Cheshire walk - Appleton and Higher Walton
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 August 2017
This month, Howard Bradbury heads to a select suburb, Appleton, and walks to a house built for a beer dynasty
It’s a gorgeous sunny day as I arrive at Walton Hall and there are hundreds of people enjoying the gardens, the children’s zoo or just the chance to loaf around on the lawns.
It’s been a popular leisure destination for 60 years, but before that Walton Hall and its expansive acres existed for the enjoyment of just one family. That family were the Greenall brewing magnates, who built this very grand Elizabethan-style mansion in the 1830s. Hitherto, they’d lived over the shop, so to speak, occupying the White House – also very grand – in the middle of the brewery complex.
The first occupant of Walton Hall was Sir Gilbert Greenall, grandson of the brewery’s founder, who, as well as his many business interests, also found time to serve three terms as Warrington’s MP from 1847 to 1868, 1874 to 1880 and then 1885 to 1892.
It was after the death of Sir Gilbert’s son, also Gilbert, the first Lord Daresbury, in 1938, that the family parted company with the hall, as the estate was sold to pay death duties. Warrington Borough Council bought the hall and 171 acres for just £19,000.
The hall is the highlight of a walk which takes us through a very leafy bit of suburbia. I’ve taken my inspiration for it from a collection of walks produced by Mid Cheshire Footpath Society for Appleton Parish Council. You’ll find the walks on the council’s website www.appletonpc.org.uk.
1. There is a car park behind the Co-op and the health centre on Dudlow Green Road, postcode WA4 5EQ. Return to Dudlow Green Road and cross over to walk up Pineways, where you will see a large pond frequented by some contented-looking ducks and, on my visit, a pretty hefty heron. Follow the road round to the left and then turn right into Beechways, then immediately left into Fairways. This brings you to the main road. Cross over towards the main entrance to Warrington Golf Club and go right along the pavement.
2. Turn left up Quarry Lane, and after a minute or so, take the footpath on the left, with the golf club to your left and a hedge to the right. Cross over Field Lane and continue on the path until it ends at Firs Lane. Turn right here, passing the entrance to Hilcliffe Service Reservoir. You soon reach Fox Covert Cemetery, where a viewpoint plaque tells you that Billinge Hill is 11 miles away, Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral is 14 miles away and – most striking of all – the pointy spire of St Elphin’s Church is just three miles away. Head left, down towards the cemetery car park, but a few yards later, bear left through a wooden kissing gate along a gravelly footpath with a field to your left and the cemetery to your right.
3. After the path passes under a tree, you reach a junction. Straight ahead is a permissive path, but you go right here, downhill. The path emerges beside a farm house. Bear left along the road, continuing until it meets Houghs Lane. Go left again here and a minute or so later bear right, up a slight incline towards a large opening, and on the right of this opening, follow a footpath sign for Walton Hall and Gardens. When this path emerges onto clipped lawns, keep right and Walton Hall soon comes into view.
4. The formal gardens here are well worth a look. Having enjoyed them, go round towards the front of the hall and bear right on a winding path signposted for the children’s zoo. Continue past a playground and follow the road to the exit from the hall and gardens, crossing a footbridge over the Bridgewater Canal. Turn right on the other side of the bridge and take the steps down to the canal. Turn left along the towpath, so the canal is on your right. At Red Lane Bridge (the name is marked on the bridge) exit the towpath and turn right along the lane. Bear left into Birchdale Road and just beyond Birchdale Court flats, take the footpath on the right. This path crosses Warren Drive, Warren Road and Delphfield Road (where you need to bear slightly right and go up a set of steps).
5. The path turns to tarmac and on reaching Highwood Road, turn right, then left a few yards later up Red Lane. This brings you back to the cemetery and viewpoint. Follow the road round to the left as it becomes Windmill Lane and keep on this road – enjoying the sight of some prize real estate. Where the road turns sharp left, bear right, past the No Entry sign, into Quarry Lane. This will bring you back to the A49, where you turn right and retrace your footsteps along Fairways and Pineways to the car park.
Area of Walk: Appleton and Higher Walton
Distance: Just under 5 miles
Time to allow: 2 hours
Map: OS Explorer 276
Refreshments: The Stretton Fox, Spark Hall Close, Stretton, Warrington WA4 4NU.