Finding new routes

Delamere Forest-Whitegate Way.

One of the joys of running is finding new routes. Living in Chester, UK, we are spoilt for fabulous locations in which to run; only 75 minutes from Snowdonia, Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, South Pennine, Derbyshire and mid-Wales. However, we also have some fine countryside close by – notably the Clwydian Hills, the Sandstone Trail and Delamere Forest. This latter is part of the Mersey Forest region and whilst Delamere itself has some great trails I decided for this walk to look at some tracks which were new to me.

2012 has been the wettest year on record in the UK. After an early burst of warmth and sun in April we have seen a most miserable summer of endless rain saturate the landscape and seen repeated the now familiar scenes of flooding and despair as rivers are unable to hold the water streaming down from the hills. Now, as autumn becomes winter, the rains continue and many paths and fields are impassable. On a recent run from Tatton Park to Manchester Airport visitor centre I had to resort to roads as all the fields were under water and, whilst running with wet feet is a common experience, the mud and slithering just becomes wearisome after a while. So, where to run that would not be likewise?

Whilst scanning the mapping software ( I use Grough and GetAMap) I spotted the Whitegate Way – a disused railway line running from Cuddington to Winsford. Old lines are usually well-drained and afford easy progress and the level surface enables me to work on my rhythm and occasional speed work.

Helen had decided to do a few circuits within Delamere so we agreed to meet back in the excellent visitor centre cafe in two hours. I headed NE through the Eastern Delamere woods, reached Stonyford and turned South down the lane to cross the railway bridge. 20 yards or so after the bridge, on the left, is the start of a track which runs alongside Lobslack Nursery and then eventually joins the Whitegate Way (WW) at an information point. I trundled South along this, passing gorgeous woodlands, the eerie desolate landscapes of recently cleared forestry and a well-landscaped Scout campsite. Soon lakes opened up on my left – old gravel quarries no doubt.

An hour was up – I needed to start heading back. ViewRanger indicated a path round one of the Newchurch lakes onto another lane which headed back to the A49. By the sloppy lakeside path i noticed some particularly interesting funghi, which later i identified as Tremella.

Along the lane, whilst circumnavigating a particularly wide pool on the lane, I had to hold tight to a wooden fence which was also the viewing gallery of two sturdy donkeys which looked curiously on at my antics. I stopped to have a chat, and soon a pony trotted over to see what the fuss was all about. Of course, they could smell my Extra Strong Mints! I fed them mints whilst stroking their tough, wiry manes and then said farewell.

I crossed the A49, reached the A556 and was grateful for the pavement as I made my way past the Oakmere bookshop to Farm Road, and back to Delamere for a large mug of hot coffee and slab of fruit cake. Result.