Tell me again why I am here in this weird, desolate place. I've forgotten.
In April 2008, I determined to walk to Maiden Castle, an Iron Age hill fort in the neighbourhood. I got all the way to the end of the Sandstone Ridge, saw many wonderful things and didn't get to the castle in time to find it before it was too dark and I had to go home.
From the entrance to the Bolesworth Estate, the road goes ever on and on...
Lesser Celandine hide in the grass and nettles in the verge, like sparkles on water.
My mum used to say that you can tell the moment when spring really starts. For weeks the dark brown bulbs of chestnut buds have been forming and growing. Then one morning, they leaves have all flopped down and it has begun.
Jews ear fungus. Edible, I discovered, and I think popular in the Far East where it is sold dried.
Sat on a stump at the top of the hill behind the Bolesworth Estate, looking back whence I had come. You can make out Tattenhall in the distance, but more important, the weather catching up to me. The hills in the far distance are Wales.
...and up and up...
The woodsy bits at the top of the hill are the crest of the Sandstone Ridge. A morraine of rock and rubble pushed up by the thousand foot-high ice sheets that once covered the Cheshire plain. (No photo of latter, sorry). The ice is responsible for much of the shape of the terrain here and for the type of things that can be grown. It picked up boulders and rocks from miles away in Cumbria and Scotland and left them desposited all over. Some of them are local landmarks and some, it is said, were the site of pre-Christian ritual sacrifices. The ice also carried with it lots of smaller bits of rubble that its great weight ground down to a very fine powder which was deposited all over the plain. This formed a clay that still prevents drainage, which is why the fields are often flooded and where the meres and pools come from.
Oak wasp galls.
Very unusual to find farm buildings of wood here. Almost all the farm outbuildings are solid brick or sandstone. The feeling it gives is one of great permanence and dignity, something I always found lacking in Canadian rural areas, other than Quebec. These people have lived here a very long time and clearly intend to remain another thousand years or so.
A case in point. This little barn was clearly expanded at least twice. You can see the places where the newer brickwork was added to the older building in two stages.
Being chased by the weather as I climb higher up above the plain. Gorse bushes always remind me of the Winnie the Pooh story where Bear tries to get to a honey bee nest with the help of a balloon lent to him by Christopher Robin. The plan failed when Bear found that, although he could see the bees and smell the honey, the necessity of holding onto the string meant that he could not reach it. The problem of how to get down became serious. Christopher Robin was, sadly, forced to shoot the balloon, which deposited the hapless Bear into a Gorse bush.
We have to go up there?!
Yes. But not before we get a pint.
Some of the farms on the way to Burwardsley.
Other walkers, complete with all the Walker Geek Gear, looked decidedly long-nosed at me in my sturdy tweed skirt and wellies. I let them get well ahead before I started talking to myself again.
It seemed like miles and miles. One of the things about walking everywhere is that it gives one a deep appreciation of the seriousness of the land. In a car, one just whips past it, careless and unheeding like Toad in his automobile. Walking forces one to take seriously the distances and matters like food and water, tired feet and hills to climb.
Everyone was out digging the gardens.
Many cottages have brightly painted doors. Often this particular shade of blue or bright red. And don't you love the name?!
Daffs are everywhere.
I fell instantly in love with this cottage. The chap who lives there sold me ten bags of fire logs at 50p per bag less than I was paying. Delivered the next day.
The last stretch of the hill before gaining the top of the ridge. But not yet. Onwards, to the Pheasant!
The seething core of metropolitan Burwardsley. The shop was closed (Sunday), but it had a lot of useful and interesting notices and a nice bench to sit on for a rest.
This little cottage, just before the Pheasant, was once a Methodist chapel. So many of these are now converted into flats or cottages, one wonders if there are any Methodists left. The one in Tattenhall has been changed into very uncomfortable looking flats and it makes me sad when I remember that it was once host to the great John Wesley himself who preached in the village in the late 1700s.
The Pheasant at last. My mum's favourite pub in all Ynglonde.
The walker's reward. I ate my tongue sandwich, cheese and sausage rolls, but it was too cold and windy to stay on the patio. I moved inside where the pub was full.
The next stile is the entrance to the Sandstone ridge and the beginning of stage two.