Overnight snow made us think twice about a planned trip to the Peak District. Instead, Sue and I chose a more local and easily accessed location in North Cheshire for today’s exercise.
We parked up, about 30 minutes from home, outside the Ranger cabin at Culcheth Linear Park. This 1.5 mile stretch of bridleway follows the course of the Wigan to Glazebrook railway line, itself only twelve miles long, opened for freight in 1879 and for passengers five years later. ‘Specials’ took racegoers to Haydock and trippers to Blackpool.
Beeching closed the line in 1968, following which the area became a muddy eyesore. Since then it has been transformed into the pleasant amenity it is today.
A lovingly crafted bench indicated how different this walk would be in summer.
After less than 1km we turned away from the rather soggy course of the railway, through pleasant farmland on well marked paths.
The footprints of a large group of unseen ramblers led eventually towards the welcoming aroma of bacon, emanating from this hostelry, which in true LDWA tradition (not that we are members, but it does provide an excuse) we strode manfully past.
The sun came out as our wander progressed along the North Cheshire farmland paths linking Croft with Culcheth.
We passed by fields of Fieldfare, under hawthorn canopies of flitting Redwing, whilst Buzzards lurked high on telegraph poles and oak trees. Robins and Blackbirds flitted in the undergrowth, whilst Great Tits and Blue Tits sang sweetly from the hedgerows, keeping a wary eye out for the Magpies and Carrion Crows, who themselves observed the cooing Wood Pigeons in the woods and the scavenging Black-headed Gulls in the open fields. House Sparrows and Chaffinches busied themselves amongst the hawthorn, whilst a lone Yellowhammer flitted elusively away, as did a rather noisier Grey Partridge.
A flock of 38 Pilgrim geese stomped around one of the fields (see slide show), but good images of all these birds remained elusive, so I resorted to the camera’s macro setting for a few pictures of the lichen that was flourishing on the bare hawthorn hedges that are just starting to come into bud. Mr Google has helped me identify these as ‘foliose’ lichens, and I think the most photogenic was this Common Orange Lichen (see slide show for more).
This brought us neatly back to the car park at Culcheth Linear Park, after about 7 km and an hour and forty minutes.
This would be an excellent venue for an evening walk, starting perhaps from the General Elliot. So under the route overview shown below, I’ve inserted a brief description of the route.
As mentioned above, a fuller slideshow (26 images) has been uploaded here.
Start at the car park at Culcheth Linear Park (SJ 649 949), setting off NW into the park.
After about 700 metres go under a bridge, then after a further 200 metres turn left, up steps, following the sign towards Kenyon Lane, across fields.
Cross the lane and go ahead down the side of a field past a pumping station on the left.
Follow the edge of the field to the left then descend shallow steps to a road.
Turn right, then immediately left, down the side of another field.
Turn left at the end of this field, then after a short distance turn right again, along a line of oaks to the next field boundary.
Turn left and continue along a low bank, past a solitary oak, reaching Heath Lane in Croft village.
Turn right and keep right onto Lord Street at the General Elliot pub.
Cross the road and turn left down Abbey Close. Pass the entrance to Deacons Close then turn left down a narrow footpath under a canopy of hawthorn.
Climb a stile at the end and continue straight ahead across fields to join Lady Lane to the left of the church.
Turn left, then right after a few metres over a stile, immediately after a bungalow called Lane Side.
Follow the field edge over stiles to cross a small brook. Shortly after this turn left and after a few metres reach a three-way signpost.
Continue straight on, with a hedge on the right, all the way to a metaled road, Glaziers Lane.
Turn left, then right at Wigshaw Lane to return to the start.
All this, updated for changes such as the disappearance of a row of electricity pylons (!), is from ‘Walks in North Cheshire’ by Jen Darling – published by Alfresco Books in 1994.