A green footpath sign against a leafy hedge
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 4 – Weaver Way

It has been a long, long time since I walked 20 km.  Mentally this seemed like a huge challenge, although lockdown had meant I walked almost daily I had no idea if I could walk 20km in one go.  I decided to do a solo linear walk with my husband dropping me off and collecting me: if I had to stop I could always call for an early pick-up.  As I wanted to test my endurance and not my navigation, a canal walk seemed to fit the bill.

The Weaver Way runs from the top of Audlem locks on the Shropshire Union Canal, right on the southern edge of Cheshire, all the way to Frodsham broadly following the river Weaver.  Its 64km long and the longest of the routes that is entirely within the county of Cheshire.

A green footpath sign against a leafy hedge
Weaver Way Waymarks

I started the walk at Audlem.  This unfortunately meant I had to walk back up the 15 locks to the actual start of the Weaver Way, but it was a lovely day and the locks are lovely.  After loitering long enough to look like I had intended to walk up the locks, I turned and headed north.  The walk crosses the river Weaver twice on aqueducts, once north of Audlem where the Weaver is little more than a big stream and again just before Church Minshull by which time it has grown to a river.  The stretch to Nantwich from Overwater marina is straight and surrounded by flat farmland.  But it is far from dull, there was so much wildlife from geese grazing in the fields, moorhens dabbling along the towpath and juicy ripe blackberries too irresistible not to eat.  At Nantwich there is the option to detour through the town, but I chose to stay on the towpath which was now busy with narrowboats.  As the canal heads out of Nantwich it crosses the Chester Road on a short but impressive black and white painted aqueduct.

A black and white waymark on a fence post
The Crewe and Nantwich circular walk crosses and joins the Weaver Way

It was at this point I witness what was almost an incredible encounter.  A man was busy, head down repairing his narrowboat.  As I approached, a kingfisher flew out from the trees on the opposite bank went to land on his back, changed it’s mind at the last moment, briefly landed on the bow behind him and flew back into the trees.  As I walked past him I said what had happened and we shared a moment of delight at such a beautiful bird. 

a selfie of a woman in outdoor gear with trees, a river and harvested fields in the background
The canal passing over the Weaver

Onward and I was soon at Hurleston Junction where the Llangollen Canal meets the Shropshire Union Canal, and a place I will visit at least twice more on the Cheshire Challenge.  From here it was a few kilometres to the turning point at Barbridge Junction and along the grandly named Shropshire Union Canal Middlewich Branch.  More winding and a little wilder than the main branch I recalled cycling down this towpath, chasing down a friend’s narrowboat a few years before.  Weary legs carried me on and, 24km later (not counting the walk to the top of Audlem locks) I reached bridge 14 and the end of the walk.

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance24.5km
Path walkedWeaver Way
Total distance24.5km
Total ascent110m
OS mapOS Landranger 257, 267
Date walked26th July 2020
Time taken5 hours 44 minutes
CakeSponge cake
Dance poseBallet barre work
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed80.5km (1500km total)
Walk stats
rough grass banks either side of a wide river with woods in the distance
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 3 – North Cheshire Way & Delamere Way

A lovely warm and sunny summers walk along the river started this walk from just outside the village of Kingsley. The track down to the river was a footpath with hedges either side, full of butterflies and bees on the wildflowers. The path opens up to a grassy field and the river, breakfast smells rising from a narrowboat moored on the bank as we headed up river.

The Weaver here is navigable and in its hey day was busy bringing coal to the salt works and the salt back out, which makes it a fascinating place to walk. A fallen tree in a wooded section provided entertainment to the others as we each ducked underneath it trying not to catch our back packs. The path briefly ducked away from the river at Pickering Cut through a small mobile home park and over what was once the original path of the river, now a quiet back water and a haven for wildlife. A short distance further on is the impressive Dutton Viaduct, carrying trains between Liverpool and London, after some silliness listening to the echoes under the arches we carried on Dutton Lock. This is where we left the North Cheshire Way and joined the Delamere Way.


