Cheshire walk - Lymm and Thelwall

Thelwall Viaduct crossing Manchester Ship Canal

Thelwall Viaduct crossing Manchester Ship Canal - Credit: Archant

This month’s walk takes us from Lymm to Thelwall and back, calling at a unusual ferry port.

The Thelwall Ferry

The Thelwall Ferry - Credit: Archant

There are two ways to cross the Manchester Ship Canal at Thelwall. You can roar high above the water on the M6’s Thelwall Viaduct. Or you can sit in a little boat and be rowed across the canal by a ferryman, as locals have done for the last 124 years.

When the massive trench which became the Manchester Ship Canal was dug through lush Cheshire farmland, many roads and rights of way were preserved by bridges. The preferred solution at Thelwall, however, was the Penny Ferry. At one time it ran from dawn to dusk, with a pontoon raft used to transport farm animals across the water. These days, the ferry is an aluminium rowing boat which runs from a neat little jetty when needed from 7am to 9am, 12noon to 2pm and 4pm to 6pm. The one penny fare is now 11p, though, surely, with inflation since 1894, it should be much more.

While we are at the Thelwall end of this walk - which was inspired by a collection of Lymm Parish walks written by Peter Waite and available to download from the Lymm Parish Council website - there are a couple of other items of historical interest. Soon after leaving the ferry, you will pass Thelwall Old Hall, a characterful 17th century building. Then comes the Pickering Arms, a 16th century black and white inn bearing the inscription: ‘In the year 923, Edward the Elder founded a cyty (sic) here and called it Thelwall.’ The pub boasts that its pies are ‘legendary’. I can vouch for that.

Thelwall Ferry and a view across the Manchester Ship Canal

Thelwall Ferry and a view across the Manchester Ship Canal - Credit: Archant

1. The starting point is the Sow Brook car park on Lymmhay Lane, postcode WA13 9DJ. It is an unmade road, but you don’t need to go far up it to see the car park on the right next to playing fields. Back out of the car park entrance, head right up Lymmhay Lane and, less than 100 yards later, go left onto a footpath crossing a stream (Sow Brook). The path then runs beside and at one point through the golf course. When the path meets the access road to the golf course, cross over and continue ahead into the path through a field with trees to the left. You will eventually reach an opening in the hedge as the path emerges directly onto Whitbarrow Road (care needed here).

2. Cross over and head right along the pavement, passing the entrance to Meadow View Fisheries. Cross back over the road when the pavement on the right side resumes, and keep an eye on the house numbers. Just beyond number 80A, take the fenced path on the right, and continue ahead passing fishing ponds on either side. Cross a bridge and bear left along a wooded path with a pond to your left. Emerging into a field, stay to the right edge. Reaching a gate, go left and then, just a few yards later, right on a grassy path heading in the direction of that unmissable landmark, the Thelwall Viaduct. Stay on this path to reach the Manchester Ship Canal.

CAPTION: Horse riders enjoy the path beside Manchester Ship Canal

CAPTION: Horse riders enjoy the path beside Manchester Ship Canal - Credit: not Archant

3. The path bears left, running parallel to the canal. Stick with this path for quite some time. It occasionally veers away from the canal, but returns soon after. Eventually it turns to tarmac and soon after brings you to a kissing gate. Turn right down the unmade Ferry Lane to take a look at the Thelwall Ferry, then retrace your steps, up Ferry Lane, passing the 17th century Thelwall Old Hall, to reach Bell Lane and the Pickering Arms. Bear left, down the entry running in front of the picturesque old post office and continue ahead into a path beside a wall.

4. At a kissing gate, go right along a field edge and, when the field opens out, keep in roughly the same direction to find a kissing gate beside a hedge to the right of houses. The gate brings you to Laskey Lane. Go right and immediately left into Lymm Road. Pass a farm and a gated entrance before reaching a footpath sign directing you left beside a concrete drive. Pass beside one large gate, and stick to the right side of this drive. At a second gateway, look for a path bearing right away from the drive (it’s not obvious!) and passing to the left of a large hoarding. Go through two stiles to reach stables and bear right, following the line of the fence as it curves left. Straight ahead, you will see a metal gate. Through here, take the path ahead, passing in front of a house to reach Warrington Road.

Thelwall Old Hall

Thelwall Old Hall - Credit: Archant

5. Bear left up this road, passing under the M6 again. After Statham Lodge Hotel, you pass a bus stop and then, less than 100 yards later, take a footpath up a field on the right. Stay left as the path goes into woods and climbs to a bridge over the Trans Pennine Trail. The path wends round to the left, passing in front of cottages, then bears right to bring you to the canal. Go left along the towpath, continuing for about half a mile. You will see a newish housing development on the right after a while. Just beyond this, a tarmac footpath is signposted off the canal on the left. Follow this path down, crossing over Statham Avenue and you come to the Trans Pennine Trail. Go right along the trail, passing the ranger’s cabin, crossing over Whitbarrow Road and continuing to the next gate which is Lymmhall Lane. Bear left up the lane to the car park.

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Compass points

Area of Walk: Lymm and Thelwall

Thelwall's old post office

Thelwall's old post office - Credit: Archant

Distance: 5 miles

Time to allow: 2½ hours

Map: OS Explorer 268

Refreshments: Pickering Arms, 1 Bell Lane, Thelwall, Warrington WA4 2SU