I’ve realised what makes me a little nervous when planning the Cheshire Challenge Walk: obstructed paths leave you with fewer alternatives. When on the hills, most of the land falls under the CROW act and walkers are not restricted to just the permitted paths and public rights of way. So if your way is blocked, there is often a way to keep moving forward: if a stream is in spate you can follow it up hill to a safer crossing, if you’ve had enough and the pub is calling, you can plot a short cut across a moor on a bearing. But for lowland paths, that’s not an option. If a path is overgrown, your choices are very limited and often mean retracting steps. But I faced that demon on this walk and it was all good in the end.
This walk follows a section of the North Cheshire Way and the Longster Trail. Both paths share the same tracks at the beginning and end, which does mean walking up to the trig twice if you are doing things properly! Parking is at Helsby Quarry Nature Reserve, on Alvanley Road. The carpark free and compact, so plan to arrive early on sunny weekends as there is no roadside parking. The walk gets your legs going from the start as the route takes you straight up the hill into Helsby woods. Bearing right and following signs to Helsby Hill, the route passes through a deep cut in the sandstone before turning left up to the hill. On a clear day you can see the Clywds in Wales and Wirral, you can also see some of Cheshire’s more industrial views too.
The North Cheshire Way heads from the trig back off the hill to a signpost which sent us left and along a farm road and then the road down to Harmers Wood. As we passed Harmers Wood to the left, a well signposted footpath on the right took us back into the fields. About 2km from the trig, the two paths split, with the North Cheshire Way running west of the Longster Trail. We headed South-southwest on the North Cheshire Way.
The North Cheshire Way then follows well trodden tracks through fields all the way to Alvanley, after Alvanley there is a long road section, but they are quiet single track roads so a chance to get a good pace going. A moment’s self-doubt on the navigation at a set of house gates was soon resolved when the yellow footpath marker was spotted hidden in the hedge on a side gate. A kilometre on and the track popped out on the edge of the very lovely village of Dunham-on-the-Hill. After Dunham-on-the-Hill the route heads directly south, down a single track road and across arable fields. Where the track passes a farm and meets another road, the walk leaves the North Cheshire Way and takes un-named paths east to pick up the Longster Trail.
And now the trickier navigation challenge. The route follows a restricted by-way from Long Green, but the last 200 metres were thick with old brambles and completely impassible: attempting to push through would have ended like flies in a spider’s web. To walk back and around would have meant a 3 kilometre detour along roads: peering round a wide gap in the hedge, the Longster Trail could be seen across a grassy field. So, brave-pants pulled up high, we skirted the edge of the field and within minutes were on the Longster Trail.
Now the route heads broadly north and gently (well, mostly gently) up hill all the way back. After fields of calmly grazing cows the route heads steeply up hill, through a neat stable yard and onto an old, sandy drove road alongside woodland and a good place for a snack stop. After crossing a stream, the Longster Trail meets a brook and follows it east. A footbridge tucked in the hedge takes the route steeply uphill then along arable fields and grazing land full of diving swallows before popping back out onto the road at Alvanley. With the North Cheshire Way within a stone’s throw, the Longster Trail crosses a road and head across fields again. Care needs to be taken to stick the the Longster Trail with a more visible footpath heading right, both paths meet the same road but the un-named path adds more distance and more importantly would have missed out a section of the Longster Trail. It’s here I should admit that I did miss the path so ended up having to walk back. Within less than a kilometre, the Longster Trail joins the North Cheshire Way and the route retraces its self back to the trig to complete the walk and the end of the Longster Trail.
Video of the walk HERE
The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE
|Cheshire Challenge Distance:||16.1km|
|Paths walked:||North Cheshire Way, Longster Trail|
|OS map:||OS Explorer 266, 267|
|Date walked:||23rd August 2020|
|Time taken:||6 hours 45 minutes|
|Cake:||Chocolate and Beetroot cake|
|Dance pose:||Jazz hands|
|Total Cheshire Challenge completed:||102.3km (1500km in total)|