Trail points - more info

More information on various points along the Trail than could be published in the Trail guide follows here.
The Trail leaflet was deliberately made brief, partly to save paper and partly to make it available free to all, including young people. The wildlife information in it is extended here with further details for each of the POINTS in the Trail. The intention is to allow the following data to expand as more details turn up.

History information is mostly not given here, but may be found in the Sandbach Heritage Trail guide and other sources.

The blue text in italics repeats the information in the trail guide. Black text following it adds further information.

Point No 1 - Sandbach Crosses

The sandstone Saxon Crosses recall the conversion to Christianity of Peada, Prince of Mercia, in 653AD. Finished two centuries later, they were taller than now until broken up in Cromwell’s time. Rebuilt in 1816, the Crosses show, as does the cobbled square, how our forebears used materials that would last.
On fine Summer days, watch for Swifts flying over, chasing each other with high-pitched screams. They nest in old buildings and became scarce in town centres due to urban pollution, but have returned since anti-pollution laws were passed. They differ from Swallows and Martins by being all dark, with narrow scythe-shaped wings that they use mainly for gliding.
Cross the Square keeping the poignant white Cenotaph (War Memorial) on your right. Turn left down the road leaving the Square, then immediately right (opposite the black-and-white building) along George’s Walk to:

The history of the Sandbach Crosses is far too complicated to refer to more than in passing here.

Point No 2 - Post Office

The busy car park here would be quieter if fewer cars drove to the shops. The car park slopes down into the valley of Arclid Brook, which forms a “wildlife corridor” through the Sandbach urban area. Watch for birds using the valley as a flyway, or crossing from one fragment of greenery to another.
Keep left and follow the pavement down the hill, watching for butterflies on wild flowers and Buddleia shrubs. In Spring, look for Red Dead-nettle and Dandelion in grass, and in Summer for yellow Smooth Hawk’s-beard and others. Cross Brook Court, continuing until you see Arclid Brook in the valley on your left.

The buddleias around the car parks are also worth a look for butterflies. Wall tops can have nice mosses.

Point No 3 – Brook Mill Roundabout

The stream valley here was once filled by The Lake or Pool, a reservoir that lay upstream of Brook Silk Mill, opened in 1860. The roundabout now stands on the mill site. Steam probably powered this mill, but the early silk trade depended on “green” water-power. In Spring, there are many wild flowers. On hot summer days watch from here for Skipper and Gatekeeper butterflies and for Banded Demoiselle and Southern Hawker dragonflies near the brook. Listen for Common Field Grasshoppers chirping in the grass.
Follow the pavement round. Before reaching the traffic lights and bridge, pause above the grass access slope:
“Look from here” point: Old Lake hollow and (across to) St Mary’s Wood
Many flowers grow around the hollow including Red Campion and Wild Raspberry. In the wood, listen for Thrushes, Robins, Wrens, Tits, Warblers and other small birds in the wildlife refuge of St Mary’s Wood (no access), which also has Snowdrops and a visiting Fox. [Cared for by Friends of St Mary’s Wood].

The valley bottom here is a secret little tranquil spot for wildlife right in the heart of the noisiest part of the town. It is owned by the highway authority who keep the access ramp open to maintain the embankment and the stream course. It is not public open access land and therefore the Trail guide and website do not describe entering it, as persons accessing it are not covered by public liability insurance and do so at their own risk. The wood on the far side was once part of the gardens of the Old Hall Hotel. It now belongs to Congleton Borough Council and has recently been given the name of St Mary's Wood.

The Wood itself is a nature sanctuary with no visiting arrangements. It holds an attractive small Snowdrop coolony, where the bulbs grow up through the natural carpet of Ivy in spring. A good selection of woodland birds are present, some of which use the heavy Ivy growth as roost cover on trees or as nesting cover on the ground. More nesting places are provided by the nest boxes which have been erected by the Friends of St Mary's Wood. Look for Blue and Great Tits, members of the thrush family, and others. Nuthatches and Treecreepers occur but are difficult to spot. Even more difficult is the visiting Fox, who only comes at night!

The stream itself, Arclid Brook, usually has Mallard duckes on it. In hot weather in July look for the lovely Banded Demoiselle dragonflies, identifiable by the large black patches on the fluttering wings of the startlingly azure-blue males, though not on those of the greenish females, which have recently colonised Arclid Brook and mostly perch on vegetation near the stream or flutter over it. They may be glimpsed at various points up the stream valley; Brook Bridge is another place to watch from

The valley that the stream flows trough was formerly filled by a large lake known simply as The Pool. This formerly had a boathouse, an island and a summerhouse. It filled the valley above the Brook Mill silk mill, which was in operation until the 1960s and employed many local people living in the former terraced properties of Union Street and elsewhere. It is not clear whether the mill may ever have been water-powered but it was probably

The Pool appears differently on different maps and at times appears to have extended under Brook Bridge to the point where it was contiguous with a larger version of the current Dingle Lake.

