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
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
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 5 – Sandstone Trail & Eddisbury Way

This walk on a lovely sunny August day was the other half to walk 1, repeating the connecting path. This time I met with the awesome Sarah Williams of Tough Girl Challenges, we parked our cars and, without our usual greeting of a hug, we set off.

The Sandstone trail is well trodden and with plenty of waymarks the navigation is easy, meaning we could natter the whole time without paying attention to where we were heading.  The sun was warm and we quickly reached the turning point.

The route turns west and follows field edges then large open grazing land.  This is not a named route and the waymarks sparse, so more care was needed on the navigation.  Lots of temporary fencing for dairy cattle divided the fields, making the route of the public right of way unclear and uncomfortable for a short section.  The GPS came in useful to confirm that the path was correct as a number of electric fences needed to be crossed: a bit of team work, walking poles and good flexibility was required.  Rich grassy field, the result of the muck spreading encountered on walk 1 took us past the trees of Hoofield covert.

We picked up the Eddisbury Way following a thick hedge before popping out onto Hoofield Lane and into the village of Hoofield.  Passing out of Hoofield more navigation confidence was needed to cross a poultry farm and into thickly planted maize.  It was reasonably easy to walk down the lines of maize holding our arms in front of our faces to keep the leaves away from our eyes.  A short stretch along the busy A51 took us on the Dutton Mill were it was time to leave the Eddisbury Way and head back.  The footpath passes through a final farm sweet with the smell of cows and a final trudge up the road back to the cars.

Video of the walk HERE
The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance11km
Paths walkedSandstone Trail and Eddisbury Way
Total distance19.2km
Total ascent146m
OS mapLandranger 257
Date walkedAugust 2020
Time taken5 hours
Cakefruit sponge
Dance poseHip hop
Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed100km
Stats table
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