Cheshire walk - Delamere Forest and Old Pale Hill
PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 November 2017
Ascend Old Pale Hill in Delamere and enjoy some great views and some unexpectedly stirring prose, writes Howard Bradbury.
Information plaques are always so dull, aren’t they? Ah, but not this plaque affixed to a slab of stone atop Old Pale Hill in Delamere Forest. It’s balm for the soul, reaching back through eons to this landscape’s creation, and back down through millennia of human endeavour, all captured in richly evocative language.
‘About 220 million years ago, right on this spot, sand drifted on the wind and danced in streams,’ says the plaque. ‘Red marl was deposited from rising tides and, after the earth’s crust split and rose up, Old Pale, the highest point of the sandstone ridge, was formed. Later ice blocks broke from retreating glaciers and melted into shining meres that shimmer and sparkle before you.’
This is stirring stuff, especially when you can read it, look down over the Cheshire plain, and then around you, into the far distance, to see the mountains of Snowdonia, the hills of the Clwydian Range and the Pennines.
‘First came bog myrtle, birch and pine,’ the plaque continues, telling of hunter-gatherers who settled this hill, leaving axes and bones behind. Then came a hill fort in the Iron Age, then the Roman occupation, when the legions used Old Pale for a signalling station. The Romans built a road from Chester to Manchester to carry salt and soldiers, the ruts gouged by their chariots still discernible in the sandstone bedrock in Delamere.
In the ninth century, Ethelfleda eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, built a fortress on nearby Eddisbury Hill, later abandoned when the Norman invaders arrived. Only traces of the fort remain, but the plaque invites us to ‘look carefully as dusk approaches and through the mist, imagine the parapets atop these slopes’.
All that natural beauty and there’s the bonus of a history lesson and some enthralling prose thrown in. What are you waiting for?
1. You start from Delamere Station, just off the B5152, postcode CW8 2HZ. There is a very large pay and display car park and the advantage that your circular walk ends at the Station House Cafe which is a characterful place serving good portions of home-cooked food. I don’t think I’ve ever been overfaced by a bowl of vegetable soup before. Or, there’s the Fishpool Inn down the road, this year’s winner in the family dining category of the Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards.
Facing the station house, head left through the cafe’s own car park and onto a path running parallel to the rail line on your right and, before too long, a road to your left. The path rises to the road where a bridge crosses the railway. Don’t cross the bridge, but continue ahead on the road, passing the Delamere Forest Cafe and bike hire facilities. You will pass a large pay and display car park on your left, at the far end of which is a sign, on the left side of the road, for the Old Pale Trail.
2. Head uphill on this trail. It is a reasonably gentle climb on a good firm surface, but it’s a fair way to the top and you may want to stop occasionally at benches overlooking the views which open up as you climb. After reaching the top of Old Pale Hill, and enjoying that plaque, continue on in the same direction as you arrived at the top, along a path running parallel with the phone masts to your left, and when that path forks, take the right hand path downhill. Soon after, look for a grassy path to the right which takes you just a few yards to another stony path where you go right. This path runs downhill with woodland to your left until you emerge eventually at an unmade road.
3. Go left along this road and you soon arrive at a crossroads with the entrance to Eddisbury Lodge. Keep straight on and just a few yards later go right onto a footpath signposted for Barnsbridge Gates on the Sandstone Trail. This often narrow and sometimes muddy path emerges at an angle to a much wider path where you go straight ahead. Soon after you see two paths off to the left. Take the second of these paths. Keep to this path for some time, ignoring paths off it, until it meets a wider path where you bear slightly right onto what is signposted as the Baker Way.
4. You cross over the railway on a bridge and the path widens with another track coming in from the right. Keep left at this point, following what wayposts will tell you are the Sandstone Trail and Delamere Loop. At the next big junction of paths, go straight on, but at the following junction of paths, bear right onto the narrower Delamere Way (again, it’s signposted). The path soon descends to another junction of paths; go right here, continuing on the Delamere Way. Keep to this same path for quite some time, with Blakemere occasionally visible on your left through the trees, its presence made known by the honking of geese. Eventually another noise asserts itself: traffic from the B5152. When the path reaches the road, turn right and walk beside it, past Delamere Forest Camping and Caravanning Club Site on the right, over the railway bridge back to the station.
Area of walk: Delamere Forest and Old Pale Hill
Distance: 4½ miles
Time to allow: 2½ hours
Map: OS Explorer 267
Refreshments: Delamere Station House Cafe, Station Road, Delamere CW8 2HZ ; The Fishpool Inn, Fishpool Road, Delamere CW8 2HP