Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. Me and my human have spent a lot of hours pounding the streets of Runcorn through the lockdown. We have also been checking out Runcorn’s woodland areas. I don’t know what percentage of the town is covered by trees but, if you look over the Mersey from Widnes you will be amazed. By the way, my dad reckons that I have stopped to pee on every one of them. The cheek of him, every other one possibly. This is our third blog about the town’s wooded areas, and we concentrated on the Town Park on this outing.
We started our little hike from the small car park at the bottom of Norton Lane, at the Halton village end. From here it was straight into Pickering’s Rough. The footpath runs north through this pretty woodland with one path leading into Castlefields. It is a broadleaf woodland with oak, sycamore, birch and beech. There are a couple of ups and downs along the path which dips to a stream crossed by a wooden footbridge. At the northern end of the woodland, a few yards before the busway, we emerged into an open meadow on our right. This was an excuse for me to run wild and find sticks or even branches to carry. Don’t ask me why but, I love to carry sticks. Th bigger, the better!
ST. BERTALINE’S WOOD
We turned off the footpath and headed south across the meadow along a meandering narrow path. The view behind us opened up across the Mersey toward Widnes. I found a good stick to carry while the big feller was admiring the view and checking the map for where to walk next. We walked into St. Bertaline’s Wood along a narrow path before we came across a laid footpath. St. Bertaline’s Wood is actually a 6.5 acre part of Windmill Hill wood and is managed by the Woodland Trust. The main trees of this wood are oak, birch, sycamore, horse chestnut and beech. It is a quiet area mainly frequented by dog walkers. We left the wood at the southern edge and turned left onto the traffic-free, Norton Lane. As the lane joins Broadfields we took a left turn into Windmill Hill Wood.
WINDMILL HILL WOOD
This woodland is one of the largest woods in the Runcorn area and covers 56 acres. There are plenty of access points and paths running through it and with its close proximity to Norton and Windmill Hill, it is a popular area. It was once part of the Norton Priory Estate and later owned by the Brooke family. Trees such as oak, sycamore, yew, horse chestnut, lime and more can be seen here. At the northern end of the woodland there is a couple of small ponds. Grumpy wouldn’t let me jump into the water. OK, it did look a bit iffy with its algae coating but, I love a dip in a pond. We could hear chaffinch in the trees above us and I spotted a couple of grey squirrels sprinting along tree branches. We walked the full length of the footpath until we met the Bridgewater Canal at its northern point. We crossed the bridge into Sandymoor Lane where we immediately turned left into Big Wood.
Big Wood has two main paths through it that both meet just before an exit that leads to Norton Priory. One path skirts the Bridgewater Canal while the other cuts diagonally through the trees. We walked around both paths on our visit. At 22 acres it is one of Runcorn’s larger patches of woodland. It was also part of the Norton Priory and later the Brooke estate. It is in the Guardian newspapers top ten best woods for spring flowers. Bluebells carpet the area in the spring in their millions. The Woodland Trust manage this broadleaf wood which contains several veteran trees. Oak, horse chestnut and yew predominate the woodland. There is a ha-ha or sunken stone boundary wall to be seen by the eagle eyed. We left the wood at its western edge by the Norton Priory car park. On turning left after the priory, we headed north toward the canal again.
After a pleasant walk along the fence to the priory grounds, we came to Fountains Wood, over another footbridge across the Bridgewater. It is a small broadleaf woodland and was also part of the Norton Priory estate. At 2.7 acres it is a small area of woodland but, a haven for wildlife. Water voles can be seen at times scurrying across the towpath to the canal. There are a couple of short lengths of footpath at either end of the wood but, due to the dense nature of the undergrowth a way into the wood is restricted. At the western edge of the wood we entered into Phoenix Park, an open space that leads back into Pickering’s Rough.
A short walk through Pickering’s Rough took us back to the car. It was a short walk of about two hours that provided a bit of stick finding for me and a leg stretch for my human. We still have areas of woodland to explore in the near future so, till next time!