The 'lovely' Cheshire village with scenic walks, historic pub and popular chippy

Charley Curzon, manager, and Sean Wilde, head chef, far right, with regulars at the Unicorn Inn, Cronton
Charley Curzon(Manager)and Sean Wilde(Head Chef),far right,with regulars at the Unicorn Inn,Cronton.(Pic Andrew Teebay). -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

A "lovely" Cheshire village boasting beer gardens, scenic walks, and a family-friendly chippy is drawing more visitors.

Just off the M62, Cronton may be easily missed by those simply passing through, but it's a gem worth discovering whether on a warm summer day or during cooler times. Situated on the outskirts of Widnes on the Cheshire and Merseyside border, this village offers a nature reserve, a charming tavern, a historic pub, a beloved chippy, picturesque trails, and much more.

Pex Hill, a favourite among families, dog walkers, and cyclists, offers stunning views where, on a clear day, one can see the mountains of North Wales and the Mersey Estuary. The nature reserve, under the stewardship of United Utilities, features an astronomical observatory and a disused quarry.

On a sunny day, we arrived at the car park opposite the Observatory and took the right-hand path. As we were enveloped by trees, we paused to admire the breathtaking landscape, taking a moment on a bench while cyclists and dog walkers continued on their way. Further along the path, the disused quarry presents itself, complete with an intriguing past, reports the Liverpool Echo.

This site, an old quarry thought to have been utilised between the 16th and 19th centuries, has evolved into a coveted location for local climbers keen on mastering their skills amidst the rugged cliff faces of Merseyside. Despite its historical significance, it is the natural beauty that transcends time here; yellow fields abound, kissing gates beckon lovers, and ancient oak woodland stands tall with serene majesty.

In proximity to this verdant haven on Cronton Road, you'll find The Dandelion Tavern. This much-loved community pub nestled in the heart of Cronton Village began pouring pints back in 2019 and serves up an appetising selection of British classics, alongside creative cocktails, classic cask ales and a diverse range of wines.

Whether its quiz nights or casual drinks you're after, they've got it all.

The Dandelion Tavern faced its own set of challenges around 18 months post-inauguration amidst the global pandemic's upheaval, which posed a litany of obstacles for many businesses. Despite these trials however, this resilient establishment has emerged as a popular destination amongst locals, carving out a reputable name for itself throughout Merseyside.

Acknowledging its humble beginnings, Emyr Barton, the Operations Manager, shared insights. Emyr said: "The pub used to be The Black Horse and it was very well known in Cronton and there was an Indian behind the pub."

He proceeded to delineate changes that had taken place since: "The owner bought it and knocked it through so the Indian and the pub became one and turned it into a local village pub. Since it's been open, it's built up a good reputation, the people of Cronton supported us early on."

"A lot of our clientele are people who are happy to travel 25 minutes to come and have a good evening meal or lunch deal. We're a good-priced pub with an extra level of finesse."

"A lot of our customers are regulars who come three of four times a week. People say you have your three places in life - your house, your workplace and the third is your local pub or restaurant, so being able to give people a good local warm welcome when they come in, that's great."

The decor boasts ornaments and antiques but has a modern feel. Inside The Dandelion Tavern, who can see the likes of wine listings chalked out on old green school boards and the venue also has a beer garden with a shelter cover for customers to sit outside throughout the day.

Emyr said: "We definitely call ourselves a destination venue. We are definitely somewhere were people will drive to or people say we've driven past a few times and today we've decided to pop in it looks lovely."

"A lot of hikers and cyclers come here definitely. We get a lot of walkers and people especially on the weekend who come in with their dogs and moody boots and sit in the beer garden getting some pints. Pex Hill, we get a lot of people who walk there or have been to the observatory and then come in. It's a lovely area and it's definitely somewhere where we enjoy our regulars."

Under the direction of their manager, Rob Smith, a hardworking team has consistently attracted and retained customers, offering some novelty to the locality. This venue remains appealing no matter the weather forecast.

Emyr stated: "Our Sunday roasts in the winter are hard to get tables for - it's definitely worth booking. It's a fantastic roast dinner, the Yorkshire pudding is the piece de resistance on it, it's a big old Yorkie that sits on top."

"We get a lot of people coming in just for that, especially in the winter in front of the fire. Cronton is certainly worth a day out. You can go to places in Liverpool or your Formby, Crosby beach, Calderstones Park, Sefton Park, but if you're looking for a different day out - a walk on Pex Hill, a pint in the beer garden at The Unicorn and a roast with us is a nice family day out."

