Long Walks in February 2020

5 Feb 2020 Round Sandbach boundary  Leader: Stephen, Length of walk: 11 miles, Driving Distance: 0 miles, Number walking: 25

Click on this link to see the route on a map.

The walk was intended to follow, as closely as possible, the boundaries of Sandbach parish in a clockwise direction When Stephen calculated the walk as 15 miles he decided to curtail it to avoid any unpleasantness.

The route took in Palmer Road, Houndings Lane and Hassall Road before leaving solid tarmac for the familiar terrain of muddy fields. At the canal locks near Wheelock the group paused to see the workmen knocking lumps off the piers before crossing Crewe Road to follow the path alongside the river Wheelock. At a riverside beach the group stopped for refreshments to be delighted by tiffin and flapjacks from Simon and Lynda. The variety of birthday snacks increases but nobody has so far brought any kue* yet.

Refreshed by the cakes, the group passed Fields Farm with its mouldering piles of garden waste. Cheshire East Council used to send the contents of garden waste bins to farmers to compost on their fields but the method of disposal may be different now that the bins include food waste.

Where the railway crosses the river Wheelock, Stephen explained about the subsidence caused by brine pumping and pointed out the construction of the bridge as an example of coping with unstable foundations.

From the railway, the path followed the canal to Mill Lane and included a lunch stop where the mossy canal bank stones provided a good seat. When the walkers stood up, those with non-waterproof mats were identified by the damp patches to the rear. Winter sunshine is never likely to dry out the moss.

Mill Lane and Elm Tree Lane took the group over the railway to a series of muddy fields that led to Pillar Box Lane. The question arose: did the lane acquire its name because of the pillar box or did Royal Mail erect the pillar box there to make the name make sense?

A casual use of the phrase “horny-handed sons of toil” led to the user being accused of intellectualism and the realisation that nobody knew who first uttered the phrase. Google shows many instances of people using the phrase as if it were in common parlance but it was actually ex-prime minister Lord Salisbury who first made it public in 1873 referring to Irish labourers in a speech on Home Rule for Ireland.

When the group arrived at Congleton Road in Sandbach, the scent of the Waitrose car park proved too much of a draw for 15 of the group who left, but the remainder walked the proper route that passed the building which used to contain a derelict water company house and which is now humming to the sound of an estate of 12 houses going up instead.

*KUE an Indonesian bite-sized snack or dessert food [3 letter Scrabble word]

19 Feb 2020 Winwick  Leaders: Kath & Elaine, Length of walk: 8 miles, Driving Distance: 25 miles, Number walking: 13

Click on this link to see the route on a map.

The weather promised heavy rain from noon and only 13 walkers decided to venture out. Are these facts connected?

The walk started in Winwick and the first feature of note was St Oswald’s church. Oswald was a king of Northumbria, he died in 642 at the Battle of Maserfield.  After he was killed his body was dismembered and, according to legend, a raven carried his right arm into a tree, which gained eternal life and when the arm fell to the ground a spring with medicinal properties emerged on the spot. This was necessary because the NHS hadn’t been invented. The legend of Oswald’s tree gave rise to the place name of Oswestry, which is inconvenient for the people of Winwick who claimed Maserfield as a local site. As a result of the miracles and a favourable report from the Venerable Bede, Oswald was canonised.

The Winwick legend says that the locals decided to build a church dedicated to St Oswald. Their stone masons laid the foundations but one night a pig ran to the site , took up a stone in his mouth and carried it to the spot where King Oswald had died. The pig then removed all the stones that the stone masons had laid that day. The village elders decided in the face of this omen that they would build the church on the hill where the pig had taken all the stones. They placed an image of the pig in the church tower and is still there to this very day.

Not necessarily connected to the legend, one of the biggest mental hospitals in Europe opened in Winwick in 1902. It was demolished in 2000 and the walk passed the edge of the estate that was built on the site.

Once the walkers were safely established in the muddy fields, the leaders  asked the walkers to look out for signs of the massive Parkside colliery and the tall chimneys of the Vulcan works at Newton-le Willows. These have long gone but they live on in notes on the internet. A further request to spot St Oswalds Well had no more luck. Although it is marked on maps, there is nothing to attract tourists.

A period of walking alongside the M6 motorway followed and included a discussion about lunch in an underpass or at Kath’s son’s chip shop in Warrington. Since nobody could make a decision, lunch was cancelled. A large muddy patch near the underpass is shown on maps as Houghton Green Pool. Given the rain that has deluged the country in recent weeks, this should have been much more impressive i.e. full of water.

The walkers then turned their attention to the M62, crossing it a couple of times before returning to Winwick.