After the flat river walk, the pull up the hill got the blood pumping and we wove round fields and briefly popped out onto the road and under the railway. We stopped for lunch under a large tree and watched the trains whooshing past. The route then follows the top of the railway bank all the way to Acton Bridge. It was here I made a minor navigation error where several paths criss-crossed in small fields, I may well have been absorbed in conversation! The downside is that I now have an orphan section of just a few hundred metres, the upside is that we passed the Hazel Pear pub, which had just reopened with Covid restrictions in place. We stopped for a drink and sat in the pub garden, it felt very odd to be back in a pub though it felt very safe and well organised.


Refreshed, we carried on. The route took us along the road out of Acton Bridge, and just before we turned down a hedge-lined footpath we heard snuffling and a small black pig wandered up to the gate for a scratch behind the ears. The remainder of the Delamere Way alternates between fields and back roads, as we left Ruloe we waved goodbye to the Delamere Way, it heads south-west towards Delamere Forest but we needed to head north-west back to our start point. The paths were again mixed between quiet roads, byways and footpaths, the last couple of kilometres on the tarmac made tired legs complain a little in the heat of the late afternoon but nothing to spoil a lovely day in the Cheshire countryside.

Video of the walk HERE

This route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance9.48km
Paths walkedNorth Cheshire Way, Delamere Way
Total distance16.3km
Total ascent143m
OS MapOS Landranger 257
Date walked12th July 2020
Time taken5 hours 15 minutes
CakeTunnocks – OK, so that’s not really cake!
Dance poseJazz turn
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed41km (1500km total)
Walk stats
A row of brick cottages backing onto the canal with a two path on the opposite bank
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 2 – Baker Way

The Baker Way is the first completed path of the Cheshire Challenge and was named after Jack Baker, a much loved and active advocate of local footpaths.  It was June 2020 and in less strange times, I’d have taken the train to Chester and walked back but lockdown had changed the timetable and I wasn’t yet sure if I wanted to sit on a train, if only for a short distance.  So instead, I was dropped off at Chester Station.  The walk is 21km, and takes in city canal, fields and forest along the way, it’s a lovely walk and the weather was mostly kind.

The route picks up the Shropshire Union Canal, so I’ll be walking this way again twice: even though I will have walked the track underfoot, it only counts towards one named path at a time.  So, I’ll be back!  It was a little odd walking past the cafes and pubs on what would have been a busy Sunday morning and the ducks were clearly wondering where their snacks had gone.  I followed the canal out of Chester, moving from old brick warehouses to modern industrial buildings and suburban housing and pubs. 

After briefly swapping to a muddy footpath on the opposite bank of the canal, the Baker Way heads off across fields of wheat and maize before popping out onto a quiet country road.  The road becomes rougher and broken before turning into a by way, which weaves through the Hockenhull Platts nature reserve and crosses three grade 2 listed medieval bridges.  This is border country and the name is a combination of old English and Welsh meaning “the bridges on the old peddlars way”.  After the bridges comes the village of Tarvin.  This is where we normal drive to for the most excellent fish and chips from King Louis, so it was fascinating to pass through a familiar place on an unfamiliar route.

A perfect single oak made an excellent lunch stop and feeling pleased with my efforts I stayed a while, eating cake and leaning against the tree.  Drizzle prompted a quick repack and the path carried on, skirting round Ashton and through the splendidly grand Peel Hall which is now a stud farm with foals, all knees and hocks, grazing with their mothers.  Then followed a stretch of road walking, though in parts the road was barely more than a track.    Now back in familiar territory, the route passed through Brines Brow wood and then a short but rather unpleasant stretch along the road known locally as the switch back.  The road is fast here with rough verges and blind corners so I was glad when the route headed off into the forest.  This section crosses several other paths on the Cheshire Challenge and it was quite exciting to know I would be walking them all.

When I first moved to the area, it took me a while to realise just how many bridges cross the railway in the forest and it did my navigation confidence no good when I’d find myself back at a sandstone bridge facing the opposite direction I was sure I was headed.  The Baker Way crossed three bridges as it winds through the forest, the afternoon sun had brought out families walking round the Gruffalo trail and it seemed crowded compared to my mostly solitary walk.  Finally the path came to the station at Delamere and I was done.  The first completed path!  I wonder which will be next?

A selfie of a woman wearing a mask outside a stone building, giving a thumbs up sign
The first completed named path!

