Early Summer Walk, June 11th 2015, The Billinge Loop
Leader: Ann Wright
Reporter: Bill Matthews
It was one of those perfect sunny Spring days without the cold winds recently endured.
The countryside around here is as pretty and serene as one could ask for. Those doubters who suspected there would be an industrial backdrop were proven wrong. Indeed, Billinge Chapel End is very much a farming community with a layer of gritty folk in associated occupations traceable back to the 17th century or earlier.
The going underfoot was dry and comparatively easy. We gained enough elevation at the 'Place of the Pointed Hill’ with its Beacon tower, once a summer house to Winstanley Hall, to enjoy extensive views as far as Wales and Winter Hill.
The local history society celebrates at least 10 important families from that era, still living hereabouts and accordingly we saw several grade 2 listed farms and cottages.
These were interspersed by dense copses with small ponds resonant with wildlife; also fields of cereal crops surprisingly mature after the cold spring start and aesthetically pleasing rippling in bright sunshine and a light breeze over undulating terrain.
A rest stop at the delightful Carr Mill Reservoir, doubling as a nature reserve and local powerboat boating venue, allowed us time to count 5 or 6 species of wild water fowl, but no sign of the terrapins!
Returning to the village, we had a quick visit to 16th century St. Aidan’s Church (rebuilt in the year 1717). In the graveyard there is the most unusual c1720 stone coffin shaped tomb to George and Kitty Smith with carved ring handles and winged skull encircled by a snake and all in fine condition.
It is a pity, then, that more members did not support the event. We owe Ann our thanks for introducing the small group to a new location for a nicely co- ordinated walk which finished about 3pm with the customary indulgence at a cafe; the Billinge Cafe and Ice Cream Bar in this case.