Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here reporting on a local trail that me and my human hiked over two days. It is called the Mersey Timberland Trail and not to be confused with the Mersey Way that we recently completed. The trail is 22 miles long starting in Runcorn and ending in Lymm, Cheshire. The walk is described on the website as follows: ‘To the south of the River Mersey the land rises from sea level to the Cheshire plain 50-70m higher. Erosion has produced an edge, with several steep hillsides and outcrops of the underlying red sandstone. From the valley this gives a skyline view of a ridge of low hills, often wooded. The Mersey Valley Timberland Trail follows the edge of the high land, sometimes dropping down to the valley to offer views from both levels’.
As we live close by to the trail it was only a short walk to the starting point at Runcorn Hill. We followed the waymarkers that took us through the woodland nature reserve. The area was predominately a quarry in Victorian times supplying pink sandstone to as far away as New York Harbour and for the plinth of the Statue of Liberty. Expansive views over the Mersey Estuary and the Welsh hills can be seen from here. I had a good run around while we were in the woodland, zooming up and down the hills and into the undergrowth.
We left the hills as we entered Weston Road toward Holloway at the site of the old Cottage Hospital. We followed the route laid down on the map until we were supposed to walk through the cemetery. We had to make a detour because pooches are not allowed in the grounds of the cemetery. We found our way through the streets to Rock Park with its manicured bowling green and tennis courts.
The trail was taking us very close to where we live so, I thought that we were on our way home. I was thinking that this was a very short trail when we suddenly started to head away from our house. It was a relief to discover that we were still on our little adventure.
From Rock Park we headed to Saxon Road where we entered an open green area known as Stenhills Open Space. This was also the site of a sandstone quarry hence the name Quarry Close, an adjacent street. We crossed Boston Avenue and turned left onto Halton Brook Avenue. Soon we crossed the footbridge spanning the expressway and approach road to the Mersey Gateway Bridge. We followed the footpath with Halton village and castle above us on our left.
Soon we came to the Town Park which is a large area of green within the houses of the new town. We headed north across the meadows before we entered an area of broadleaf woodland called Pickering’s Rough. The footpath took us through the woodland where we entered Windmill Hill Wood. After a short and pleasant walk through woodland we passed through part of the Windmill Hill estate before we reached the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal at Norton Townfield bridge. The next stretch took us along the towpath where we met a family of swans and watched a heron as it flew along the canal. After we walked under the railway bridge and crossed Keckwick Brook we turned north, off the towpath.
We crossed an area of wet ground along a well trodden footpath. This route took us under two railway bridges where we met up with the Bridgewater Canal again. Heading north along the towpath we dodged the puddles, well, my dad did. We left the towpath at Keckwick Hill Bridge where we headed uphill into Daresbury Firs. It was a bit of a pull up the footpath until it levelled out as we left the northern edge of the plantation.
The route took us across the busy A56 Chester Road and into the pretty village of Daresbury. Famed for being the birthplace of Lewis Carroll who wrote the classic Alice in Wonderland books. We entered the village turning left and then right, opposite the Ring o’ Bells pub. After a few minutes of looking at the outside of All Saints Church and its old graveyard we continued along Daresbury Lane. The graveyard contains a 16th century font that, amongst many others, Lewis Carroll was baptised in.
We walked for a few hundred yards until we took a left turn into Hall Lane past a few houses. The lane is more of a farm track and after an initial tarmac surface becomes a muddy track that leads to fields. This is the area of farmland that is turned over to Creamfields, the world renowned music festival every August Bank Holiday. Every year except this one, it being 2020, the year of the pandemic.
We followed the map to guide our way around the field edges as the waymarking is scarce in this area. Fine views across the fields toward Warrington and beyond can be seen from here. We skirted Outer Wood with its small concealed pond before we turned east and rounded Row’s Wood. These two broadleaf sections of woodland are private property but, a permissive path exists at the southern end of Row’s Wood with a small footbridge over the brook. The babbling brook was in spate at the time of our visit and much to my disappointment I wasn’t allowed to jump into it. As we left the woods behind, we trudged through a series of fields, that were sodden due to the previous days storm. I loved it but my dad was cursing because he hadn’t worn his waterproof footwear. It had rained heavily the day before, so I had no sympathy for him!
The muddy hike through the fields took us to a backroad called Warrington Road. After a short distance of road walking and hugging the hedgerow when a car hurtled past, we left the lane to walk over more fields toward Appleton Reservoir. We walked along the southern edge of the reservoir which is popular with anglers and birdwatchers.
After leaving the reservoir we followed the narrow Park Lane until the road turned into a footpath called Firs Lane. We veared left off the lane to follow a footpath leading along the edge of Walton Hall Golf Course. This narrow footpath took us through Hill Firs until we skirted the edge of Fox Covert Cemetery. The view from above the graveyard stretched toward Winter Hill, Warrington, Fiddlers Ferry power station, Billinge Hill and as far as Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.
