- Start: St George’s Church
- End: St George’s Church
- Country: England
- County: Cheshire
- Type: Country
- Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 266 Wirral and Chester
- Difficulty: Medium
Keith Carter leads a walk through the countryside around Thornton Hough
One’s first impression of Thornton Hough is of a model village, the neat houses in red brick and half timbering, the solid sandstone church, the sound of playtime at the local school, the welcoming pub, tidy post office and village green presenting a scene of the quintessential Cheshire village and brings to mind other fabled villages, Lark Rise, Balamory, Trumpton.
It was the intention of the two men who established it as we see it today to create an ideal environment for themselves in their retirement while benefiting the local people and giving them an environment that was a complete contrast to the smoke and grime of their work.
These two benefactors were Joseph Hirst, a Yorkshire mill-owner and William Hesketh, first Viscount Leverhulme. Hirst came to retire here and built Thornton house for himself, then All Saints Church, the vicarage and a village school for the community. He then added a shop and a row of cottages called Wilshaw Terrace.
Hesketh completed the job by building Thornton Manor, the post office, a village club and a school still in use today as Thornton Hough Primary. Between them these two enlightened men created the village we see today and an agreeable place it is too.
1Our walk this month starts from the war memorial and we can park nearby at the kerbside beside St George’s Church, a sandstone structure in the Romanesque style that looks very old but which was consecrated as recently as 1906. It is said to be one of the finest examples of the Norman style in the Wirral.
From the war memorial, head away from the village on Thornton Common Road on the pavement beside the busy B5136 before leaving it by a footpath signposted to the left before Crofts Barn Cottages. Take the next right to where a gate gives access to farmland and we follow a wall for a short distance before departing from it to cross a field under cultivation.
2 When we reach a line of telegraph poles we follow them to reach a farm track and here we turn left, go through a gate and come to where a number of ways meet. The main thoroughfare seems to be a broad ride but the signing says it is not a right of way. We shall come across these rides several times during this walk but only to cross them. Who built them and why is a mystery to me but my guess is that it was Lord Leverhulme who had them laid for him to ride around his estate visiting the local farms.
3 Cross this ride and in 100 yards enter a path alongside the right hand fence. Make sure you don’t miss this since if you continue into the field you will become mired in a manure heap, which I would not recommend. By keeping to the path, a signpost soon appears with a gap in the hedge on the right which we go through. A clear path leads across the field, crosses another broad ride and continues along a left hand hedge at the end of which is another heap of farmyard manure waiting to be spread on the fields.
4 The path continues now with the hedge on our right until we come to a fence with a stile where we meet a farm track. Cross to a further, similar stile opposite, both of them having a large sandstone block for a step. A short field brings us to a gate with a cast-iron vintage signpost and we emerge onto the road. To the left is the tiny village of Brimstage.
Nearby Brimstage Hall has a tower that suggests it was once a fortified manor house. It is certainly old – some reports say it dates from the 14th century – but it has been renovated and the barns restored to create a craft centre with many small shops and cafes. You can linger here to browse the shops or have a coffee or a meal in pleasant and relaxed surroundings or you could even start the walk from here and make Thornton your mid-point.
5 To continue with our route, go through the car park and take a stile to a narrow path along a double fence with grazing horses in the field to our right. This leads to the road and we turn left then take the left fork in a hundred yards or so. A bridleway is found on the left giving us a well-defined way forward.
Ignore the next turning on the left, which is another of the broad rides, but keep forward to a stile and enter a field. After the next stile we come to an iron kissing-gate then go across a ride to a similar gate opposite, our path heading across a cultivated field on a path left by the considerate farmer to a stand of pine trees.
6 Follow a right hand hedge and at the next stile switch to a left hand hedge to enter woodland then emerge on to another ride. Here a Private sign put up by the Leverhulme Estate forbids us from going left so we turn right and in 50 yards take a lane on the left which leads through farm buildings and past the rear of the school to arrive back on Thornton Common Road.
The war memorial is to the right but just across the road is the pub, the Seven Stars which has guest beers to be sampled.
This is quite a short walk yet has appeal, is easy to follow and has no obstacles to speak of. The Craft Centre at Brimstage makes a good place for refreshments half way round and the whole stroll will only take a couple of hours.
I’d still like to know the origin of those broad rides though. Can anyone tell me?
Area of walk: Thornton Hough, Wirral
Distance: 3.6 miles
Time to allow: 2 hours
Map: OS Explorer 266 Wirral and Chester
Suitable for disabled: No