A(nother) John Bullen Production
John doesn’t do a great deal with the LDWA these days, although he’s certainly paid his dues by the selfless service he’s given to the East Lancashire group in his time as Walks Secretary. In recent years he’s organised hugely successful walking weekends based at Forest Hills, just above Frodsham. This year’s trip to Frodsham was on a much smaller scale but it was to prove just as successful as previous trips.
Sunday 1st March
John likes a coffee before a walk, so he’d arranged to meet his loyal followers at a sort of roadside outdoorsy cafe kind of thing. At 9.30, his thirst for caffeine sated, John led us down to the banks of the River Weaver and the start of the day’s walk.
Half the party were LDWA members, the other half were John’s friends and neighbours, it was a cheerful and rather noisy party that disturbed the peace and quiet of this Sunday morning. Judith, suitably recovered from her recent Curry Walk, joined the party for the day. As a member of the LDWA and a TGO Challenger she certainly had the right credentials for the walk.
Bridge on the Weaver’s north bank linking the island to the ‘mainland’ by Dutton Locks
Dutton Locks – and our lunch stop
Although I’ve walked and run in this area before I was really surprised to find that Dutton Locks bridges the Weaver to an island in the river. I’m guessing that the rather acute bend in the river needed to be straightened out when the waterway was made navigable. The sluice to the eastern side of the island provides more evidence that this may well have been the case.
We left the Weaver Navigation at Acton Bridge to continue the flatness on the towpath of the Trent and Mersey Canal and the return leg of the walk. This part of the canal coincides with the Cheshire Ring Canal Walk route, a 98 mile canal towpath walk. That’s a rounte that still on my ‘to do’ list, although I intend bikepacking it at leisure with my mate Jon….although I don’t think I may have told him about his plans yet….
Back to the walk: at one point The Plan didn’t look to be going as planned…
As it happened, the Towpath Closed sign was a bit out of date and we were able to continue unhindered. The sign probably dated back to the repairs carried out after the canal burst it’s banks in 2012 causing mega problems to boat owners who had their boats on the wrong side of the breach…..like my mate John who had bought a boat the week before the breach. The boat, of course, was on the ‘wrong’ side of the breach.
The brilliantly blue sky of the morning had now vanished and had been replaced by low, grey cloud. Leaving the muddy towpath just beyond where the breach had occurred, we were back on tarmac for a short while. By now the rain was raining and shelter was needed for Lunch No2. The church porch at Aston served nicely:
Next up we were back on the banks of the Weaver Navigation and before we knew it had arrived back at the cars. Judith legged it back home whilst the rest of the team headed up to Forest Hills for some R&R and a lovely meal.
Where we went (widdershins):
Monday 2nd March
After a ginormous breakfast we were all on parade at 9.30am. Rick arrived in good time to join us for the day’s adventures. The paparazzi were called in before kick-off:
After a not very quick food-shop in Frodsham, we set off along the banks of the Weaver Navigation, re-tracing the previous day’s route – for the first couple of miles anyway. Leaving the waterside path, we followed tracks and tarmac into Kingsley.
Somewhere along the way the route was shortened by a couple of miles from around 14 miles to around 15 miles. Don’t ask me, I didn’t plan the walk.
The tracks through Delamere Forest are dead easy to follow. At weekends they’re heaving – but today there were very few out and about. The first, or maybe it was the second, lunch of the day was taken in the forest. After the large breakfast I didn’t need much at all.
We were now walking on the very well way-marked Sandstone Trail:
The 15th Century Austerson Old Hall. And a horse.
In the 12 years from 1974 to 1986 this building was dismantled and re-located from Coole Pilate near Nantwich, 27 miles away.
On the final approach to Forest Hills we had wonderful views over the Mersey Estuary from the sandstone edges – but I didn’t have the presence of mind to get the camera out. Silly bugger.
The gentle route had a real sting in the tail: the Bakers Dozen steps – it’s only 13 steps, but they’re quite steep - you really don’t need that at the end of the day:
Where we went (clockwise):
Around 15 miles with some up and down, but not much.
Rick and I headed off home after the walk, the rest of the group stayed behind to enjoy another night at Forest Hills. As we live less than half-an-hour away it seemed a bit daft to stop the night – although I’m sure it was a fun evening.
Thanks to John for putting the trip together, and to the whole group for making it so enjoyable.