An 11 mile walk from The Mere at Ellesmere via Colemere and the wonderful mosses to Welsh End and Hollinwood.
Level, mostly canal towpath
The Mere at Ellesmere
Ellesmere - carparks in the Town and at The Mere
Lat/Long: 52.9052828481, -2.8954897797
A watery wander touching Wales
This flattish section takes you through a variety of watery environments including two meres, two canals, two mosses (with access to a third), several weirs and over innumerable ditches and bridges. Oddly, with all this water around, the only mills you might see are former windmills now converted into private houses.
Whixall Moss and Bettisfield Moss form part of a National Nature Reserve and have been subject to substantial environmental conservation initiatives, designed to redress the damage caused by extensive peat digging and agricultural reclamation.
You will find yourself in Wales for a mile or so in the Bettisfield area. Just south of Welsh End (now well into England) the east-west route of the Shropshire Way crosses the north-south route. However Route 23 extends north a little to Hollinwood which is a more substantial junction point.
The Shropshire Union Ellesmere Canal Llangollen Branch was constructed to be higher in many places than the surrounding countryside. Bog drainage, reclamation and peat removal have further lowered the surrounding ground. Canal breaches or even minor leakages can have a devastating effect and are not easy to repair, even with the deep steel pilings you will notice in the canal banks. Along the way you will come across a number of gracefully counterbalanced lift bridges as well as some steep humped-backed brick bridges.
18,000 years ago melting ice left behind hummocky hills and hollows around Ellesmere, creating dozens of lakes and meres. Cole Mere is a classic kettle-hole mere made by a particularly vast chunk of glacier. Its shores are surrounded by beautiful woodland, two managed hay meadows and, at the eastern end, a sailing club with nearby car park and picnic area. Why not take in the attractive walk around the perimeter as an optional half hour detour from the main route?
The whole area around Whixall is a tangle of lanes with houses strung along them. Peat was extracted from extensive swathes of Whixall Moss, mainly for horticultural use. A few rusting buildings and bits of machinery are all that is left of this fascinating but damaging local industry, which released so much ‘locked up’ carbon into the atmosphere. By blocking the drains and clearing invasive birchwood scrub, nature reserve staff and volunteers have been able to restore a natural wetland habitat for near-extinct whitefaced darter dragonflies, bog bush crickets and raft spiders as well as eighteen species of sphagnum bogmoss.
During the war Whixall Moss was used as a ‘Starfish’ site where fires, designed to look like pathfinder incendiary flares, were lit to fool enemy planes into dropping their bombs in the belief that they were destroying populated industrial areas.
This is Whixall’s only common land where marl clay was dug for use as an agricultural fertiliser. It is now a popular picnic area where butterflies thrive in deep grassland, surrounded by glades of alder, sallow, birch and oakwood.