A walk to Walk Mill

Sunday morning, the day after our walk around the Sandstone Trail, was hot and sunny. The heat wave had really arrived. We had a late breakfast sitting in the garden and a couple of us were looking forward to watching England play Panama in the World Cup in the afternoon. But as some of us have itchy feet and don’t particularly like lounging around in the sun for too long, we decided to get out for a walk across the flat Cheshire countryside near Waverton. Steve and Anne suggested a walk to Walk Mill, a water powered flour mill with a café, a few miles away across the fields. Sounded like a good idea!

We started off walking along the canal


before cutting across the fields. Although we made sure we stuck to Rights of Way, the paths took us right through growing fields of maize, wheat rape and other crops.





and passing some typical Cheshire style houses


some of them very old


Eventually we reached Walk MIll


Although it’s now located in a new building, there’s been a water mill on this the site ever since around 1200. Although today it grinds grain to produce stone ground flour, it was originally a fulling mill for the treatment of cloth.

We stopped for a brew and then had a look around the mill





We set off back across the fields and arrived hot and sweaty and settled down to watch the match with a cool drink

A walk on and around the Sandstone Trail


The day after our visit to the Lady Lever Gallery, and after a very pleasant evening spent with our friends in Waverton, the four of us drove over to the small Cheshire village of Burwardsley, parked up near the Pheasant pub and set out on a walk devised by my friend Steve. It was forecast to be warm and sunny, although not too hot, in fact it was perfect weather for a walk.

Of late most of my walking has been out on the mountains in the Lake District or on the Lancashire Moors. The Cheshire countryside is very different. Rich (in both senses of the word), verdant countryside, largely flat with relatively modest hills.

Our route would take us through fields, along short sections of quiet country roads and along a good section of the Sandstone trail over the Peckforton Hills.

Sandstone trail circular

From Burwardsley we walked along quiet roads and paths through fields to Harthill, with it’s pleasant old church


and the biggest whisk I’ve ever seen!


The route took us across more fields and quiet roads to another pleasant village,Fuller’s Moor and from there, our first serious climb of the day up a steep path to Maiden Castle, the site of an old Iron Age Hill Fort on top of Bickerton Hill.


Although steep, it was short, especially compared to some of the hills I’ve been climbing lately, and it didn’t take long to reach the top. We made our way to the summit of Maiden Castle and as it was now after midday stopped to eat our butties while admiring the view over the Cheshire plain which extended across the Mersey over to Liverpool and, to the south west, the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia.


We also had a view of the sandstone ridge of the Peckforton Hills we would be walking along after our break.


Resuming our walk we followed the route of the Sandstone Trail along Bickerton Hill passing Kitty’s Stone, at the highest point of the hill. It’s a memorial to Leslie Wheeldon, the benefactor who helped the National Trust acquire the hilltop heathland. It displays poems written by him in memory of his wife, Kitty.



Descending the hill to Bickerton church


we had another short stretch of road walking before another short, sharp climb up to join the ridge. We’d diverted slightly from the trail as Steve was keen to include some steep climbs in preparation for a forthcoming walking holiday in the Tyrol!

Following the trail through the woods along the ridge



we reached the trig point at Raw Head, the highest point on the Trail


The rest of the walk followed the Sandstone trail, following the ridge, descending and then climbing back up to Bulkeley Hill


From the summit, we had extensive views over the Cheshire plain, this time to the west, with the Jodrell Bank radio telescope just about visible in the distance



We descended the hill reaching the gatehouse to the Peckforton Estate


It was relatively easy walking now through fields back to our starting point. Just as well as it was mid afternoon, the temperature was rising and there was little shade.

The final stretch was along the lane, passing typical Cheshire sandstone buildings


Reaching the car, we changed out of our boots, dumped our rucksacks in the boot of the car and made our way to the Pheasant Inn



where we finished the afternoon with a most delicious meal


including a naughty dessert!


A walk in Delamere Forest


On Sunday I went into Manchester. I took a train to Victoria Station and then went over to the Arndale to pick up a birthday present. Afterwards I went to see an excellent photographic exhibition that had recently opened at the City Art Gallery. I was going to write up the latter on Tuesday, but then Monday night happened. An awful event somewhere I knew and where I used to stand waiting for my daughter to come out of concerts when she was a teenager. It shook me up. The write up will have to wait.

Tuesday was a hot sunny day and I was working in Chester. On the way home I decided stop and to take a walk in Delamere Forest to get some exercise and clear my head. The forest, which is between Chester and Northwich and managed by the Forestry Commission, is Cheshire’s largest area of woodland. I ‘d never really though about going for a walk after work when I’ve been in Chester, usually driving down the stretch of hell that is the Thelwall Viaduct and M6 between Warrington and Wigan at rush hour. But I’d been reading of Mark’s jaunts after work in his blog Beating the Bounds, and thought that I’d follow his example. It was definitely a good idea – thanks for the inspiration Mark ! Smile

Delamere, means “forest of the lakes” and it was originally a mixture of woodland, arable land, meres (small lakes), marshes and bogs. The land was drained in the early 19th Century and it was planted with oak and Scot’s pine. It was decided in 1992 to restore Blakemere Moss as a wetland environment, which was achieved by felling trees, clearing the land and allow it to become flooded. Since then efforts have been made to restore other meres and bogs.


