Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. The humans were still in lockdown and my human has annoyingly, got knee problems, that don’t look like they will be resolved any time soon. He is such a wimp! Anyway, it was another local walk for us. Usually, we walk from home to Runcorn Hill but, due to Hopalong struggling, we drove the short distance to Highland Road, where we parked the car.
Runcorn Hill is a sandstone outcrop with a mix of oak and beech woodland and lowland heath. The area comprises of dis-used quarries, a criss-crossing of footpaths and early 20th century formal gardens. The quarries date back to 1734 and were one of the largest employers in the town until the end of the 19th century. In the 1920’s a job creation scheme of planting trees and heather on the hills to regenerate the area. Runcorn Hill Park holds the coveted Green Flag award issued by Keep Britain Tidy to areas with an environmentally conscious management system.
To the side of the formal area of the hills a pub called the Traveller’s Rest, or ‘Tup’, stood since the 1920’s. Long since closed down, and converted to a house, it was one of Runcorn’s premier pubs. Summer evenings sat outside was a popular stop off point after a walk around the hills.
We walked along Highland Road past the boating lake with its model motor boats, tacking their way across the shallow pond. Families gather here to feed the ducks that inhabit the park. A large playground area is adjacent to the lake, where children enjoy their visit, before eating an icecream from Esposito’s while their parents sip a fresh coffee. We walked behind the cafe to enter the formal area of the park. This area is well maintained and contains tennis courts, a putting green and a bowling green. A recently replaced bandstand holds small concerts in the summer months. The sandstone walls of this area are the remains of the Highland Quarry with the grounds being the filled in area after the quarry closed.
From the formal area we ventured into the Local Nature Reserve of Runcorn Hill. The footpaths vary from hard surfaced multi-use bridleway to informal steep and overgrown routes. We chose a quiet day to visit so that I could run around off-lead. My human always puts me back on my lead when other dogs are around because, not every dog is as playful as me. I love to run up and down the hills and to have a good sniff in the undergrowth. I was spoilt for choice with the amount of sticks that I had at my paws. My human always says to me that he can’t believe the size of some of the branches that I pick up. Well, humans go to the gym to pick up heavy stuff so, what is the difference?
We came across a reconstructed quarry wagon that is typical of the type used along the tramways that are nowadays used as footpaths. This led us under the Peter Pan Bridge that spans a gap formed in the sandstone at Boundary Quarry. The tramway was used to transport waste off the hill down to Sandy Lane and on to Weston Docks.
After a short walk we came to Frogs Mouth, or Frogs Gob as its known locally, which is the largest rock face of a quarry in the area. Sandstone from the quarries has been used to build Liverpool Cathedral and even as far as New York docks and the plinth of the Statue of Liberty. Frogs Mouth is a popular climbing and bouldering area. Sadly, it is the location of a few deaths over the years and some nasty injuries due to falls from the overhanging rocks.
We walked on, with my dad making sure that I was back on my lead at the more precarious points. There are a few cliff edges that are difficult to see and he says ‘I know what you are like, Monkey’. We stopped to admire the view at the edge of one cliff. The Mersey Estuary was spread out in front of us. We could see Liverpool, Runcorn, Widnes and Ellesmere Point. The Clywydian Hills were visible with the mountains of Snowdonia in the far distance. The area is worth a visit if only for this vista.
The hills are now covered in abundance with gorse, heathers, wood sorrel and red campion. I managed to get myself stuck in the gorse on one occasion and had to be rescued by Grumpy. The Common Lizard can be sniffed out by pooches like me. There are a few species of bats in the area too but, I think that catching one is beyond my hunting ability.
We concluded our walk around the hills by walking through ‘the horse field’ to the prefabs that were built just after World War II. The intention was to provide cheap housing for ten years. It is now over seventy years since they were built. They have been modernised and brick walls built providing a quaint residential area. So, after I had a blast around the football pitches we walked back to the car. It was another fun local walk for Joe the Cocker and his limping human!