Cheshire walk - Jacob's Ladder and Frodsham Hill
- Credit: David Dunford
A nostalgic walk through a sandstone landscape that stands as a memorial to people and times past.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: the more things change, the more they stay the same. One hundred years ago the human race was, as now, coming to terms with world-changing events and the loss of millions of lives. The red sandstone memorial obelisk on the high wooded bluff above Frodsham was raised in 1919, but the wrought-iron gates that dignify the approach from the southeast are exactly a century old this year.
Likewise, the war memorial in the churchyard of St Laurence's Church was dedicated by the Bishop of Chester in 1921, recording the names of the 105 valiant Frodsham men who lost their lives in the Great War. A further 31 names were added to the list of the lost a few short decades later, following the second worldwide conflict of the century.
Very different are the secular ‘memorials’ to be found on the worn crags alongside the Sandstone Trail, on the wooded slopes of Frodsham Hill. Numerous day-trippers have recorded their excursions here in the crusted red sandstone, with names, initials and dates from the 19th century to the present day.
It’s noticeable that the older carvings are diligently done, with deep lettering and careful serifs, and some are executed in elaborate gothic script: can we draw any conclusions from the observation that even vandals took more pride in their work in times gone by?
Such melancholic musings seemed fitting for a walk in the autumn of 2021, as pandemic privations persist and we face the gloomy approach of winter.
However, spirits will be lifted by the turning colours of the birch, oak and rowan cloaking the escarpment, the breath-taking views from the top, and the cheerful squirrels busily caching acorns in the turf of Castle Park. A restorative tipple in the Netherton Hall is surely justified.
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1. From the Netherton Arms, cross the A56 with care and walk up Carriage Drive, the right-hand of the two roads that meet opposite. Ignoring side-turnings, continue to the end of the metalled road, where beyond the last of the houses a sandy track leads to a gate.
Continue ahead through the woods, climbing gradually. Ignoring a flight of stone steps down to the right at the end of the wall on the right, stay on the obvious path below a red sandstone cliff and above Dunsdale Hollow, to a path junction near the top of the wood.
2. On the left at the end of the cliff is the scramble up the worn rock known as Jacob’s Ladder, but more sensible or sedentary walkers will bear left at a Sandstone Trail fingerpost (signposted to Frodsham) and climb the metal steps known as Baker’s Dozen instead.
The late Jack Baker, the first footpaths officer of the then singular Cheshire County Council, was instrumental in the creation of the Sandstone Trail, which we now follow for a pleasantly undulating half-mile below and between the bluffs and crags of Frodsham Hill. Following the yellow 'S' waymarks and ignoring other paths to right and left, you eventually emerge by the red sandstone obelisk of the war memorial.
The views over the Weaver Bend, Frodsham Marsh and the Mersey Estuary are themselves memorable, and include the Silver Jubilee and Mersey Gateway bridges at Runcorn, away to the right behind the low ridge crowned by Halton Castle. The memorial gates are a short walk away along a path to the right. In April 1963, the Beatles played a gig in the ballroom at the adjacent Mersey View Pleasure Grounds, now occupied by a Best Western hotel.
3. Continuing along the hilltop beyond the obelisk, pass a bench and bin, still sticking to the Sandstone Trail as it drops back into the trees. Bear left down the slope to a path junction, where you turn left, downhill, still following the Sandstone Trail. At the next junction, zigzag right and continue to descend. The path emerges onto Middle Walk, where you continue ahead below a retaining wall to Bellemonte Road. Turn left and walk downhill past the Bulls Head and Ring o’ Bells pubs to St Laurence’s Church in Overton.
4. Take the walled path to the left of the church, between the tower and car park, then turn half-left onto a metalled path across a grassy recreation area, with views to the wind turbines of Frodsham Marsh. At the bottom of the grassed area, follow the fenced path beyond, which runs past the end of a residential road (Kingsway).
The path continues ahead to join Park Lane. Beyond the junction with Queensway, on a slight bend, turn left onto a narrow, hedged path that leads beside a garden fence and into Castle Park.
5. Turn right to a litter bin, where you turn left over a small stream. Bear left at the next junction of paths and continue beside the stream hollow until you meet a more significant path. Turn right here and walk past the tennis courts. Continue ahead down to the park pavilion, where you turn left (before the children’s play area) and follow the path in front of Castle Park House.
Cross the car park access road and follow a raised path opposite, which curves along the fence at the far edge of the park to approach some sports pitches. Turn right here and then right again through a gap in the fence onto a residential road.
6. Turn left and follow the road slightly uphill through estate housing until you meet Howey Lane at a T-junction. Turn right to return to the Netherton Arms.
Area of walk: Netherton near Frodsham
Start point: The Netherton Hall, WA6 6UL (non-patrons: Castle Park, a short distance along the A56 towards Frodsham)
Distance: 2½ miles
Time to allow: 1–2 hours
Map: OS Explorer 267: Northwich & Delamere Forest
Refreshments: Netherton Hall, Chester Road, Frodsham CH61 0HJ www.nethertonhallpub.co.uk 01928 732342
Also at the Black Bull and Ring o’ Bells, Overton.
The Netherton Hall
On a sunny Sunday, despite the bustle of numerous hard-working young waiting staff and barfolk, manager Dan Freeman struggled to get away from behind the pumps to speak to me, testament both to his dedication to his team and to the popularity of this large roadside outlet. The pub is operated by the Cheshire-based pubco Broad Oak, whose seven outlets also include the Smoker at Plumley, the Parr Arms at Grappenhall and the White Lion at Alvanley, and predominately serve beers from Robinsons and J. W. Lees.
Well-presented pub grub is available seven days a week, and the menu includes a range of starters, mains and grills, including vegan and vegetarian options. The snack menu may suit walkers with lighter appetites. On fine days there are tables available outside, on the terrace and in the garden below the creeper-hung frontage. Within, dogs are permitted on the hard floor areas.
Aligning neatly with this month’s rather nostalgic theme, the walls are adorned with photographs of lost places and faces from the bygone days of old Frodsham.