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- Mersey Valley Timberland Trail

Grade: Long Distance Distance: 35km / 22 miles Time: 8 hours Start: Runcorn Hill Visitor Centre Highlands Road Runcorn ...

To the south of the River Mersey the land rises from sea level to the Cheshire plain 50-70m higher. Erosion has produced an edge, with several steep hillsides and outcrops of the underlying red sandstone. From the valley this gives a skyline view of a ridge of low hills, often wooded. The Mersey Valley Timberland Trail follows the edge of the high land, sometimes dropping down to the valley to offer views from both levels.

Our local sandstone, with its pink colour and its sparkle, was a very popular building material in the nineteenth century. The biggest surviving quarry is at Runcorn Hill, though you can see others along the trail at several places. Runcorn Hill's quarries were at their peak in the late 1800s, and their stone was used in churches and public buildings in the town, but also went as far afield as New York. Other quarries along the trail were probably used only for local buildings, and may only have opened up when needed. All Saints Church at Daresbury, which was built in 1870 and features a stained glass window with characters from Lewis Carroll's 'Alice' books, is said to have been built from stone quarried at Keckwick Hill. Lewis Carroll's father was the parson here.

Victorian quarry workers were shocked to discover what looked like hand prints in the rock they were splitting open. These were made in Triassic times, 240 million years ago, when our area was in a part of the earth similar to Egypt or Ethiopia today, by an animal called Ticinosuchus ('tick-eye-no-soo-kus'), a forerunner of the dinosaurs. Ticinosuchus was a formidable meat eater, up to 2.5m long. You can see a life-size, breathing reconstruction in Warrington Museum, together with some of the original footprints. There are also the prints of the animals Ticinosuchus might have eaten – small, plant-eating rhyncosaurs and early terrapins.

Several small woodlands have survived along the route of the trail. In some cases these have developed from old quarries or on slopes too steep for farming, such as Daresbury Firs and Appleton Dingle. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, tree-creepers, sparrowhawks, peregrine falcons and buzzards all live in these woodlands. Holly blue butterflies, which have two generations of caterpillars each year, one feeding on holly buds in the spring, and the other on ivy buds in the autumn, are amongst the insect inhabitants.

At Norton there is a Victorian water tower, representing a feat of engineering for its age, which stores water from Vyrnwy in Wales, passing along an aqueduct to Liverpool.

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A long distance linear walk on roads and country paths linking town and countryside to parks, woodlands and other open spaces.


Long Distance


35km / 22 miles


8 hours


Runcorn Hill Visitor Centre, Highlands Road, Runcorn


OS Explorer 275 Liverpool & 276 Bolton, Wigan & Warrington


Fairly flat roads, paths and towpaths


Mersey Valley Countryside Warden Service: 0161 881 5639