Whitegate Way is an enjoyable and highly recommended walk that stretches from Cuddington to Winsford Salt Mines, a distance total of about 6.4 miles.

It branches at Falk’s Junction just before reaching Bradford Road Winsford, where the walk either continues a short distance to the salt works.

In the other direction, it branches towards the location where many other salt works used to exist and just before the location of the old Winsford and Over railway station, the walk ends at what is now a small car park.

Whitegate Way was once home to a Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) railway line that connected to the national network of Chester to Manchester line at Cuddington and terminating at the salt mines/factories and the old Winsford and Over station at the foot of Winsford Hill.

Primarily, it was built to transport salt and opened in 1870. Before this, the main transportation of salt was on salt barges or flats, which used the River Weaver Navigation route from Winsford to Weston Point in Runcorn.

However, the new railway branch was also opened as a passenger line. The railway ran at a loss for most of its existence and had a somewhat chequered history.

The Cheshire Lines Committee did not own any locomotives; they were leased, and they only owned the track they ran on.

Northwich Guardian: Whitegate Station towards Winsford and OverWhitegate Station towards Winsford and Over (Image: Rose Hurley)

The passenger route opened and closed several times: 1870-74, 1886-88 and 1892-1931.

Its only station mid-way along the line was Whitegate Station, still in position and home to a lovely and friendly volunteer-run café, which is well worth a visit.

There were also stations at either end, these being Cuddington and Winsford and Over.

The stretch from Falk's Junction to Winsford and Over station was partially a double track, whilst the line from Meadowbank to Cuddington was a single track.

The line was closed to passengers in January 1931, and the station closed in November 1963.

Northwich Guardian: Winsford and Over Station, at the end of Whitegate WayWinsford and Over Station, at the end of Whitegate Way (Image: Rose Hurley)

Unusually, the Winsford Planning Committee rejected an application to use 44 acres around Catsclough for new housing development.

Catsclough was the only controlled level crossing on the line; the house that the level crossing controller lived in was still in situ by the crossing.

This is also where you can still find a couple of the railway lines remaining in position.

There were several other crossings, including Ellis’s crossing near Grange Lane and New Church crossing between Whitegate station and Cuddington.

At Grange Lane, the railway used to cross a bridge is no longer standing, and the Whitegate Way path drops down to the road before rising again to re-join the old train line bed.

Northwich Guardian: The old Whitegate StationThe old Whitegate Station (Image: Rose Hurley)

Further along the fork at Falk's Junction, there was a further crossing with Wades Lane.

In 1871, a man, James Burkhill, aged 77, was killed whilst standing at Catsclough level crossing near Whitegate.

The buffer plate caught him, although the railway engine driver, Thomas Kirk of Winsford, had already attempted to stop the train when he saw the man walk in front.

The man was taken first to Winsford Station, then to the Northwich Workhouse on London Road.

An inquest found that he died from exhaustion resulting from shock after the accident. No blame was attached to the driver.

Northwich Guardian: Whitegate Way nowWhitegate Way now (Image: Rose Hurley)

In 1873, a large fete took place at Oulton Park to raise funds for a proposed new church at Cotebrook.

Trains ran from various locations to Whitegate Station, 2.5 miles from the event, from where the 600 guests were ferried to and from the Hall.

Between 1931 and 1960, the line was used at various times for rail enthusiast excursions.

The line did not close entirely until June 5, 1967. The track was lifted, and the track bed is now the Whitegate Way countryside walk used by horse riders, walkers, and cyclists.