Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Friday, 4 January 2019

Friday 4 January 2019 – Around Oughtrington

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At very short notice, five of us turned up for this Friday morning ramble around Oughtrington and Lymm Dam, starting in Lymm town centre.

After watching the dismemberment of Lymm Cross (or were they just taking down the Christmas decorations?), we headed to the end of Pepper Street and then down Sutch Lane to cross the Bridgewater Canal via Lloyd’s Bridge.

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Then an easy towpath stroll took us past Lymm Marina, where ‘The Duke’ was in residence next to ‘The Mistress’.

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Here’s today’s gang – Sue, Keith, Carol and Paul. Happy to be out in the fresh air, but needing to walk briskly to stay warm.

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We crossed back over the canal at Agden Bridge and took easy field paths back towards Lymm. Jen Darling covers this route in her ‘Walks in North Cheshire’ book, but it’s roughly the reverse of a route that I’ve taken on numerous occasions, sometimes on a summer’s evening.

Rather than follow Jen’s route straight back to Lymm, I prefer to take a path around Lymm Dam and over Crosfield Bridge before descending to one of Lymm’s excellent cafés. Sexton’s Tea Rooms were today’s choice.

There’s an information board describing the wildlife of Lymm Dam. It doesn’t mention the resident cormorants.

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Crosfield Bridge gets ever more dilapidated.

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Below the next picture, which shows the bridge in all its faded glory, is an extract from Lymm Village’s website with a bit of historical information.

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The History of Lymm Dam

The creation and development of one of Lymm's most well-known beauty spots

Turnpike trust

In the early part of the 19th Century a road was constructed by the Turnpike Trust between Warrington and Stockport. The Trust had been granted the right to charge a toll fare on this road which is now the present day A56. It seems that even back then there was concern over traffic congestion as local opposition prevented the road from coming through the centre of the village. A toll bar was placed on the road of the Church slope which is still sometimes referred to as 'Penny Hill' today. The only way of crossing the valley below the Church was via a path leading to a footbridge over what was then 'a pool and stream'. They therefore began to construct an earth dam across the valley in 1824 and as a consequence the lake known today as Lymm Dam was created.

Beechwood estate

At the time of Lymm Dam's creation, the area it was constructed on was part of the Lymm Hall Estate which owned much of the village. The estate was split into sections in 1848 and several were sold off including what is now Lymm Dam, Lymm Rugby Club and the area of land between. The section of the estate which comprised Lymm Dam was bought by a local solicitor named Thomas Ridgeway. Ridgeway built 'a large opulent manor house' at the site which is now Lymm Rugby Club on Crouchley Lane. He lived here in the house and the estate which were known as 'Beechwood' for 20 years before he sold the estate to a Cotton Trader from Manchester called George Dewhurst. Dewhurst had a considerable level of influence in Lymm and figured prominently in the Victorian village for many years at the time. He and his family lived on the Beechwood estate until the close of the 19th Century. By this time they had largely withdrawn from life in the village.

The house was eventually demolished in the 1930s but some of aspects of the estate still remain today. What are today Lymm Rugby Club's changing rooms were once the old stable block, and the wall which runs alongside the pitch was part of the horses' exercise paddock. The stone archway which featured as the entrance to the Beechwood estate can still be found along Crouchley Lane. Furthermore, the Wishing Bridge round Lymm Dam and the small boat house are also legacies of the Dewhurst era.

William Lever

The land was then owned by a man called William Lever who intended to make considerable changes to the area. It was he who constructed the large concrete bridge at the southern end of Lymm Dam known as the Crosfield Bridge. He was also accountable for the avenues which border Lymm Dam, these currently being Lakeside Road, The Avenue and the bridleway running along the eastern boundary of Lymm Dam. The avenues were planted with alternating Lombardy poplar and English elm trees. Lever had planned to use these avenues as part of a residential development to house his workers. However, for reasons unknown*, the houses were never built.

The Crosfield Bridge and the rows of trees which lead up to it stand as a legacy of a period of Lymm Dam's history and serve as a reminder of how different the site could have looked today. Unfortunately the elm trees died due to Dutch elm disease in the 1980s, however the poplars remain and have become one of Lymm Dam's most recognisable features clearly visible from a distance.

* There is some debate about whether the soap baron (Lever) did a deal with the salt baron whereby they would not interfere with each other’s activities. As Lymm is in a ‘salt’ area, Lever may have abandoned his project in order to protect his wider interests.

Here’s today’s route – 10 km with about 50 metres ascent (ie – flat), taking a couple of hours.

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2 comments:

Sir Hugh said...

Some of that early bridge architecture is so impressive. My next post will include the aqueduct over the River Lune carrying the Lancaster canal near Lancaster. I was staggered to find it was built in 1797. I love your cormorants photo (an entry for next year's Countryfile calendar?)

Phreerunner said...

Crosfield Bridge has had no significant maintenance since it was built shortly after the end of WW1, so it's not all that old.

The cormorant picture is very ill defined and not suitable for competition. I'll add a couple of pictures taken in 2009 to my next posting.