In the 18th century, Bishop Bennet carried out a detailed survey of Roman roads between Chester and Whitchurch. His route started near Beeston Castle, headed west towards Alford, passed Farndon and then south via Malpas and to his final destination, Wirswall, near Whitchurch, Shropshire.
It was opened to the public in 1998, a 55 km/ 34 mile mix of bridleways, tracks and minor roads though all are possibly ancient routes.
What does this Bishop’s travels have to do with Hockenhull Platts, packhorses, drovers, Romans and, perhaps more? The answer is still ongoing but provides another dimension to a this dynamic research.
Off all the topics covered, the most important needs its place; the River Gowy. Nearly always it is the bridges reaping the attention. Walkers, cyclists, whoever, stop and ask about the bridges or the wildlife, never anything about the river. Yet, without the Gowy, there would be no bridges and no rich history.
The river has a history reaching back many thousands of years. Then, it may have been a wider, more powerful river only confined within a shallow valley. The plain it crossed drained its energy and required the river to snake from side-to-side as at Stamford Bridge (below) where until the 1940’s the Gowy struggled to defy its low gradient.; flooding becomes a regular event and an unwanted affect on human activity along its banks.
At Hockenhull, the Gowy also meandered without the contortions at Stamford where even the high tides of the Mersey reached until the building of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894
The Gowy never had such an advantage nor did the Weaver despite their present-day differences even though both originated in the same field below the Peckforton Hills.
Today, the three medieval sandstone bridges, connected by a causeway, cross the marshes of Hockenhull Platts. Before the bridges, a causeway in some form, existed here for thousands of years. Indeed, I would suggest, the bridges and the causeway were set upon the underlying sandstone bedrock and possibly, the bridges were built on top of the causeway. This, and other revealing matters, such as why build three bridges if not to carry the rivers changing paths, and still more intriguing, did the river flow outside the floodplain we see today?
Such theories and other questions challenging the written record will be considered in the full version. For now, only a flavour of what is a complicated and dynamic story throwing a very different light on the Hockenhull Platts.