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White blossom covers branches with blue sky in the background
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 19 – Shropshire Union Canal & North Cheshire Way

It’s been a while since I have walked over 20km and was pleasantly surprised how little my body complained about this 30km walk.  The route on the OS map puts it at 27.5km, but there were a few less obvious navigation points that were a little hidden and required a bit of back-tracking to be sure we were on course.

The first 7km of the walk was getting to the Shropshire Union canal from Hooton station.  Most of the Cheshire Challenge walks have been rural or just passing through the outskirts of towns, this was much more urban and not the prettiest of walks with the busy M53 motorway, Stanlow refinery and warehouses contrasting with pasture, woodland and sandstone cottages.  What I did find fascinating is passing landmarks I recognised from driving along the motorway but seeing them at a much slower pace and seeing more details, but it did mean the smell lasted longer too.  Walks I have done so far on the Cheshire Challenge, especially those along the canals, have passed through industry from over a century ago which has lost its brutal edge and is painted, cared for and has become ‘heritage’.  I wonder if the same nostalgia will ever placed on modern industrial buildings.

As always when I walk with Sarah Williams we talked pretty much the whole way; our conversations blend the deep and meaningful, planning future endeavours and plain silliness.  I like walking and talking and it is true that walking brings clarity to thought.  I often find that over a walk I’ve resolved issues that have been running round my head and, in today’s video call world, I find conversations with someone while not looking directly at them bring a deeper discussion.  Add to that the steady pace of walking which is proven to help the brain process thoughts I definitely get more than just a good physical workout from walks. But the serious chat is balanced by a good dose of laughter, too.

We reached the ‘start’ of the walk at the boat museum at the Shopshire Union Canal, not yet open I got as close to the locks at the end of the canal as I could before back-tracking a short distance to walk along the canal.  For a canal that passes some of the areas heaviest industry, there are pockets of tranquillity and plenty of wildlife.  There are equally neglected areas too, often within a few minutes’ walk and though this could be quite depressing I take comfort in knowing that nature will thrive and reclaim what we humans leave behind.  And there was a poignant moment too, a stark reminder of just how hard it has been for some with flowers laid remembering a life cut short too soon.

The walk did not stay on the canal for long and picked up the North Cheshire Way to weave back to Hooton for the next 14km.  Spring was springing everywhere, this section of the walk was more rural along pastures and woodland, passing fields with calves, lambs and foals with blossom covered blackthorn and cherry trees along the hedges and gardens.  Even the road sections seemed more pleasant than normal, its amazing how blue sky and sun can transform things.

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge Distance19.7km
Paths walkedShropshire Union Canal & North Cheshire Way
Total distance walked27.3km
Total ascent133m
OS mapOS Explorer 266
Date walkedApril 2021
Time taken7 hours
CakeNo cake but some very good gummy sweets!
Dance posejazz!
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed:288km (1500km total)
The stats
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 18 – Eddisbury Way & Delamere Way

This was the walk I needed to rekindle my enthusiasm for the Cheshire Challenge.  After walking solo since November, the lovely Sarah Williams joined me for the day.  We spent the day putting the world to rights; walking and talking was the tonic I needed, from deep and meaningful discussion to silliness and laughter.

We started in Frodsham.  I try and plan walks so if there is an unpleasant trudge along a busy road its at the beginning when my legs are fresh and the conversation lively rather than at the end of the day when I’m weary.  So this first stretch was along the busy A56 before squeezing down the tightest passage way I’ve encountered on the whole challenge.  Of all the Cheshire Challenge paths I have walked so far, the Eddisbury Way seems to be the least valued; here is no signage to say this is the Eddisbury Way, let alone the start of the route.  Things start looking up for the path as it passes into woodlands, along fields and into a small gorge full of wild garlic.  The waymarking is really poor so I made a few navigation errors as I was concentrating far too much on chatting with Sarah to spot the right paths to take.