We did some pavement walking, for a while, after leaving the peace of the cemetery area. It was a pleasant walk along Windmill Lane and Quarry Lane until we met the busy London Road or A49. We crossed into Lyon’s Road and headed downhill into Dudlow’s Green. The route took us to a footpath into Lumb Brook Valley where we headed north along the edge of the brook. I found a perfect place for a paddle in the brook and I made the big feller wait a while until I was completely soaked.
We crossed the brook over a footbridge into Lumb Brook Park. At this point my dad said that he was having to look at the map too much because there were very few waymarkers so we headed toward the Bridgewater Canal. We have walked along the canal in this area before so he knew that it would bring us to Grappenhall village.
Grappenhall was reached after 15 minutes where we left the towpath to walk through the village. The pavement took us into Church Road, a cobbled lane that runs past the church and a couple of lovely pubs. We have written about Grappenhall in a previous blog so, we won’t repeat ourselves other than to say we love the area.
From the Grappenhall Bridge the route took us along the Bridgewater Canal towpath for approximately 2 miles. It was an off-lead stretch for me as I splashed through the puddles and leant almost too far over the water. Initially, we passed houses whose gardens led onto the towpath that looked tranquil in the leafy setting. We saw the odd few narrowboats making their steady way along the canal. Families of ducks and moorhens were dotted along the towpath and swimming on the water. It was a lovely peaceful place until I arrived. My dad scolded me for chasing the birds but, its what I do!
As we walked under Pickering’s Bridge, we came across a line of narrowboats moored on the opposite bank of the canal. One of them attracted the big feller’s attention. He had to photograph it and immediately he broke into song. ‘Echo Beach’ by Martha and the Muffins. ‘Echo Beach, Far away in time’ over and over and over again. How irritating can one person be? We were soon passed by another canal boat called ‘Passing Wind’. Enough said about that the better!
At the Thelwall Underbridge, where Halfacre Lane passes under the canal aqueduct, my dad was amazed to look down at the road. It was completely flooded due to the rain dumped on the area during Storm Francis. At first, he thought that it was another canal passing under us, until he checked his map.
We trudged onwards along the towpath as the rumble of traffic became louder as we approached the M6 motorway bridge. Motorway bridges are always dark and dank ‘tunnels’. It would be a pleasant surprise if a bit of effort was put into creating an underpass more in fitting with the beautiful countryside that they pass through. We soon came to Calmsley Lane, where we left the towpath. We crossed the Ditchfield Bridge, that was built in 1926 to replace a narrower structure, due to the increase in volume of traffic on the A56.
The route turned sharp right, down Massey Brook Lane and back along the side of the canal. Shortly, we turned left, along the edge of a field with trees on our left. The trail is well waymarked in this area and we followed it around the edge of fields alongside of drainage ditches. It was another area for me to have a good run and I used the free time to find as many puddles as I could. After we had walked for a furlong along a very narrow path at the back of houses, we emerged onto Booths Lane, where we walked along the road. Soon we arrived at the junction with Cherry Lane where we turned right. After a short pavement walk, we turned left into The Avenue. This took us into Lymm Dam Woods where we joined the footpath on the western side of the lake.
The footpath along side of the lake allows great views to St. Mary’s Church on the opposite side of the lake. We also managed to grab a view of the dam at the northern edge of the lake. We crossed the A56 and entered The Dingle, an area of dense woodland along Sitten Brook. This footpath emerged at the lower dam in the centre of the village of Lymm. This is a pretty village with independent shops, eateries and pubs. We stopped for a few minutes while we ate a snack and had a drink each.
Suitably refreshed, we walked through the village centre to Lymm Cross. The cross is the only Grade I Listed structure in the Warrington area. It was constructed for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and replaces a 17th century cross on the site. The village stocks stand in front of the cross on a cobbled mound. My dad made some stupid comments about the need for four paw holes being needed for bad dogs. Muppet!
From Lymm Cross we headed slightly uphill along Pepper Street and then along a footpath called Sutch Lane. Soon we crossed Oughtrington Lane just below St. Peter’s Church and followed the path into Spud Wood. The woodland’s name comes from the area was once used to grow potatoes for Golden Wonder crisps before the trees were planted. It is a popular area for schools and amongst dog walkers. After a short but pleasant zoom around the woods we crossed the Bridgewater Canal over Grantham’s Bridge. A few yards later we were at the Stage Lane Woodland Trust car park and the end of the Mersey Valley Timberland Trail.
‘The End’ by The Doors was the annoying dirge that my human decided to torture me with as we reached the car. ‘This is the end, my only friend, the end!’ Thankfully, I could sleep in the car and not have to listen to him. It had been a really enjoyable trail with plenty of variation. Some of the waymarking could have been better but the leaflet issued by Merseyforest.org.uk provided a good set of maps and directions. It is a dog friendly route with no stiles to negotiate and plenty of areas for off-lead run arounds. Till next time!