The Sandstone Trail Easter 2013 Day one

The old Hall Hotel sits back from the road looking like it has been dropped there from a Bygone age. We watched our friendly neighbour drive off in the direction of Chester knowing that now we would be committed; there was no going back now from this, tomorrow we would have to walk the seventeen miles to our next hotel because now we were stranded. We could walk or stay put, but going back was not an option.
So we booked in and went out to explore. There was not much happening in Frodsham this time of night and also it was getting cold. So we came back and sat by the fire.
We met Eddie who regaled us with tales of his travels and his caravan in N Wales. It seems that the exceptional weather this year is stopping him getting there. I just hope it will not stop us as well.
Before that there was eating to be done. The trouble here is that we are in Cheshire and it was going to be Cheshire prices. The food though was exceptional. It may not have looked a huge meal on the plates but then looks can be deceptive. It is not often that the Finches leave anything on their plates but we were well and truly beaten.
I enjoyed a lamb pie that stood well out from the plate and its bath of gravy. Viv had roast turkey with a matching slab of stuffing on the top. Added to this we had a bowl of chips and another each of veg. The two course menu included a pudding as well so we had a short wait before starting again. This time Viv had a chocolate cheese cake and orange sorbet. I had a waffle drenched in toffee sauce with a blob of iced cream.
The stout here is a fine brew and some quantities were imbibed along with our food. We finished with a cappuccino each. Now some create an artistic event with the chocolate on the top, not so here, the chocolate was dredged on in volumes.
Well I am paying in the morning with my credit card so I do not know what it cost, but I guess that the point of a meal this good is not about the price. That’s my excuse and I am sticking with it.
It is not just the food that is deceptive here; viewed from the front this grade 2 listed building looks far too small to be a hotel, but once inside it assumes Tardis like proportions. The sweeping staircase that dominates the reception area and the huge dining room that just goes on forever all add to the feeling of space.
We never got to explore the gardens but they too looked spacious and well kept.
The following morning we were up early and had our breakfast in a deserted dining room. Only one other guest appeared while we were there, but then it was seven thirty and the breakfasts officially did not start until eight.
So for us it was a very early start, we were checked out and on way by eight fifteen. In the centre of Frodsham we stopped to marvel at a bollard on the road that someone had knitted a cover for, very strange.
First stop was the Bears Paw, as this is the official start to the Sandstone Trail and to photograph the monument to prove we were here.
The first part of the walk is through the town past a playing field and through some more houses. Then we turn up through the woods. This is where we encounter our first problems; The hill has been walked during the previous two days turning the snow into slush. Last night it has frozen again and we are faced with a sheet of ice to climb. Maybe it would have been easier without the heavy backpacks on, but we found the climb up to the monument exhausting. Not only were we sliding back as much as we were going forward but several trees had been brought down by the snow and we had to either climb over them or negotiate a way around them.
The view from the top was worthwhile though. We stopped at the top to photograph the view and eat some Easter egg; after all we were supposed to be enjoying this.
The journey across the top and down through the woods involved a lot of trudging through snow and skating across ice until we came out into a sunny vista. There was even a place advertising hot soup. We thought it too early on our journey to stop, had we realised that this would be the last and only place we would see, perhaps we would have stopped.
Soon we were into Delemere Forest, I felt safe here, because we had spent so much time here in the past on our bikes. This is what happens when you become complacent, Viv said “I haven’t seen a Sandstone sign for a while” I looked but the only signs we could see were yellow footpath markers. A couple who we had passed earlier caught us up again and they said “Are you following the Sandstone Trail? because it is over in that direction”.
I hate back tracking, it seems such a waste of time, but eventually we found some more people looking at maps and discovered we were back on the trail.
When we finally arrived at the car park where we always stopped for our cycling trips, we decided it was time for a rest. We were now ahead of schedule so things looked good.
We started climbing again, and now we started to experience real problems with the snow. We had more ice to negotiate as we scrambled down towards the A54 and more the other side as we struggled to climb up again. But this was just a taster; the wind here whips across the fields and dumps the snow on the first available hollow, yes, the trail. The hedge above us was leaning dangerously over with a great wall of snow. The hollow that was the trail was filled with snow, not a nice even layer, no, drifts up to six feet high. We had to climb up and scramble down over and over, progress was painfully slow. Still up ahead was The Summer Trees Café so we could have a rest and a coffee.
When we arrived there the Snow was almost up to the roof and where it was miraculously clear, by the door we could read the notice pinned there “Sorry we are closed until 30th April” typical we are always a day too early.
Eventually we climbed down and as we were now back in greener pastures we stopped for lunch. We had water and a wrap each that we had saved from the tea dance the day before plus more Easter Egg.
Now we just had lots of fields to cross on the way to Beeston Castle. We encountered a group of two men and a woman walking the other way, we exchanged stories of our journey and they told us of a guy they had met in Burwardsley who was trying to do the whole trail in one day. Not in these conditions I ventured. They told us that the café was open at Beeston so we strode on in hope of a coffee.
Field after field we trudged all the time checking my watch, it would be just like us to miss our coffee by being too late. The hours passed and when we passed four I was holding out little hope. We arrived at Beeston at four thirty and there was not a sign of any occupancy of the café, there was not even anyone inside cleaning up, so we sat on the benches outside and drank more water.
“You’re late” the guy in The Pheasant said. I could have said “we never expected ice and six foot snow drifts” but I just let it lie. We had a hot shower rinsed our boots and headed back to the bar for some food.
We are getting predictable, Viv had the beer battered fish and chips and I had the blue cheese burger. While we waited they brought a cider for Viv and a pint of Bear’s Home for me. Now I am not a fan of so called real ales, I find that they have a sort of after taste that I do not enjoy. Bear’s Home however had a silky texture that just slid down my throat and very soon I had downed three pints of the stuff. So I thought I had better have a glass of Argentine Merlot with my food. Now I don’t know whether I was just exceptionally hungry after our day, but the food was excellent and we soon wolfed it down.
No time for puddings, tonight we were in bed by eight. My head no sooner hit the pillow than I was snoring away, much to Viv’s annoyance.



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3 responses to “The Sandstone Trail Easter 2013 Day one

  1. Phil & Brenda Williams

    Hi Rob & Viv. Congratulations on a great walk, the conditions were terrible, all the more reason to be to be to be proud of your snow adventure. See you both soon. Phil & Brenda

  2. tangobob

    Less than five weeks to go now. At least we will not have to carry heavy rucksacks around Buenos aires with us. And best of all no stiles.

  3. jantango

    All the exercise is helping you get in shape for lots of walking and dancing next month in Buenos Aires. Your description of the meals made my mouth water, especially the chocolate cheesecake.

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