On the nearer side of the stream, various flowers occur in the green hollow, including a carpet of sparsely flowering Marsh Marigolds under the willows in March. Numerous wid flowers may be seen, depending on whether the grass has been trimmed recently. Also look for the many Common Spotted Grasshoppers which love the dry banks sloping down from the roadside pavement into the hollow in hot dry summer weather.

Point No 4 - Brook Bridge

The sandy brook, source of Sandbach’s original Saxon name of Sanbec, is said to be the site in AD653 of Prince Peada’s baptism. The sandstone-walled bridge of 1825-6 replaced the original ford. It was designed for horse traffic, not modern vehicles.
“Look from here” point: Brook Bridge Wood
- In this damp valley above the bridge in spring grow carpets of yellow Lesser Celandines, and the catkins of Crack Willow and Alder trees.
Turn left across the bridge and cross the road. Descend the steep slope, then keep left along Front Street to:

The Bridge provides a more easily accessed viewpoint for some of the species named above. The flora of the little wood next to Bath Street above the bridge is somewhat different to that below the bridge.

Point No 5 - Front Street and Town Spout

This lovely street of listed buildings has a real “cottage” feel. In Summer, purple Buddleia shrubs attract Peacock and other butterflies. Spotted Flycatchers can occur. Ivy-leaved Toadflax grows on old walls. Near the steps is hidden the Town Spout. Moved when the top of the street was filled in to enlarge the churchyard in 1876, it no longer flows! Look up the Church Steps to glimpse the black-and-white Old Hall Hotel, built of oak from Sandbach Heath forest.
Turn right alongside the high wall. At the road turn left up to:

This lovely little spot has more Buddleia bushes and is sheltered and attractive to butterflies in almost any wind direction. It is also rather shady which is why the stone walls are a home to various mosses and Ferns, including single stools each of Common Polypody and the less common Black Spleenwort. Again, the mosses here, in particular on the massive retaining wall of the St Mary's Church yard, look there best in spring. The cottage garden walls are themselves nature rich, including a colony of the mauve-flowered Rambling Sailor of Ivy-leaved Toadflax, not a native British plant but one which is widely naturalised on old walls.

The most interesting wildlife that may occasionally be seen here in summer, however, has leaves, not wings. Spotted Flycatchers are a scarce and declining summer visitor that still nest near here in some (not all) years. Watch for a bird that looks like a sparrow but which perches on a prominent twig and flies from it to catch insects before returning. Then, please, walk away quietly!

Post No 6 - Town Pump

The restored original cast-iron Town Pump at the foot of the “green triangle” created no pollution during use! This is another quiet area of the old town.
Side route to wildlife refuge area: St Mary’s Churchyard
- Above the Pump look for the church gate, also noticing as you do the old horse mounting block just above it at the Lower Chequer Inn. The gate leads into this reflective natural setting around the historic ancient church, with its fine old Lime trees. In Spring, Snowdrops flower and Nuthatches are among birds that may sing.
Follow the lower side of the green triangle across Dingle Lane and up the hill.

The wall of the churchyard here contains a further fine moss collection. Recognisable ones include sheets of the common Wall Screw-Moss (Tortula muralis), which has many short yellow stems rising from its green cushions, with tiny fruit capsules at their tips. Much larger capsules, like little green pears or tear-drops, hang from the longer stems of the attractive Bryum capillare.

From near here it is worth casting a glance at the top of the church tower, where three different-sized black birds, Starlings, Jackdaws and Crows, may all rest along with the golden weathercock. It is more easy to identify them when one of the others is there as well for comparison of sizes.

The published Trail does not follow the ancient Dingle Lane as this goes over private land. However, the black-and-white half-timbered farm building may be seen from the public part of the lane.

Point No 7 – Old Buildings

With a date of 1570, the Old Tudor Cottage claims (as does the Lower Chequer Inn), to be Sandbach’s oldest building. Starlings nesting in the old buildings here often sing their scratchy song in Spring, from the roofs and chimneys.
Continue past more little cottages to the Library. Turn right to the entrance of Sandbach Park. Keep right past two bowling greens. Follow the steep path down.

No further information.

