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Cheshire Walks - Dane Valley, Holmes Chapel and Swettenham

PUBLISHED: 11:02 06 June 2011 | UPDATED: 09:20 09 October 2012

A walk between Holmes Chapel and Swettenham taking in sites of historical intrigue as well as beauty spots WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEITH CARTER

The River Dane has the most twists and turns of any river I can think of. To walk along the river bank would take forever because of the meanders, a study of which would make a great subject for a geography
dissertation.We do a circular walk this month that has the southern side of the river for the outward leg and the northern side for the return with the tiny village of Swettenham as our objective.

Much of our route follows the Dane Valley Way from Buxton in Derbyshire
to Middlewich where the trail cuts the corners off leaving the river to its
meandering but always in sight apart from where the trees shut it off from our view.

Looking at the map the most appropriate starting point of this walk
might be Holmes Chapel but to avoid the business of leaving town through built-up areas I suggest taking the car just out of town on the Macclesfield road, the A535, over the railway bridge to Saltersford Corner, a big sweeping bend in the road where the course of the old road had become a lay-by with plenty of space to leave a car.

On the bright, cold day in early February when I researched this walk
the recent snowfall or snow event as they now call it on the TV news, had
become compacted and frozen and walking was treacherous for the first
mile or so along a lane that starts our walk.

This lane leaves the lay-by past some tidy cottages, one with a wishingwell, and goes dead straight for about a kilometre until bending first left then right past Ryecroft Farm before ending at Woodhouse Farm. Here the farmer was cutting back buddleia growing in profusion along the hedge. He said that in summer it attracted butterflies, his winter pruning ensuring abundant growth later in the season.

The lane runs into a track leading to the fields, the superstructure of
the Jodrell Bank telescope just visible over the tops of the trees on the
left.We descend gradually into a dell where a gate and stile bar the way.
Cross the stile and turn right to cross a second one, drop down to a plank
bridge over a stream then rise again to a third stile into a field. Pause for a moment to consider the way ahead.

Cross the field heading more or less in a straight line but tending slightly left to where a meander of the river juts out into the field. Keep well to the left of the bank of trees in the right foreground and look for a stile to the left hand end of the crossing fence.

The path keeps to the outside of the boundary fence, generally along the top of the bank then goes down the bank while maintaining the same line ahead, the river away to our left. Along here I could hear the
rhythmic, metallic clanking of somebody hitting something and tried
to imagine what was being hit.

Soon I came upon two men driving in fence posts, their tool a heavy tube with handles which they slid over the post and drove it downwards creating the clanking noise I had heard. Their work was keeping them warm on this bitterly cold day.

The fence line is followed through the water meadow surely covered when
the river floods, and at a stile we climb steeply up the bank, keeping left at the top along a path outside the fence. The next hundred yards or so are on the side of the bank, rising up and dipping down nearly to the bottom as we traverse on quite tricky terrain.

Fortunately it is only for a short distance before we come to a substantial gate giving onto a track where we go left. The surroundings look well maintained and soon we realise that this must be part of an estate judging by the signs prohibiting fishing and trespassing. Our track crosses an ornamental bridge over the river and rises on the other side to meet a lane by a neat cottage, Dragons Cave.

The lane leads to Swettenham village and we come to the welcome
sight of the Swettenham Arms, an excellent hostelry with real ale and good food, a gem of its kind. The building is said to date back 700 years and was once a nunnery and the source of stories of ghostly hauntings.

The pub has a leaflet for anyone wishing to know more about them.
Opposite the pub is the ancient church and I was intrigued by the effigy
of an asss head over the north porch, said to commemorate an event during the Crusades when a local knight named Mainwaring had his horse killed under him in a battle. Nothing daunted, he continued the fight on the back of an ass hence the asss head was incorporated into the family crest from then on.

Our walk continues on a footpath on the left as you leave the pub car park.We go through a gate and turn left along a boundary past the
garden of a lovely half-timbered house on the right. At a lane turn right then immediate left down a partly concreted track that goes down to cross a brook by a bridge.

Climb up to a gate opposite some cottages and turn left along a farm track leading to Brook Farm. Just before some barns take a stile on the left which has an arrow way mark with the initials DVW on it. This
signifies the Dane Valley Way which we now follow back to where it crosses the main A535 road.

Pass behind the barn, the ground badly trampled by cattle and keep along the top of the bank. Dont be tempted to loose height but maintain the same level to pass through a gateway then follow the left-hand
boundary of a large field.

Where this narrows down we leave the field and keeping an enclosed pond on our right, climb over a stile, cross a short field then where the ground falls away go down into a dip to where a footbridge crosses a brook.

Once over the footbridge, climb up through mixed woodland to a
gate and stile and turn left along the left-hand boundary of a field. At a
gateway, look ahead to see an island of trees. Head for it, passing it on our left and head for a finger-post beside a stile in the line of trees ahead.

Cross the stile and follow the path down into a dip, step over a stream and rise to a metal hand-gate on the other side. Cross the end of a field and keep right parallel with the river. At the next stile we enter the last field, the hedge line now on our right. Looking ahead we should see the arches of the Twemlow Viaduct carrying the railway over the river plain.

Head for it and we meet the road, the A535 via a stile, turning left along the verge for a short distance, soon becoming a pavement which we remain on back to Saltersford Corner where we left the car.

FACT FILE

Area of walk: The Dane Valley between Holmes Chapel and Swettenham

Distance: 6 miles

Time to allow: 3-31/2hours

Map: OS Explorer 268 Wilmslow, Macclesfield and Congleton

Refreshments: Cafes in Holmes Chapel, the Swettenham Arms at Swettenham.

Useful leaflet: Ghostly Tales, free from the Swettenham Arms.

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