Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. It was on a pleasant April Sunday morning that we chose to not do a hilly walk. My human said that he fancied doing a gentle stroll for a few hours in somewhere that is fairly local to us. He spent a while looking at walking apps before he said ‘come on, let’s wing it’. We set off to Northwich with the view to finding somewhere to park before we did a river walk. Well, it’s technically a navigation as the River Weaver was ‘straightened’ and tuned in to a totally navigable waterway in the 19th century.
We parked close to St. Helen Witton Church a Grade I Listed Building. It is known as St. Helen’s, Witton or Northwich Parish Church. It was built in the 14th century with many later additions but, has remained visibly the same since 1890. The churchyard contains a Grade II Listed sundial dating back to 1800. There are also several WWI and WW2 war graves to be seen. Its a large imposing building and my human spent quite a while admiring it before we walked through the churchyard into Witton Cemetery.
The entrance to the cemetery is through magnificent sandstone piers with wrought iron gates. The chapels are directly ahead with walk through arched tunnel. We had a walk through the graves because, unlike our local cemetery, pooches are welcomed on lead.
We left the church and cemetery behind us as we walked through the local houses toward the River Weaver. After a short walk along Kingsmead we passed the Grade II Listed Verdin Technical School building. Laterly it was an Art College and currently private apartments.
A wee bit further through the houses brought us to a footpath leading to the Riversdale footbridge at Hunt’s Lock on the River Weaver. The original bridge was constructed in 1888 and rebuilt in 1930. It closed in 2004 when it was deemed to be unsafe. It was six years before the present structure was opened in 2010.
We decided to cross over Hunt’s Lock and to walk through Marshall’s Arm as far as Hartford Bridge, or the ‘Blue Bridge’ as it is known locally, for obvious reasons. The locks have recently been given an upgrade with new gates being the major improvement. My human expects me to jump into a lock whenever we are by one. I think that he underestimates me and has never forgiven me for falling in out local cut on a few occasions. I was placed on a short lead while we walked to the opposite banks over the lock gates.
On the western side of the Weaver Navigation there are a couple of meandering loops of the original River Weaver. A small nature reserve called Marshall’s Arm has numerous footpaths through the woodland in the next section. The area gets its name from the Marshall family who owned the nearby Hartford Hall Estate.
The local nature reserve is sheltered by three steep sided cloughs, covered in trees and bushes. Oak, Ash, Sycamore and Willow provide a habitat for many bird species including woodpeckers. The reedbeds support mallards, coot and moorhen while Mousey, a small wetland area supports many fieldmice and nesting birds. We saw many dragonflies while we walked through the area but, unfortunately for the big feller, we saw plenty of ‘mozzies’. My human rushed through some parts, swishing his arms to fight off the hungry beasties. Sadly, he became lunch for a few of the more persistent bloodsuckers. I found it quite amusing as he was slapping his arms, legs and neck, like some crazed Bavarian dancer.
We soon rejoined the footpath alongside the Weaver Navigation. It was a spell of off-lead zoomies for me. I kept attempting to have a slurp from the river but, I wasn’t allowed. The path was flat and well walked but, the big feller still managed to put his foot in the odd hole. Funny though!
My dad had decided to cross the Weaver over Hartford Bridge, or the Blue Bridge, so that we could walk back to Hunt’s Lock on the opposite side of the river, along the Weaver Way. The bridge carries the A556 and is a fast section of this dual carriageway. I didn’t like the noise especially from the motorbikes and lorries. They are not my favourite things that you humans insist on travelling in.
On the opposite bank of the navigation, the Weaver Way is a multi use pathway that runs back to the locks and beyond. It is flat and compacted into a good surface for cyclists and very popular with them. On our right was dense and wet woodland called Poor’s Wood. The woodland is semi-natural and is dominated by ash and sycamore with beech and oak. It is a wet area as I discovered when I attempted to drink from a stream and my paws disappeared in the mud!
The best of the views were across the Weaver onto the western side especially as we reached the shipyard. Boats of many sizes and in many states of repair or disrepair were on show. One that fascinated my human was a boat called Proceed. He said that he didn’t think that it would proceed anywhere in the near future.
The tugboat was built in Belgium in 1955 as the Hendrik II. It was later renamed the Pullwell Bravo and later after a few other names, Proceed. It has been in its current position since 1995 and is definitely looking unloved.
We continued with our walk along the footpath as we neared Hunt’s Lock again. We turned away from the river at Riversdale bridge and walked back through The Crescent and onto Kingsmead.
Just before we arrived back at the car we passed the Bowling Green pub. It looked very tempting for my human as pubs had just reopened after the lockdown. Instead, we continued to the car where it was me who got the drink. So, after a good slurp I settled down on the rear seat of the car while I was driven home, in comfort. Till next time!