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance21km
Paths walkedBaker Way
Total distance21km
Total ascent241km
OS mapOS Explorer 226, 267
Date walked28th June 2020
Time taken6 hours
CakeCherry sponge
Dance poseWaterfall
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed31.9km (1500km total)
Walk stats
A large solitary tree in a grassy field
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 1 – Eddisbury Way & Sandstone Trail

Retrospectively, this was the first Cheshire Challenge walk.  I had mulled over the idea and this walk was specifically planned to walk along two named paths though I had not yet named it the Cheshire Challenge.  It was just two weeks since the Covid-19 lockdown had lifted and I was able to meet Jo and walk all day: it felt so good to be out again beyond the now very familiar paths around my home.

 The Eddisbury Way starts above Burwardsley and ends in Frodsham, it runs broadly parallel to the better-known Sandstone Trail so with a little careful planning a series of circular walks are an ideal way to walk both paths.  I made a rookie error on this walk, aside from the detour due to the path being closed, I missed the very start of the Eddisbury Trail.  Its just a few hundred meters at most BUT for completeness I will have to go back and walk it at some point.

A woman in walking kit hugging a large oak tree
Tree hugger!

The Eddisbury Way is reasonably well waymarked, but as it is less popular its not quite as well trodden and clear as the Sandstone Trail.  After hugging a very splendid oak tree by the first stile we set off across the fields.  It is mostly flat here and the walking was easy on legs now unfamiliar to the distance but any complaints from feet were drowned out by the long views and glorious sunshine.  There are sections of road walking, though it is all along quiet single track roads so we were only passed by the occasional car or cyclist.  Where we were due to head back onto the field tracks we were met with a sign.  Not a good sign.  A path closed sign.  Works on the railway meant that the path to the canal was closed so some on-the-spot route planning was required.  Unfortunately, the options were limited and more road walking was required.  We detoured past the closed Ice Cream farm, there is a railway crossing at the marina but its not a public right of way and with people living on the narrowboats that route was not open to us, so we carried on to the road bridge then trotted along the canal back to the point where the Eddisbury Way passes under the canal. 

I love the unexpected things you find on walks, as we climbed back up we came across a stream that had carved a pool into the sandstone.  Tempting though it was to have a paddle, we pushed on.  We stopped for lunch in a grassy meadow taking a moment to feel the sun on our faces and sitting quietly for a while.

A selfie by a small waterfall
Tempting to paddle but we had walking to do

At the excellently named Hoofield, we waved goodbye to the Eddisbury Way and set off on a section of unnamed paths.  As is often the case, the waymarks are harder to find or non-existent so a map is definitely required.  The greatest excitement on this section was encountering the muck-spreader: summer footwear designed to ventilate the feet requires extremely careful foot placement and a lot of concentration to prevent definitely-not-mud soaking one’s socks!

It is impossible to miss the Sandstone Trail, the track is well worn, the waymarks are clear and many of the stiles and plank ditch crossings have been replaced with sturdy gates and bridges.  It also became slightly busier as we got closer to Beeston, the upside of this being the open café and a chance to eat ice cream.  After Beeston, the path moves into the steep woodland around Peckforton Castle.  An unwelcome climb on tired legs was made up for with views back across the Cheshire plain as we neared the end of the walk.  Had circumstances been different, we would certainly have popped into the Pheasant Inn for a much-needed refuelling but that was not to be this time.

As so commenced the Cheshire Challenge, I wonder how long it will take me to finish it?

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance10.85km
Paths walkedEddisbury Way, Sandstone Trail
Total distance18.7km (including diversion)
Total ascent238m
OS mapOS Explorer 257, 267
Date walked14th June 2020
Time taken5 hours
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed10.85km (1500km total)
Walk stats
Walk

Training – eek!

The weekend of the 14th January was spent in the club hut part way up the tourist path on Snowdon.  Sadly there was little snow to play in but the friendship and food and general joy of being around inspirational YesTribe people spurred me into starting a video diary of my adventures and training.  Enjoy!

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walking under the awe-inspiring clogwyn du’r arddu

Video diary of my thoughts on my Hill and Moorland Leader training