It’s quite a few years since I last walked in the forest, before the mosses and bogs were restored. It’s also been commercialised with a Go Ape high ropes course, bike and Segway hire, marked trails, an “extreme” mountain bike trail and even a summer concert venue.

I drove past the Delamere train station(on the line from Altrincham to Chester) and parked up near the cafe. A quick change into my walking gear and I set off for a walk on a very warm, pleasant evening.


Soon I came to Blakemere Moss, now a large area of open water frequented by large flocks of birds.



I carried on through the woodland.



A glimpse of another mere between the trees


Through more woodland and over the railway line and I came to Black Lake.


This restored “quaking bog” is one of Delamere’s two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) . It’s a type of bog in which the vegetation forms a raft which floats on top of water.



Heading back through the forest I came across this resident


I looped past Linmere Moss, the Forest’s other SSI and made my way back to the car park. I’d completed a circuit of about 5 miles and could have stayed out longer, but it was time to head back home. A good walk which had helped me to wind down and de-stress and prepare myself for a long couple of days away from home on Wednesday and Thursday. I think it’s something I need to do more often.

A fine autumn day at Dunham Massey


It was a beautiful autumn day on Sunday. far too nice to stay in doors decorating the house. So after dinner (the midday meal in the north of England) we decided to drive over to Dunham Massey, the property, gardens and deer park owned by the National Trust – the painting can wait until a rainy day!

Dunham Massy is south of Manchester on the border with Cheshire (although historically in the county of Cheshire) on the outskirts of Altrincham. The house and estate used to be owned by the Earls of Stamford and was left to the Trust when the last Earl died childless in the mid 1970’s. We’ve visited the estate many times before as it’s only about 30 or 40 minutes drive away. We didn’t bother going inside the house but spent a pleasant afternoon walking round the gardens and parkland. Lots of other people, not surprisingly, had had the same idea so the park was busy. There’s a large car park so we were able to find a space but it was pretty full.


The park and gardens are very flat, and although I like a few hills to climb, sometimes it’s nice to have an easy walk in some pleasant surroundings.

Given the time of year the trees were displaying their autumn colours. In a few weeks there probably won’t be many leaves left on their branches but they looked very attractive.


There’s a good selection of plants in the garden providing colour and interest throughout the seasons




The NT are continuing to develop the garden. They’ve added plants that display colour and create interest to create a winter garden and we noticed that they’ve been creating a new rose garden that will open next summer.

There was a great view over the lake at the back of the house


Walking around the park we spotted some deer


near to the “deer shelter” – a folly really as deer don’t like being indoors.


As it was the rutting season the majority of the herd had retreated to the deer sanctuary. There were some strange noises coming out of there as the stags were trying to attract mates and we spotted some stags and does in the distance almost hidden amongst the trees and bracken.



We carried on walking through the parkland back towards the house, past the ponds that were originally used to supply water to the estate.


We had a coffee and cake in the cafe, upstairs in the old stable block before heading back to the car and setting off back home.


“Flights of Fancy” at Tatton Park

We finally got round to visiting the biennial exhibition at Tatton Park on Sunday. It was forecast to be a fine day – after a few days of good weather – and so a good day to get out in the fresh air, get some exercise and look at some art, most of which is outdoors in the park and gardens. The exhibition finishes at the end of September, so this was probably our last chance to see it (at least while the weather was decent). John of “Notes to the Milkman” had been previously and he’s written up his impressions here.


Tatton Hall and its estate used to be the property of the aristocratic Egerton family and was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1958 when the last of the line, Maurice Egerton died unmarried and childless. Although owned by the Trust, the park is run by Cheshire East Council who use it to earn income by hosting over 100 “events” there every year.

Our favourite part of the park are the gardens which include a variety of styles – English, Italian and Japanese. It’s very pleasant to walk around them – although the peace is often disturbed by whatever event happens to be taking place on the adjacent fields and by aircraft flying over at regular intervals. The park is directly below one of the main flight paths for aircraft taking off from the very busy Manchester airport which is only a few miles away. So it was quite apt that the theme for this year’s biennial was flight. There were over 20 exhibits which were being shown in the park, the gardens and inside the neo-classical Mansion house. We’d been to the previous biennial in 2010 and had enjoyed it so wanted to make sure we didn’t miss this year’s exhibition. Although we had to pay a fiver for the car park our National Trust Membership allowed us access to the garden and the Mansion house, otherwise we would have had to shell out another ten quid apiece to see most of the exhibits.

