This was a fine day for Rick’s final recce for an East Lancs LDWA walk that he is leading next Wednesday. Viv and Steve also arrived on time, but JJ was a mere speck in the distance. He was afforded the benefit of the doubt and we waited for him, though next week such stragglers run the risk of being abandoned, victims of traditional LDWA punctuality.
We started from Altrincham’s Clock Tower, a grade 11 listed structure built in 1880, a year before Altrincham & Bowdon Station (renamed Altrincham Station in 1974) opened to replace earlier stations, and made our way to Goose Green, where some metallic peacocks glowered at us from a lofty pedestal. JJ, having caught up, demanded sustenance from Costello’s. Luckily the bar was closed or the recce may have ended here!
We trundled through the streets of Altrincham, plodding up Regent Road before turning down Normans Place, where none other than Norman himself made a brief if rather threatening appearance before resuming his official duties as a Barber and House Husband.
Normans Place leads to the salubrious surroundings of Lyme Grove, before launching the unwary walker down Bowdon Road and then onto a slippery meadow known as The Devisdale that leads to Denzell Gardens. These gardens and The Devisdale sadly fell into neglect between 1980 and the late 1990s, before being restored by a Friends' Group, whose work continues to this day.
Our route then passed by Denzell House, which was built in 1874 as a home for Henry Scott, who sadly never occupied it due to his death in the Zulu Wars. It is now used for offices.
The path emerges onto Green Walk at a Lych Gate which is in the process of restoration. The word 'Lych' survived into modern English from the Old English or Saxon word for corpse. In the Middle Ages when most people were buried in just shrouds rather than coffins, the dead were carried to the Lych gate and placed on a bier, where the priest conducted the first part of the funeral service under its temporary shelter.
Across the main A56 road, the path skirts Dunham Forest Golf Club before heading into Dunham Massey Park, where the roe deer didn’t seem too nervous despite their annual cull having been carried out during the previous few days.
Rick had carefully planned the route to keep as far as possible from the nearby headquarters of the Dunham Massey Brewing Company (insofar as Costello’s Bar isn’t their real HQ), as a safeguard against JJ’s wayward tendencies.
We paused to identify black-headed gulls, mallards, moorhens, coots and a shoveler, amongst the bird life on Island Pond in Dunham Park, whilst keeping a wary eye on JJ, far behind us, presumably muttering stuff like ‘Where’s that brewery, I know it’s here somewhere, I want some…’
We pressed on to Dunham Massey Hall, which dates from 1616 but has subsequently been 're-modeled', for a coffee break’.
It was Viv's birthday. Just as well I'd brought cake!
The narrow bridge over the River Bollin offered a good view of the spate that fully justified its ‘river’ status, compared with its usual stream like qualities as it flows over a weir.
Beyond the Swan With Two Nicks we joined the Bridgewater Canal towpath for a short stretch down to Agden, where Rick pointed out a listed structure. “I’m not joking” he assured us, “It's The Bridgewater Canal, Case to Waterpoint on South Bank of Canal, 15 Metres West of Agden Bridge, Agden."
“Wow!” we exclaimed in unison, squinting at the black casing…
We left the canal here in favour of a route through fields to Lymm, familiar to me as a summer evening route. We crossed one field then hugged the perimeter of others, noting the singular absence of any bird life on the recently planted fields by Helsdale Wood.
We passed St Peter's Church, where one of our North American correspondents still wants a picture of the font. [I’ve found one here – it’s reproduced below.]
Continuing through the ginnels of Lymm, we soon reached St Mary's Church, which overlooks Lymm Dam, Lymm's ornamental lake.
We paused beside the lake for lunch, and for JJ to catch his breath. The picnic tables are rather widely spaced, so Rick will have a battle to keep his wandering charges together on next week’s ‘proper walk’.
A cormorant flew past as we set off again.
"Is that Lymm Dam?" asked Steve as we rounded the southern aspect of the lake, confirming that it was a bit early in the day to get any sense out of him.
We headed next for Lymm Village, where the ducks as usual played on the weir, the males vying to impress the females by showing how close they could get to the edge without being swept away.
It was a struggle to distract some (mainly one) of our party from the local fleshpots, but eventually he spotted Lymm Cross, another listed structure dating from C17, and decided to scarper from the nearby stocks.
The path to Oughtrington took us through another newly planted field to Heatley, where we emerged near the site of the sadly demised Railway Hotel, another listed structure. Gone. This used to be the home of Bernard Cromarty’s Lymm Folk Club, and the fire that destroyed the old pub on 2 November 2011 must have deeply saddened him and other members of the folk club.
Opposite the building site that used to be the Railway Hotel, the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway line provides a fairly quick off-road route to Altrincham for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Nearby, Heatley & Warburton Railway Station opened in 1853 and closed in 1962, but the building survives, beyond which Rick led our merry brigade along the good track.
Even Rick’s military schedule allowed time for a final bout of tea and cake, but despite this sustenance JJ was now flagging and, muttering ‘Costello’s’ under his breath every few moments, he continued to struggle to keep up with Rick's cracking pace.
However, we soon entered the outskirts of Altrincham, where the school kids had just escaped from lessons and children and pensioners alike were enjoying the play furniture in John Leigh Park.
The sun had almost gone by the time we returned back to the Clock Tower and JJ’s long cherished wish for a visit to Costello's was finally granted.
A full slideshow (51 images) of this classic round can be found here.
The route, shown below, proved to be around 24-25 km (15 miles) with minimal ascent, taking less than 6 hours, so next week’s ramble should easily finish by 4 pm and Rick can sleep easy in the meantime after this most enjoyable recce.
My Garmin Gadget recorded our progress as follows – if you click on ‘View Details’ then on the ‘Out on a Lymm’ course and magnify it you can see precisely where it goes, with street names, etc, not on the OS map.