Hello and welcome to my favourite 10 mile middle distance walk. It may not be ideal Nordic Walking territory but it has many other virtues; it’s nearby, can be extended or shortened, has commanding views, has a ‘bit of bite’, a cafe midway and one of the loveliest pubs in Cheshire. What’s not to like!
The Boot Inn, Little Switzerland & Delamere Middle Distance Walk.
Start at the Boot Inn, Boothsdale, Kelsall, CW6 0NH. Park at the rear of the pub car park and pop in for a coffee. Head out past the pub through a hedge lined path and then walk up a minor road until you reach the Sandstone Trail. This’ll get your heart going nicely for the walk! Head westwards through fields and wood along the Trail but divert off through the delightfully named Urchins Kitchen, a geological fault in the sandstone, before re-joining the Trail, eventually crossing the A54 into Delamere Forest. There is a car park here, Gresty’s Waste, which you could also use but it’s invariably full.
Carry on along the Trail but again divert off up to Pale Heights which offers commanding 360° views on a clear day. This is a Trig point which also has marker stones celebrating the many sights in the distance.
From here drop down to the Forest Cafe . From here you can extend the walk and have a brisk walk around Blakemere Moss ( a lake to me and you), back past the cafe, rejoin the Sandstone Trail and follow the path through the trees back to the A54 crossing. Continue with the trail before peeling off to Kellborrow Castle – the site of an ancient hill fort though there’s nothing to see now – which takes you to the top of Little Switzerland. This is a little gem of a valley with stunning views across to Beeston and Peckforton castles and Wales beyond. Pass down the valley until you once again reach the hedge lined path leading you back to the Boot Inn. Good Food and Excellent Beer. What’s not to like!
FAVOURITE WALK IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD PETRA.
Without a doubt Petra is one of the world’s most spectacular, unmissable sights on a par with Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat as one of the world’s most dramatic ‘lost’ cities.
In January 2019 Helen and I spent some time in Jordan – an astonishing destination – which culminated, of course, with a trip to Petra. But as a walk? Yes, you can hike for miles and miles.
In 1812 a Swiss, named Johann Burckhadt disguised as a local Sheikh, was travelling in the area when he heard tell of some fantastic ruins hidden in the Mountains of Wadi Musa valley, roughly midway between the Dead Sea and the top of the Gulf of Aqaba. This turned out, of course, to be the fabled lost city of the Nabateans, Petra, mentioned in the Bible and Greek and Roman histories.
The Nabateans were a trading nation, rather than empire builders, and they controlled the the flow of goods between southern Arabia, Ethiopia, India and the Greek and Roman cities further north. They became extremely wealthy and were able to indulge in the construction of fabulous buildings , hewed entirely out of the towering rock walls of multi-coloured sandstone. Great temples, tombs and houses were chiselled and bored out of the rock over a vast area – over 20 square kilometres – in linking valleys, And yet more is still being excavated today.
We chose to have a guided tour on our first day walking down a narrow defile, the Siq, which eventually opens up to the most astonishing sites. I guess we’re all familiar with some of the buildings by seeing the ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ movie but up close it really is breath-taking, all the more remarkable for being constructed in the Iron Age by hand tools and an infinite amount of time.
Subsequently, we dispensed with the guide, got in ahead of the crowds and hiked the less visited various trails around the city. A perfect place for off-the-beaten-track exploration. I can’t do Petra justice so I’ll leave the (almost) last word to Burckhardt :
‘ the situation and beauty of which are calculated to make and extraordinary impression upon the traveller …….. it is one of the most elegant remains of antiquity existing’.
Eventually the Nabateans succumbed to a more powerful empire – the Romans – the trade route switched further northwards and eventually their world was lost to legend.
Did we feel safe in Jordan? Yes, without a doubt and the Jordanians have a vested interest in keeping us westerners safe. Would I go again? Well, yes, but not just yet – I’ve ticked off Angkor Wat but have yet to get to Machu Picchu, so that’s higher on the bucket list!