A winter’s day in Cheshire

The frozen Trent & Mersey Canal close to the starting point for my walk.

Just once in a while there is that urge that the weather is just too good not to get out. Its mid winter and with the back edge of a depression moving away, the forecast is promising a day of winter sunshine. It will be very cold and the temperature will struggle to get above freezing and on the short December days you can’t travel that far but then you don’t really need to.
With a covering of snow and deep blue skies and a temperature well below freezing means that the ground will be frozen hard so it’s time to head to the Cheshire Plain rather than venture into the hills where the side roads are likely to be impassable.
Even in the relative flat Cheshire Plain the side roads are a bit icy and on the final part of the drive through Hassall Green the road is closed due to road works so I park virtually at the point of no return as there will be hardly any traffic. I am glad that I have brought my micro spikes to go over my walking boots as the road is extremely slippery with a thin layer of compacted snow.

A snowy path off Stannerhouse Lane.

A tree lined driveway leading to ‘Tall Chimney’s’ near Sandbach.

It is a first class morning, weather wise as I head up to the canal towpath at Hassall Green and set off westwards towards Malkin’s Bank pausing several times to take photographs. Leaving the towpath at Malkin’s Bank the gate is frozen shut so I have to cross a wall. I have some lane walking now but the lanes are sheet black ice and I am so glad that I am wearing micro spikes. I next turn left along the track called Stannerhouse Lane and cross the infant River Wheelock. A little beyond I turn left onto a snowy field path and later join a lane to reach the A533 at Betchton Heath. Crossing over, I continue with Dubthorn Lane which later continues as School Lane through Sandbach Heath where I pause to photograph a wooden carving of an owl covered in snow. I continue via Church Lane but with much lane walking, it is proving a bit uncomfortable wearing the micro spikes, but all the lanes are covered in black ice or a thin crusting of compacted snow.

A rare sighting of a ‘Snowy owl’ at Sandbach Heath.

St John the Evangelist Church near Sandbach Heath.

I stop at the isolated St John’s the Evangelist’s Church at Sandbach Heath. This prominent church was built in 1861 and was designed by George Gilbert Scott. I chose a sunny south facing spot in the churchyard for my morning break but all the seats are covered in snow.
I set off southeast across fields to a point near Arclid Cottage Farm and decide to continue south to an un-named farm before heading east, but here it is obvious that this path is prone to much water logging however today any frozen area is taking my weight. I later take a path followed by a track south to Dean Hill which initially passes an airfield complete with snow covered light aircraft. Again this track looks as if it could prove muddy but today the frozen ground was taking my weight.

Even dead plant stalks take on a different look in these conditions.

A ‘no-fly’ day at the airfield near Arclid.

From Dean Hill, I take an ill defined path east along the snow covered valley, and with the winter sunlight not penetrating the fields here, it feels quite cold but again it looks like an area prone to water logging. By Betchton House I turn right onto a lane then left along a path running through the shady valley. I am glad that the ground is frozen hard as it looks as if the area is quite muddy and water logged at this time of the year. In the bright winter sunshine I briefly join the A50 before turning south on the ill defined South Cheshire Way. The shallow valley here is well water logged and so I skirted across to slightly higher ground. Crossing the A533 at Thurlwood I am soon back at the Trent and Mersey Canal and despite searching around for a place to sit for my lunch break, there was no where suitable.
I now follow the canal towpath west and eventually find a sunny spot under a tree which is virtually free of snow. The downside is that snow is constantly dropping from the tree above me whilst I eat lunch.
It is now only a short walk back to the car along the towpath to complete this excellent day out. With the bright winter sunshine, snow cover and the ground frozen hard it is an ideal time to explore any area which would prove fairly muddy under ‘normal’ winter conditions.

An attractive snowy track en-route to Dean Hill.

Cold silent meadows in the depth of winter. It really feels like ‘life in the freezer’ along this shady valley.

I am leading this walk again this coming Saturday (May 5th) but in the opposite direction and hopefully it won’t be too muddy.