For this week’s modest morning walk, Rick and I headed over Warburton toll bridge to Moss Gate, in Birchwood*, for a walk mainly amongst trees, and bordered by part of Warrington’s road and rail network.
We were blessed with sunshine and started past the sunlit sculptures of a young girl and a sheep, both situated in large puddles.
The tree lined tarmac footpath is shared with cycles. It looked a nice bike route, though it was deserted on this morning.
The path leaves the A574 by a Walled Garden. You wouldn’t know it, but for the walls, although my walking guide to North Cheshire, published in 1994, considers it ‘worth a visit’ and ‘planted with exotic plants’.
A short section through familiar retail names ensconced within the Birchwood Centre led past Birchwood Station to Birchwood Brook Park. Elevenses were taken beside the brook. I tried to capture the sunlight on the last of the unblown leaves.
A left turn took us to the entrance to Risley Moss, which is unfortunately closed on Fridays. So we continued through Gorse Covert housing estate towards Pestfurlong Moss. A narrow trod led through the bracken.
Soon a wider path was joined. This led up Pestfurlong Hill, through a willow arch, to the 25 metre summit from where a self timed photo captured a couple of old codgers on this hill that grew out of the rubble from the Royal Ordnance Factory that used to occupy this site.
There were good, if slightly hazy, views to the Peak District and the Pennines. Winter Hill, pictured below, is about 15 miles away. The Welsh hills can also be seen from here.
Here’s our route: 9 km with minimal ascent, taking us around 2 hours.
An excellent little outing. Thanks Rick for your company.
* Here’s some history about Birchwood, mainly from Wikipedia:
"The surface, at a distance, looks black and dirty, and will bear neither horse nor man….. What nature meant by such a useless production 'tis hard to imagine, but the land is entirely to waste" are the words of Daniel Defoe as he rode through Risley in 1724. (Later part of the Risley area was renamed Birchwood as the Warrington 'New town' development), though the ‘Birchwood’ name probably derives from the birch trees which once covered much of the Pestfurlong area.
In the past travellers avoided the Risley (Birchwood) area because it of its dangerous mossland. However, gradually over time much of the fertile mossland was reclaimed and turned into farm land. With the advent of the Second World War, 927 acres of agricultural land was changed into a massive Royal Ordnance Factory, ROF Risley. The location was chosen because the low lying mist and cloud helped camouflage the factory from the air; according to a local builder: "It was very lonely and misty at night, and that's why the factory was constructed there ... it was usually covered with a mist or cloud. It was hard to see it in the day time, you know". Although the location of the factory was known by the German Luftwaffe, the factory was bombed only once during the war.
A number of bunkers were also built (some can still be seen today) to house the munitions, to protect them from potential bombing, and also to segregate the site and reduce the consequences of any accidental explosions during manufacture or storage. Although these bunkers are on the surface, they are covered with soil and turf and so give the impression of being underground.
During the war, some 30,000 people were employed here, many of them women, and over a million bombs, mines and shells were produced.
However, after the war the factory no longer had a purpose other than as a storage depot (for the Navy’s rum!) and so in 1956 the north west of the factory was sold to UKAEA with the entire disused area being put on the market in 1963. No buyer was found for it until 1968, when the Warrington and Runcorn Development Corporation bought the site and turned it into the new town of Birchwood. The armaments factory took twice as long to demolish as it did to build.