. It can be entered just across the road from the Green Wood car park at Norton Chains. This entrance to the woodland was once the east entrance to Norton Priory and a lodge once stood here. The lodge is well gone but gateposts remain along with some reconstructed sandstone wall. The name Norton Chains comes from the chains threaded through sandstone posts that once formed a fence in the area. The posts were repositioned in the 1960’s on the roadside in the nearby Manor Park Industrial Estate.
There is a pond on the right as we walked into the woods, partly hidden by the trees and bushes. Mature sycamore, horse chestnut and beech dominate the woodland with Ivy, hawthorn, hazel and rowan closer to ground level. There are a few footpaths to follow through the trees that take you over old structures from the mansion era. At the western end of the woodland there is a lodge that was originally part of the estate and is now a privately owned house. The woodland covers an area of 16.7 acres.
Oxmoor Wood is located north of Lodge Plantation toward the Manchester Ship Canal. It is tucked away behind factories on Warrington Road. The small 3.53 acre woodland is part of the Oxmoor Nature Reserve that is managed by Halton Borough Council. The nature reserve consists of woodland, grassland, wetland, two ponds, reedbeds and the Freund Meadow, sponsored by the adjacent factory. Footpaths take you through the nature reserve but not into the dense broadleaf woodland. The area is the habitat for many wildflowers including rare orchids. Warblers and herons are plentiful in the area which is popular with schools and birdwatchers. The path is muddy in places and I had a ball sprinting through the puddles while the big feller tiptoed around them. He can be an embarrassment at times!
Norbury’s Wood is located between Warrington Road and the Manchester Ship Canal. It is a dense area of broadleaf woodland with no obvious public accessibility. A track runs through the 6 acre woodland but, is blocked by a padlocked gate. It is a popular breeding site for herons which we have seen many times from the opposite bank of the canal in Wigg Island.
This small, 2 acre patch of woodland is managed by the Woodland Trust and can be found off Longbenton Way in Manor Park. Although there is a ‘Welcome’ sign just off the perimeter footpath, there is no obvious way into the trees. We saw a few grey squirrels sprinting up the mature oaks. I wasn’t allowed to chase them. Killjoy! Marshgate Farm used to be situated in the area but, there is no longer any evidence of its existence. The woodland is a small remnant of the Norton Priory estate. Sycamore, oak, birch and beech form the canopy with bramble, nettles and ivy form the lower sections of the woodland.
The largest woodland in the Manor Park / Astmoor area is the Woodland Trust managed Haddock’s Wood. Within the wood is the large playing fields, plenty of car parking spots and allotments. It’s 23.38 acres of broadleaf woodland contains many footpaths which find their way through fields of bluebells in the spring. It is a more popular area than the other woods that we have just described. Dog walkers particularly seem to find the area attractive. The woodland was part of the Brooke Estate who used it as hunting grounds. A pond has formed, from a marl pit within the woods, which used to supply fertiliser for the estate. Many species of tree form the canopy and their variety can be seen from the playing fields. Oak, sycamore, willow, lime, beech, birch, alder and willow dominate. Rowan, hawthorn and holly add to the undergrowth. As there was nobody else in the woodland when we visited, I was allowed to have a good run around. Again, the squirrels and the birds managed to escape my attention. I need to learn how to climb trees, then I will show then who is the boss! Till next time!