Positioned along the same road, historic pub The Unicorn Inn reopened its doors under new proprietors last October. Besides having been established since 1752, it also boasts generations from Cronton and beyond who have frequented this locale.

Cronton Fish Bar
Cronton Fish Bar

Currently, Lee Ogburn and Paul Harris hold ownership of the site, with Lee's daughter, Charlie Curzon, serving in the role of manager. In recent months, The Unicorn Inn has maintained its existing workforce and brought aboard new team members and chefs.

Furthermore, they have planned an expansion early next year to enhance accessibility and optimise the space.

Charlie, the new operator of a local pub, expressed satisfaction with their progress to the ECHO. He stated: "We're really made up with it. When we took over, at first it was a lot of work but it's definitely reaping the benefits now."

The pub is increasingly drawing locals back and attracting newcomers with its picturesque beer garden and hearty food. Charlie further enthused about the pleasant staff and their commitment to service: "It's known for the beer garden and outside and lately the food, but even the staff - everybody says how lovely they are and how they can't do enough for you. We do still have all our regulars and they're a lot happier with how the pub has come on but we do have people who haven't been for years who are coming back or people who are coming every week. Word is definitely getting around."

The open-air space has played a major role in the pub's growing popularity. "The beer garden is really big. We've also bought a marquee so we've had a couple of parties in there so far. That comes up and down as and when with people booking it but that's starting to get booked out more as well, especially with the hot weather, the beer garden has been completely full - it's crazy."

The high quality of food is another magnet for patrons. "It's very clean and the food is really nice. We have a fishmonger, a butcher, fresh vegetables every single day. We wanted that from the get go."

The pub's reputation extends well beyond its immediate surroundings. Visitors frequently travel from Liverpool and other areas to enjoy a pint and meal.

Even walking groups have become regular visitors. Charlie summarised his appreciation for his new locale, saying: "I'm not from Cronton, I live in Warrington but it's a really nice area and there's a lot of people who live right next to the pub and they all come in."

"We've become really friendly with them. If you're into nature and the countryside it's definitely a lovely walk, the people are really nice and there's some nice beer, food and beer gardens for when the suns out."

Among the long-standing businesses in the region, Cronton Fish Bar on Cronton Lane has been making waves since its opening back in 2003. Owned by husband and wife duo, Melanie and Mike Diakou, who were both brought up in their respective families' chip shops, it's a true family business.

Cronton Fish Bar serves quite an array of choices ranging from traditional fish and chips, Chinese dishes, to kebabs, burgers and more. The original business was started by Melanie's parents down the road.

A second branch was opened later, which remains the only Cronton Fish Bar now, but the family's warm welcome draws back customers who have known them for decades.

Chatting about his journey, Mike, a third-generation chip shop owner, said: "We've been open over 20 years now so we get a lot of customers from where we were before and people who have been using Cronton Fish Bar from Melanie's family since 1974. When I first met Mel and we got married, I bought some shops in St Helens but we lived here round the corner because it was close to Mel's side of the family."

"Then the chip shops came up for sale and my in-laws decided to retire, so we took that one over and then this one came on the market so we bought this one as well. We sold the other one around 10, 11 years ago and have stayed here."

"We work hard at what we do, all the staff work extremely hard - long hours and unsociable hours at times. I've been doing it that long it's just part of me - it's all I've ever known."

Their family business in Cronton is now supported by their three daughters and boasts a diverse customer base from local students to visitors passing through on their way to Widnes Market. Mike said: "It's one of those areas that is so easy to get in and out of."

"You've got the motorway access, you've got the M6 up the road, Manchester half an hour away, Liverpool 15 or 20 minutes away, Warrington - so you've got quite a lot going on around you. The area itself has grown massively over the years, new houses have been built with more people moving in."

"It's just one of those nice areas to live in with pretty much everything on your doorstep. There's supermarkets, a train station down the road, and then you've got your walks you can go on. You've got a nice countryside scattered around. It's a really good location."

"There's people who work in the factories and the warehouses who come in quite regularly and there's running and walking clubs. You do see a lot of people coming and going and visiting family."

"They always comment that they love to come to the shop. We have a customer who lives in Yorkshire and has family here, he used to live in the area and when he comes back he takes food back with him that he says you can't get anywhere else."

Mike, a local business owner and resident of Cronton, believes that the area is "definitely worth a visit."

He elaborated: "A lot of people go to Pex Hill for walks and it's definitely worth your while going and even to visit for food here. There's places to go have a drink or bite to eat and it's definitely worth it."

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