Sandstone Trail

A personal record of my walk of the Sandstone Trail long distance footpath with a written journal and with photographs. Tracklogs for GPS units and for use with Google Earth are available for download for each stage.

Journal, Photographs and Download Files

Stage 1: Frodsham to Beeston Castle
Google Maps Open Source Maps

Statistics and Files
Start: Frodsham Finish: Beeston Castle Distance: 15.8 miles (25.5 km)
Time: 7-8 hours Climbing: 581 metres Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File Sandstone Trail Guide
Statistics
Start: Frodsham Finish: Beeston Castle
Distance: 15.8 miles (25.5 km) Time: 7-8 hours
Climbing: 581 metres Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk: Although I had spent a week walking in the Lake District and a further week walking in South Wales I had not yet done a long distance walk. And I always like to complete at least one per year. So, after peering through my list of long distance walks I decided on two which could be done in one continuous ten day walk. Job done, I would walk the Sandstone Trail first and then continue on the Shropshire Way afterwards. So, on the last day of July my wife delivered me in the Cheshire market town of Frodsham. It was noon. Someone was waiting for me.

Climbing Frodsham HillClimbing Frodsham Hill
Frodsham Hill War MemorialFrodsham Hill War Memorial

I met Barry Grannell at twelve noon and after making our introductions and enjoying a coffee and cake lunch with Lil we were on our way. Uphill. Frodsham sits beneath the imposing wooded escarpment of Frodsham Hill, which is also known locally as Beacon Hill or Overton Hill. The top of the hill attains a height of just over 500 feet, 152 meters. Barry and I were suitably warmed up, on what was already a warm and sunny summers day, when we reached our first feature point of the whole walk at Frodsham Hill War Memorial. The view from here was tremendous and Barry, a proud Liverpudlian, pointed some of the local and not so local landmarks of our viewpoint out to me. These included the eye drawing sight of Helsby and Helsby Hill which I had looked at many times in my commuting days, the Wirral Peninsula, the Royal Liver building in Liverpool and the Manchester Ship Canal. Most prominent was the full sweep of the Mersey Estuary. Also in sight to the east were the Pennines. In all, it was quite a sight.

Woodland atop Woodhouse HillWoodland atop Woodhouse Hill
Barry leads the way past Queen Charlotte's WoodBarry leads the way past Queen Charlotte's Wood

Barry and I turned from our viewing point by the war memorial and headed from light to dark. Frodsham Hill forms the northern end of the Mid Cheshire Ridge, a range of sandstone hills that extends southwards through the Delamere Forest towards Tarporley. This ridge was our route and most of it is topped with rich and ancient native woodland. As it was the case as Barry and I walked and talked across the Woodhouse Hill, on the gap between Foxhill Wood and Snidley Moor Wood and along the edge of Queen Charlotte's Wood. As well as talking about our mutual love of walking and what we have done with our working lives, Barry was generous to share his local knowledge with me which included much on Delamere Forest. We missed some things during the chat, passing Woodhouse Hill Fort without noticing.

Wetland in Delamere ForestWetland in Delamere Forest
Sandstone Trail through Delamere ForestSandstone Trail through Delamere Forest

The trail so far had been a mix of walking through or alongside ancient woodlands, on holloway paths forged by millions of footsteps, past impressive sandstone outcrops, on quiet country lanes and roads and across the odd meadow. It had been a stunning first five miles so at Manley Common we took the opportunity to break for refreshments at Stonehouse Farm. It was the perfect place to stop for immediately after our break Barry and I walked into Delamere Forest, also known as the Forest of the Lakes. The tone of the walk changed, the first part of our walk through the first being past impressive tall pines. Wetland clearings, or shallow lakes, provided eye striking contrasts to the wider lanes through the darker woods of Delamere. Darker in contrast to those walked earlier on, the trees by higher, larger, seemingly older than before. Groups of friends, groups of families, couples and individuals were all enjoying their day in the woods. It was jovial, amicable, friendly and busy. I should have mentioned at the start; it was a lovely Sunday in summer after all. Delamere Forest was a very in place to be.

Heading for Hangingstone HillHeading for Hangingstone Hill
Barry and I part ways at Gresty's WasteBarry and I part ways at Gresty's Waste

Eventually Barry and I emerged from Delamere Forest on the south side. It had been a tremendous walk through. Full of fun, full of interest and full of visual delights. Thanks Barry for sharing it with me. Next up for us came a walk in lighter open conditions to Hangingstone Hill, King's Chair and Gresty's Waste. Another mile of fun which took us to where Barry's car was parked. He had dropped it off earlier on before being delivered to Frodsham and our meeting at lunchtime. We had walked the first eight and a half miles of my Sandstone Trail walk together and I thanked him so much for the brilliant company.