Point No 8 – Sandbach Park Pond

On the left of the path descending to the Pond look in May for pink Lady’s Smock, the food-plant of the Orange-Tip butterfly. Undisturbed ponds are nature rich; note also the marsh with Bulrushes and flowers of Meadowsweet, Watercress, Hemp Agrimony and Water Mint. Small birds are attracted by the rough vegetation and seed-bearing plants. Chiffchaffs may sing here and Long-tailed Tits have nested nearby. Watch for Dragonflies and small blue Damselflies on hot days. Moorhens nest here but often hide.

Side route to wildlife refuge area: The Dingle.

From the bottom Park gate, cross the lane to the kissing gate opposite. (Note: the lane to the right is not a public right of way). Beyond is The Dingle, a wildlife refuge partly planted with small trees. Small birds can include Bullfinches; Blackcaps sing in Summer while in Winter Lesser Redpoll can occur. The site also includes an ancient grassy knoll with grasshoppers and a colony of Bulbous Buttercups; butterflies may include Whites, Comma and Small Copper.

“Look from here” point: Dingle Lake and Peggy’s Pool [Sandbach AS]

Viewed best in winter from The Dingle or the lane, the main lake to the right was once the town swimming baths (and ice rink), and now holds mainly Carp. The newer Peggy’s Pool to the left of it is stocked with Chub. The lakes are private. Look for Coot and, when quiet, for fishing Herons. In Summer big Brown Hawker dragonflies, recognizable by their brown wings, are often to be seen around here.

Leaving the Park by the lower gate, turn left along the lane to the start of the path on the left. Natural springs make the lane here wet at all times. Turn off the lane, which is private, and follow the rising path, which is the Public Footpath. Trees near the path include Aspens. In April, Wood Forget-me-not flowers here and Great Spotted Woodpeckers are regularly heard drumming or calling nearby.

Continue into Ravenscroft Close and follow it to a T- junction. Turn right and very shortly right again through the gate; continue to the first meeting of paths.

Across the lane from the Pond, just outside the Park entrance, is a tiny trickle of water in which little fish can be seen by the sharp-eyed, and various water-loving plants grow in the slow flowing water.

Below the hedge may be seen the upper of the two fishing waters owned By Sandbach Angling Society. This pool, excavated in recent years, is known by the fisher men as Peggy’s Pool, although the 1983 Sandbach History Society map names it Horse Pool. From an angling point of view it differs from the main Dingle Lake in holding no Carp, but instead a head of large Chub

Point No 9 – Waterworks Farm Corner

The town water supply, brought from Taxmere, was once softened on the former Waterworks Farm site below this path junction, and pumped to the town Water Tower. Look for white Great Bindweed and red Guelder Rose and Rowan berries.
Turn left and follow the path into a wider section with wild flowers such as blue Meadow Cranesbill. Speckled Wood butterflies prefer shady spots while flowers such as Lesser Knapweed in calm sunny spots attract Red Admiral and other showy species.
Across the noisy bypass are two nature-rich woods. Pause near an electricity pole in the roadside hedge for a view of one of them.
“Look from here” point: Filter Bed Wood [Sandbach A ROCHA study area]
To the right, across the road, the ivied tall willows and birches of this wood have grown up on the old waterworks lime beds. This is the lowest of three woodland areas in this part of the Arclid Brook valley, an important part of the “Wildlife Corridor” with no public access. However, because the wood protects shy birds including Jays, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Bullfinches, these are able to visit many gardens nearby. Watch for birds over the wood: Woodpigeons, Buzzards, Sparrowhawks, and Swifts sometimes fly or soar overhead despite the traffic.
Continue a few metres for a second view over the road from a gate on the right.
“Look from here” point: Offley or Bluebell Wood
From here may be seen a few of the Oaks in the much older Offley Wood, also known as Bluebell Wood although it holds few bluebells. Occupying a narrow valley or “clough” above a Willow “carr” (swampy woodland), this quiet private wood is rich in wild flowers and birds. It has always been native woodland.
Shortly the path leads onto open ground. To do so it passes through the line of a fragment of ancient hedge made up mainly of Hawthorn and Hazel.

No further information

Point No 10 – Old Hedge & Recreation Area

The ancient hedge ends at an electricity pylon on the left. This area was once arable farmed and near the pylon a little of the old sandy field edge flora has by chance been preserved. Look in Spring for Cow Parsley, plus more Lady’s Smock and Bulbous Buttercup, and in Summer for small patches of the white flowers Lesser Stitchwort and tiny Common Birds-foot, plus a tall thistle-like plant. This is Teasel, whose purple flowers form spiny seed-heads attractive to birds like Goldfinches. The dry heads are so robust they may stand all winter; they were once used to untangle wool. This is a good spot for small Butterflies in late summer. Dog Roses here have colourful flowers; their fruit or “hips” are attractive to birds. Rabbits may appear here or elsewhere along the Trail.
After the pylon, turn left across the grass, along the edge of the unmown area. Continue to the path and turn left.

