speckled woods are bold and beautiful

Glancing at a map, you’d assume this must be one of Cheshire’s least-loved landscapes: a nexus of motorways, sewage works, a landfill site and the oppressive chimneys of the Stanlow oil refinery. Yet I’ve heard that an officially anonymous route here has earned itself a nickname, which is surely a sign of affection. I am in search of Speckled Wood Lane.

A terse breeze is blowing the sour tang of waste away to the west, and where it ruffles the hedgerow it is almost loud enough to distract from the mechanical rumbling. From the public footpath you can see across expansive marshland; the eastern floodplain of the River Gowy. The watercourse has been straightened and siphoned to accommodate human demands but can still pose a threat in full flow. The marsh, with its network of ditches, is a key component in managing the flood risk for the refinery complex, and

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