Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Hills of West Cheshire

Out towards the West of Cheshire lies a footpath - the Sandstone Trail.  The trail runs from Frodsham in the North down to Whitchurch in the South for a distance of 32 miles.

The Surly Gent and myself have been pondering the possibility of walking the Sandstone Trail for a couple of years now, and today we decided to make a start with one of the circular walks detailed in Circular Walks along the Sandstone Trail - not, I might add, a book I would rely on without an OS map as backup.

As we were slightly time limited we decided to pick a path from Raw Head to Larkton Hill - an advertised distance of about 5 1/2 miles.

We started off from The Sandstone (previously The Coppermine) at Brown Knowl, where we left the car, and headed across the A534 towards Park Wood.

The view up to Park Wood
The day was overcast, but not overly cold.  I was using my new Osprey Talon 8 lumbar pack, which is a neat piece of kit with some really nice design features - very impressive, comfortable and with lots of room for storage.  The only downside is that, as a fairly broad lad I find that the pack itself could be wider.  The straps are long enough, but I have to reach further round than I would like to get at the water bottles and side pockets - but thats a minor quibble, and for 95% of the population the fit would be fine.

View from Park Wood.

The gorse was out and looking lovely

As part of our adventuring TheSurlyGent and myself are issuing each other with challenges - mine for today was to make pine needle tea.  Park Wood supplied ample pines and larches, but discretion was the better part of valour and it was decided that it would be more sensible to find out exactly WHICH pines were safe to use for tea before devouring the first tree that came to hand.

Harthill Church
 The path took us into the village of Harthill, where we crossed the main road and into Garden Lane...
White Bells...?

Hale Superbole

...which eventually lead us up the side of Hale Superbole Mountain Boarding, and into some open beech woodland.

It was not long after this that things must have gone awry.  We were trying to pick up the path to Raw Head, the highest point on the mid-Cheshire range.  Somehow we missed the path and ended up in woodland, much of which was given over to pheasant production...but it was worth it.

Sandstone crags

A great prow of sandstone reared out of the woodland, and as we followed the path around it something amazing hove into view.....A CAVE!

TheSurlyGent models the cave we found on the way to Raw Head

Having thoroughly investigated the cave (it was about 8ft off the forest floor, 10ft deep and 20ft wide, so it was fairly easy to investigate) we re-examined our route and struck off for Raw Head.

The view from Raw Head

Making coffee on Raw Head

The Gent prepares to do a headstand for his own blog.

After a cup of coffee, some gymnastic hijinks and a bit of a rest we left Raw Head and continued what should have been a well defined and straighforward path back towards The Sandstone.

Spring Woodland

The Gent in thoughtful mood

Across the Cheshire countryside

More outcrops - it IS the Sandstone Trail after all

Kitty's Stone on Bickerton Hill

The path took us up Bickerton Hill, past Kitty's Stone and Maiden Castle.  Again, at this point something went wrong.

The route
The strange little dead-end on the bottom right hand corner of the route shows where we went wrong, and had to retrace our steps.

View back towards Maiden Castle

The correct path...


Eventually we found our way back to the road, and it was only a matter of time till we got back to The Sandstone pub.

The road route took us back Broxton Old Hall - it would have been nice if the guide had told us to expect this - we'd have known we were on the right track.  Walking on the road can always be a bit of a drag, but it was the final leg of the journey.

Spring is well under way, and sights like this makes it all worthwhile.

And thank goodness The Sandstone was still serving - a big, juicy burger and hand made chips really did make it all worthwhile - even more than the tree blossom

 What should have been a 5 1/2 mile journey actually was almost 9 miles!  We will take a map next time :)

For more information about the Sandstone Way have a look at this very nice PDF guide

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