Maria’s Love Chester article

Posted February 8, 2024

Our Press Officer, Maria, submits a monthly article to Love Chester magazine, relating to a club walk.
Read the latest story here.

The Way Ahead
Chester Rambling and Hill Walking Club’s activities include a Wednesday walk of 7 – 8 miles every other week. Over the past months, the midweek programme has included stretches of the Dee Way, a lesser known trail that roughly follows the River Dee from Chester to Bala. So far, some of the early stages have presented a few challenges for leaders!

The first sections passed without any problems. Weather was mostly dry and the riverside footpath was easy to locate. However, the Dee Way is not well-known enough to be specifically waymarked and doesn’t always follow the riverbank. As any seasoned walker knows, once away from familiar trails, footpaths can be elusive – overgrown, badly maintained, and lacking signage!

Also, once the autumn rains took hold in October, flooding became an issue. At Farndon, an alternative route had to be found to avoid the inundated riverside by the ancient bridge, and from Shochlach to Worthenbury, many field paths had muddy or marshy stretches. The Dee was high but thanks to robust flood defences, hadn’t broken its banks.

Most of our Dee Way walks have been or will be linear routes, using car shuttles to get us back to base. However, one 3-mile stretch between Worthenbury and Bangor-on-Dee was incorporated into an 8-mile circular walk. Starting at Bangor, we headed eastwards along the riverside path, which, despite torrential rain a few days previously, was sludge free. However, once we left the river at Dongray Farm, it was a different story. We had to deviate around the field edge to avoid sinking into what resembled a rice paddy, and at Worthenbury, some sections of the fields were quagmires. Our route took us across these meadows to Wallington, and then to Green Lane. It was much less soggy underfoot after this, following a path alongside Buckside Farm and descending Rags Hill through a small wooded area. We then had the only noticeable ascent of the walk, which led us up and over to a track that once accommodated a railway line but now lies silent. From here, a footpath led us onto a lane where we took a left turn for a short way. Just before Cloy House we climbed one last stile that needed a well-judged sprightly leap to cross a pool of rainwater on the other side!

Beyond this point is my favourite bit of this walk. Here you are slightly elevated and Bangor’s church tower can be picked out in the river valley below. In the distance are the hills of north east Wales. On the day we were there it was cool but bright, and the late afternoon sun cast long shadows across the ridged meadow ahead of us. This neatly lumpy field is no natural phenomenon, but a historical feature known as ‘ridge and furrow’ – the result of years of medieval ploughing. Furrows were created in a downward direction to carry excess rainwater, and the earth dug out formed ridges that left the crops high and dry. In areas where the terrain was subsequently deemed too hilly for crop-growing, fields were put to use as grazing land. Lack of ploughing over time has left this mass of ridges and furrows in situ, to the delight of walkers like me who enthuse about such things!

Descending into Overton Lane, we turned right and followed the riverside path to Bangor, emerging by the old bridge and the church. Against the odds, we arrived back at base with dry socks, although our boots, having run the gauntlet through mud and mire, were neither dry nor clean. Some members have suggested that our Wednesday group should rename themselves ‘The Boghoppers’!

We plan to complete the entire Dee Way in separate stretches over the next year or so, as part of our twice-monthly midweek programme. The first forays have been mostly flat, but the way ahead, nearer to Chirk, Llangollen and Bala, will certainly be more undulating.