Olsok08: Wirral-Chester Viking Churches Heritage Walk

Saturday July 26th 2008


- in conjunction with Chester City Council, the Ramblers Association, Wirral Borough Council, Ellesmere Port and Neston District Council, The Wirhalh Skip Felag, St. Bridget’s Church, St. Olave’s Church and the Municipality of Trondheim


This year’s Olsok Pilgrimage/ Viking Churches Heritage Walk to commemorate St. Olav Haraldsson, patron saint of Norway and St. Olav’s Day went from from St. Mary and St. Helen’s in Nesstún (Neston) to St. Olave’s in Chester (13 miles or 20km), starting at 9am: all are welcome.


Previous walks: Sat. July 27th 2007 - St. Bridget’s Vestri Kirkubyr (West Kirby) to St. Mary and St. Helen’s Nesstún

Next years walk: Sat. July 25th & Sunday 26th 2009 - St. Bridget’s Vestri Kirkubyr (West Kirby) to St. Olave’s in Chester



The walk is approximately 20km (13 miles).


The walk starts at the St. Mary & Helens Church (9am start) and makes its way along the coast via Denhall to Burton, then Shotwick, joining the towpath of the Canal at Blacon and through to St Olave’s Church in Chester.King Olaf Haraldsson (995 – 1030) is credited with converting Norway to Christianity. In life he was a typical Viking; he spent most of his life fighting, and he died in the Battle of Stiklestad. However, his support for the new religion meant that he was recognised as a saint soon after his death. His cult spread quickly to other Scandinavian countries – which at that time included England - and in Chester St Olaves Church was an early dedication by its Viking residents to the new saint. Throughout the old Viking lands the festival of St Olav (the “Olsok”) is still celebrated on the days near the anniversary of his death, 29th July, 1030.


The main Olsok Festival in Trondheim Norway is celebrated well into August and includes a pilgrimage, which runs from Oslo to Trondheim, where he is buried.  The festival was recently revived also in Wirral as part of the 1100th anniversary celebrations of Vikings settling in Wirral, and culminated in a service led by the 2002 St. Olavspilgrimprest Kjell Skartseterhagen at St. Olave’s (see the video links below which describe the background).  From this sprung the idea of a Viking Churches Heritage walk between St. Bridget’s West Kirby (also founded by the Viking settlers coming to Wirral from Dublin – St. Bridget is a patron saint of Ireland - and home of the famous hogback tombstone) and St. Olave’s, Chester. In between is the Church of St. Mary and St. Helen at Neston - St. Helen is also associated with Norse settlers coming via Ireland - and houses the famous fragments of some ring headed crosses recording events from the life of a Viking couple.

Important Notice for Participants

As last year, this year’s walk will require a reasonable level of fitness; please make sure that you feel able to complete the distance: 13 miles or 20km is a long way.

Make sure that you wear adequate footwear - this is particularly important for this years walk from Neston to Chester where there will be a stretch which has a sharp cinder surface, and the route also passes through lanes and fields which may be muddy or waterlogged.

Make sure that you have adequate clothing, especially waterproofs (the forecast is for showers).

There are no shops along the route where refreshments can be bought, so please bring your own supplies - in particular it is important that you bring something to drink.

Toilet Facilities: There will be some at the church at Neston, at the first stop in Burton, the 2nd in Puddington and then no further facilities until Telford’s Warehouse Pub at Chester Canal. 

It is important that we know who is coming on the walk, we would therefore greatly appreciate you emailing us on steve.harding@nottingham.ac.uk to confirm your participation by Thursday 24th July.

We would like to make it clear that, in common with the main Olsok Pilgrimage in Norway, although we provide a guide, you come at your own risk and are responsible for yourselves.  You are also responsible for making your own own transport arrangements from St. Olave’s at the end of the walk.  It may be possible for groups to share a taxi back to Neston.

See you at Neston, Saturday 26th July!    but please email one of us first, Steve Harding, Dan Robinson or Mike Morris (organisers – addresses below)

Outline Route

·         Start 9am at St. Mary and St. Helen’s Church, Neston. Then along the old coastline to Denhall and Burton

·         Then to Puddington and Shotwick, to the Chester cycleway (mind the bikes!) and joining the canal towpath at Blacon.

·         Along the towpath at Chester to the Castle Walls, then to St. Johns Street, Wolfgate, Duke Street, then up Lower Bridge Street a few metres to St. Olave’s.


Detailed Route

START. St. Mary. St. Helen.  Church Lane, Fork right, come to gate cross gate, across field (cinder track along a road of trees to right. Left onto old railway line (or straight across  and across a field then left onto Qld Quay land then right along track towards old quay) and then after 30 yards branch off right on wiggly track , through some trees then more trees on left down to the old quay and coastal track., after 100 yards path become track and reaches road marked Quayside, carry along past Harp pub, another 80 yarrds or so Denhall Quay, 100 yards or so road peters out to a coastal path again, 250 yards becomes Denhall Lane,  200 yards or so Denhall Farm on left with blueish roves, 250 yards becomes Station Road at T-junct,. (Denhall Lane goes off to left, along coastal Statton Road for 150 yards then a trangle fork left (still Station Road, 120 yards  cross the old railway line, 100 yards STOP POINT 1: Dovecote Nurseries (Toilets/Refreshments),


