Earlier this year, we took advantage of some dry sunny weather and went for a day out in Beeston. The plan was to walk from Beeston Castle, around Peckforton Castle to get back to Beeston in time to explore the grounds. A walk around these two towers was something I’d had in mind for a while so I already had a shiny new OS map of the area (any excuse). There is parking outside Beeston Castle (postcode CW6 9TX ) and after going into the castle to pay the fee, and getting a quick bite to eat at the Sandstone Café we found the start of our route.
Our walk started by joining the Sandstone Trail just outside the café. The Sandstone Trail is a 34 mile track through the Cheshire countryside, from Frodsham to Whitchurch, following the sandstone ridges in the county.
We walked along a muddy track between a fence and the boundary wall of Beeston Castle until the wall fell away and we found ourselves in a small pine wood. The floor was a carpet of brown pine needles and there were small dens to explore. We spent a bit of time here letting the furry pair run around whilst Rowan examined the shelters before continuing down the slope that led to a road.
Turning left, we continued along the road for a short distance before passing through a metal kissing gate on the right. Ahead, across the open fields, we could see Peckforton Castle standing on top of its hill. The castle was built between 1841 and 1852 by John Tollemache who wanted a home in the style of a medieval castle and, from where we stood, it looked like he did a really good job!
Once across the field, we came to some steps leading to a bridge across a small stream. After the usual Billy Goats Gruff trip trapping, we found ourselves heading along an obvious path across another field, hedge on one side and what I think was an electric fence on the other.
Passing through a break in the hedge on the right, we walked a short distance across another field to turn right into a single track lane at the base of the Peckforton Hills. Here, Rowan amused himself leaping off the stones in the grass verge.
We followed this road until we came to a gate on our left, signposted for the Sandstone Trail. Before we continued along the footpath, Rowan practised his reading by having a good go at the signs on display. It has amazed me how much he has picked up since starting school.
Our track was really muddy, making it slippy in places, but there was so much interest along the way. We found tree stump witches and faces in the sandstone. Rowan was able to feel the texture of the rock and notice how different it was to the sloppy path.
There was an intricate birds’ nest in the hedgerow,
Plants holding droplets of water for thirsty creatures and hollows under trees providing a safe dry home for some woodland creature. I’m sure they didn’t mind the little imp sat on their doorstep.
I was looking out for a turning on our left which would take us to the Witches Staircase, a broad flight of wooden steps climbing up into the forest towards Stanner Nab. However, as we reached a cross roads which I was sure was the right place, I had a navigation crisis. All of a sudden, it felt like I couldn’t read the map, couldn’t get anything to tie up and was about to send us off on an epic hike that Rowan’s little legs would surely struggle with. After some deliberation, we decided to head in the direction I thought was right, with the intention of turning back if the steps didn’t appear.
As Rowan led the way along the leafy path through the trees, I promised myself I would book onto a navigation course to refresh all that I had learnt with Fix the Fells nine years ago. Presently, the staircase through the woods appeared, and we climbed, fallen leaves squelching under our feet. The navigation had been correct, but I still felt a course would help increase my confidence – something to add to the list of things to do.
The path levelled out and we were surrounded by a trees, their branches twisting upwards, creating magical shapes against the sky. There were broad leaf and fir trees, as well as bushes, shrubs and tree fungi. I can imagine that a walk here in spring or summer would provide a completely different scene to explore.
We found a fallen tree to sit on and have our picnic before continuing along the footpath, which had become very wet underfoot and a little steep in places. It led us to another single track road, and turning right, we came to Peckforton Lodge.
We strolled through the archway to find the ancient Peckforton Oak, a huge and interesting tree that required closer inspection. I love big old trees.
To the right of the Peckforton Oak, we found another kissing gate which led to a field with Peckforton Mere on our right and Beeston Castle in the distance. It had become clear that if we did make it back to the castle before it closed, we wouldn’t have much time to look around, so we pressed on, following the boundary of the field to enter Willis Wood.
It was a short stroll to the other side of the trees before we turned left (ignoring a stile on the right) to pass by some cows, with Beeston Castle towering behind them.
We reached the main road and turned left before crossing over and picking up the single track lane where Rowan had been jumping from stones earlier. A signpost directed us through yet another kissing gate to the field with the electric fence where we retraced our steps back to Beeston Castle.
It was half an hour before closing when we arrived, but we decided to go in and explore regardless – the huge wooden doors at the entrance were hard to resist for a castle lover.
Our whistle-stop visit to the castle was brilliant, and left us excited to come back and explore with time on our side (look out for another blog coming soon). We even joined English Heritage whilst we were there so we are looking forward to discover more of their sites soon. In the meantime you can find out more information about Beeston Castle here.