We may have had one of the driest summers for over 80 years but it allowed Warrington walkers to keep dry while they celebrated 75 years of the Ramblers (formerly Ramblers Association) with a series of walks throughout June and into July. Not a single waterproof was to be seen as sun hats were clearly needed as they strolled 75 kilometres through countryside and greenways in and around the town and neighbouring boroughs. The walk was split into 5 by 15 km (9 miles) sections and for those not wishing to complete a full section, ‘escape points&r squo; were pointed out adjacent to bus routes. Indeed the environment was at the heart of the whole event as all start and finish points were at or close to bus stops and use of public transport was actively encouraged.
68 walkers and 1 dog joined in the event which was launched by the Mayor of Warrington, Councillor John Joyce at the Poacher Inn, Gorse Covert Centre at the start of the first of the walks on June 5th. Once out of Gorse Covert, the walk had a truly rural feel as it followed farmland, pursued the River Glaze along the Timberland Trail, passing the historic Chat Moss Railway before entering woodland in Glazebury developed by the Forestry Commission in conjunction with Bent’s Garden Centre. Many hidden gems were seen along the route. Legend has it that Light Oaks Hall provided the hiding place for the Crown Jewels by Captain Blood after stealing them from the Tower of London.
Walk 2, the following week was another rural event starting at Bents Garden Centre through countryside around Culcheth and Croft before finishing at Winwick Church. The route through Croft passed water turrets which were notable features of the landscape. They formed the tops of deep shafts and provided access during the construction of adits to increase the water flow to Houghton Green Pumping Station. These were key in the development of Warrington’s first piped water supplies in the early 1900s. Walkers also enjoyed what may be a last glimpse of Houghton Green Pool, a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation (SINC). Pumping at the adjacent station has recently resumed with the Pool rapidly drying up with consequent loss of habitat for water birds. John Bent, who led this walk shared his vast horticultural knowledge and demonstrated how you can age a tree by hugging it. Apparently an average arms length is equal to about 100 years. The tree in the above picture was about 800 years old.
The third walk led walkers through Sankey Valley Park, an impressive greenway and recreation area through the west side of the town. It follows the route of the Sankey-St Helens Canal, the first to be constructed in the UK in 1757. Former locks and dry docks were pointed out and stops planned to allow people to read the information boards. In the afternoon, Paul Cassidy, Conservation Officer at Moore Nature Reserve joined us to lead us through the Reserve outlining the history of the Reserve before lunching at one of the bird watching hides. The section concluded at the Red Lion, Moore allowing walkers to quench their thirsts on what was a hot sticky day.
The penultimate walk followed the tow path along the Bridgewater Canal passing Walton Gardens and Appleton Reservoir and then through Walton Golf Course where a sharp look out had to be kept to avoid low flying golf balls. Greenways around Grappenhall and Thelwall then connected with the Trans-Pennine Trail which coincidentally has a celebration event commemorating 21 years of its existence. The Bridgewater Canal was then re-joined providing the home straight to Lymm Village Centre.
Lymm Cross provided an easily identifiable landmark for the start of the final section of the walk on 10th July. The village has recently just celebrated its annual festival when a number of wood carvings had been sculpted in trees along the footpath around Lymm Dam. On leaving the village the open countryside offered spectacular views over the Mersey Valley where distant landmarks could be seen on what was an exceptionally clear day. Tower blocks in Manchester, Rivington Pike and the Peel Tower above Ramsbottom were clearly visible. Fallow Deer could almost be touched as walkers passed through Dunham Park on the approach to the final destination at the Axe & Cleaver at Dunham Town where a celebration drink quenched thirsts on a blisteringly hot day.
Picnic spots were carefully selected providing shelter from the sun and that on the final section provided the opportunity for badges to be awarded to walkers that completed all 5 walks. Roger Lamming, the Event organiser made a special presentation to his pet border collie, Meg, the only dog to have done all 75km.
The walks were open to both members and non-members and all said they enjoyed the experience finding new friends and the event additionally proved to be a good recruitment exercise. New members are always welcomed and anyone who is interested in joining can email Val Davies or phone 01925 604384.
Thank you to Roger Lamming for the above information. Roger is Footpath Secretary for the Warrington Group in the North and Mid Cheshire Area of the Ramblers.