Cheshire walk - Woodford
PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 August 2016
This month’s walk in Woodford is for those who like a bit of aeronautical history...and don’t mind cattle, writes Howard Bradbury.
Look at this month’s walk map and imagine it as an aerial photograph, pored over by Luftwaffe top brass.
The Nazis did indeed have evil designs on Woodford in 1940. But, though they blitzed Manchester and even bombed the Rolls-Royce factory at Crewe, somehow, the Luftwaffe never got round to bombing the Avro factory at Woodford.
It was a huge omission. By June 1944, the quarter mile-long production line at Woodford was churning out 156 Lancaster bombers a month. Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, head of Bomber Command, later wrote a thank-you letter to Avro, describing the Lancaster as ‘the greatest single factor in winning the war’.
Woodford’s aeronautical history began in 1924 when AV Roe bought New Hall Farm - which we pass on this walk - and set up a factory which at first drew water from the nearby stream. The BAE Systems factory finally closed in 2011, and the 500-acre site is destined to become a new community, with hundreds of homes, shops, businesses and other facilities, even a new primary school.
You will still see the relics and crumbling infrastructure of aircraft-making on this walk. You will also see a lot of cattle in the fields through which you walk, so if that is something you are wary of, perhaps this isn’t the ramble for you. Oh, and I made the mistake of wearing shorts on this walk...not a good idea when you trudge through so many nettles. Other than that, this is an enjoyable walk!
1. The start point is Old Hall Lane, beside Christ Church, Woodford, postcode SK7 1PR. There is easy free parking in a lay by across the lane from the church yard. Walk down the lane, passing Old Fold Farm and then Old Hall Farm. Beyond the farm, you pass a footpath to the right signposted HG/Bramhall. Don’t take this path; it is the path by which you will return to Old Hall Lane later. Instead, continue on the lane as views open up the left over what was once Woodford Aerodrome. As you reach the edge of Avro Golf Club, there is a path to the right - very overgrown and not at all obvious on my visit - which takes you beside the golf course. Take this.
2. Before long you see yellow footpath markers, and you follow these as they take you around the perimeter of the golf course. After passing a strange little shelter on the right seemingly fashioned from the nose cone of an aeroplane, you catch sight of a brook to the right. Continue forward for a minute or so and then take the narrow path to the right beside the stream. This takes you through Dairyhouse Wood, with views to the left into old factory buildings. At a bridge over a stream in these woods I caught sight of large bird of prey - a buzzard, I believe - just a few yards ahead of me. A mighty imposing bird, which I saw again a few moments later, wheeling overhead.
3. Cross a stile and head straight across the next field, following the power lines. Cross the next stile and keep to the left of the field beneath the trees of Isles Wood. Look for a metal gate to the left; go through a wooden gate beside it and follow the road round to the right, skirting the Adlington water treatment plant. When you reach Mill Lane, turn right and just after crossing a bridge at the sign for Prestbury, turn left along a footpath beside a very straight hedge. Cross one field, then another much larger field, heading roughly for the top left corner of this field. Here you will find a metal kissing gate. Beyond this, head right, passing through an opening beside a big tree and on towards Bonis Hall Lane. There is a metal kissing gate to the right of the big pond in the corner of the field. It’s not very obvious, but it’s there!
4. Cross over Bonis Hall Lane and through a metal gate onto a footpath towards Top o’ th’ Hill. As the views open up, bear right, sticking to the top of the field and you will come to a stile. Follow this path through several fields until it emerges at a gravel-covered drive leading down to the road. Turn left along the road and a few yards later, when the road bends right, go left into a footpath through a metal gate then a wooden gate. Cross the field to a stile beneath a big tree then cross further fields following footpath signs, if you can find them. The signage was not clear on my visit, but the direction you must take is obvious: you are heading towards the River Bollin, with its distinctive sandy banks. When you reach the river, follow the footpath right until it emerges at Mill Lane.
5. Head right up Mill Lane and when you come to the junction with Wilmslow Road, cross over into Woodford Lane, following it until it becomes a footpath through Lumb Farm. Keep ahead through the farm and through a wooden gate into a footpath with shrubbery either side. Keep on this path, following the yellow arrows to the right, then cross the bridge over a brook and head uphill, bearing slightly right when the path forks, until you emerge onto Old Hall Lane again. Head left and follow the lane back to the start point.
Area of Walk: Woodford
Distance: 5½ miles
Time to allow: 2½ hours
Map: OS Explorer 268
Refreshments: The Davenport Arms (known locally as The Thief’s Neck), Chester Road, Woodford SK7 1PS; Oliver’s restaurant, Chester Road, Woodford, SK7 1PR.