(Note: Having started the walk after noon I stopped for the day at Gresty's Waste too. However, for the purposes of this walk report and in my estimation of a walk beginning earlier in the day I would normally complete the Sandstone trail in two days of 16-17 miles for each stage. Which is how this report is constructed. However a lighter option would be over three days; Day 1: Frodsham to Willington, Day 2. Willington to Bickerton, Day 3: Bickerton to Whitchurch. Approximately three stages of about 11 miles each. If you wish to do the walk over three days then contact me if you require maps and gpx download files. I will be pleased to provide them.)

Primrose Hill WoodPrimrose Hill Wood
Straight on thenStraight on then

I had stayed overnight in nearby Kelsall but being the gentleman he is Barry unexpectedly and kindly called me while I was eating breakfast and said "I am outside Mike. Don't rush, I am happy to wait and drive you back up to Gresty's Waste". He saved me two miles of walking, just as he had when taking me from Gresty's Waste to my accommodation the evening before. Thank you Barry, you are a gentleman. Saying goodbye to him for the second time I was soon back on the Sandstone Trail and walking through the beauty of Primrose Hill Wood. A sight pointed towards Urchin's Kitchen so I detoured for a look. Urchins Kitchen. I found the kitchen to be a small gorge cut out and surrounded by tall pine trees. Urchin's Kitchen is in fact a melt-water channel formed during the last Ice Age. It is a lovely diminutive sandstone gorge and I recommend a visit. It is hardly a diversion from the Sandstone Trail anyway, a hundred meters there and a hundred meters back. And if you do get temporarily lost there are plenty of information signs to get you back on the right track.

Into the open south-east of KelsallInto the open south-east of Kelsall
Following agricultural lanes near TarporleyFollowing agricultural lanes near Tarporley

From Primrose Hill Wood the tone of my Sandstone Trail walk changed completely. I was now off the ridge and out of the woods altogether. The next stage of my walk could not have been more different as I tracked southwards across lush Cheshire farming country. Instead of lanes I walked on the side of roads. Instead of walking through woodland I crossed fields. Instead of walking in shade I was walking in the full beam of the summer sun.

Sandstone Trail between lines of MaizeSandstone Trail between lines of Maize
Pastoral view to SnowdoniaPastoral view to Snowdonia

I crossed or walked on the edge of a few fields of cows, mostly Dairy. All were not bothered about me at all. I had the pleasure of crossing one recently cropped grass field which must have been filled with insects. Swallows flew at near ground level all around me. It was such a delight standing and watching their amazing aerobatic skills. With this display and with the general peace and calm of the warm bright day my walk in the fields was near perfection.

Pond at Rode StreetPond at Rode Street
Walking the line through the wheatWalking the line through the wheat

What is more it was a joy instead of the chore which it might have been had the paths through the fields not being generously managed and made wide by the landowners here. I have walked in many rural areas where permissive footpaths across crop fields have been neglected and in some extreme cases illegally blocked off. But not here. The paths were all well maintained. The waysigns were also well maintained and adequately spaced as to be useful without being too imposing. Most importantly though, the Sandstone Trail through the arable fields, including those of Maize, Barley and Wheat, were the full two meters wide and more. Bar one Wheat field, pictured, a little narrower but not a problem. Generally all all maintained for footfall. I was so impressed by the effort and by the diligence of those responsible for the upkeep. A sterling effort. I arrived at the other side of the fields, across the Boothsdale, Willington and Tarporley section to reach the Shropshire Union Canal in high spirits.

Beeston HillBeeston Hill
Wharton's BridgeWharton's Bridge

After the fun of the lanes, tracks, paths and fields of the rural section I arrived at the Shropshire Union Canal by way of Wharton's Bridge. The Shropie, as the canal is affectionately known, had a few narrowboats slowing riding the canal. A few more were moored up at canal side. Nobody was in a particular hurry. Me included. I topped on top of the bridge for five minutes to watch the stirrings. It was just around noon and time for lunch anyway. I found a quiet spot between the canal and the Chester to Crewe railway line and sat down for a longer break. While doing so I watched a couple of trains hurtle by but the main focus of my attention was the impressive sight of Beeston Castle sat on top of a steep wooded hill. It had loomed into view as I had crossed the fields earlier and once envisaged I could not keep my eyes returning to it. The scene dominated.

Shropshire Union CanalShropshire Union Canal
Beeston CastleBeeston Castle

From my lunch spot I rose to my feet and continued on my Sandstone Trail walk, under the railway bridge and across some fields to arrive on roadside at Castlegate Farm. I had a leave of my walk intended, planning to explore the grounds of Beeston Castle and the castle itself. I will leave that for the second and concluding stage of my Sandstone Trail walk. For now, I shall reflect on stage one: Thank you Barry for being my guide on the first part from Frodsham to Gresty's Waste where we enjoyed those lovely ridge woodlands while we chatted with so much enjoyment. And also while we continued to have fun on the delightful walk through Delamere Forest. After Barry had parted from the walk I enjoyed the beauty of Primrose Hill Wood and the crossing of spectacular Cheshire countryside. Then I relaxed for a break at the canal with my view of the castle. My it was good.


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