Cheshire walk - Thelwall, Trans Pennine Trail and Bridgwater Canal
PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 October 2015 | UPDATED: 13:38 03 May 2020
How do you fancy a walk close to the busy M6? No? Come to Thelwall and we’ll convince you, writes Howard Bradbury
The roar of the M6 is fading behind me and the vegetation grows yet more lush as I walk along the Bridgewater Canal towpath. And then there it is...a flash of silvery blue zipping across the canal. I’m no birdwatcher, but I know a kingfisher when I see one, even when it’s gone in the blink of an eye.
What I love about a walk such as this is the way nature and mankind’s tendency to cover it in concrete can co-exist so easily. It reminds me of one of the most fascinating voyages of discovery I ever made, taking a canal boat through east Manchester to Marple, seeing familiar places from an unfamiliar, greener perspective, watching nature assert itself at every opportunity.
Like that canal trip, this easy, hill-free circular ramble from Thelwall keeps taking you close to busy roads and motorways, but then back into lovely countryside. And yet the irony is that even the most picturesque parts of this walk would not be there for us but for the same strivings that caused the M6 to be created. Why? Because half this walk takes you along a stretch of the Trans Pennine Trail which was once the Warrington and Stockport Railway, carrying not just passengers but coal for Fiddlers Ferry power station. And the return leg takes you along the Bridgewater Canal - the very first artery to supply the beating heart of England’s industrial revolution. Two centuries ago, the boats on this pretty waterway did much the same job as the lorries which now thunder over the Thelwall Viaduct every second.
Perhaps when we can teleport ourselves hither and thither, Star Trek-style, we will one day be able to enjoy a similar ramble along the deserted M6. The view from the top of Thelwall Viaduct must be lovely.
1. Start from the car park on Bell Lane, the B5157, at Thelwall Parish Hall, postcode WA4 2SX . Exiting the car park, turn left along the road and then a few yards later, right into the Little Manor pub car park. As you face the front door, bear left on the road to the rear of the pub, then soon after go through the black metal gate on the left. Bear right along the gravel path for a few yards, then left, following the path as it takes you behind houses to an oak tree where you take the path on the right, cross a road and continue to the A56. Turn right along the pavement and at the junction with All Saints Drive, cross over the A56 and follow the footpath sign, bearing left soon after to follow the sign for the Trans Pennine Trail.
2. Bear right along the trail, which is popular with walkers, cyclists and horseriders. You will pass by some pretty fields, but also the odd industrial site. You will also touch upon some very busy roads. Pass under a rusty old metal bridge and the path goes uphill, winding round to pass under the M6, then down, beneath the A56. As the path levels out, note the concrete blocks on the left, designed to allow horseriders to dismount and thus avoid being knocked from the saddle as they go under that low bridge carrying the A56. If only horses could limbo dance...
3. A few minutes later, you see an old metal bridge over the old railway line. Don’t go under the bridge, but take the steps up to the left, turning sharply right at the top to cross that bridge over the Trans Pennine Trail. Follow the path round the left, past the doors of several cottages, then go right up a path which soon brings you to the Bridgewater Canal. Turn right and stay on the towpath beneath the A56 bridge and for a considerable distance to come. A warning here: this towpath is narrow, grassy and will be slithery after rain.
4. You soon pass beneath the M6 yet again. Keep on along the towpath, passing the Thelwall Underbridge (it’s marked on the parapet) and continuing on to the next bridge. This bridge is called Pickering’s Bridge. Pass under it and leave the towpath on the path to the right, then turn left along the path by which you will retrace your steps to journey’s end. Cross over the A56, bear right along the pavement, left at the footpath sign a couple of minutes later, straight on across the road to the oak tree, left along the gravel path and back to the Little Manor and Bell Lane.
Area of Walk: Trans Pennine Trail and Bridgwater Canal, Thelwall.
Distance: 3½ miles
Time to allow: 1½ hours
Map: OS Explorer 276
Refreshments: Little Manor, Bell Lane, Thelwall, Warrington, WA4 2SX; Pickering Arms, 1 Bell Lane, Thelwall, Warrington, Cheshire, WA4 2SU.