In 1821 the Warrington and Stockport Turnpike Trust was granted the right to charge tolls on what is the present day A56; at this time the valley below the church was crossed only by a path leading to a footbridge over the stream.
Information provided by Warrington Borough Council
Additional information, photos and captions Copyright © Gordon I Gandy
The Turnpike Trust then set about building a road and a new bridge over the valley. With their completion the ‘pool and stream’ below the church became the lake which exists today. Lymm Dam is about 20 feet deep near the wall by the A56, and then the depth fluctuates across the rest of it, with some parts being quite shallow.
At that time the area was part of Lymm Hall Estate, which covered much of the village. In 1848 parts of the estate were sold. Lymm Dam and the surrounding area was purchased by Thomas Ridgeway, a local solicitor. He built a large manor house on the present day site of Lymm Rugby Club where his family lived until the close of the 19th century. The house was known as Beechwood and the stone archway which still exists on Crouchley Lane was the entrance to the estate, but the house itself was demolished in the 1930s.
Thomas Ridgeway lived at Beechwood for some 20 years before selling the estate to George Dewhurst, a Manchester cotton trader, who’s family came to have great influence in Victorian Lymm. the Dewhursts were responsible for some of the landscaping around the Dam including The Wishing Bridge (right) and the small stone boathouse.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Dewhursts sold the estate to William Lever, and shortly after the First World War he built the large concrete Crosfield Bridge at the southern end of the site (seen here, below). Lever was also responsible for the avenues of Lombardy poplar trees which flank Lymm Dam. These avenues were to form part of a residential development which William Lever planned for the land, probably to house his workers, with the three roads in the area meeting at the bridge, but the houses were never built.
The bridge itself was built just after the First World War by local firm Harry Fairclough, and as the plans for the housing estate never materialised, the bridge wasn’t used for traffic. Over the years it fell into disrepair and the Borough Council has carried out an structural survey on its condition. It is now seeking funding to carry out the necessary repairs.
A visitor information board gives further details of the area and shows photos of the bridge in the early days. The area immediately surrounding the lake became the property of Lymm Urban District Council shortly after the Second World War, and was absorbed into the management of Warrington Borough Council in 1974 when the national boundaries changed.
At the southern end of Lymm Dam by Crosfield Bridge you will see a footpath leading into a wood known as ‘The Bongs’ (from a medieval word meaning ‘wooded banks’).
The Bongs is a private wood but has a public right of way running through it. The wood extends for 1 mile south of Lymm Dam after which the public footpath continues on across farmland.
The Bongs is managed by Mersey Valley Partnership
A pool in part of The Bongs
Geology of the Dam
Taking a walk round Lymm Dam you will see many areas of exposed sandstone rock. Sandstone is known as a bedrock or sedimentary rock which means that it was formed over millions of years by the compression of layer upon layer of tiny grains of sand.
The sandstone around the Dam was created during a period of time called the permo-triassic and is around 250 million years old.
The most interesting rock feature around the Dam is the ‘bluff’ below St Mary’s church.
Two features are important – the deep cuts into the rock known as NYE CHANNELS and the rounded steps in the vertical sections, called SCALLOPS. They were formed around 10,000 years ago when the whole of Cheshire was covered in ice.
Melt water containing rock and soil deposits flowed under the ice causing erosion of the sandstone. The nye channels and scallops were created where the water flow was greatest.
These formations at Lymm Dam are very important. They are one of only two examples of this kind currently recorded in the UK; the other is at Thurstaston Hill on the Wirral Peninsular.
Wildlife, Woodland and Wildflowers
The Dam has a varied cross-section of wildlife with magnificent views and something of interest all around the site throughout the seasons. Much of the lake is surrounded by woodland with oak and beech the predominant species.
Autumn brings a kaleidoscope of colours as the leaves take on their seasonal hue. In spring, bluebells, wild daffodils and snowdrops carpet the oak woodland amongst pockets of flowers, such as wood sorrel and wood anemone.
