This was the return of some Friday morning walks, on which I was pleased to be joined by Paul S, Paul and Jeanette B, Graeme J and Graham B.
It's a variant on the walk I did on 28 December last year for Jen Darling's third edition of 'Pub Walks in Cheshire'. In fact, it's the slightly longer route taken in her first edition, but using her new starting point, the London Bridge Inn, rather than the Cat and Lion which these days looks a less attractive waterhole.
Starting by taking to the Bridgewater Canal's towpath towards Lymm (no problems with dog walkers today!), we looked back to the London Bridge Inn (top picture), where we would later enjoy refreshments overlooking the canal. We were soon passed by a barge full of day trippers. They slowed down for a chat and we were able to inform them that the regular passenger boat service into Manchester ended in 1918, and we noted that the fare at that time was a penny (0.4p in today's parlance) a mile. Today's passengers admitted to paying rather more than that!
The passengers and their guide were also unaware that the tall spire they could see was that of Warrington parish church, St Elphin's, the third highest in England.
(They didn't have a copy of Jen's book.)
It wasn't long before our route left the canal, doubling back after crossing Lumb Brook Bridge, an aqueduct built by James Brindley. A record of road repairs to this bridge in 1737 records the expenditure of 3 shillings (15p).
Our route turned away from the canal and headed through The Dingle to Ford's Rough, a lovely section through mixed woodland and rhododendron bushes. We were a little late for the bluebells and primroses and had to make do with admiring the banks of herb robert.
Posh new housing was passed as we proceeded through curiously named Pewterspear, and a roundabout on the main A49 road was reached. A path then led, straight as a die, to St Matthew's Church in Stretton. Unsurprisingly, this is what is left of a Roman road, as evidenced by the statue of a soldier, shown in the second picture joining today's team and shaking hands with Graham.
As mentioned earlier, Jen's first edition suggests the nearby Cat and Lion as a refreshment point. Today we crossed the busy A49 and decided to give that hostelry a miss - it failed to entice us in.
The stroll along quiet Hatton Lane towards Hatton was the only bit of road walking on this outing. Then we turned right onto a field path, where at the first opportunity we paused for tea, coffee, bananas, brownies, cookies, etc.
After this welcome break a series of very pleasant paths, overlooking Appleton Reservoir and the bridleways used on last Monday's bike ride, led to an overgrown passage over a small stream, rising to a gap in a hawthorn hedge near Bellfields Farm, which is the background to today's third picture. In the foreground is a sandstone pillar reputedly placed to mark the spot where Oliver Cromwell's horse was buried after being killed in a skirmish in 1648.
'Bellfields', the house in the background, was built around 1750 by a retired naval commander, Admiral Hoare, who fitted it out in a nautical manner and addressed his servants as if from the quarter deck. The next occupant was also a colourful character. Count Vittoria Alfieri got into trouble over a duel with a Legioner in 1771. This was an unsavoury matter, as was Alfieri's general conduct. He soon vanished from the area and was last seen living with the Countess of Albany, wife of Prince Charles Edward.
After going a short way down a lane, we turned right along some lovely footpaths that led all the way to a large cemetery at Hillcliffe. En route we passed an area that turned out to be a duck farm. We think there were also partridges, but the latter were too young to be allowed to range freely.
Up at Hillcliffe we admired the views over the spires of Warrington to Winter Hill and Billinge Hill. There's a pretty black and white lychgate here - see bottom picture.
The map would suggest that a road walk is now needed to return to the start, but a series of narrow ginnels took us all the way down until we were within sight of the London Bridge Inn, where Paul S shot of home and the rest of us enjoyed coffees sitting outside the pub with the opposite view to that in the top picture.
Here's the route, note that a shorter version is available by turning right at the roundabout instead of going down the Roman Road to Stretton. Go to the south of Hillside Farm and rejoin today's route at Bellfields. (Click on the image for a clearer version.)
The next Friday walk is next week, Friday 7 June, around Werneth Low - see http://www.topwalks.com/summary.htm