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View from the sandstone ridge approaching Raw Head on the Sandstone Trail in Cheshire
View from the sandstone ridge approaching Raw Head on the Sandstone Trail in Cheshire

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Route No. 504 - Tues 9 April 2013
Bickerton Church, Raw Head,
Bulkeley Hill, Peckforton Hills,
Beeston Castle - 10km
Sandstone Trail, Cheshire . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space

Map: OS Explorer 257 Crew & Nantwich at 1:25000



Holy Trinity Church at Bickerton


Setting off along the road from the church

After breakfast we drove to the car park at Beeston Castle about 5km by road South of Tarporley at map ref. SJ540591. We left my brother-in-law's car there and my wife drove us another 10km South along the A49 & the A534 to Bickerton Church at map ref. SJ509535. Then she returned to our accommodation for the sisters trip to the Cheshire Oaks and left us to walk back to Beeston Castle along the Sandstone Trail. From the Holy Trinity Church in Bickerton we walked North East along the road for about 400m to the junction with the main road, A534.

Over the last few years a family tradition has gown up whereby my wife and I and her two sisters and their husbands all have a Spring break together. This year we are staying near Tarporley in Cheshire and today we three brothers-in-law are walking part of the Cheshire Sandstone trail and the three sisters are going to the Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet centre. The Sandstone Trail is a walk of 55km or 34 miles from Frodsham next to the M56 in the North of Cheshire with the Manchester Ship Canal and the Mersey estuary beyond, to Whitchurch in the South of the county.


A fine oak tree in the churchyard at Bickerton


Crossing the main road (A534)


Stone access road to Chiflik Farm


Approaching Chiflik Farm along the access road

Snow drift remnant from the snow fall almost a month ago
Snow drift remnant from the snow fall almost a month ago

Snow drift remnant from the snow fall almost a month ago
Snow drift remnant from the snow fall almost a month ago

View looking South from the ridge
View looking South from the ridge

As we followed the path through the wood climbing up towards Raw Head there were still the remains of large snow drifts from the heavy snow falls almost a month ago. We were walking along a sandstone ridge with views developing away to our left over the countryside below.

We crossed the main road and continued up a narrow lane opposite. After a few hundred metres the road became a stone farm access track which we followed past Chiflik Farm and around the edge of Tower Wood and then through the woods.


Path at the edge of Tower wood

View looking South as we reached the ridge
View looking South as we reached the ridge

Snow drift remnant from the snow fall almost a month ago
Snow drift remnant from the snow fall almost a month ago

Looking across Musket's Hole to the sandstone cliff opposite
Looking across Musket's Hole to the sandstone cliff opposite

The path climbing up through the woods towards Raw Head
The path climbing up through the woods towards Raw Head


More snow drifts as we made our way up to Raw Head


View from the ridge as we neared Raw Head

The trig point on Raw Head
The trig point on Raw Head


Following the path down from Raw Head


An old well below the path - still in use but via a blue pipe now

From Raw Head we continued along the trail gradually dropping down through the woods. At one point we came to an old well below the path with a wooden access stairway.

About 1.5km from our start at the church we reached Raw Head. This is the highest point on the Sandstone Trail at 227m or 746ft above sea level. There's a trig point here on the red sandstone rock with a lovely view to the North East over the farmland, woods and villages below us.

Information board at Raw Head
Information board at Raw Head

'Atlas' impression
'Atlas' impression

Modern access stair to the old well
Modern access stair to the old well

Looking towards Bulkerley Hill as we made our way down from Raw Head
Looking to Bulkeley Hill as we made our way down from Raw Head

Marker stone by the Sandstone Trail
Marker stone by the Sandstone Trail

Climbing up Bulkerley Hill through the woods
Climbing up Bulkeley Hill through the woods

Sweet chestnut trees on Bulkerley Hill
Sweet chestnut trees on Bulkeley Hill

Apparently sweet chestnut was introduced to Britain by the Romans to provide a supply of timber for fencing (the Sandstone Trail leaflet explains). Again from this hill there were wonderful views from our elevated position out across the countryside below and in places along the ridge too.

We followed the path down to the farmland below the hill and walked across the fields to the edge of Bulkeley Hill. The slopes of the hill are wooded and owned by the National Trust. It's lovely open woodland and we climbed steadily to the summit where the trees are mostly sweet chestnut with their distinctive spiral bark.

Path coming down through the wood from Raw Head
Path coming down through the wood from Raw Head

Leaving the field path to enter the woods on Bulkeley Hill
Leaving the field path to enter the woods on Bulkeley Hill

Looking North East at the view from Bulkeley Hill
Looking North East at the view from Bulkeley Hill

Old sweet chestnut tree on Bulkeley Hill
Old sweet chestnut tree on Bulkeley Hill

The view from Bulkeley Hill looking North East
The view from Bulkeley Hill looking North East

Path down from Bulkeley Hill through the woods
Path down from Bulkeley Hill through the woods


Peckforton Hill seen from Bulkeley Hill

Our lunch stop on a comfy log
Our lunch stop on a comfy log

Arriving at The Lodge at the foot of Bulkeley Hill
Arriving at The Lodge at the foot of Bulkeley Hill

Here we came to the Lodge on Fowlers Bench Lane at the edge of Peckforton Hill. The track between Bulkeley Hill and Peckforton Hill Is called Peckforton Gap. We followed the Sandstone Trail around the base of Peckforton Hill.