There are some lovely ancient byways on this walk, worn sandstone under foot always makes me wonder who has walked these paths before and what the countryside surrounding it was like.  Today the fields are a mixture of arable and livestock, the oilseed rape was starting to bloom brilliant yellow, the grass was lush and shooting up in the warm April sunshine and the sandy soil ploughed into deep furrows and planted with seed potatoes.  The Eddisbury Way pulled up onto the sandstone ridge with long views behind us across towards North Wales, the rural countryside contrasted with the heavy industry of Runcorn. 

We stopped for an early lunch in a grassy field protected from the wind by a sunlit hedge.   Lunch was made all the better by the amazing flapjacks that Sarah had made and the subsequent sugar rush powered us up the hill.

More navigation conundrums occurred when I thought I had missed the public right of way, but closer inspection showed that the waymarked route, with the yellow arrows that indicate a public right of way was not where it was shown on the map.  Here a brilliant navigation tip from Aaron Mitchell was put to use: high voltage pylons are marked on OS Explorer maps and if the insulators are hanging vertically then the cables are running in a straight line, if they are vertical then the cables are changing direction.  With hedges removed and the waymarked route being further along the byway than shown on the map it was the pylons that confirmed I was stood where I thought I was, it was the path that was not where it was shown.  The trodden path across the potato furrows meant we adopted a tigger-like walk bounding from the furrow-tops to cross the field. 

The Eddisbury Way and Delamere Way form a crossroads on the edge Delamere Forest and it was here that we switched paths and headed north on the Delamere Way.  There is a little more road walking but they are quiet back roads linking the byways and footpaths.  The highest point of the walk is shortly before the end and the air was so clear that the Liverpool landmarks twenty miles away, the cathedrals and radio tower, were easy to spot. In honour of the pylon navigation aid we created the pylon dance and much hilarity ensued making the video before a group of walkers appeared.  The walk descends steeply into Frodsham, sharing the path with the far better known Sandstone Trail.  The start/finish of the Delamere Way is at the curiously named Bears Paw pub and we made it just in time for the weather to take a major turn from the blue skies to snow and sleet.

I’m getting close to the 20% complete with just 30km to walk before I hit the milestone.   I have found my enthusiasm for the Cheshire Challenge again, with an aim to get some big miles under my feet over the next month.

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance12.5 km
Paths walkedEddisbury Way & Delamere Way
Total distance14 km
Total ascent301m
OS mapOS Explorer 267
Date walkedApril 2021
Time taken5 hours
CakeFlapjack AND Beetroot & Chocolate cake
Dance poseThe Pylon Dance
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed268 km
the stats
A wooden fingerpost sign with an acorn logo and 'Oakmere Way' written on it. There is a wide path to the left with two cyclists in the distance. The sign is point towards woodland.
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 17 – Delamere Way

This was an intentionally shorter walk as I have volunteered to test the route survey form for the Slow Ways project.  I needed to stop and take measurements of the path and make notes so my overall pace would be much slower than normal.

The forest is becoming a bit of a popular film location and there was a small encampment of shiny white trailers as I walked through the old carpark, I curbed my curiosity and upped my pace as I walked past.  This short section is along the same path as the Delamere Loop and I had to stop myself on autopilot missing my turn.  The whole walk I was keeping alert for the factors that Slow Ways project want to know, all relating to the accessibility of the paths.  I started volunteering for Slow Ways when it started early 2020 and needed people to map possible routes, the ones I did are all back in the East Riding of Yorkshire and one day I will go and walk them.

After the forest the route winds its way into the back of Norley, then on to Cuddington. I take the notes I need to, realising that my bright idea of a small lightweight tailors tape measure rather than a heavy retractable DIY one was not so clever after dragging it through the mud a few times.  Before I mapped out the whole Cheshire Challenge and the pattern of the paths crossing was clear, the routes I planned were good walks but not terribly efficient in making sure I covered all the paths I needed to.  For this walk, it meant a short stomp along the road to pick up where I had left the Delamere Way in walk 3, then turn round and walk back to turn this walk into a decent circular.

After Cuddington, the walk picks up the top of the Oakmere Way.  Following the railway along a permitted path and around the edge of the tree nursery it crosses the road and back onto the now very familiar paths around the quarry.  The weather had closed in and the rain became persistent, but I like walking in the rain.  Head down and dry inside my waterproofs, I marched homeward.

