Most people assume Cheshire to be completely flat, but this oft-overlooked county boasts a wide variety of landscapes, from dramatic sandstone ridges to vast moors and rolling hills…
This popular country park, on the site of an old quarry, is one of the most accessible places to enjoy Cheshire’s hill country.
From the visitor centre there’s a two-mile circular trail around the hilltop. Follow the sandy path across fields then take the left-hand fork; it brings you to the main quarry face, where you can see layers of the millstone grit that was extracted here from Tudor times until 1955.
Continue along the trail for a few minutes and look out for a little path off to the left, which leads to a bench with a view across to Ridgegate Reservoir and Macclesfield Forest, with Shutlingsloe popping up behind them. It’s not the only bench with a view but it is the only one with a ‘Library in the Landscape’ – a mini bookcase on a pole, so if the view alone isn’t enough, you can choose something to read while you’re there.
At the southernmost point of the route, a path leads down to a viewing area with a fabulous outlook over the twin reservoirs at Langley, to a patchwork of green fields and trees leading up to the telecoms tower on top of Sutton Common/Croker Hill and, to the right of the ridge, the Cheshire plain. Back on the main track, the path curves back around to the car park but detour en route to climb up to the summit of Tegg’s Nose, where you’ll find the gate/bench/toposcope created by sculptor Reece Ingram.
If you prefer an urban walk, try Runcorn. Here, the former quarry on Runcorn Hill is now a picturesque landscape, where areas of lowland heath blend into shady woodlands or open up to reveal sudden, unexpected vistas.
Walking south from here brings you to Weston and, turning right, the fairly busy Weston Road, with far-reaching views over the Mersey estuary. It’s an industrial landscape, with its chimneys and wind turbines, but bleakly impressive in its own way. When the tide’s in, a sheet of grey stretches across the estuary to Wirral; when it’s out, thin silver ribbons of water squiggle between huge sandbanks.
Eventually the road curves round to the right, past a little cluster of attractive listed buildings, then on to the cenotaph and a memorial garden. Over the road is a 17th-century farmhouse, now Brookfield Garden Centre, where the barn shop sells their own chicken and duck eggs.
From here, head up Highlands Road and follow the signs right then left into a car park, where an information board explains the background behind the creation of the Local Nature Reserve. Follow the path behind the board and a short walk brings you to an open plateau. Admire the views over the Mersey but heed the warnings – one side of the plateau is yellow flowering broom; the other sheer drops and crevices.
This two-and-a-half-mile route quickly ascends to offer fabulous views of the countryside, the surrounding counties and even the Welsh mountains, taking you across heath, into woods and down the side of the escarpment before a steep climb rewards you with more panoramas.
Follow the sandy track from the car park to gently climb the slope to a fork; continue forward, bearing left, to reach a flight of sandstone steps. At the top, continue on for a few minutes, tracing the edge of the escarpment, to reach Maiden Castle, one of Cheshire’s Iron Age hill forts. Here the views open up, from the Welsh hills to the Peaks.
Follow the path around the earthworks and down a few steps, cross the centre of the heath to a gate into birch woods keeping right. Within a few minutes bear left to descend the side of the escarpment, passing a gallery of sandstone outcrops shaped by time that are tempting to explore with your hands as well as your camera.
The path makes a sharp right turn to switchback down the slope depositing you in a small field. Cross to the information panel and turn right up the steep track, through a gate to a wooden fingerpost. Continue in the direction of Maiden Castle, bearing left, the path climbs sharply up the side of the hill emerging at the grass-covered fort. Retrace your earlier steps, admiring the views as you go.
The 35-mile Gritstone Trail is a classic ridge walk from which it’s possible to see eight counties. This four-and-a-half-mile section starts at Congleton railway station; dip down from platform two to the Macclesfield Canal turning left onto the towpath. Pass beneath two bridges before a view opens up across Dane-in-Shaw Pastures to a mighty viaduct.
Just before an aqueduct, descend the stairs on the left to the Biddulph Valley Way. Turn right onto a multi-user path to continue through woods where trains once carried coal between the Potteries and Congleton.
Shortly after the Whitemoor Local Nature Reserve information board, descend steps on the left and pass under the Biddulph Valley Way to follow a lane to Upper Whitemoor Farm. Follow the yellow markers for the Gritstone Trail to cross a field into Whitemore Woods and onwards to Nick I’ th’ Hill. At this hamlet, a footpath ascending on the left marked Gritstone Trail climbs to the edge of Willocks Woods.
At the road junction at Pot Bank, cross the road that drops immediately to your left and continue uphill. After passing a house with a pond on your left, look for Roe Park on the right, where a Gritstone Trail waymark post directs you into woods.
Trace the drystone wall, passing a telecommunications tower, and go through the gate. Turn left then right, to follow a track that loops the edge of a field, for a fine view of the Old Man O'Mow, a tower of stones. The track becomes a drive and leads to Wood Street. Turn right onto Wood Street, then left onto a track with a National Trust sign to find the faux castle ruins of Mow Cop.
Following a disused railway line, the Wirral Way is a broad, level path, with plenty of opportunities to nip off and explore nearby attractions.
Join it in Parkgate, a pretty village on the Dee Estuary, where you can take a stroll along The Parade. In the days when Parkgate was a popular bathing resort, this was a seafront promenade. Today, the shore all silted up, it’s a great place to sit on the seawall, gazing across to the Welsh mountains and watching the odd kestrel hovering above the saltmarsh.
Continuing along the path northwest brings you to Heswall, where the moody foreshore offers plenty of scope for arty Instagram shots of old boats scattered across the marshes. A little further along at Thurstaston Beach, high cliffs drop down to a long sand-and-pebble beach, and great flocks of turnstones and redshanks scuttle round at low tide
If you turn your back on the beach and head up Station Road, you come to Thurstaston village and, beyond that, Thurstaston Common, a woodland and heathland area criss-crossed by footpaths, where you can soak up great views from Thurstaston Hill. Heading back down to the Wirral Way and turning right leads to the end of the path at West Kirby, where, if the tides are right, you can cross the sands to Hilbre Island.
These walks were taken from Slow Travel Cheshire, written by Kate Simon and Suzanne King, and published by Bradt Guides.
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