Having spent two years living in Aberdovey, bang-splat in the middle of the Welsh coastline before coming to the far western edge of Cheshire, I had become very accustomed to walking for hours in the glorious hills and valleys, along a constantly shifting estuary, enjoying some stunning beaches, and relishing the dramatic and ever-changing sea. I was in the middle of writing a series about Iron Age hillforts between the Mawddach and Dyfi estuaries when a very nice couple bought my Aberdovey house. On the downside I had to abandon that particular hillfort project, at least in the short-term, but on the upside I was able to move to Churton, and I will soon be walking the hillforts on the Cheshire ridge, and along the Clywdian and Llantysilio ranges.
The massive contrast between the hilly Welsh coastline and West Cheshire is dramatic. West Cheshire is flat. It is very, very flat. Looking to the east, Helsby hill rises dramatically out of the plain, a nearly constant landmark. To the west the Welsh foothills are frequently visible. Between the two, there is a sense that an angry giant ran over the landscape with a huge turf roller, flattening any feature that had the temerity to poke its head above the parapet. I wasn’t sure that I would get the knack of all this flatness, and I am only just beginning to get an idea of how to point a camera at something so thoroughly horizontal.
In spite of the initial and erroneous sense of emptiness engendered by the distant horizons, the immediate landscape is rich, varied and there is plenty to see. Attractive farms are dotted in the fields around the village, the earth a healthy brown-red, the crops a deep, satisfying dark green. In spring, the rapeseed provides bright yellow carpets of sunny colour. The river Dee, separating Wales from England and wending its way towards the Wirral, rises and falls dramatically as the rainfall fluctuates. The birds are always in full voice, there are coppices, young woodlands, busy hedgerows and a lot of unfamiliar agriculture in the fields. Churton itself, Aldford to the north, and Farndon and Holt to the south all offer some terrific opportunities for exploration. There’s a lot to learn only minutes from my own front door.