- Start: Hatch Mere
- End: Hatch Mere
- Country: England
- County: Cheshire
- Type: Country
- Ordnance Survey: SJ553722
- Difficulty: Hard
DescriptionOlder than Beeston Castle and prized for its wildlife, there''s more to Hatch Mere than water, as this pleasant walking route demonstrates WORDS BY SUE TATMAN
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Hatch Mere is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is a beautiful place to visit. This Cheshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve is part of the internationally important Meres and Mosses Natural Area of the North West, which hosts areas of open water and peatland, formed from meltwater after the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago.
The open water of the mere is encircled with reeds, which lead into water-based woodland (fenn carr) and then dry woodland. The boggy areas of the water-edge are peat-based, created from the build-up of dead vegetation over thousands of years.
There is a good circular walk from Hatch Mere but it covers boggy and uneven ground and you are advised to wear wellies or stout footwear. This walk is suitable for children although care must be taken around the open water and reedbeds. Swimming is not allowed.
To begin the walk which enables you to access the nature reserve start from the small beach at Hatch Mere next to the Carriers Inn, and follow the road away from the Inn with the Mere on your left. Then take a clear path on your left, into the woods.
The first section of the path marks the transition between dry broadleaf woodland to the north, and a wet boggy woodland along the edge of the lake, dominated by willow and alder.
Eventually the path emerges into an open area of boggy peatland covered by heather, bilberry, cotton grass and sphagnum mosses. CWT has cleared large amounts of birch from this area, to allow the wet heathland vegetation to thrive. There are deep boggy pools hidden in the vegetation, so it is as well to keep to the path and watch where you put your feet here.
Further on, the path re-enters broadleaf woodland before emerging onto Ashton Road. From here you can turn left to return to the car park, or explore the network of paths throughout the rest of Delamere Forest.
For further information about CWTs nature reserves please see www.cheshirewildlifetrust.co.uk
Lost meres and mosses reclaimed
Delamere is an internationally-renowned wetland site within the Meres and Mosses Natural Area, comprising over 100 peatland basins of different sizes. It is particularly prized for its unusual schwingmoor quaking bog sites, and its numerous mosses and meres include the CWT nature reserves of Hatch Mere, Black Lake and Abbots Moss.
A project to restore water levels and re-wet peatland hollows within Delamere has been launched this year by the Forestry Commission and Natural England. Formerly heavily drained and lost under plantation tree cover, the Forestry Commission has been working over the last few years to open up these natural gems by reducing the tree cover. This will help conserve the rare natural landscape and benefit important wildlife species in the region.
The work is part of Natural Englands 4million Wetland Vision which will fund almost 2,000 hectares of wetland recovery projects nationally in the next two years.
On the edges of the water, look out for yellow water lily and starworts as well as common reed and lesser reed mace. Then comes grey willow and alder in the boggy woodland, as well as species such as tussock and tufted sedge which are rare in Cheshire, and on the north side, bog myrtle along with cross-leaved heath and heather.
On the west side of the mere is an area of peat, home to cotton grass and eight species of sphagnum moss. Peat analysis has shown that during the 1700s hemp and flax was grown on this site as a commercial crop. In the late 1700s this crop was replaced with cereals. Between 18901920 pine forests began to be planted and restocked.
Hatch Mere is an important breeding ground for many bird species, which include the great crested grebe and the endangered reed bunting and willow warbler.
At least 13 species of dragonfly and damselfly have been recorded on the reserve, including the rare hairy dragonfly and the variable damselfly. Other rarities include a caddis fly, aquatic beetles and water snails. Several species of butterfly occupy this site including the green hairstreak, which has declined across the Cheshire Plain. The site also supports a small population of common lizards.
Hatch Mere is located on the edge of Delamere Forest, near Norley, in Vale Royal (OS Grid Ref: SJ553722). To visit, the best place to park is the Forestry Commission car park opposite the Carriers Inn on the B5152.