Grade: Long Distance
Time: 4-6 hours
Start: Parkers Road, Coppenhall. Limited parking on road, or use number 20 ‘Hanley’ bus route.
Map: OS Explorer 257
Terrain: Fairly level terrain over public rights of way (some cross-field) and country lanes
Barriers: Numerous stiles on each section
Take a walk on the wildside and discover mysterious mosses, ancient hedgerows and other hidden gems in the South Cheshire countryside.
This area was one of the most extensive areas of peatland in Cheshire, yet all that remains today are place names such as Moss Bridge and Coppenhall Moss. Four townships met on this peatland area, which was made up of at least five mosses called Warmingham, Minshull, Leighton, Coppenhall and Maplin's or Merbury's.
Once common land, local people had rights of turbary which was the right to cut peat as household fuel. Eventually the mosses were drained, enclosed and converted to farmland. At first, wheat was grown, but later it proved to be very good 'cheese making land.'
If you look closely, there is a very regular field pattern, with hedges made up of mainly hawthorn or blackthorn. Many other mosslands have been drained, but there are some that are still very special for wildlife, such as Wybunbury Moss, a National Nature Reserve and unique floating bog which is home to many rare plants and animals. Sundew, bog asphodel and bog rosemary thrive in the damp mossy conditions, while dragonflies hunt for prey.
Sandbach Flashes are one of the best birdwatching haunts in Cheshire. Large numbers of waders and wildfowl gather in winter, attracting peregrine, merlin and sparrowhawks in search of easy prey. Spring and autumn migration are busy times for birds and bird watchers alike, with a tremendous variety of birds passing through.
Roadside verges and canal towpaths are often havens for insects and wild flowers. The verges near the railway bridge on Clay Lane are especially rich with wild flowers such as ox-eye daisy and knapweed.
Winterley Pool is an old mill pond which was first recorded here in 1572. The pool is now enjoyed by local people, who come to fish or feed the masses of ducks that congregate here. The pool is one of the most important inland refuges for mute swans in Cheshire.
Haslington Hall, a magnificent Tudor house, was built by Admiral Sir Francis Vernon in 1545. As an Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Francis Vernon had the task of dismantling ships from the Spanish Armada and it is rumoured that these ships' timbers were used to build later extensions to the hall.
Standing on the railway bridge, looking towards a low lying brook at the rear of Bridgehouse Farm, there is a native black poplar tree. In winter, it is easy to see the arching branches which made them valuable for building the crucks in timber-framed buildings. Look out for more native black poplars, Britain's rarest timber tree, as you walk the paths in the Crewe and Nantwich area.
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