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance6.3km
Paths walkedDelamere Way
Total distance16km
Total ascent215m
OS mapOS Explorer 257
Date walkedMarch 2021
Time taken5 hours
CakeCherry cake
Dance poseTap dance
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed256km
The stats

Looking up at a stone arch bridge. There is a rutted track underneath with bare trees in the background
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 16 – Eddisbury Way

The first walk of the Cheshire Challenge I didn’t complete as planned.  It was a bright, warm sunny day with the promise of spring in the air, as I set out I was keen for a good walk; I knew I could walk 20km, the navigation would need some care as I know the Eddisbury Way is not well waymarked but everything was within my comfort zone.  Any maybe that was the problem: it was all a bit, well, easy.

I set out through the forest, the sun had brought quite a few people out despite the lockdown but it wasn’t crowds and I would be soon away from the busier areas.  The first sign that perhaps my heart was not fully in it was when I couldn’t see how to join the Eddisbury Way at Manley.  I’d walked a short section of the Sandstone trail, too short to count this time as I know I will be back later, and was stood, map in one hand and phone with the OS app in the other pacing up and down for a stile that wasn’t there.  After grumbling a bit I realised the basic error I had made and that the path I was looking for ran parallel to the one I was on, but on the other side of the hedge.

Once I had gotten over kicking myself, the walk to Kelsall was past familiar landmarks I would usually drive or cycle past.  I like seeing these places from a totally different perspective. There is more detail to be seen with a slower pace and it doesn’t always show them in a better light: somethings are better for a glimpse at speed but others turn out to be more fascinating than I could have imagined.  Around here, the fields are surrounded by huge, thick Leylandii hedges, I think there were once many orchards with the hedges there to protect the fruit trees from wind and create warm micro-climates for them.  

There is only one really grim bit of this walk which is crossing the dual carriageway to get to Kelsall.  It’s a very fast stretch of road and extreme care is needed to cross it.  For me, Kelsall is the place where the nearest Co-op is so it was nice to walk through the village an see just how lovely it is.  The experience was slightly spoilt by the huge crowds that were in the park I had to walk through, I hadn’t been near that many people since the summer and it felt pretty uncomfortable: though I suspect my underlying mardy mood had more to do with that than I’d admit at the time.

My pace had been slow and as I walked through the orchards around Weetwood thoughts of stopping arose.  I only needed to walk the Eddisbury Way section, I have plans to walk the length of the Sandstone Trail over a weekend with a friend sometime so the short section I’d walk today would be repeated.  But that would mean I’d given up.  Let myself down.  Failed.  I chose to stop and sulked all the way home in the car after being picked up.

Hindsight being the leveller it often is, I know I didn’t fail.  But I have reflected on why this walk just ‘didn’t do it for me’.  It’s no one thing, but I think walks like this where there is nothing that really pushes me outside the comfort zone I much prefer to do with friends.  And I’ve done a lot of comfort zone walking solo, I set this challenge because I couldn’t get to the wilder moors and mountains I love; I enjoy discovering these routes closer to home and not having to drive an hour to walk and its great training for Svalbard.  But its not the same.  I think lockdown 3 has finally gotten to me and I just need to be kind to myself.  I’ve walked 320km over 16 walks since I started this challenge, missing a tad over 7km is hardly failing.

Onward.

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance8km
Paths walkedEddisbury Way
Total distance14.6km
Total ascent~ 300m
OS mapOS Explorer 267
Date walkedFebruary 2021
Time taken5.5 hours
CakeCarrot cake
Dance poseBallet barre
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed320km
the stats
A path between a low sandstone gorge. In the background there are tall pine trees
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walks 13,14 & 15 – Delamere Loop

Three walks in one blog!  Grab a cuppa, this is a longer read.

I walked the Delamere Loop from my house over three walks in January and February 2021.  The third Covid lockdown meant I had to walk from my house, so to walk the 35km of the Delamere Loop I walked an extra 31km to meet the path further south.

