Duttons Bridge 112 to Beeston Castle Winding Hole
Our destination for today was always in our sight as we pootled our way along the two miles to The Shady Oak moorings. Beeston Castle can be seen for miles around as it sits on a great big blob of sandstone 350ft high that stands out from the Cheshire Plain. We’d promised ourselves that we would climb up to the top this time.
Mick had remembered a good mooring with great views, he was certain that it was above the next lock. But I remembered us commenting that it was a shame that the hedges were so high there. Sure enough right at the end of the visitor moorings the hedge has been cut very low giving a great view over the railway to the castle.
I got a pork stew together so that it could sit on top of the stove for a good few hours. The amount of pork that had arrived yesterday means that we may have to eat stew for the next week! The pot was very very full.
We decided to walk up to the lock and then across to the castle on footpaths. The top gates of the lock were open so we closed them to save the pound above, but also so that it would empty itself for us tomorrow. It was a bit of a boggy mile under foot passing under the railway and across a few fields. We then joined the road and walked up to the eastern end of the castle where the gate house is.
The chap at the desk tried his best to get us to join English Heritage, but we’re not sure how many sites we’d be able to visit and anyway buying membership right now wouldn’t make sense as Mick will get extra cheap entrance when he turns 60 in a few months time. All the information about the castle is on boards in the Victorian gate house which we had a brief look at before we started to walk up the hill to the top.
We walked up through the woodland that surrounds the lower parts of the site to the Outer Gatehouse. Here the second line of walls is surrounded by iron age earthwork defences. Evidence of earlier Bronze Age metal works have also been found on the site. The first castle was built by Ranulf, 6th Earl of Chester in the 1220’s. Works continued on fortifying it through to the 1360’s. Legend has it that Richard II hid his treasure in the Inner Ward well before the Castle was captured by the future Henry IV.
In 1643 during the Civil War, the castle had a garrison of up to 300 Parliamentarians living there. But six months later Captain Sandford led a midnight raid with nine Royalists to take control of the inner ward. The Parliamentary leader dined with them and sent beer to their men before surrendering. A year long siege followed, the royalists were said to be eating cats before they surrendered. In 1664 the castle was partially demolished to prevent it’s use as a stronghold.
In 1840 the castle was purchased by John Tollemache who was the largest landowner in Cheshire. This was part of a large estate which needed a castle that he could live in, so on the next sandstone outcrop he had one built, Peckforton Castle. He promoted Beeston Castle as a tourist attraction and brought deer and kangaroos into the grounds. A two day festival was set up which brought 3000 people each day raising funds for local widows and orphans.
Surrounding the Inner Curtain wall is a shear rock-cut ditch. A 1970’s concrete bridge steeply arches itself up over this to the Inner Gatehouse. So far the terrain would have been challenging to wheelchair users, but this and the lack of any flat surface inside the inner bailey would make it impossible. As if we hadn’t climbed high enough already there was still more to come. The ruined walls surround you and at times you are not aware of the great drop below, a sheer rock face back down to the Plains.
We could only imagine what the views would be like on a clear day, apparently you can see eight counties. But still even with the hazyness we could see for miles, the chimneys of Ellesmere Port just in view. We took time to work out where Manchester was and wondered if White Nancy near Bollington would be visible in better conditions. The castle was good, but these views upstaged it.
Can you spot Oleanna down there? Lucky we’d had the roof painted cream enabling us to spot her. No sign of Tilly in the window not enough people to admire me!
We also had a wonder around some of the rest of the site. In the southern most side are the caves. Sandstone does good caves, these were used in the film Robin Hood starring Uma Therman and Patrick Bergen. A shame that they are gated off, so you can’t go into them. There is also a walk around the base of the castle, but we refrained from that mostly because we had to walk back to the boat. This time we followed the road back, far less muddy, well until we reached the towpath!
Tilly was given the freedom of the towpath and the stew had reduced enough for me to add a Bramley apple to it. We are hoping that the temperature doesn’t drop too much tonight as we hope to reach Nantwich tomorrow where we can be near a tap and shops should the canal freeze over for several days. If it happens tonight then we’ll have to make the stew last, oh and there’s always the pub!
0 locks, 2 miles, 1 cheese finished, 350 ft, 3.25 miles walk, 360 degrees of views, 0 kangaroos today, 0 deer too, 1 steep bridge, 1 tiny Oleanna, 1 vat of stew, 1 chilly evening.