Don’t try to pick the Teasels!

Point No 11 – Line of Ancient Footpath

A public footpath once crossed the field near this point and its line is partly preserved. Such paths were more in harmony with their environment than modern routes. Sheltered paths like this can be surprisingly rich in birds: Dunnocks, Goldfinches and Tits all sing here – and Sparrowhawks may hunt them! A map of 1872 shows a racecourse where this housing estate now is.
Continue until the path ends at Gawsworth Drive, then turn left and cross the road to the black metal gates, which are the rear entrance to Sandbach Park. Common Storksbill is a pink-flowered plant that may be found by path edges here.

This path does not follow the exact line of the original public footpath (which would now go through a few peoples’ living rooms!). The author remembers walking this field path as a small boy with his older sisters in the 1960s, en route to Bluebell Dell. However, it is still a peaceful way to get back to the Park while avoiding almost all the roads of the estate.

Point No 12 – Sandbach Park upper path

The Park land and the site of Sandbach Library, formerly Marriott House, were generously given to the town by the Marriott family to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. We owe many debts to those before us. At that time the Park was just fields and hedges. Many trees planted over the years have become fine specimens, including ones marking the Silver Jubilee of George V and the Coronation of George VI. Woodpigeons and Greenfinches are usually to be seen in the tree tops, while ground-feeding Chaffinches and Blackbirds take shelter in the shrubbery at busy times of day, but many birds can be seen when the Park is quiet. The Park grass was formerly all mown but in recent years parts have been left as wildflower areas.
Continue along the right-hand side of the Park past the playground (near to which once stood the town Water Tower) to the Park entrance gates by Sandbach Library. Carefully cross the road below the Library to:

The Park includes a nice collection of trees which, if not large, still present an attractive spectacle. The best-known of them is the Coronation Tree, which was sufficiently notable in 1911 to be marked on the Ordnance Survey map of the town. At that time the tree was fenced and the Park was still hardly more than fields with hedges.

The Park was formerly closely mown but in more recent years the damper areas have (very sensibly) been left as wildlife areas in which various flowers and birds may be seen when the park is quiet. Greenfinches are always to be heard in the treetops, Blue and Great Tits lower down and members of the thrush family and Dunnocks are always in the garden bed areas. Goldfinches, Dunnocks and even Treecreepers are by no means uncommon.

Point No 13 – Scotch Common

The Common, named from a skirmish between Scots soldiers & townsfolk in 1651, is the main site of Sandbach Market, the focus of a large rural community since 1578. Once a grass bowling green, the Common is now a barren car park.
Cross the Common to its furthest point and continue to the small roundabout.

This is not a wildlife rich area but Crows and Woodpigeons are often around, while Starlings and Pied Wagtails evidently nest around the encircling buildings.

Point No 14 – Market Hall

Sandbach Town Hall was built on land donated by Lord Crewe in 1889 to replace a previous hall on the cobbled Square. Above the door stands Bigot, owner of the Manor of Sandbach as shown in the Domesday Book of 1086, at which time the Sandbach countryside would have been much greener. However, wildlife still survives in the town. Look for Swifts, Pied Wagtails and for the Jackdaws nesting in chimneys, such as the redbrick ones of the Swan & Chequer, and those beyond of the Gothic style Literary Institute, opened in 1857, which contained a library, reading room and scientific institute to educate the townfolk. In some ways, past generations were wiser than we are today: £2100 of its £2700 cost was donated by local people.
Continue left past the Town (Market) Hall and along High Street back to:

The area around the Town Hall is wholly urban but nevertheless reveals throughout the year a surprising number of Jackdaws on the roofs, looking out of chimney pots or flying around in flocks giving their unmistakable onomatopoeic calls.

More interesting and at times dramatically impressive are the Swifts that in summer nest in holes under the eaves of some of the town centre’s largest and oldest buildings, and on fine evenings stage mad screaming chases over the rooftops.

Point No 15 – Black Bear Hotel

Built in 1634, the thatched inn was owned by Lord Crewe, whose estate formerly cared for much of the town. Local fields would have supplied the wheat straw regularly needed to thatch its roof. From between the Black Bear and the Cenotaph, look across the road to see the former Town Mill, now an antiques showroom and restaurant. The industry of Sandbach was built around “Steam, Salt and Silk” (mills), all of which depended largely on local resources - unlike our fuel-wasteful industry of today.

Many local children, including the author, were taught the refrain of “Steam, Salt and Silk” at local primary schools in bygone years.