Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here, still under Covid -19 restrictions so, we are staying local. We live in the borough of Halton in Cheshire, which is a joining of two towns that are either side of the River Mersey. The town we call home is Runcorn and across the river is Widnes. We have crossed the Silver Jubilee Bridge to walk into Widnes on many occasions but, an area that we haven’t walked in is around Pex Hill, just outside of the Cronton area.
Pex Hill Nature Reserve is part of the Mersey Forest but, is owned by United Utilities. An old sandstone quarry is on the top of the hill that dates back to the 16th century. Quarrying finally ceased in the late 19th century. On the summit of the hill is the Liverpool Astronomical Society stargazing point known as Leighton Observatory.
As we set off on our little jaunt, my human said that it felt a bit colder than the four degrees Celsius that was indicated on the car dash. So, before we had even started, we stopped for him to put his ‘Joe the Cocker’s Hikes’ beanie over his ‘Covid Cuts’ haircut. Yes, he had used the shaver on his bonce again, ‘down to the wood’. After a bit of faffing about we moved on from our parking spot on Norlands Lane.
The lane is blocked by a wide gate at the edge of the Norlands Housing Estate but, the remaining tarmac makes a flat easy start to the walk, that we were to attempt. The area is popular with dog walkers and I met a few as we walked along the old lane. On either side of the track there were large fields of last years maize and freshly planted crops. We headed northwards towards the trees with the ever-increasing roar of the traffic on the M62 ahead of us, near to Rainhill Stoops.
As we turned ninety degrees to the left, we kept close to the noisy motorway as we walked along a compacted clay track. I managed to find the odd large muddy puddle to sprint through. Much tutting and ‘the eyes’ was my humans disapproving response. Too late, the deed was done, and I was muddy! We shortly came to a footbridge that crossed the motorway. At this point, we moved away from the motorway and headed south-west, along another wide track. We appeared to be circling Pex Hill, which stood proud above the arable fields on our left as we walked. After a while, continuing in a straight line, we took another left turn which pointed us in the direction of the hill.
A few minutes later, after passing a pond on our left, we skirted a copse of oak. This was the start of a short ‘climb’. I say climb but, it was nothing really. It was still on a firm wide track through newly sewed crops. We chose this point to have a small snack and a drink. Coffee for him and water for me. Not very adventurous for me with my cold tap water but, the big feller was ok with his Colombian Dark Roast.
We moved on with my human taking it very easily. This was our first hill for a few months because of his knee problems. As I said earlier, this could hardly qualify as a hill but, he wanted to see what he was capable of. Success! Only minimal complaining and moaning from Hopalong. After a few minutes we reached the edge of the wooded Pex Hill. We walked along the edge of the tree line continuing southwards. The views spread out in front of us as far as the Welsh hills. Fiddler’s Ferry power station could be seen peeping above the trees. The Mersey Estuary and the Silver Jubilee Bridge were also visible from this lovely viewpoint.
Shortly, we left the track to enter into the trees. The stunted oak woodland is criss-crossed with footpaths and mountain bike routes. We followed a footpath that circled within the woodland to end at the visitor centre on the ‘summit’. At the time that we did our walk, a road was being laid to the visitor centre and there is a fair amount of disruption to the peace and tranquility of the hill.
The visitor centre is part of a complex once known as Pex Hill Observatory. Nowadays, it is called the Leighton Observatory and is used by the Liverpool Astronomical Society. Regular (pre Covid) stargazing sessions take place here and are very popular.
Also, on the top of the hill is the disused sandstone quarry with its dangerous steep sided cliff edges. Quarrying commenced on the hill in the early 16th century and ceased in 1893. During World War II the quarry was used as a practice firing range and many bullet holes can still be seen in the sandstone walls. Some of the holes have been developed into hand holds for the climbers who train in the area. It is a renowned venue for top climbers of the area to practice and hone their skills.
After another short circular walk around the top of the wooded hill, we reached the visitor centre again and headed northwards, along the lane. This took us past a few houses until we reached the reservoir, above us on our right. This is a covered reservoir with both old and ‘new’ fences around the perimeter. The reservoir was built in 1868 to supply the local area and with major improvements recently, it still does.
We turned right, following the fence perimeter to its southern corner, before turning west along a footpath, between the bare fields. Within a few minutes we arrived back at Norlands Lane. The walk had been a success. My human’s knee seemed to survive after all his fuss. So, hopefully we can start to get back to the smaller hills when the restrictions are lifted. It was an easy one for me but, it was good to go to a new area for us. So, till next time!
I have included a link to the Pacer app that I found this on. However, I believe the distances are actually kilometres and not miles.