Weaver Wamble (14/01/2012)
Twelve members & prospective members (& Tilly the dog) met in a car park in the middle of Northwich, on a frosty, sunny winter's morning. David A immediately led us across the Witton Brook, straight out into miraculously open country, along the path between Neumann's & Ashton's Flashes. These great marshes are the result of subsidence caused by the centuries-long extraction of salt from under Northwich - the reason for the town's existence, from its foundation as Roman 'Condate'. Passing through Marston, we soon reached the Trent & Mersey Canal, opposite Northwich Victoria FC's new ground (previously encountered in 2010 on our evening walk from Pickmere). We now followed the canal for about 3 miles, passing frost-bound meadows, through Rudheath, to Davenham Road. Leaving the canal, we took to the lane, over the Northwch-Crewe railway (soon to be reopened as far as Middlewich), past Shipbrook Hill organic farm, to meet the River Dane at Shipbrook Bridge, where we stopped for coffee.
Across the fields (normally muddy, but frost-firm underfoot today) to Moulton, skirting Davenham, we then took the byway to Eaton Hall, over the West Coast Main Line (giving a cheery wave to one of Richard Branson's mobile sardine-cans passing under the bridge) and down to meet the River Weaver at Valeroyal Locks. Turning left, we walked alogside the river for a mile to the footbridge below Moulton, where we stopped for our halfway sandwich break.
Crossing over the river, we followed Bradford Road for a short distance, past the Winsford Salt Mine - the only one in England (in Northwich, salt is extracted by brine-pumping). before turning off through the hamlet of Meadowbank. Continuing past tarmac's end, we soon reached Catsclough Crossing, where some old railway tracks anounced our arrival at the Whitegate Way, the former Cuddington-Winsford line. Following this a short distance west, we headed north at the next crossing, to pass near the village of Whitegate, soon reaching the magnificent hall of Vale Royal Abbey, nowadays split between a golf club and residential apartments. Continuing, we arrived back at the Weaver; crossing first the river, then the Navigation, we found ourselves once more back at Valeroyal Locks.
After a short rest, we now headed north along the riverside path, under the West Coast Main Line viaduct, then the Blue Bridge (A556). Continuing past Hartford Marina - gentrified riverside apartments on one side, gently-rotting boats on the other - and the new Riversdale swing footbridge, opened just over a year ago, we passed under the Altrincham-Chester railway viaduct. Walking alongside for a couple of hundred yards, we then encounted the River Dane - at the end of its journey down from Axe Edge - which we followed, past housing built on the site of Northwich Vics' old ground, back through the town centre to the car park.
Thanks go to David for devising & leading a fine walk; a big welcome to several new faces.
GPSs gave an average distance of 15.9 miles.
Photos by Steve Rennie.