The first section started in Delamere Forest alongside Blakemere Moss.  I’ve walked, run, roller skied and dragged my tyre around the mere many times and will walk it again as part of the Cheshire Challenge on the Delamere Way.  The route heads out of the forset to a steep road called the Yeld, it’s a relentless slog of a walk and even more of a grind for those that cycle it.  Around here there are small orchards and this one was full of Fieldfares gorging themselves on the fallen apples.

After passing the outskirts of the village of Kelsall, the walk heads back into the trees, this time in Primrose Wood.  Its here that a remnant of the ice age can be found, with a minor detour.  Now called Urchin’s Kitchen, the narrow sandstone gorge was a formed by melt water under the vast ice sheet that once covered here.  Cool huh?  The Delamere Loop continues to wind through the woods climbing up hill to pop out onto a quiet road, then back onto a narrow bridleway and then out on to the road that leads in to Utkinton.  After Utkinton, a less lovely stomp along a road for a few hundred meters brought the turning point, a large black and white fingerpost came into view.  Time to head for home.

I’m not normally worried by cows.  I’ve found that if I just walk slowly, quietly telling them I am the most boring thing they will see all day and that I am really not worth the effort to investigate then they generally ignore me.  Its rare I get a strong feeling that something is not right, maybe its a primordial instinct, a sixth sense that tells you things are not all hunky dory and even without looking danger in the face, you know it is there.  And this was one of those occasions.  As I entered the field it was at least knee deep in sloppy mud in places and I had to pick my way, hopscotch style, across what was theoretically a path: no one would keep cows on this I thought, they must have been moved.  I was wrong.  As I started to reach slightly firmer ground, I saw the cows and they were definitely interested in me.  Decision time.  Turning back put them behind me where I couldn’t see what they were doing: if I fell in the mud I could be in serious trouble.   I decided to continue, checking exactly where the exit from the field was on the OS app, phone in hand, slowing to a snail’s pace and with my walking poles to make sure I didn’t slip I walked directly towards the stile out of the field.  I was fine, they were uncomfortably observant and skittish but moved away as I approached and I made it to the stile without incident.  But it wasn’t a pleasant experience: I have only once before felt this wary of livestock and my heart was thumping as I swiftly climbed the stile.

And so back to the outskirts of Primrose Woods, down to the equestrian centre and then up the lane to Eddisbury Hill.

Two weeks later, I retraced my steps to Utkinton this time in snow as I dropped down from Delamere to Primrose Woods.  Deciding I didn’t fancy my chances with the cows again, I headed to Utkinton and repeated a small section of the Delamere Loop I had already walked.  At the black and white fingerpost I turned right instead of left and continued along the Delamere Loop.  This route was a lot of road walking.  The trouble with walks in winter that are road and paths is selecting footwear.  Snow and mud calls for walking boots, but miles on tarmac is unforgiving on the feet and joints.  Through Eaton and onward to the ghostly quiet Oulton Park race circuit, I finally left the tarmac to the refreshingly squidgy paths of Little Budworth Common.  Here the first tiny early signs of the incoming spring were appearing in the woods: the brilliant green shoots of the bluebells peeking through the leafmould.

This walk was the longest of the Delamere Loop walks at 25km but the least efficient of the Cheshire Challenge so far, with more distance covered on the unnamed paths than on the named ones.  At the Longstone, I left the Delamere Loop and turned back to home.  The Longstone is a medieval waymarker it would have been in the form of a cross but all that remains now is a solid chunk of the base.  Rare in this part of the country, the unassuming stone is grade II listed.  More road walking followed.  A pavement along the busy A49 was welcome and then the quiet, dead straight road along a wood know as Hogshead Lane.  A short way along a verge and I gratefully headed back on to paths, this time the Oakmere Way.  This is a permitted path alongside the sand quarry and leads all the way back to Delamere Forest.