There are a couple of works in the parkland which we could see driving through the grounds to the car park. One, Juneau Projects’ Gleaners of the Infocalypse was half of a BAe 146-200, which, when glimpsed through the trees, seemed as if one of the planes flying over from the airport had crashed in the park.


Just opposite the Mansion house there was an exhibit – VEX by Dinu Li – that was particularly popular with children – a flying saucer that appeared to have crash landed on the lawn.


Walking round the back you could peer inside where there was a video of an actor portraying Che Guevara,

who exists in at least three parallel universes, relate the nature of his crash landing as well as his evolving ideas about the virtues of space flight and dub music as the most effective revolutionary forces at work in the world today.

I’m not sure that the children climbing all over the spaceship while they were watched, aided and abetted by their parents (despite the notices requesting people not to climb on the work which were clearly displayed nearby) would have understood what that was about. I’m not sure I did either, but it was an interesting idea.

Another work that was popular with younger visitors (and, it has to be admitted, adults too) was a giant bird’s nest built on a tree in the formal gardens – Hilary Jack’s Empty Nest.


There were a set of steps so that you could climb up into the nest and get a different perspective of the surrounding woods and garden; a sort of bird’s eye view (at least a nesting bird’s view).

Most of the reviews I’ve read about the exhibition particularly mention Pont de Singe by Olivier Grossetete  which can be found on the lily pond. This work was a rickety bridge held up above the water by three large helium filled balloons

2012-09-09 11.55.55

It makes quite an impression. There’s something about the large white balloons that’s quite soothing and it fits well into the environment, reflecting in the water. It isn’t static; the helium filled balloons drift around in the wind – although not too far as they’re tethered. On the day we visited it was windy and the balloon and bridge were being blown around like a giant mobile, which added interest to the work and we stood for a while watching it change.

2012-09-09 11.56.30

While walking around the pool and the nearby Japanese Garden, the balloons were still visible but showed different aspects with the changing viewpoint.


Nearby, another work,  Trine Messenger by Brass Art, a group of three artists, was located on an island further down the lily pond. This was another balloon, this time inflated with fans, in the shape of a head, made using a mean average of the artists’ faces taken from biomedical facial scans. The artists were  inspired by classical images of Hypnos, the god of sleep, and the Surrealists.


There were some other works in the gardens but the nest and the two balloons were probably the easiest to relate to. I may return to some of the others in another post.

As with the 2010 biennial, there were a number of works displayed in the Mansion House.

I liked these “three dimensional drawings”, Sarah Woodfine’s ‘Recipe for a kiss of shame’ which was displayed in the Library


The artist was inspired by Tatton’s botanical collections and the information the library houses on Solanaceous, or mind-altering, plants. Her drawings build links between local witches’ covens, botany and potion-making.

The flying connection, then, was with the magical witches’ broom which allowed them to fly – or was it the “mind altering plants” which, when consumed, gave them hallucinations that made them believe that they were flying. One of the reason it appealed to me was that I’ve just finished reading Jeanette Winterson’s new novel “The Daylight Gate” about the Pendle witches.

My favourite work in the Mansion, and probably in the whole exhibition, was Cosmic Cloud by Tessa Farmer. This is a kind of science fiction mobile representing aliens travelling through space towards the Earth.


According to her website

“Tessa’s miniscule sculptures reinvigorate a belief in fairies: not the sweet Tinkerbell image in popular conscience, but a biological, entomological, macabre species translating pastoral fable into nightmarish lore. Constructed from bits of organic material, such as roots, leaves, and dead insects, each of Tessa’s figures stand barely 1 cm tall, their painstakingly intricate detail visible only through a magnifying glass.

And the write up on Cosmic Cloud on the biennial website tells is that in this work her

fairies have their eyes on new planets – they have modified a chimpanzee skull as a space station and they’re using polyps (gas-filled bladders) from Portuguese Man o’ Wars as space pods. In their quest for a new home, they encounter some of the animals we have sent into space – from fruit flies and worms to chimps and dogs.

They’re flying through a cloud of space junk, from artificial satellites and spaceships sent from earth and which orbit our planet.

There are spotlights shining on the mobile reflecting light off the objects and creating interesting shadows on the wall. I’ve seen and enjoyed a number of works over the last few years that employ light and shadows in similar ways. Unfortunately my photograph really doesn’t do it justice.

Overall it was an interesting exhibition and definitely worth the trip – although I’m not sure that I’d have been happy forking out another £20 for the two of us if we didn’t have our NT memberships (I’m beginning to sound like a grumpy old man!). I didn’t like everything, but why should I? Contemporary art is about experimenting and trying new things. Without that, art would stagnate. Not everything is going to work or, indeed, appeal to everyone. But it’s important for visitors to go along with open eyes and, more importantly, open minds.


I’ve found a couple of Pinterest “boards “ with images from the exhibition. The first has a number of pictures showing concept sketches made by the artists and photographs taken while exhibits were being installed