I have been meaning to do this walk every since I moved here in February, but there is so much to do in the garden that I feel guilty abandoning it on nice days when I really should be working at it. The stickiness of the otherwise delectable heat-wave meant that digging holes for plants and weeding on an industrial scale was becoming seriously unpleasant, so today I abandoned ship and walked the footpaths to the west of Churton, through the fields to Farndon. It was idyllic.
This is part one of the walk (Churton to Farndon). The slightly different return leg of the walk (Farndon to Churton) is described in Part 2.
In both directions, this is going to be an incredibly useful way of avoiding Chester Road to walk into Farndon. I did once walk in to Farndon along Chester Road and it felt incredibly unsafe as the pavement is so narrow, it was very overgrown and the traffic moves so fast. On that occasion I cut my losses and took the bus back.
This route through the fields is a perfectly viable alternative with lots to see and some lovely views, although it will be interesting to see how soggy it becomes underfoot in autumn and winter. A track called Knowl Lane extends from Hob Lane and eventually turns into a footpath that heads through a plantation and reaches the Dee. There are two footpaths off it to the left (south towards Farndon).
I went into Farndon via one and came back on the other. The route is shown on the map above, thanks to the Public Map Viewer. A Barnston Estate signboard next to the first turn shows the route of the footpath and has some of the details about the wildlife to be seen. This footpath is shown on the Public Map Viewer as a track, and it is indeed used by tractors to move from field to field, which means you may find yourself flattening yourself into a hedge to let one or more pass. Other than a tractor on the way out, and two on the way back, I saw no-one. Perfect peace. I took far too many photographs.
Once out in the fields, there were lots of wild flowers, three of which I had never encountered before, all described in Part 2, and there were butterflies and bees were everywhere, as well as great carpets of wind-transported furry seed fluff that was new to me. The views towards the Welsh foothills were gorgeous. The fields were full of young sweetcorn, displaying every shade of green that one could possibly imagine, wonderful in the sun, occasionally swaying in the slightest of breezes.
One field was planted with wheat, a great sweep of palest gold, each ear so beautifully and precisely structured that it looked almost artificial, the whole field organizing itself like a military review. It was a superb contrast to the floppy sweetcorn plants that, no matter how regularly spaced, still managed to look rakish, jaunty and determinedly laid back.
In theory, this route passes two prehistoric sites, which I was keen to track down. Both sites are known only from aerial photographs, having been completely ploughed out, but sites are not just about physical presence but context within the landscape, and that’s something one can only get a real feel for by going to the location. The Knowl Plantation site is described on the Megalithic Portal as a “nucleated Bronze Age barrow cemetery consisting of four ring ditches.” I’ve had a look at various aerial photographs (see above, for example), but it’s not terribly promising so far. If it is indeed a site, it is on a fertile slope that runs down to the Dee with views over the Welsh foothills.
A proposed Neolithic long barrow next to the radio mast at Bowling Alley Plantation is rather more convincing, with a lot of other interesting pits and ditches visible from the air in the surrounding field. It too was always going to be invisible from the footpath. Still, when I rounded the corner to the field in which it is supposed to be located I laughed out loud: the corn was growing so tall that I couldn’t actually see anything of either the field or the view, in spite of climbing a gate. It must overlook a very similar view to the Knowl Plantation site. Winter will be more informative. The Google Maps aerial view of the site is to the left, and today’s view of the field in which it is located is below. I really need a drone to be my eyes with some of these sites! I will be writing soon about the area’s prehistory, some of it verified (by survey and excavation) and some speculative (like the aerial photograph shown here), and will talk about what one might make of it all.
Happy, but a bit heat-weary, I stopped for a fizzy water and a divine flat white in Lewis’s, sitting outside on the terrace and watching the world go by. I was updating some notes as my coffee cooled down, but I am like a truffle hound where clotted cream is concerned and looked up to see that the chap at the next table was being served a scone with strawberry jam and, of course, clotted cream. It looked utterly irresistible. I am so relieved that I didn’t see it on the blackboard when I went it, or I would have been there for a lot longer, and progress back to Churton would have been a great deal slower. Next time. Nice to see the progress being made opposite at The Raven.
Suitably revived following my coffee, I secured some of the Farndon butcher’s (Griffiths) truly excellent pork and apple sausages (second only in my estimation to his pork and leek sausages) before wandering down to look at the Dee and then returning back up the hill to head back through the fields. My return course followed a slightly different route, using some other footpaths, which I will post about soon. Just as super. In all, it is a superb walk that will be an excellent route into Farndon, at least in drier phases, and will provide a very nice insight into the changing seasons.