- Start: Area of walk: Great BarrowDistance: About five milesTime to allow: 2 ½ to 3 hoursMaps: Two OS Explorer maps needed, 266 Wirral and Chester and 267 Northwich and Delamere Forest.Refreshments: Tea shop at Foxcote Inn (weekends only) and White Horse Inn in Great Barrow.Wheelchairs: Not suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
- End: Great Barrow
- Country: England
- County: Cheshire
- Type: Country
- Difficulty: Medium
DescriptionGreat Barrow is only 4 miles from the centre of Chester
Barrow Parish consists of Great and Little Barrow, Broomhill, Stamford Bridge and the areas of Long Green and Hollowmore Heath. Chester city centre is about four miles away and the southernmost boundary is the line of Watling Street, the Roman road which crossed the River Gowy at Stamford Bridge. The Gowy rises in the Peckforton Hills and flows into the Mersey near Stanlow. It is said to be well stocked with eels.
The area still has the imprint of the past written on it in the field systems and farms which reveal the principally agricultural nature of the countryside. Many of the once extensive farmsteads have been or are in the process of being renovated, outbuildings and barns making excellent conversions.
Great Barrow is a nice, tidy village with a pub (The White Horse) a post office and general store and a village pump, the houses are mostly red brick with sandstone garden walls. On the edge of the village is the Barrowmore Estate of light industrial units on the site of what was once a major TB hospital, destroyed in 1940 by enemy bombing which killed 32 patients and staff, a terrible tragedy.
I researched this month’s walk accompanied by Mrs C who can sometimes be persuaded to venture out on the proviso that there are no hills. The winter had been shockingly wet, exceeding all records for rainfall, and the fields were flooded throughout the early part of the year. Surface water had begun to drain away but the footpaths and sunken lanes were still under water in places and muddy everywhere else. At times we had to resort to leaving the lanes and using field margins beside the right of way in the search for drier ground underfoot. I suggest this walk would be better done in the summer months provided our summer doesn’t again break all records like the last one!
1 On the B5132 through the village there is a long lay-by where the car can be left. Park here and take the turning marked Ferma Lane just past the telephone kiosk and bus shelter. On reaching a turning on the right before Greysfield Hall, now divided into retirement flats, take this direction, the lane becoming a rough track just past the last house and soon narrows to an enclosed path. Looking left, the view is over the Gowy valley with the conurbation of Chester in the distance.
2 On reaching some cottages, we come to a choice of three footpaths, choosing the one on the left where a sign indicates a permissive path. This means that it is not a right of way but a path permitted by the landowner out of the goodness of his/her heart. The alternative would be to head diagonally across the right hand field to the far right corner but young heifers or bullocks in it may be best avoided. Head downhill and at the bottom, pass to the left of a plantation of young trees planted by the Barrow Tree Society in 2005. Our route bends right and describes a slightly erratic course between hedges to come out at Haugh Farm just before which we turn right on a narrow lane leading to the B5132 again opposite the former Foxcote Inn.
I say ‘former’ because it is not an inn but a tea shop. What’s more, it only opens at the weekends. This being midweek Mrs C and I were sitting rather disconsolately outside when the proprietor appeared, invited us in to use the facilities, made us welcome and produced a large pot of excellent tea. He hates to turn anyone away and is a friendly person, happy to chat. The saloon has been converted into a bric-a-brac display and browsing among the old cake stands and commemorative plates I came across a map of the shipwrecks around Lands’ End. Although curious, I resisted buying it on the grounds that I have stopped acquiring things I don’t really need, de-cluttering in other words.
3 Leaving the Foxcote we take Broomhill Lane downhill to a T-junction, turn left for a hundred yards then take the footpath on the right leading to a farm being renovated. Go past the buildings and at a stile enter a field bordered on the left by a brook. A further four stiles follow in quick succession then three galvanised kissing gates to finally meet a road at a bend in Hollowmore Heath. Don’t turn right here but keep ahead until once past the houses you see a footpath in the hedge on the right hand side with a plank over a ditch and a stile into a field.
4 Walk along the field margin through two fields and after crossing a plank with double stiles head across the next field on a diagonal to the top right corner where a kissing gate brings us to the road again. The waymarks indicate that we are on the Longster Train, a route between Helsby Hill and Pipers Ash devised by the Mid Cheshire Footpath society in memory of a former stalwart. Turn right and remain now on the road all the way back to Great Barrow. Turn left at the next junction and the road brings us into the village via the village pump, bending right to the pub and shop then the crossroads with the telephone kiosk where we left the car.
Our walk had its highlights, our enjoyable visit to the Foxcote, seeing buzzards over Broomhill, eating our packed lunch in warm sunshine on a stile, one either side, and its low points, the ubiquitous mud. But I wouldn’t have missed it and Mrs C said the same, thanks in part to the absence of hills!