Other wildflowers easily spotted at the Dam include foxglove and tormentil on banks, meadow cranesbill and yarrow in meadows, red campion and garlic mustard in woodland and marsh marigold and bittercress on the water’s edge.
Bird life includes wrens, tits, robins, blackbirds and kingfishers, mallard, coot, moorhen, tufted duck and great crested grebe. Swallows, swifts and house martins perform acrobatic displays as they hunt over the water and meadows on balmy summer evenings while the woodlands attract nuthatches, treecreepers and woodpeckers.
Squirrels can often be seen around the dam. Look out for red and brown squirrels as you walk along.
Stay out a little on a summer night and you are likely to see bats on the wing. The Dam is recognised as a locally important area for this fascinating group of mammals with both the UK’s largest (noctule) and smallest (pipistrelle) bats feeding over the Dam.
Please keep to the permissive bridleway from Crouchley Lane to Crosfield Bridge along the eastern edge of the park. Visitors on foot are welcome to walk along the bridleway, but please keep vigilant and be careful not to frighten the horses or put your own safety at risk.
Angling in Lymm Dam
The fishing rights are leased to Lymm Angling Club. Non club members can obtain day tickets from the water bailiff who patrols regularly. The club was formed in 1948.
For more information see their website.
St Mary’s Church
The Doomsday Book shows that there was a church on this site way back in the 10th century. Since then it has been rebuilt several times, most recently in 1851 with the financial help of the Dewhursts. The present tower was added in 1890 and St Mary’s now often forms a backdrop to paintings and photographs of the Dam.
The Dingle and Slitten Gorge
If you cross the A56 from the path onto the western side of Lymm Dam, you will come to a flight of steps leading into the Dingle. This is an area of woodland through which a stream runs connecting the Main Dam and Lower Dam. A footpath runs alongside the stream into the village centre.
The water flows over the Lower Dam and under the road into the mill race behind the shops on Bridgewater Street. It then runs through Slitten Gorge and eventually into the Manchester Ship Canal.
From the bottom of the Dingle cross the road in the village centre, turn left and immediately right into Bridgewater Street. Follow the road under the canal bridge and you will see the steps leading down into Slitten Gorge on your right. The footpath through Slitten Gorge crosses the stream and passes the remains of the slitting mill before exiting onto Danebank Road.
The Dingle. One of two places in south Warrington
with that name. The other is in Appleton.
If you cannot manage the steps, walk along the road (Whitbarrow Road) to the crossroads junction and turn right into Danebank Road. Slitten Gorge is at the bottom of the brew on the right.
Turn right along Danebank Road and then first left into Lymm Hay Lane. This will bring you to the Trans Pennine Trail. Turn left and the Ranger Centre is half a mile to the west of this crossing. From here you can pick up information on the footpath network in this area.
Lymm Slitting Mill
The structure you can see spanning the stream in Slitten Gorge is the remains of a slitting mill which operated between the early 18th and early 19th centuries. The mill’s original purpose was nail production, later giving way to the cutting of steel bands for the cooperage at Thelwall. During this phase of the mill’s life the metal was taken by boat to Thelwall along the River Mersey (this was prior to the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894). In 1800 it was converted to a textile mill.
Lymm Slitting Mill
After its closure, the mill was pulled down to its current height and the Gorge was made into a Victorian beauty spot.
At this stage most of the area was still a millpond but in 1905 the dam wall was breached and the pond drained away leaving the stream as it is today.
The area then became overgrown and remained so until it was cleared and landscaped by Warrington Borough Council in the mid 1970’s.
An information board describes the workings of the mill (see below).
Here is another view of Slitten Gorge.
And some photos from around the dam.
The Dam is situated south of Lymm village on the A56.
See Warrington Borough Council’s website for latest information on opening times and facilities.
Check with Warrington’s Own Buses for up-to-date information on bus timetables.