Winsford - Whitegate - Vale Royal Circular

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The Whitegate Way is a justly popular walking route reusing the former railway line between Cuddington and Winsford. This circuit provides a more interesting alternative to a simple 'out and back' linear walk. If you would normally regard six miles as your limit, you might still consider this route, as all the paths are firm underfoot and it is pretty flat.

This walk starts from the Whitegate Way Car Park, which lies in what was the heart of Winsford's salt-making industry. Each side of the river was fringed with sheds containing brine boiling pans heated by the cheapest coal available. This burned smokily, resulting in Winsford and Northwich being known as 'The Black Country'. To get an idea of the scale of the industry and the money it made, look at the historic railway map for the area at and zoom in over Winsford.

The route soon moves away from the river into classic Cheshire dairy farming country - green fields with well-watered grass to feed the cattle. Continuing through Whitegate, the route passes St Mary's Church, a fine example of a church designed by John Douglas; see some notes in the 'Additional Information' section.

Vale Royal Abbey, passed later, is a house built close to the site of an abbey commissioned by Edward I in about 1270. The present house is the successor to the mansion built by Thomas Holcroft in the 1540s. The Cholmondeleys acquired the property in the early 17th entury. In the mid-20th Century, Vale Royal Abbey was the headquarters of ICI's Salt Division. Later, it was occupied by The Michaelmas Trust, a charity helping young people with learning difficulties. It is now split between housing and a golf club. Some of the exterior shows work by John Douglas, mentioned earlier.

Beyond the abbey the route crosses the River Weaver at Vale Royal Locks. The Weaver was canalised in the 1730s to enable salt to be shipped out economically. It also enabled the huge quantities of coal needed for salt boiling to reach the salters cheaply. Until the early 1970s, coasters regularly plied between Northwich and Liverpool but traffic to Winsford had stopped earlier.

England - North England - Cheshire - Countryside


Birds, Church, Flowers, Good for Wheelchairs, Industrial Archaeology, Mostly Flat, River, Stately Home, Wildlife
1/9/2022 - Kate Blythe

Lovely walk, varied scenery and easy to follow instructions. Was quite muddy in places due to recent heavy rain but always passable with good boots on. Will definitely do this walk again.

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25.5 Miles