Take a walk along a section of the Sandstone Trail in south Cheshire and visit one of the oldest pubs in

the area; the famous Blue Bell Inn.

Distance: 5¾ miles (9.5km)

Start: Begin the walk at the ‘Blue Bell Inn’, an ancient half-timbered inn situated on a loop of the old A41 at Bell o’ th’ Hill, 3 miles north of Whitchurch. Park on a small piece of waste lane opposite the inn where there is a Sandstone Trail information board.

Grid ref: 523 454 (Ordnance Survey Landranger 117, Explorer 257).

The walk

1. Facing the ‘Blue Bell Inn’ turn left along the lane. In about 350m turn right along a short track which leads to the main road (ignore a track before this which passes under the road). Cross the road (A41) and follow the lane opposite. At the end of the lane go through the kissing gate beside the right-hand field gate and cut through the field to the isolated church of Old St Chad’s.

This ancient church, dedicated to Saint Chad, was built in 1689 and was in regular use until 1863 when a new church, also dedicated to St Chad, was built nearby on the main road. As a result, the old church now lies stranded in the middle of fields and can only be approached on foot. The present building replaced a much older timber framed structure which may have contained parts dating from its earliest

beginnings. It was originally built as a ‘chapel of ease’ for the convenience of locals who were spared the long walk to Malpas, which lay at the centre of the largest medieval parish in Cheshire. Today Old St Chad’s still has a function as the parish burial ground as no cemetery

exists at the new church and monthly services are still held here during the summer.

The small building to the left of the church was previously a meeting room but now houses an old horse drawn hearse built in 1880. It was last used in the 1920s and has now been restored. The isolated location of the church may be explained by the antiquity of the site. In the intervening centuries the highway has shifted westwards to the present line taken by the A41. John Ogilby’s Britanica, published in 1675,

shows that in the 17th century the Whitchurch to Chester road passed much closer to Old St Chad’s, while Thomas Burdett’s map of Cheshire published a century later, shows a minor road still passing close to the church.

During the Middle Ages, when a church was first built here, most highways were based on Roman roads and only in the 18th century when the new turnpike roads were built, did any great change take place. These were built mainly for stage coaches and gradients were of great importance.

Roman roads on the other hand, took the shortest distance between points, usually following straight lines and often ignored all but the

steepest hillsides. Many of these ancient roads are now lost beneath the fields, although their approximate line can often be calculated with reasonable accuracy.

2. Leave the cemetery by the gate and turn left to a kissing gate a few metres away (or turn right as you approach if you do not visit the church). Walk ahead down the field to cross a stile, then walk ahead through the following field to a stile which leads onto a track beside a small farmhouse on the right. Bear left along the track for about 50m then bear left over a stile and through a small field to a quiet lane. Turn right along the lane for about 30m to a footbridge and kissing gate on the left. Go through the gate and keep to the right-hand field edges.

Cross the access road to Moorhead Farm on the left and keep ahead beside a fence to a stile. Go over the stile and continue with the fence on your right to a second stile by a house over to the left. Cross the stile and the access road and go ahead to a kissing gate into fields again. Walk half-left through the field to a kissing gate to join the tow path on the Shropshire Union Canal beside the ‘Willeymoor Lock’ pub. Turn right and follow the towpath to Grindley Brook (about 1 mile).

Pass through the tunnel under the railway and at the next bridge (number 28) turn right off the towpath and walk down the access road to the main road (A41) opposite the ‘Horse and Jockey’ pub. (For the Sandstone Trail stay on the towpath and continue from point 1

route 13.)

3. For the circular walk cross the road and go left past the pub turning right into the B5395, signed to Malpas. Follow the lane walking back over the Shropshire/Cheshire border at the bridge over Grindley Brook. Immediately after the house on the left, take the signed footpath left over a stile into a large field. Walk ahead along the left-hand field edges with a stream down to the left for about ½ mile. At a footbridge on the left cross over and walk ahead to pass through a gateway. Continue ahead towards a house which soon becomes

visible. Cross a stile in the fence and walk down the access drive passing a second house (‘Wolvesacre Mill Cottage’). At the end of the driveway turn right crossing a small bridge over the stream and follow the rising track to a narrow lane. Bear right along the lane and on the bend take the signed footpath over the stile ahead. Head directly through the centre of the field (soon with farm buildings visible

ahead) to a stile in the far corner. Cross the stile and walk along the right-hand hedgeline to a stile in the corner. Cross the stile and bear half-left through the centre of the following field with a large farm on the left (Agden House). Cross a stile in the fence, then bear half-left

again to reach a stile by the entrance to the farm on the left with a pond opposite.

Walk ahead between the pond and the farm garden on the left. Go through a large gate and along a short grassy lane to another large gate. Go through this ignoring a signed path immediately on the left. In a few metres immediately opposite a house on the right (‘Agden House Cottage’) go left through a small field gate. Bear half-right to a stile in the fence by a wooden barn. Cross the stile and go ahead through

the following fields following a line of stiles. Halfway along the third field cross a stile on the right which leads into an unsurfaced farm track. Turn right down this to the road.

Turn left along the road and in about 30m look for the signed bridleway on the right (‘Bishop Bennett Way’). Turn right here following the right of way along the left-hand field edge. In the far corner there are two large field gates.

Go through the left-hand gate and walk ahead to cross a bridge over the dismantled railway. Keep ahead in the following three fields to a gate in the top corner by a small pond. Go through the gate and bear left along the field edge to eventually reach a rough access road

by a timber-framed cottage. Turn right along the road to return to the ‘Blue Bell Inn’ to complete the walk.

This walk is taken from the book Circular walks along the Sandstone Trail by Carl Rogers, published by Mara Books (ISBN 978 1 902512 10 5). Copies can be bought at many local shops, or ordered online at:


. Also check out the Sandstone Trail website at: