Cheshire walk - The Bowstones and Lyme Park
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 April 2018
We’ve all taken an aimless Sunday stroll in Lyme Park, but this month we take a more purposeful ramble around this old favourite, writes Howard Bradbury
The Bowstones - a stopping point on this walk - are, frankly, not much to look at, but they are rich in history and mystery.
The two carved cross shafts stand, rather wonkily, high above Lyme Park on a windy ridge. We know that they date back to the 9th or 10th centuries, making them, officially, ancient monuments.
We can’t be sure where they stood originally, one theory being that they were moved here in the 16th century by Sir Piers Legh. We can guess that they may have been smashed during the Reformation; two cross heads found in a field in Disley in the 19th century, and now in the courtyard of Lyme Hall, may well belong to the Bowstones.
Why did someone, 1100 or so years ago, go to the trouble of carving these crosses? Perhaps to act as waymarkers for a pilgrim trail across the moors.
Most tantalisingly of all: what is the truth behind the folk legend that the Bowstones were so named because Robin Hood and his men re-strung their bows here?
You will certainly want to stop and appreciate the Bowstones, partly because of this history, partly also because there are spectacular views over moorland from this spot, but mostly because you will just have completed a long steady climb to get there and you will need a breather.
This walk takes you up to the Bowstones, around two reservoirs and back via a grassy ridge where you encounter first The Cage - the 16th century hunting lodge which stands in such splendid isolation - and, as a fetching sight at the walk’s end, Lyme Hall itself.
1. We start from the car park at Lyme Park in Disley (postcode SK12 2NR) entrance to which will cost £8 if you are not a National Trust member. Head out of the car park in the same direction by which you arrived, that is, with the house and information centre on your left and the lake on your right, walking up the drive beside the car park. When the road veers right at the end of the car park, bear left on a path signposted as the Gritstone Trail, through a gate and on a wide track uphill. Continue on this track, through some woodland until a gate brings you to open moorland. Head uphill towards the masts, but don’t neglect to look behind you as panoramic views open up.
2. You reach a wall with a ladder stile. Cross over it and head to the next stile, passing a white house on the left. The next stile brings you to a lane. Turn left here and, a few yards later, take a peek at the Bowstones on the left. Continue down the lane for a fair way, and, just after passing Dissop Head Farm, the lane meets a bigger road in a T junction. Go sharp left here, following the Gritstone Trail footpath sign for East Lodge, going up the entrance track to a farm. At the farmyard, bear right to find a gate.
3. Follow the footpath along the left hand field edge and through a metal kissing gate, then down into a little valley, over a stile, up a little hill and bear right. Follow the Gritstone Trail now across several fields until a stile brings you onto an unmade stony track. Bear right here, downhill and you will soon arrive at Bollinhurst Bridge, which has been closed for some time with an ‘unsafe structure’ sign across the track, but which has a wooden bridge beside it.
4. After the bridge, continue ahead on the same track, heading uphill until you reach a junction of paths. Go left here, into a field and onto a path signposted North Lodge, heading downhill with a fence and trees to your right. The path descends to woodland, then heads right along a wall as Bollinhurst Reservoir becomes visible. Keep to this track running above the reservoir, and you will soon spot The Cage in Lyme Park in the distance on the left.
5. This path eventually emerges at a tarmac lane. Cross it and head in the same direction across the next field, down a gravelly lane, and when you reach a more substantial road, bear right. You soon reach North Lodge. Go left through the pedestrian gate, down towards the entrance kiosk to Lyme Park and then left up the main drive for a couple of minutes, after which bear left onto a well-worn path heading uphill between trees.
6. Before too long, The Cage comes into view. Keep going uphill until you reach this impressive landmark, then keep ahead on the top of the grassy ridge until you reach Lyme Hall and the car park.
Area of Walk: Lyme Park
Distance: 5 miles
Time to allow: 2½ hours
Map: OS Explorer 268
Refreshments: Two cafe/restaurants in Lyme Hall itsef and The Timberyard Cafe at Lyme Park.