Long Walks in March 2020

4 Mar 2020 Bickerton  Leader: Graeme Coyne, Length of walk: 9.5 miles, Driving Distance: 25 miles, Number walking: 17

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

Graeme celebrated the leadership role by bringing and wearing the latest addition to his extensive collection of hats. This one is a delightful patchwork cap* from Ireland. It was convenient that Graeme was at the front; this meant that the walkers weren’t dazzled by it.

The starting point for the walk was the car park by the Candle Workshops in Burwardsley but a diversion for road works caused the journey to include some tiny roads with grass in the middle.

A feature not apparent on previous visit to this area was the use of standardised signs for properties belonging to the Bolesworth Estate Co. They have lots of properties and the company is based in Bolesworth Castle – a grand, castellated country house. In spite of the grand building, there is no Lord Bolesworth; the Barbour family are in charge and, not surprisingly given the family name, they run lots of horsey events

The coffee stop was at Harthill Church, across the road from the Harthill Cookery School. In an ideal world, the school would have made available some of the dishes as samples but that was not on the menu.

After coming down from Harthill, the walkers crossed the busy A534 to reach Brown Knowl on the way to the lunch stop. Estate agents describe this place as semi-rural, which seems to mean that you come across a surprisingly large number of houses together in the middle of nowhere. Brown Knowl has no shop; be prepared.

Lunch was on the top of Maiden Castle after a more challenging climb than the group is used to. Recent walks have emphasised mud rather than ascent. The name – Maiden Castle – is not how the Iron Age folk who lived there knew it. Several Iron Age forts have been given this name, most famously in Dorset, and it is believed to be based on the site being impregnable or never taken in battle. Just because U3A members are old, it doesn’t mean that they have forgotten about sex.

The weather was vaguely sunny as the forecast rain kept away and the walkers enjoyed looking at the various sights offered from their vantage point. One of them was a perfect circle filling the field north of the A534. One suggestion was that it is a horse exercise ring. Anyone seeking to do further research may see it on Google Earth.

Below the lunch site lies a cave known as Mad Allen’s Hole. One implausible story from the internet has it that this was the hiding place / home of one John Harris(?), who lived in the eighteenth century. He decided to live in a cave after his parents would not allow him to marry the girl he loved. He stayed there for most of his life, scaring the locals with his odd appearance, long beard and unkempt hair. There are people like this Sandbach but there are no caves to hide them.

The route went away from the Sandstone Trail for the section from Gallantry Bank to Bulkeley Hill. Walking on the roads avoided the climb up to Rawhead , which might have been a hill too far. On top of Bulkeley Hill is a reservoir from where the people of the Potteries receive water through a 27 inch pipe. They had so many indoor toilets and baths installed to prepare for the 1953 Coronation that they ran out of Staffordshire water. This gift from Cheshire is pumped out of the Sherwood Sandstone aquifer. Ask Stephen about this.

The final section went along the western edge of the Peckforton Hills before returning to the Candle Workshops. Graeme took several pie fans to The Pheasant, where he says they serve one of the best steak pies in Cheshire. For this report he described it thus “Magnificent, completely encased by shortcrust pastry as proper pies should be”.

*CAP a brimless hat [3 letter Scrabble word]