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Take a walk through Haddocks Wood, Runcorn

THIS month’s walk takes place in Haddocks Wood (see map) and starts from either Norton Priory or the Haddocks Wood Playing fields car park or from the busway at the junction of Astmoor Road and Warrington Road (routes 14, 66, 110, X1) total length of paths is 0.7 miles, and within the wood 0.3 miles of easy walking.

Take a walk through Haddocks Wood, Runcorn

THIS month’s walk takes place in Haddocks Wood (see map) and starts from either Norton Priory or the Haddocks Wood Playing fields car park or from the busway at the junction of Astmoor Road and Warrington Road (routes 14, 66, 110, X1) total length of paths is 0.7 miles, and within the wood 0.3 miles of easy walking.

If using the busway access for this walk begins at the gate on the road to Haddocks Wood playing field so you can walk along Warrington Road side or go straight through the wood by the corner path.

Walking from Norton Priory, walk towards their walled garden along the road but be careful for vehicles using this access.

As you walk along this road watch out and listen for the many different birds that call Haddocks their home.

This is an ideal habitat having not only the woodland trees but also the open grass field in close proximity.

Along the walk it will be common to spot the usual magpies and blackbirds but you may be also be treated to a sight of a greater spotted woodpecker or members of the thrush family which include redwings.

Listening out, apart from the robins and great tits, you will hear the long piercing cry of ‘me-o-o-o-w’ made by a buzzard in flight.

This bird is the most vocal member of the hawk and falcon family.

You may even be rewarded with a sight of the buzzard down on the grass field feeding on a small mammal or rabbit, its favourite food.

To enter the wood, walk down the road leading to Haddocks Wood playing fields and go through the Kissing Gate on your right. As yet there is no information as to why the wood is called Haddocks Wood but there is mention made of a wood in medieval times in this location when reference was made in a charter by Roger de Lacy in about 1200 of “a parcel of land which is called Roger’s Croft, which is between the fishpool of the canons and the wood called Estmoor”.

The abundance of bluebells in this wood is also an indicator that the wood is ancient, so using the method I explained last month when we visited The Gorse in Brookvale, let’s put that to the test.

A little way down the path is an old horse chestnut on the left, which you can measure either with a tape measure or using your span to hug the tree’s girth, remembering that the measurement needs to be 1.5m (5ft) from the ground.

The girth in this case measures 270cm x 4cm, giving an age of 108 years.

I wonder how many conkers this tree has produced in its life time and how many children have enjoyed using them in days gone by?

Cross the drainage ditch and on the right there is another old sycamore tree with a girth measuring 356cm, making it more than 34 years older than the horse chestnut.

Along with horse chestnut and sycamore can you spot beech, rowan and hazel trees which in autumn will be bearing their fruits of masts, red berries and nuts respectively.

In front of you there is a tree whose branches make the shape of the letter ‘Y’ – stop awhile and ask yourself or your walking companions some questions such as “Y haven’t I spent more time walking in woods?” or “Y don’t more people visit woods? can I encourage them” or “Y do people not clear away litter/dog poo when they visit the woods?”

Just past the ‘Y tree’ there are more trees to discover – oak, yew, hawthorn and silver birch.

Cross two more drainage ditches and you will come to a side road.

There is a large oak tree and if you want to work out the age of an oak, you use a different, simpler calculation.

Again measure the girth 150cms from the ground and divide by 1.88 to find its age.

This oak measures 218cms in girth which when divided by 1.88 makes it 116 years old.

You can cross the side road, watching out for the green recycling lorries that use the access as you go, into a smaller more dense darker wood with a path that takes you through to Warrington Road and the busway, or you can turn right and right again and go along the roadside back to the start point or retrace your steps back through the wood but perhaps this time stray off the path and explore further.

If you retrace your steps you could also explore the wood further by taking the path on your right just past the Y-shaped tree which will take into a part of the wood where once you have crossed another drainage ditch there are clear paths to take but lots of old trees for you to identify then measure and work out their age.

A little way into this area there is a large pond which is home to some water birds – moorhens and/or coots which look very similar.

Moorhens are not moorland birds but gets their name from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘mor’ meaning mere or bog and is identified by the red colour on its forehead and base of its beak compared to the coot’s which is white.

Both build large nests of dried water plants above the water line.

You can walk around the edge of the pond and it will lead you to a lovely spot for a picnic and a pinch point gate that takes you back to the road alongside the playing fields where you started.

For more information on identifying trees and their leaves along with bird identification visit www.naturedetectives.org.uk. and download the spotter sheets.

Next month we will be back with the remaining Windmill Hill walk on the green circular loop starting and finishing from the Phoenix Park busway stop.

If you would like to send me photographs taken along your walk, stories or poems about your walk then I’d love to receive them.

Send them to WCP@woodlandtrust.org.uk