Another two weeks later and I was walking back along the Oakmere Way, down Hogshead Lane and back to the Longstone.  This was a shorter walk of 20km, and after a few kilometres walking along quiet tarmac lanes, I came to the Whitegate Way.  Once a railway this is now a permitted path for cyclists and walkers, at 11km it’s the shortest long-distance path of the Cheshire Challenge but today I was only walking a section that doubles up as the Delamere Loop.  I both like and dislike paths such as this.  It’s a little too polished for my taste but its great for thinking time as no effort is needed to navigate and I don’t need to pay too much attention where I am putting my feet.  As I reached the end of the Whitegate Way I started that polite game of leap-frog gate holding for two teenage girls on mountain bikes: I walked past them, they then rode past me.  They asked me where the Whitegate Way ended and we started chatting about local routes to explore.  I’d like to think I planted the seed of an adventure for them.

Another short stretch of road and I was back in Delamere Forest and soon standing by the Delamere Loop sign pointing towards Blakemere Moss.  The Delamere Loop is the second of the Cheshire Challenge paths I have finished, the first being the Baker Way that I walked way back in the summer.

Or so I thought.  Some weeks later, on an evening stroll up the hill behind my house after work, I found a Delamere Loop sign.  At the top of a hill I definitely didn’t walk up.  My inner list-ticking self feels the need to investigate this further…

Videos of the walks are here: walk 13, walk 14 and walk 15

The routes are available on the Ordnance Survey website: walk 13, walk 14 and walk 15

Cheshire Challenge distance35km
Paths walkedDelamere Loop
Total distance67km
Total ascent978m
OS mapOS Explorer 267
Date walkedJanuary & February 2021
Time taken18.5 hours
CakeMostly Christmas cake
Dance poseVarious, mostly silly
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed241km (1500km total)
the stats

A tractor tyre decorated to look like a Christmas wreath. Greenery is draped over top, there are red baubles and two galvanised buckets are hung to look like bells
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 12 – Bishop Bennet Way

OK, so the Bishop Bennet Way has redeemed itself a bit with this section.  The route starts at Churton and is mostly on byways and bridleways, there was still road walking to be done but on much quieter stretches.

This was a proper stomp of a walk for me.  Walked between Christmas and New Year, the December days were at their shortest and I wanted to walk off the fug in my head from the disappointment of the new lockdown.  I set off from Churton where I had left the route a few weeks before, quickly the route turned onto a long section of bridleway.  The sun was out and the low light through the trees gave my glum mood a boost with the sun in my face for almost the whole day.  The mud squelched under my boots, often having to leap seemingly deep puddles, putting faith in my guess that the landing was solid. 

This walk wins the prize for the best sign seen enroute: a warning of subsidence on a restricted byway caused by badgers.  Taking my Primus stove with me on these winter walks was definitely a good idea, normally I barely stop on a walk, enough to check the map, dig out a snack from my pack or swap jackets as the weather changes.  But stopping to boil water forces me to sit and just be present in the landscape.

All but the last section of the day was up hill, gradually getting steeper as I climbed up from the plain past a sandstone scar and towards the southern edge of the sandstone ridge that runs through Cheshire.

One more section of the Bishop Bennet Way to go!

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance16.5km
Paths walkedBishop Bennet Way
Total distance16.5km
Total ascent107m
OS mapOS Explorer 257
Date walkedDecember 2020
Time taken4 hours
CakeCarrot cake
Dance poseShow time!
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed206km (1500km in total)
the stats
A rusty corrugated steel barn with rusty agricultural and railway maintenance machinery, all heavily overgrown with thick brambles
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 11 – Bishop Bennet Way

Well, it had to happen at some point in this challenge, a walk I really didn’t enjoy.  To be fair, the Bishop Bennet Way is primarily a horse and cycling route on bridleways, byways and roads; this section had long road sections and for someone who’s preference is remote wild places it didn’t fill me with much joy.

The route starts in the shadow of Beeston Castle and follows a byway before a long trudge along the road past the Ice cream farm.  In non-covid times the prospect of ice cream would have cheered me up but even the drive through seemed closed.   I found a good lunch spot where I could light my stove for a warm drink, eating a lot of cake and watching a flock of hens were highlights, as was the curious machinery graveyard at Calveley Hall.

Pfft.  That was it really.  17km in the bag and glad that’s ticked off: But I guess you can’t have all all the time, can you?

