Tales from the Hares....
Hon Pres Park and I met up at the appointed hour and place (the car park of The Tigers Head), and after some faffing around with sawdust, shredded paper, and trail-bags we trotted off, leaving clumps of trail up School Lane and Maddocks Hill to cross over High Street by the Bowling Club.
It was a bit of a chilly morning. The sun was low in the sky but dazzlingly bright, the Winter Solstice had only recently passed. It was easy to miss faint tracks.
The route had been dreamt up by Wells, but contraints on his time (he’s retired) meant he hadn’t had the chance to recce the route on the ground, and family commitments meant he was unable to lay this trail. All the planning had been done on paper. I’d recced a section the day before, this had proved to be A Very Good Thing.
Cow fields make for easy trail-laying trail….we knew exactly where to place the sawdust.
By Breach Moss Wood and crossing Small Brook we soon entered Delamere Forest proper where the going was good on the dry forestry tracks.
Now heading west, the sun was no longer doing it’s best to blind us, and we were able to trot along quite happily, dumping sawdust with gay abandon.
Paul had warned me of an almost hidden left turn off the track. It wasn’t marked on my 1:25k map but I’d downloaded the GPX file onto my Garmin Etrex30 – so we found it. The narrow footpath took down to the delightful Dead Lake, a lovely spot where we stopped to take photographs, discuss the state of British politics (woeful) and wonder how many runners would turn out to follow our beautifully laid sawdust trail.
We were so full of ourselves that we completely missed our turn-off to exit the forest. Oh well, I needed the exercise.
We eventually exited the forest onto Station Road, close to Delamere Railway Station….and far more importantly, the ice cream shop. We didn’t stop though. Instead we headed west into Delamere ‘park’ along a track that was really quite busy with walkers and cyclists.
We then ran south and uphill through Eddisbury Wood, then west, on good paths, ignoring the many tracks up to Pail Heights which was on the originally planned route. All the tracks were blocked off for forestry / logging so we just continued west to join the Sandstone Trail at Eddisbury Lodge. This was a blessing in disguise, taking in Pale Heights would have extended to route to nearer 10 miles.
Turning right to run north, we dodged walkers, dogs, and cyclists who were out enjoying the lovely weather. More than once we had to explain what we were doing – our explanations seemed to be well received. Or maybe the enquirers were just being polite.
The prescribed route veered off from the Sandstone Trail after a while, no doubt in an attempt to avoid the crowds. This would have been a fine plan, indeed all was going well until Hon Pres Park, running a yard or so ahead of me, suddenly lost 2ft of height – he’d stepped into a fetid, man eating swamp.
A second later I suffered the same fate. It was clear that further progress along this path was going to be impossible – certainly without the aid of a boat.
We re-traced our steps and re-joined the busy Sandstone Trail, crossing the wonderfully named Battleaxe Road to get to it.
Our route crossed over a minor road at Barnbridge Gate and we soon once again left the Sandstone Trail. Some muddiness followed.
The forestry tracks zig-zagged to Hatchmere, where we hoped to spot a big blue duck, featured on the OS map.
No such duck was spotted, but the view over the mere was quite lovely….if you squinted into the still very bright sun.
A short trot down Delamere Road took us by an old Tally-ho! venue, The Carriers (Marstons).
Turning left (North) off the road we followed more tracks and paths to Norley Road, where after an only slightly circuitous route passing by Norley Hall and Home Farm (home of the very tired couple of stiles and the now legally diverted footpath to avoid them) we used the last of our sawdust to lay the final approach to the Tigers Head.
The tin bath was put to use, and, for only the second time in the history of the Club, I enjoyed clean water. Perhaps that’s one of the perks of being a trail-layer.
21 sat down to an excellent dinner of beef & mushroom pie and chips (lots) followed by crumble and custard…apart from Merciless who had a meal more suited to his preferences.
The beer was good, with a fine selection which seemed to keep everyone happy. The pub’s "Second Son Distillery" provided gin for those who preferred that sort of thing – it seemed to have been very well received.
Sadly, this was to be the last time we would visit the pub whilst under the management of the very excellent Tracie & John who are moving on to other things, although I gather they will continue their gin production, presumably at another site.
The route varied in length from 8.23 miles to 8.9 miles – dependent on who’s GPS device was used, and how lost they got.
Thanks to Joe for his help and fine company, and (probably) to Wells who’s damned fool idea it was in the first place.