Cheshire walk - Alderley Edge and Windmill Wood
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 May 2018 | UPDATED: 13:43 25 May 2020
A spring ramble through the mysterious woodlands of Alderley Edge entices Howard Bradbury this month
From the lofty vantage point of Alderley Edge, it is possible to look down on quite a portion of the rest of Cheshire. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
There are, of course, two Alderley Edges. The first is the rarefied postcode of elegant villas, luxury shops and restaurants, synonymous with the lifestyle of the Premier League footballer. The second, up the hill, is the weather-worn ruddy sandstone crags jutting out over the Cheshire Plain and surrounded by woodland.
It’s a landscape which yielded up hundreds of thousands of tons of copper ore over the centuries, and which is rich in myth and legend about wizardly goings-on. An army of knights and their horses lies slumbering within these rocks, waiting to emerge when Britain faces ‘its direst peril’, so the story goes.
We will see some evidence of the Edge’s magic on this walk. The Wizard’s Well is a stone trough fed by a stream, above which is carved in the rock: ‘Drink of this and take thy fill for the water falls by the Wizard’s will’. Of course, the cynic would say that this inscription was not put here by some Merlin-esque figure in days of yore, but chiselled in Victorian times by some canny PR man to bolster the Edge’s mythical allure for day-trippers. Either way, if you want to slake your thirst at the Wizard’s behest, I’d recommend instead that you repair to the pub-restaurant of the same name on Macclesfield Road, or the tea room behind it.
1. We start from the National Trust car park on the B5087 Macclesfield Road, post code SK10 4UB. Head out of the car park towards the Wizard tea room, turn right onto the wide track, then almost immediately left, through a wooden gate on a track signposted to Beacon. The path goes in two directions. Take the right hand path which leads through trees, reaching Engine Vein, which you pass on your right. Soon after, at a crossroad of paths, bear left, and you will very quickly reach Beacon Lodge and the main road.
2. Cross over the road and into Windmill Wood on a wide path. Coming to a clearing, bear left downhill. You will pass an information board for Hagg Cottages over to your left, and a National Trust sign. Continue downhill and keep left towards a barbed wire fence and you soon reach an open sandy area. Go right here, skirting this sandy area and walk down, crossing a ditch to reach a wide path running at right angles, with a field beyond. Go right up this path, and as it levels out, bear left, passing a pond on your left. There is a stile into a field ahead, with another National Trust sign. Before reaching this, stile, bear right uphill on a path which brings you back to the main road.
3. Cross over and follow the path ahead, signposted ‘To The Edge’ and you will soon arrive at the open vista of Castle Rock. Enjoy the view, then take the rocky natural staircase to the left down to a path which, ahead of you after less than 100 yards, you come to the Wizard’s Well, with an inscription in the rock face above it. Retrace your steps back to Castle Rock, but instead of clambering up that natural staircase, head left on the path beneath the crag. After a while, the path heads up steps, after which there is a fork downhill to the left. Take this fork, descending steps and you soon reach a little stream. Cross over on the footbridge and head up steps, following this path uphill, going ahead at a crossroads on a path lined with logs.
4. When you meet a wider path, bear left and you will soon find yourself at the Edge’s most popular spot Stormy Point. After enjoying more views, take the path heading right, with views across the Cheshire Plain to your left. A few minutes later, you reach a gate in a fence. Don’t go through the gate, but head left on a track which takes you downhill through trees. As you approach a stream, take a path to the right, signposted Woodland Valley Walk, continuing beside the stream, then crossing at a little footbridge. Head right up the other side of the valley, negotiating fallen trees blocking the path.
5. Crossing a stile, head right and follow the footpath signs towards houses above you, through a couple more stiles and a metal gate, emerging on a sandy lane. Go right here and follow the path as it winds round back to the car park.
Area of Walk: Alderley Edge
Distance: 3 miles
Time to allow: 2 hours
Map: OS Explorer 268
Refreshments: The Wizard, Macclesfield Road, Nether Alderley SK10 4UB.