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance17km
Paths walkedBishop Bennet Way
Total distance17km
Total ascent54m
OS mapOS Explorer 257
Date walkedNovember 2020
Time taken4.25 hours
CakeFruit sponge
Dance poseNone, head down stomping!
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed189km (1500km total)
the stats
Rolling grassy land with low bare trees under a grey cloudy sky. In the far distance, silhouettes of hills can be seen on the horizon.
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 10 – South Cheshire Way & Llangollen Canal Walk

November.  It was no surprise that this was a damp walk under grey skies, but the mood was anything but sombre.  A circular walk meant meeting with a friend and it was lovely to have company again.  The walk started and finished at Wrenbury-cum-Frith, in non-covid times a post walk pub dinner would have definitely been part of the plan. 

The first half of the walk is along the South Cheshire Way: pub quiz fact – at 55km it is just under half the length of the North Cheshire Way.  Muddy fields were the start of the day, gently rolling through lush grass and pastures.  The waymarked path diverted a couple of times from the map, which caused a bit of navigational confusion but we soon popped back out onto the road to Marbury and the accurately named Little Mere and Big Mere.  Time for our legs and lungs to get a good workout, the route pulls steeply and steadily up Buttermilk Bank to a spectacularly long view to Peckforton and Bickerton Hill and the sandstone ridge.

All down hill from here, the path picks up the Bishop Bennet Way, another Cheshire Challenge path that I’ll be ticking off soon.  After another muddy trudge through a recently harvested maize field we joined the Llangollen Canal which at this point is also the Sandstone Trail.  We stopped here for a late lunch, timely as the weather began to close in; mizzle turned to drizzle and then to rain.  Head down, deep in conversation at times and comfortable silence at others, we stomped steadily along the canal with barely a drop in height of 10 meters over the whole 10 km.

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance19km
Paths walkedSouth Cheshire Way, Llangollen Canal Walk
Total distance20km
Total ascent181m
OS mapOS Explorer 257
Date walkedNovember 2020
Time taken6 hours
CakeNone this time 😦
Dance poseJazz hands
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed172km (1500km total)
the stats
White water rushing out a sluice in front of a closed canal lock. The canal is in a cutting and sunning is glinting through the tall leafy trees in the background
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 9 – Shropshire Union Canal

Sometimes all you want is a nice simple, long walk to let your mind wander and not have to concentrate too much.  This walk was to be a 20km stomp along the Shropshire Union Canal, finishing where the South Cheshire Way crosses the canal and where I had planned a series of circular walks to save for walking with friends.  From Audlem and south, no other Cheshire Challenge walk crosses the canal so most of it will be solo and possibly multi-day walks for me.

I set off from just outside Cheswardine; as is often the way with canal walks it started at a narrow canal bridge and steps down to the towpath.  The October weather was warm and sunny with clouds gathering but no sign of rain.  I’d planned a walk and talk with a polar friend, Lungi and passed the first two kilometers happily chatting about training and back-up plans should trips be cancelled again, sharing the rural Cheshire scenery on Facetime to South Africa.  Social media may not be perfect but sharing a walk with a friend I have not met in person is pretty special.

Then the barrier fencing loomed into view.  Recent heavy rain had caused landslips in the cutting and the towpath was closed.  Drat.  That’ll teach me to check with the Canal and River Trust before setting out. Of course, this was the one time I had not bought the map with me as the navigation was just ‘follow the canal for 20km’ and so I had to end my chat early to work out a route on the OS app instead.  It wasn’t the most pleasant of detours and involved a section of verge walking along the busy A529, it barely added any distance to the day but it does mean I now have a stranded bit of towpath I need to walk.  Re-joining the canal at Tyrley Locks was a friendly greeting from the slower pace of the canal after the lorry-dodging on the roads.  A snack later and I was ready to carry on.

The whole of the walk is gently down hill and there are plenty of locks along the way.  A deep tree lined cutting just along from Tyrley with a series of locks was a magical dell with ferns and mosses covering the engineering epic that it must have taken to build it.

