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Ski Club of Manchester Winter Walk 2022, North Sunday 27th February

Leader: Frances Taylor

Reporter: Helen Richardson

When thirteen of us, plus three doggy friends, met for Frances' winter walk, double parking was the order of the day, so that all could fit in the rather 'cosy' Beacon Hill car park off Simons Lane, between Netherton and Overton. As we assembled, plenty of camaraderie was enjoyed, especially as, for some, it was their first face to face meeting with SCoM friends since the end of lockdown. Freddie, Foster and Jim seemed to be pleased to have the opportunity to run around together too. The sky was rather grey but the forecast was for a dry spell until 3o'clock, so we knew that was the time to aim to have finished walking.

Our walk was in the Frodsham and Helsby areas, and centred on the Sandstone Trail, taking in some short, but steep, ascents and descents along its way, as we tracked in an anti-clockwise direction. We headed north, skirting Beacon Hill with its telecommunications mast, and walked down and then up hill to reach the Frodsham War Memorial on the ridge, where we enjoyed an early refreshment stop. It was already much sunnier, so we had spectacularly clear views northwards of the Mersey, beyond the Manchester Ship Canal, railway and M56.

Soon we were walking along the Sandstone Trail again, as it passes alongside Frodsham golf course, in a generally southerly direction, before walking very steeply downhill and turning west to cross the Tarvin Road on our way towards Helsby. It was important to watch one's step on the steep wooded escarpment, as there were plenty of protruding tree roots to trip the unwary.

Eating lunch close to the trig point at the top of Helsby Hill, we again enjoyed excellent views across the Mersey. Nearby Frodsham wind farm dominated the scene, and it was notable how closely parallel Manchester Ship Canal, the M56, rail track and A56 run to the Sandstone Trail in this area. As we walked down Helsby Hill from this vantage point, we soon passed earthwork remains of an Ironage hillfort, now largely obscured by the passage of time. Soon it was time to head in a south-easterly direction, picking up the Longster Trail before rejoining the Sandstone Trail, to and through Snidley Moor Wood, a mixed woodland managed by the Woodland Trust. Turning north close to Shepherds Houses, our route crossed more open land, following the undulating Delamere Way on our way back to the car park.

The nearest refreshment place was in Frodsham, where, as it reached 3pm, a few 'spits and spots' of rain reminded us of the forecast, and how fortunate we had been to avoid a wet walk! Most of the cafes in Frodsham close early on Sunday, but fortunately, Costa Coffee was open and had plenty of room towards the rear, as we piled in for very welcome 'cuppa and cake'.

Although there were no major hills, I was surprised that, due to the steep escarpments, how much ascent and descent fitted in to this very pleasant route. I was also interested to note from the OS map how many more footpaths and features of interest there are to explore in this location.

It remains only to say "Many thanks to Frances for arranging and leading us on this enjoyable walk in the west Cheshire countryside".

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