Making a comeback: Barn owl numbers are steadily increasing across rural Cheshire

Cheshire is still a pleasantly rural county with plenty of wildlife.

The Sandstone Trail runs through some of the county’s loveliest landscapes, and walkers can expect to see a good variety of wildflowers, mammals, birds and insects along the way.

For anyone interested in nature, it’s worth carrying lightweight binoculars and a pocket field guide. After all, you’re more likely to spot wildlife if you have a good idea of what to look for and where.

Habitats on the Sandstone Trail

There is still plenty to see today. From Frodsham in the north to Whitchurch in the south, the Sandstone Trail traverses a series of different habitats, each supporting its own distinctive species.

Several of the larger broadleaved woods are owned and managed by The Woodland Trust, wildflower meadows at Alvanley are cared for by Landlife, and the Trail runs through National Trust land on Bulkeley Hill and Bickerton Hill.

The Trail passes several Sites of Biological Interest (SBIs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Much of the farmland is also cared for under Natural England’s stewardship and higher level stewardship schemes.

Key habitats include: the broad Mersey Estuary and Frodsham marshes; hanging oak woodland along the sandstone ridge; conifer plantations and a flooded moss in Delamere Forest; young broadleaved trees and grassland rides across the Old Pale; green lanes, open farmland, marl pits and ponds, the tiny River Gowy and Shropshire Union Canal in the Beeston Gap; and the sheer rock faces of Beeston Crag.

Lowland Heath

South of Beeston Castle, look out for: mature deciduous woodland across the Peckforton and Bulkeley hills; rare lowland heath dominated by heather and bilberry on the Bickerton Hills; mixed deciduous Hether Wood, rolling Cheshire farmland and pasture between Larkton and Tushingham; and the quiet Llangollen Canal running towards Whitchurch.

These varied habitats support a greater variety of wildlife than you might expect and there’s something new to look out for at every turn.