We continued along the trail dropping down from Bulkeley Hill through the woods. We found a fallen birch tree that provided a comfortable seat for our lunch above the path in this very pleasant woodland. After our break we continued to the bottom of the hill.

Path down from Bulkeley Hill through the woods
Path down from Bulkeley Hill through the woods

Sandstone Trail marker
Sandstone Trail marker

Path around the foot of Peckforton Hill
Starting along the path around the foot of Peckforton Hill

Cattle by the path around the Peckforton Hills
Cattle by the path around the Peckforton Hills


Path around the Peckforton Hills


Turning off the lane at map ref SJ525567


Path around the Peckforton Hills


Woodland path around Peckforton Hill

On top of the hill here, but hidden amongst the trees is Peckforton Castle. This a Victorian building in the style of a medieval castle, now used as a hotel.

The whole route is well signed with the distinctive yellow and black discs and we continued across farmland, along a lane and though the woods at the base of the hill to Moathouse Farm at the Northern end of Peckforton Hill.

Path around the Peckforton Hills
Path around the Peckforton Hills

Woodland path around Peckforton Hill
Woodland path around Peckforton Hill

Woodland path around Peckforton Hill
Woodland path around Peckforton Hill


Approaching the lane at Moathouse Farm

Woodland path around the foot of the Peckforton Hills
Woodland path around the foot of the Peckforton Hills

Start of the path across the fields to Beeston Castle
Start of the path across the fields to Beeston Castle

Path across the fields to Beeston Castle
Path across the fields to Beeston Castle

Path across the fields to Beeston Castle
Path across the fields to Beeston Castle

Path around the outer wall of Beeston Castle
Path around the outer wall of Beeston Castle

We continued across a minor road and around the outer wall of Beeston Castle to the castle entrance and the car park opposite where we had left the car this morning.

From here we followed the path across the fields where there was a good view of Beeston Castle on its rocky hill top, a really impressive position for a castle.

Beeston Castle seen from the path across the fields
Beeston Castle seen from the path across the fields

Path across the fields to Beeston Castle
Path across the fields to Beeston Castle

Crossing the road at map ref. SJ538588
Crossing the road at map ref. SJ538588

The gatehouse to Beeston Castle
The gatehouse to Beeston Castle


Path leading up through the inner defensive wall towards the fortress on the hill top - Beeston Castle

Path up through the castle grounds
Path up through the castle grounds

It seemed that the stone for the fortress had been quarried from a deep, wide trench that formed a dry moat cutting off the fortress from the rest of the hill. We crossed the bridge through the gateway with a slot for a portcullis and into a wide open area on the top of the rocky hill.

We left our gear in the car and went back to the castle entrance. The castle is owned and managed by English Heritage. We passed through the impressive gateway in the outer wall, paid the entrance fee and started to climb up the track to the next defensive wall. We passed though the ruins of a gateway with towers on either side and followed the access track winding up the steep hillside to the main fortified hilltop stronghold.

Path up through the castle grounds
Path up through the castle grounds


Approaching the fortress on the hill top - Beeston Castle


The gateway into the fortress on the hill top


Looking back along the sandstone ridge from Beeston Castle


Looking through a firing position in the fortress gatehouse


Descending on the path around the inner defensive wall

Part of the inner defensive wall
Part of the inner defensive wall

It was quite breezy and it fluttered its wing to keep control of its position and then it shifted gear and glided out of sight behind the castle wall to our right. It was a female peregrine falcon. They apparently have a nest site on the rocks below the castle. We left the fortress on the hill top and followed a path down the defensive wall part way up the hill. We walked around this wall back to the ruins of the gateway we had used on the way up and followed the track down to the main gateway.

There was a wide outer wall with rooms within the thickness of the walls and a large well. The views from here were stunning across farmland into the far distance. Looking south along the sandstone ridge we could see the line of hills that we had crossed on our way from Bickerton Church. On Peckforton Hill we could see Peckforton Castle, hard to spot because it is against a backdrop of forest on the hill behind. Then as we were about to leave we saw a large bird of prey hanging on the wind about 50m out from the castle rock.

Looking up at the portcullis slot in the gate way
Looking up at the portcullis slot in the gate way

Part of the inner defensive wall
Part of the inner defensive wall


Returning to the gateway through the inner defensive wall

The track back to the gatehouse in the outer wall
The track back to the gatehouse in the outer wall


Manmade caves seen through the bars of the locked gates

It had been a fine sunny day with lovely views of the Cheshire countryside. The whole route had been 10km and it had taken us four and a half hour to walk including our lunch stop on a convenient log and our extended visit to Beeston Castle at the end of the walk.

One final sight before we left were the caves about 200m to one side of the gateway next to the outer wall. There looked as though they had been excavated with pillars of rock left for support but there was no indication of their original use. We made our way back to the car park and the end of a very enjoyable walk.

Gated entrances to the caves in the castle grounds
Gated entrances to the caves in the castle grounds

An owl nesting box in the castle grounds
An owl nesting box in the castle grounds

The gatehouse in the outer wall at Beeston Castle
The gatehouse in the outer wall at Beeston Castle
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