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Northwich Canals

A gentle walk taking in a stunning piece of Victorian engineering.

Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 100ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Woodland paths, surfaced tracks and tow paths, 2 stiles

Landscape Woodland banks, fields, occasional industrial backdrop

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 267 Northwich & Delamere Forest

Start/finish SJ 653764

Dog friendliness Sensible dogs can be off leads on most of walk

Parking At Marbury Country Park, open till 8pm summer, 5pm winter

Public toilets Close to car park (Pwalk directions)

1 From the left-hand corner of the car park (as seen when you enter) a gap leads you to an information shelter. Go left up the track alongside an avenue of lime trees. The track bends right, past toilets and the ranger office. Follow it to its end then continue on a footpath to the shores of Budworth Mere and turn right. Skirt a small 'harbour', which gives a good view across the mere to the sailing club and Great Budworth church, then leave the waterside and go left on a broader path. Follow the main path to a fork and bear left, following a sign 'Anderton Nature Park and canal'. Along here there's a wonderful sculpture (Phil Bews, 2001) made from a fallen tree, as well as lots of rhododendrons. A more open area is good for bluebells in season.

2 When you come suddenly to the banks of the canal, follow the path round to the right, looping away then back left to a stile that leads into Marbury Lane. Go left over the bridge and continue down the lane to a dip, where there's a gate on the right with a sign 'Nature Park and Boat Lift'. Go down a short track then detour 50yds (46m) right and up steps to a bird hide, which gives a view over Haydn Pool. Return to the last junction and continue round to the right.

3 The path first follows a reed-filled inlet then crosses a bridge. The first marker is No 6, highlighting ramsons and butterbur, well-suited to this riverside habitat. Ramsons is better known as wild garlic and its aroma is very noticeable in spring and summer. Take the left path here then, at the next junction, slant back right past marker No 4. Go left along the main track and over a bridge to a crossroads, by marker No 3. Orchids grow in the open shade here. Go right, passing marker No 9. At the next junction keep right again, out into an open area, then left at a fingerpost. At a T-junction go right and out into the open, close to the River Weaver, with a good view of the soda works.

4 Just beyond marker No 2, descend some steps, go past the rifle range, then take a green path away from the river to the dragonfly pond - and another great wooden sculpture. Return to the riverbank and continue towards the Anderton Lift, now rising ahead. Climb steps alongside the overspill channel, signed 'car park and canal basin'. At the top, turn left along the tow path as far as the bridge over the branch to the lift. Then retrace your steps and continue along the tow path, passing the Anderton Marina.

5 Follow the tow path for another ½ mile (800m) to the first overbridge after the marina. Go up steps and over the bridge. After 20yds (18m) cross a stile on the right. Keep left on muddy paths, soon meeting a wider gravel path. Go left, looping round into a narrow strip of woodland between the lane and a large pasture.

6 At a junction with a track, go right signed 'car park' then, after 100yds (91m), go left through a kissing gate. Go straight ahead, back to the avenue of lime trees, bear left and left again past the information shelter into the car park.

The presence of natural brine springs, exploited since Roman times, and of rock salt, mined since the 17th century, made Northwich the cradle of Britain's chemical industry. Directly or indirectly, this has influenced all the landscapes on this walk. The Marbury Estate, the basis of today's country park, was partly built on wealth from salt and was later owned by ICI, who used the hall (which is now demolished) for staff housing.

The Anderton Nature Park was once an industrial site and a variety of waste products - such as salt, lime and ash - create conditions which now allow a tremendous variety of plants to flourish. There's a Wildflower Trail and some of its markers provide useful landmarks for us. Visit in the warmer months and you'll be treated to the sight of lots of electric blue damselflies flying low over the water of the dragonfly pond. The water here is too ssalty for fish and frogs, which makes it relatively safe for the larvae of both damselflies and dragonflies.

Where to eat and drink

The Stanley Arms, just up the lane from the bridge above the boat lift, has a beer garden alongside the canal, as well as extensive play facilities. It's also a starting point for boat trips. With a wide-ranging menu too, almost the only thing you can say against it is that it gets a bit busy.

While you're there

The Anderton Lift, the first of its kind in the world, represents an ingenious solution to the problem of the 50ft (15m) height difference between the Weaver Navigation below and the Trent and Mersey Canal above. Most of the work was done by allowing extra water into the upper trough, making it heavier than the lower one. With the decline of canal traffic, it became underused and neglected, finally closing in 1983. Restoration started in 1998 and it's now fully operational once again, with a new visitor centre alongside the lift. Boat trips, several times daily, give you the opportunity to experience the lift for yourself.

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