Flakes of snow in the chilly Cheshire air, and snow on the ground in Delamere Forest.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Ghostly fingers of white crept along the black boughs of the trees, and snow blanketed the slopes where tobogganers went careering downhill, whooping their heads off.
There’s something liberating about being out in the snow. A sort of general loosening of the braces takes place. Dogs in knitted coats barked and scampered, their snouts whitened; grownups nodded ‘Howdo?’, and little kids came zooming by without thought for life or limb. Delamere Forest, packed with people at play, looked like one of those Frost Fair etchings from the Little Ice Age – a far cry from its Norman heyday as a hunting preserve of the Earls of Chester, when common folk entering the forest could expect to be flogged, blinded or hanged. Thank goodness for the Forestry Commission and today’s open-doors policy for all.
As we climbed the broad white track up Old Pale Hill, the cries and shouts from below faded to a faint babel against the gentle murmur of wind in the conifer tops, a sound paradoxically reminiscent of seaside holidays. Up at the summit we found the view obscured by flurries of snow. We scraped the snow off the topographical plaques and imagined the fair-weather prospect over seven counties and to all quarters, from the Berwyn Hills in Wales to the Liverpool skyline, and out east to Kinder Scout nearly 40 miles off, where Derbyshire slips over into Yorkshire.
We descended through snow banks dinted with fox and rabbit tracks and set out on the second half of this figure-of-eight walk, round the perimeter of Blakemere Moss. This big forest lake is formed of a pair of kettle holes, huge hollows left behind when trapped ice melted after the last glaciation 10,000 years ago. Cheshire is full of these ancient Ice Age lakes, and Blakemere is one of the biggest.
Today the moss lay as though under enchantment, a great scapula of glass-green ice scattered with snow patches and concentric lines of freeze ripples, the whole lake fixed and transformed. We walked its margin in a wintry silence, looking across to where a standing stone on Old Pale summit broke the skyline, tiny and sharp as a chip of black ice.
Start: Delamere Forest Visitor Centre, CW8 2JD – near Northwich, Cheshire (OS ref SJ549705). Parking £4/3 hrs, £6 all day.
Getting there: Train (thetrainline.com) to Delamere Station (½ mile). Road: Delamere Forest is signed off B5152 between A556 (Northwich-Chester) and A56 at Frodsham (M56, jct 12)
Walk: (4½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 267; Forest Trail map available at Visitor Centre): From Visitor Centre, right along road. At far side of Old Pale car park on left, pass ‘Old Pale Woodland’ sign (547703). Trail ascends through trees. Pass Post 11 (‘Delamere Loop’); broad path uphill to standing stone at summit of Old Pale (544698). Follow fenced track east away from masts towards farm; in 150m, left (Post 7) downhill. Across track at forest edge (546698); on downhill. At Post 9 (552700), left through hedge, right along lane; in 100m back through hedge; fork left to road (552704). Left; in 100m, right across railway; in 50m, right on waymarked Blakemere Trail. At Post 16 (554708) left, anticlockwise round Blakemere Moss. In 1½ miles at Post 61 (546711) right on Delamere Loop. In 150m, left (‘Visitor Centre’). Pass Linmere Moss; in another ⅓ mile, cross railway (551705); right to Visitor Centre.