Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. Me and my human have been walking around our hometown a lot more frequently since the Coronavirus restrictions were introduced. We have written three blogs about Runcorn’s woodland areas and this is our fourth instalment. We didn’t hike this collection of woodlands as a circular walk but, we thought that we should lump them together as they are combinable into a long hike if you feel energised. We concentrated on the eastern and southern edges of the town. We walked through Murdishaw Wood, Clough Wood, Beech Wood, The Gorse and Floodbrook Clough. So, here we go!
MURDISHAW WOOD (Including Stockham Wood)
We started our woodland walk by entering Murdishaw Valley Nature Reserve, through a gate from Duke’s Wharf, in the Marina Village. We headed south into a large open meadow surrounded by established broadleaf woodland. A footpath runs parallel to this one within the trees to our right alongside the houses of Murdishaw. There is a walk on the Merseyforest.org.uk website that follows a pleasant route around the woodland. We have walked this once before so, we decided to meander aimlessly through the nature reserve on this visit.
The whole nature reserve seemed to be ours for the day as we didn’t come across any other visitors. This meant that I could run free, into the stream and get completely covered in mud. Result!
The woodland, combined with Stockham Wood, covers a relatively large 40 acres. The area is managed by the woodland trust and consists of semi-natural ancient woodland, open grassland and streams. There are many entrances and exits from the nature reserve making it easily accessible from the nearby roads. The footpath along the centre of the reserve crosses a stream on occasions over small footbridges. The route that we took wound for over a mile through the trees and meadows until we crossed into the woodland area next to Halton Sports playing fields and the Millbank Linnets Football Stadium. We left the woodland by Murdishaw Avenue roundabout to cross into Stockham Wood. This is a very small patch of woodland by Vale Chapel that is crossed by the remains of Stockham Lane.
After following the pavement and footpath through a short stretch Brookvale we passed by another small coppice known as The Gorse. At slightly over 4 acres the Woodland Trust managed area comprises of Sycamore, Oak, Beech and Ash. Two short lengths of footpath pass through the trees that lead to exits into the Brookvale Housing Estate.
We plodded on along more pavements and footpaths until we passed under the Southern Expressway through an underpass. We turned right as we left the tunnel to walk along the tarmacked multi-use path between the expressway and the West Coast railway line. On reaching Beechwood Avenue we turned left to head between the houses until we found a footpath from Wenlock Road into Clough Wood. This 6.7 acre mature broadleaf woodland straddles the M56 and we walked along the permissive footpath in the northern section. The valley is steep sided with a stream running along the bottom of the slopes.
After our short visit to Clough Wood we crossed Wood Lane to enter Beech Wood. At the side of the bus stop we dropped into the woodland down a flight of wooden steps. This was another area that I was given my freedom so, after sprinting down the steps, I spent a few minutes splashing in the stream. After a good shake it was back to the business of walking along footpaths on-lead. We crossed over the stream that runs through the wood, and then climbed up the opposite slope. At slightly under 4 acres this patch of woodland is popular with dog walkers from the local estates. Sycamore, Ash, Horse Chestnut and Rowan dominate the canopy with a lower layer of Hawthorn, Hazel and Ash at lower levels. This brought us to a short length of footpath that led to Beechwood Avenue.
We crossed over Beechwood Avenue, and walked along the disused stretch of Wood Lane, before we turned left, along the footpath into the Beechwood housing estate. After a short walk along the tarmac path, and past a small pond, we turned into the woodland of Floodbrook Clough. The footpath has recently been fenced off from the steep drop into the clough. The path is always muddy in some sections and to avoid some of the worst sections my dad clambered over the exposed tree roots. It is always fun watching him slip on the roots. After this short length of path, the rest of the walk is along laid footpaths at the side of the houses. We stopped to look down into the steep sided woodland and wished that there was a path within the trees. People have made YouTube videos as they unofficially walk through the clough and into the tunnel that leads through some of the valley.
The woodland is managed by the Woodland Trust and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The semi-natural ancient broadleaf woodland is the habitat of some rare species of wet woodland plants. The woodland covers an area of over 13 acres and remains relatively untouched due to the lack of footpaths and its steep sided wet valley sides. The walk along the side of the clough ended as we reached Beechwood Avenue, and this was where our walk ended. Runcorn never fails to surprise! Until next time!