My doorstep adventures gathered speed about 9 years ago, coincidental the same time when my daughter was born. It was brought about due to time or more accurately, lack of time. Doorstep adventures are just that, adventures or outings straight from my home. No driving, no faffing, just more riding time and a chance to explore areas I wouldn’t normally.
Sheet 117 is the area where I take on my doorstep adventures and is better known as Ordnance Survey Landranger 117, covering the Chester and Wrexham/Wrecsam area. I don’t think I’ll be in my own company when I say this, but I love maps (and guidebooks for that matter, I’ll read plenty of guidebooks with no intention of visiting that area!). I’ll sit in the evening with a map out with a beer exploring where all the bridleways are, where the streams flow and where the forests lie.
I’m digressing, if my maths is correct, the map is divided into 1600 squares. For winter 2022/2023 I set myself a fresh doorstep project to see how many squares I could visit. It was at this point that I thought, maybe I should have picked the 1.25,000 scale instead of the 1.50,000! I kept the rules for this project really simple. If I entered one of those squares either on foot or by bike, I could colour it in. Driving to destinations was allowed though but obviously the drive would not count towards the colouring in. I avoided using historical data too, I wanted a new challenge and well, my memory is hazy at best!
The easy part is buying the map and stealing the highlighter from mini-me, next, I had to go out and this when it gets fun. The first few rides are amazing, it is so satisfying when you come home from a ride, brew up and colour in many, many squares of your map in. The difficultly comes after a few rides and the local squares are coloured in, you have to venture a little further. No drama though, just less colouring in when you get home but generally, still quite a lot to fill in.
I thought I knew the map area reasonable well but maybe not as well as I originally thought. Of course, anything within 6 or 7KM radius has been well explored or at the very least, anything that is off-road in that radius has been explored. Depending on your view point, I’m fortunate that I drive a lot in Cheshire for work and this gives me ideas of places to visit at the weekend. Although I have explored a lot of the Peckforton Hills, one small Hamlet I had not visited was Hartford Hill.
It’s a lovely small place steeped in history, a beautiful church surrounded by farmland, trees and steep but short hills. Visiting at the early stages of winter, it still had an autumnal feel to the woods, burnt orange leaves on the ground that were just waiting to be kicked up in the air! We were soon on familiar paths from Harthill but it also felt like a different outing too as we started in a new place. If you have yet to visit the Peckforton Hill, it’s well worth the journey out. Take in Beeston Castle, explore Raw Head or find Mad Allen’s Hole…
Another area that I have not properly explored is the Little Budworth/Oulton Park area. I spend so much time over Delamere way but that seems to be the cut-off point. I must end up getting lost in the forest and riding all that wonderful singletrack. I’ve been to Oulton Park many times but I have rarely explored that area. It’s a little gem! I won’t spoil it but dig out that map, check Goggle Earth and go explore. It has so many bridleways crying out to be rode, unclassified roads that link up well with the eastern and southern sides of Delamere Forest/Oakmere area. Go on a day when there is no motorsport and you’ll have a peaceful day, but go on race day at your peril!
If you have yet to visit Hockenhull Platts, then shame on you. Hockenhull Platts is a tiny utopia of three stone humped bridges with the River Gowy running through. The original route dates back to the 13th Century as part of a bigger route from London to Holyhead, whilst the current bridges are estimated to be 18th Century. The bridges are adjacent to a Cheshire Wildlife Trust reserve, so it’s the perfect spot for a coffee and take in some of the wildlife (note – access to the reserve itself is closed to the public).
The obvious highlight (all pun intended) of this project is to explore new places but I also found it gave purpose to those times where you could only ‘fit in’ a quick hour. Having a family means time is not always on my side, so those times you only have an hour were taken up riding to places that were yet to be highlighted. I’m not normally into lists nor box ticking but it gave me some motivation on those wet/overcast/windy days to get out on the bike.
The other bonus point is that it’s something that whole family can join in. Family walks seem to be going further and further a-field now to tick off a box. They haven’t yet twigged to my methods! No harm done though, it has meant we have explored areas that we may have driven past to get somewhere else. It also keeps our family walks that little bit more exciting too, visiting a new place and seeing what it has to offer.
Winter is over and now for the obvious question; how many squares were highlighted? Well, I estimate its 250 squares of the 1600. The project is not over, I’ve changed the highlighter colour! The Spring highlighting is already underway too, 19 at the time of writing.
Words and Pictures — Simon Bryant
One thought on “Sheet 117 — Doorstep Adventures”
Lovely photos Simon and a neat idea for a riding project! Looks like you’re in my neck of the woods. Me and one of the other GUTM guys did the Lost Lanes route around beeston, peckforton and hockenhull platts the other week. I’ll be checking out some of the other places you mentioned that I haven’t visited yet.