Aproaching Market Drayton I was greeted by a very enthusiastic parrot in a narrowboat, who waved their toys enthusiastically at me as I walked by: I’d say its not what you expect to see but I’ve learnt you see all sorts of life on the waterways.  A little further on another out-of-place sight was a grade 2 listed Pillbox at Market Drayton built in 1940.  As I stopped, slightly surprised by it, I got chatting to a couple who had recently become full-time boat dwellers.  Canals seem to attract friendly people; I am not sure how long we talked for and I don’t really recall what we talked about but it was lovely to have a touch of normality and connection with people.

Another thing I like along my walks is to read the plaques on benches.  Often they are just a name and dates in memory of someone but some are beautifully poignant, witty or just make you stop and think.  I’d hope that lots of people have smiled and sat with Ellen and Ike.

The walk ended a few kilometres north of Audlem, which meant walking the full length of the locks flight, with an honesty box cake stall at the top and plenty of pubs at the bottom for boaters to steel themselves for or recover from the effort of working the 15 locks.  The top of the locks to the end of my walk was a repeat of the towpath, also part of the Weaver Way which was walk 4 of the challenge for me, the finish today was Austin’s bridge now a footpath on the South Cheshire Way.  I’ll be back here someday soon.

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance17.2km
Paths walkedShropshire Union Canal
Total distance20km
Total ascent108m
OS mapExplorer 257, 243
Date walkedOcotober 2020
Time taken6 hours
CakeApple cake
Dance poseGeneral silliness
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed:153km
The stats
An arched canal tunnel entrance surrounded by trees with a grass bank and road on the right hand side
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 8 – Trent and Mersey Canal Walk & North Cheshire Way

This was a relatively gentle walk with a lot of industrial heritage along the way, and you can’t go wrong with a bit of industrial heritage for interest!  It was also the Ordnance Survey’s Get Outside day and the weather was glorious early autumn sun, so all round a grand day!

The two Cheshire Challenge walks counted were the Trent and Mersey Canal Walk (153km, 95 miles in total) and the North Cheshire Way (113 km, 70 miles in total), but I will be walking both tracks again as part of the Cheshire Ring Canal Walk and Weaver Way.  We started on the canal, which is quite a height above the river.  This is a lovely canal section, with mature trees on both sides, lots of low farm bridges and big, long views across the river plain and towards the Sandstone ridge.  We could almost see the paths we took on walk 3, back in the summer.  This canal has two tunnels, neither can be walked through and the path climbs up and over the wooded hills instead.  The canal is only wide enough for one narrow boat at a time and two-way traffic is managed by dividing the hour into slots when boats can travel in each direction.  The sound of the boat engines travels long through the tunnel and it seemed an age before the blue painted boat appeared. 

After the tunnels, the canal skirts the edge of Barnton village and the town of Northwich with houses and gardens backing onto the towpath.  At one house, the owner had painted a long line of stones to thank and support all the groups of people who have found the pandemic extra tough or have helped others: police, careworkers, refuse collectors, refugees, theatres and scientist to name just a few.  The line must have had close to a hundred stones and there was a sign encouraging passers-by to add any group that had been missed.

The Anderton Boat Lift deserves a blog of its own.  It was built to enable boats to move between the Weaver Navigation and the canal, a drop of some 15 metres from the canal.  It’s still in operation but we weren’t lucky enough to see it working while we had a cup of tea in the visitor centre garden.

Retracing our steps this was now the North Cheshire Way and after walking up and over one of the tunnels we turned away from the narrow tree lined canal to the wide and open river.  The twin locks at Saltersford are huge and imposing; though quiet now the river was once a motorway of the water ways.  We stopped here for cake, lounging in the sun on a mown grassy bank watching a diving bird, possibly a Shag, fishing along the opposite bank.

The rest of the walk followed the river on wide field edges all the way back to the swing bridge at Acton Bridge, and tempting though it was to continue along the river we had reached the end of the day’s walk.

Video of the walk is HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance11.65km
Paths walkedTrent and Mersey Canal Walk, North Cheshire Way
Total distance12.1km
Total ascent172m
OS mapOS Explorer 267
Date walked27th September 2020
Time taken5 hours
CakeApple cake
Dance poseForgot, but we did sing!
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed145km (1500km in total)
Walk stats