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Things to do in the Cheshire Countryside

The view across the countryside from the sandstone escarpment of Alderley Edge, Cheshire. There are rocks and trees at the edge of a steep descent, and countryside stretches ahead towards the horizon.
A view over the Cheshire Plain | © National Trust Images/Robert Morris

Explore the Cheshire Countryside and you'll discover unique places to visit, from historical sites such as the folly at Mow Cop, to places rich in special wildlife such as the birdlife on the marshes of the Dee Estuary. Whether you’re looking for views from coastal cliffs or interesting woodlands to explore, you’ll find them here.

Explore the Wirral Countryside

The Wirral Countryside refers to a wider group of beautiful countryside areas that now includes Burton Wood in South Wirral and Heswall Fields on the Dee coastline in addition to Caldy Hill, Harrock Wood, Irby Hill and Thurstaston Common.

Across this small area you'll discover rolling open country, dense-canopy woodland, lowland heath and farmland, coastal cliffs and some outstanding views.

Head up Caldy Hill

Take in the fine views from Caldy Hill, and look out over West Kirby and the mouth of the Dee estuary towards the Clwydian Hills. Here is a place to rest a while and contemplate. Look out for the sandstone outcrop of Hilbre Island, lying just offshore, as Caldy itself would have done when the sea filled the deep valley separating the hill from Thurstaston.

Sandstone was quarried from Caldy Hill to build many local walls and buildings. Caldy Hill features a good example of one of these old quarries, served by a series of trackways to the road below.

The remnants of lowland heath here complement the plantation woodland, which fall within the Caldy Conservation Area.

Discover the head-dyke funnel

A head-dyke funnel is shown on the Tithe Map and earlier Estate Plan by Valentine Vickers (1817), through which livestock could be driven into the village from the common. Rights of pasture were held by some commoners here, but these had fallen into disuse by the mid- to late 19th century.

The National Trust has now restored grazing to part of Thurstaston Common, as this traditional practice helps us to keep birch saplings and coarse grasses at bay – these species compete with the more desirable heathers and dwarf gorse.

Discover the woodlands around Cheshire

Cheshire woodlands cared for by the National Trust include Irby Hill, Harrock Wood in Irby, and South Wirral’s Burton Wood. Harrock Wood comprises remnant wych elm, alongside other hardwoods including oak, beech and ash standing alongside the Arrowe Brook.

Irby Hill

The birch, oak and pine woodland of Irby Hill has developed on former heath. The area is known to have been the site of one of the earliest Scout camps, following the pioneering work by Baden Powell in nearby Birkenhead.

Burton Wood

Perched on the hill at the back of Burton Village, Burton Wood, otherwise known as Burton Mill Wood, is popular with local residents. The mixed mature woodland bears fine oak, beech and Scots pine and a number of large sweet chestnuts and cedars not typical of local woodlands.

The major archaeological significance here is the site of the old mill, just off National Trust land. The peg mill was erected on the present site in 1629 although ruined in 1882.

The southern slope of the property offers glimpses of the Dee Estuary and Welsh Hills. Arthur Kilpin Bulley, the founder of Ness Botanical gardens a few miles to the north, was the major donor of Burton Wood and this may have been one of the sites that he considered before building the gardens at Ness.

Marsh grass at springtime at Heswall Fields, The Wirral
Marsh grass at springtime at Heswall Fields, The Wirral | © National Trust Images/Phil Neagle

Soak in the tranquillity of Heswall Fields

Discover a feeling of remoteness at Heswall Fields that can't be bettered anywhere else on the Wirral, enhanced by its position next to the shining waters and mudflats of the Dee Estuary.

The low-intensity management of the fields and collection of marl pits, dense hedgerows and grassy field margins make Heswall Fields important for many species, particularly brown hare and grey partridge.

Climb the Cloud

Stretch your legs on a walk up the Cloud. This hills stands proud at 300m and it's a compelling feature in the surrounding Cheshire lowland countryside.

Use the Cloud’s toposcope to guide your eye towards the chimneys and furnaces of south Lancashire in the north-west, to the fertile plains of Crewe and Nantwich in the west, the potteries in the south and eastwards up the Dane Valley to the main range of the Pennines.

The early 19th century saw extensive quarrying on the site. The stone was used for nearby canal construction, railway bridge construction and millstones. Look out for an ancient stone boundary marker which still outlines the county border between Staffordshire and Cheshire.

Since 1800, 84 per cent of Britain’s lowland heath has been lost, which further increases the Cloud’s importance and it has been designated as an area of Special Biological Interest.

To help us protect this special area, only members of Congleton Mountain Biking Club are allowed to go mountain biking on the Cloud.

See the views from Mow Cop

The folly at Mow Cop offers 360-degree views of the Staffordshire moorlands and the Cheshire Plain. Rising 355m above sea level, it's the southernmost outcrop of hard sandstone grit in Cheshire. At its highest point stands a mock tower that was built as a summer house in 1754 by Randle Wilbraham, the local lord of the manor. This tower is visible for miles around and the Cloud and Mow Cop are designated as Regionally Important Geological Sites.

Redshanks near the beach at Trelissick, Cornwall
Three redshank birds perched on a branch | © National Trust Images/Hilary Daniel

Birdwatching at the marshes of the Dee Estuary

Birdlife is abundant over the marshes of the Dee, where wet sands appear as vast silver sheets across the estuary. Hear the haunting calls of wading birds piercing the cold air around Heswall Fields and marvel at the magnificent aerobatics of thousands of dunlins and knots pulsing and converging in patterns akin to starlings.

You might also spot black-tailed godwits, redshanks, greenshanks, oystercatchers, lapwings, shelducks, curlews and maybe even the flamboyant egrets hunting in the gullies just offshore.

Spend some time on one of the benches on the cliffs and you may even catch a glimpse of a hen harrier, marsh harrier, peregrine falcon and, if you’re very lucky, a merlin.

Visit Lewis Carroll’s birthplace

In January 1832, Charles Dodgson was born at All Saints' Vicarage in Daresbury. He’s better-known by his pen name: Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass.

The vicarage, which was approximately 1.5 miles from the village of Daresbury, was destroyed by fire over 100 years ago. Today you'll see a ground-level brick outline and wrought-iron sculptures depicting where the original building once stood.

Intricate iron workings with a dormouse design cover a well at the popular literary site. Charles Dodgson left Daresbury at the age of 11 but it’s possible that this well sparked the inspiration for him to write Alice’s adventures years later.

Summer at Thurstaston

Summer at Thurstaston heralds a flush of new growth, with an ever-changing landscape and a proliferation of wildlife.

Look out for the Galloway cattle grazing out on the common. In bygone times, Thurstaston locals would turn out their livestock to graze and cut birch and bracken for firewood and animal bedding. Today they help us to manage the invasive birch trees to stop them from taking over the heath.

On a sunny day you might spot a lizard basking on a stump or open sandy ground. Make sure you look out for metallic green tiger beetles too.

Summer migrant birds will be busy nesting and feeding their broods. Listen for chiffchaffs and yellowhammers, as well as willow warblers. If you’re very lucky, maybe you'll even hear a cuckoo.

The view across the countryside from the sandstone escarpment of Alderley Edge, Cheshire. There are rocks and trees at the edge of a steep descent, and countryside stretches ahead towards the horizon.

Discover more at Alderley Edge and the Cheshire Countryside

Find out how to get to Alderley Edge and the Cheshire Countryside, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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