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Late May Walk 2014 - The ‘Adapted’ Billinge Loop - Thursday May 22nd

Reporter: Christine Fildes

Just three SCoM members, Anne Wright (our leader), Phil Hayward & myself plus two cannines, met at Bankes Park car park in Billinge, which is situated between Wigan and St Helens. The response for this walk was not good, probably because it was close to the Whit Bank Holiday weekend, however we decided to meet up regardless!

The weather was overcast as we set off from the car park at approx. 10.45 am on this nine mile walk. After walking along Beacon Road, we crossed fields and woodlands, eventually reaching Carr Mill Dam. We stopped for lunch on Nineteen Arches Bridge, at the far end of the dam, where a variety of birds could be seen, including Great Crested Grebe, and Swans. We have been reliably informed that certain floating objects are not army helmets but terrapin escapees!

Carr Mill Dam is the county's largest body of inland water, offers competitive power boating and angling events. It is home of Lancashire Powerboat Racing Club where, national and international powerboat racing takes place. Once simply a millpond built to power Carr’s Mill, this was hugely expanded in the 1750s to provide water to the Sankey Canal, about a mile away.

We continued on our way through ancient woodland and across farmland until we reached Billinge Hill, known locally as Billinge Lump! It is the highest point in the Borough of St Helens and Merseyside, affording excellent views. It is one of the 176 hills graded as a Marilyn in England! The beacon tower at the summit was built as a summerhouse to Winstanley Hall in the 18th century.

On returning to Billinge we passed St. Aiden’s Parish Church dating back to 1720. A macabre ‘coffin shaped’ grave of George and Kitty Smith was pointed out to us in the graveyard, the ‘coffin’ lid showing a skull with a winged serpent. It is rumoured that the couple died having been bitten by snakes on Billinge Hill!

We rounded off a very enjoyable day with a cuppa and a cake in the café.

Many thanks to Anne for organizing this walk, also the opportunity to explore some unfamiliar and lovely countryside.

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