Along Station Road. After 450 yards Neston road joins from left . 200 yards Station Road becomes “The Village” with “The Rake” going off on left.  100 yards turn left, Puddington Lane.  250 yards do not take road going off to left. 300 yards fork off Puddington  Lane at Harding Farm.  STOP POINT2  150 yards cut through another farmwith, pair of kissing gates  and then at end of yard (after 30 yards)turn left for 50 yards ,right for 30 yards and fork right back onto Puddington Lane again.  250 yards fork right (Chapel house lane). After 150 yards Chapel House Lane bends sharply to right – carry staright on along a track, takes you round a factory to the right, then after 150 yards turn left across that field for 100 yards, the cross field more or less diagonally keeping to track and past the pylon behind the little ponds which will be to your left, Across to the hedges and follow the hedges left for 180 yards until the field. Corner. Left through tress to next field dogleg right 20 yards and left along the hedge/track for 200 yards come to edge of Shotwick. Right onto Hall lane for 200 yards then right at T-junct with  Shotwick Lane, past the church after 100 yards then onto track , 250 yards cross brook (Welsh border), 250 yards come to Welsh Road. Cross carefully onto Green Lane East. After 700 yards join cycleway, STOP POINT 3.


300 yards under Old Sealand Road. 900 yards back across border.  400 yards start to cut through Blacon. 900 yards (after under about 2 road bridges) enter canal towpath.  500 yards the Basin. 300 yards wall surns 90deg south. 350 yards lave wall (turn left for 20 yards then right onto St. Johns Street.  100 yards merges onto Little John Street as we turn right, on the left after 30 yards you can see Souters lane, 100 yards on right you can see Wolf gate STOP POINT 4. Down Volunteer Street dogleg right then left bend left onto Albion Street then right at Duke Street. At Lower Bridge Street turn right, St.Olave’s is on the right.  END


Start: Nesstún (Church of St. Mary and St. Helen)


The Church is very close to Neston Railway Station  At the Church of St. Mary and St. Helen you will see fragments of the magnificient 10th century Viking crosses at Neston depicting scenes in the life of a local Viking couple, depicted here in this image reconstruction by Archaeologist Roger White:

Reconstruction of the 10th Century Viking cross fragments at
the Church of St. Mary and St. Helen, Neston


Stage 1: Nesstún – Old Quay, Danirwella

Start St. Mary and St. Helen Church at 9am.


Leave at the back of the Church and follow the pathway which leads to the Old Quay.



Stage 2: Old Quay, DanirwellaBurton

Stop point at Dovecote Nurseries along Station Road has toilet facilities and refreshments



Stage 3: Burton-Puddington-Shotvík

Stop point Priest’s House, Puddington


Stage 4: Shotvík - Chester Cycleway (disused railway) – Canal towpath at Blacon
Care needed around the A548/A550 (Welsh Road), and mind the cyclists!

Stop point where we join the cycleway

Stop point (start of Stage 5) where we leave the cycle way and join the towpath


Stage 5: Saughall Road Blacon – Canal Towpath – Northgate Locks



Stage 6:  - Towpath-Northgate Street - Lower Bridge Street – St. Olave’s




St. Olave’s



Follow the walls round to the clock, then go down to ground level and along St John Street via Wolf’s (Ulfhildr’s) Gate (next to Gate) to enter Chester’s former Viking enclave, on to the top of Suter's (Sauturi’s) Lane and down to St. Olave’s.



Enquiries: Steve Harding (steve.harding@nottingham.ac.uk - tel 078110 90635), Dr. Dan Robinson (t31harada@yahoo.com) or Dr. Mike Morris (m.morris@chester.gov.uk)


Maps in stages 1-3 adapted from Carl Rogers book A Walker’s Guide to the Wirral Shore Way, Mara Publications ISBN 0 9522409 0 4




Postscript: photographs from the event

18 Walkers/Pilgrims, made the trip this year, including the Norwegian Consul of Liverpool and his dog Morgan, under absolutely glorious conditions.   After a demonstration of the Viking stonework in the Church of St. Mary and St. Helen (Neston) the party moved on with stops at Burton (courtesy of Dovecote Nurseries) and Puddington (courtesy of Michael and Sarah Groves).  After a stop at the Norman Church of St. Michaels at Shotwick we pushed on across the Welsh Border and then onto the cycleway at Sealand where Dan and Steve gave a talk about the Vikings and St. Olave.  We then pressed on along the cycleway back across the border again to the Canal towpath at Chester and the final stretch down Northgate and Bridge Street with the weary walkers arriving at St. Olaves at 16.30… and then down to the Cross Keys Pub! 

Hear this preview to the walk on CityTalk105.9 (Liverpool) recorded just before the walk started and this article in Wirral News appearing the previous Wednesday.

Here are some photographs, courtesy of Dan! (click to download the high-res image).









If any walkers have their own photographs they would like to add, please send to Steve. 



Web link to ITV1 Granada, 20th July 2008 6pm (22min). LOST TREASURES: NEW BLOOD OF VIKINGS.


Web link to ITV1 Granada, 31st August 2008, 5.30pm. FRED’S FAMILY WALKS, Episode 3: Fred takes us for a walk in Little Scandinavia. ITV Weatherman Fred Talbot walks through a corner of Viking Wirral. Low resolution version.


Olsok: St. Olaf's pilgrimage in Norway produced by Trondheim Kommune


Ólavsøka: St. Olav’s Festival in Faroe Islands


Olsok Service at St. Olave’s Church, August 2001


Olsok Service at St. Olave’s Church, August 2002


Wirral and West Lancashire 1100th Viking anniversary Home Page.