Cheshire walk - Arley and Great Budworth
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 December 2015 | UPDATED: 16:21 17 February 2018
A rural ramble this month connects a great stately home, Arley, with a village so great it's even in the name...Great Budworth, writes Howard Bradbury
How far would you walk for a good pint? A couple of miles is no distance at all when the pint in question is served at one of my very favourite pubs, the George & Dragon in Great Budworth.
It’s a cosy inn, parts of which date back almost three centuries. It also boasts a curious imprecation to responsible drinking, right there above the front door.
‘As Saint George in armed array doth the fiery dragon slay, so mayst thou, with might no less, slay that dragon drunkenness,’ says the sign - a relic of the days when the wives of salt workers would wait outside the pub on a Friday night to stop their husbands spending their wages over the bar.
Not only does pretty Great Budworth have a lovely pub, it also has - right across the road - a lovely church. St Mary and All Saints dates back mainly to the 15th and early 16th centuries, but the Lady Chapel is from the 14th century. Pevsner’s The Buildings of England calls it ‘one of the most satisfactory Perpendicular churches of Cheshire, and its setting brings its qualities out to perfection’.
I reached this beautiful village by strolling across the fields from Arley. The villagers of Great Budworth may once have done this walk in reverse. When much of the village was owned by the Warburton family, tenants would go to Arley Hall once a year to pay their rent. The folk at the big house rewarded prompt payment with a piece of beef from the estate’s cattle.
1. We start at the walkers’ car park on Arley Road. It’s easy to miss; if you see the big sign for Arley Hall then you’ve gone too far. Turn left out of the car park and just a few moments later turn right on to a restricted byway, marked as such. You are very soon in open country with fields and mature woodland around you.
Continue straight ahead on this byway. When you pass through a metal gate a few minutes along this section, there is a temptation to bear left where the track seems stronger. Resist the temptation and continue straight, along the right hand edge of a field until you see a redundant metal gate, overgrown with vegetation. Pass to the left of the gate and follow the path across the middle of the field. Look out for hoofprints to let you know you’re on the right track.
2. You come to a bridge over a stream. Cross over and follow the grassy path which takes you around Hollies Farm. At the lane, bear left and keep walking along the lane for five minutes until you see a footpath sign and stile on the left. Cross this and the next stile and the path takes you through the middle of a cornfield. At a third stile, follow the arrow directing you along the right hand field edge, and after a fourth stile bear right along the field edge until you reach a gate opening with a farm track. Bear left here, following the yellow arrows along the field edge.
3. At the next stile, cross over the track through another very narrow stile and follow this path with a little pond and woods to your right and fields to your left. Continue on this path, passing a larger pond surrounded by trees on your left. The next stile brings you to Knutsford Road. Turn left along the road and after a few minutes, take the first right into a road with woods to the left and open fields to the right. Look out for a lovely home at the end of this road called The Old School House, which has the date 1845 picked out in the brickwork.
4. At the junction where The Old School House stands, head straight across onto a footpath and the tower of St Mary and All Saints Church, Great Budworth, soon looms into view. Keep along the same path, passing beneath humming electricity cables until, after a metal gate, you reach a track with a ‘Private Drive’ sign to the right. Head left and you are soon in the village of Great Budworth. At the church, bear left along the cobbled lane passing picturesque black and white cottages and continue straight on into a narrow tree-lined avenue.
5. At the second gate along the avenue, bear left into a wide rough track, following the yellow sign indicating NCW (North Cheshire Way). At the road junction, go straight across, following the sign for Ice Cream Farm, then (unless you are going the few extra yards for ice cream) take the first footpath on the right, following the NCW arrows and passing beneath those humming cables again. Following those NCW signs, you will find yourself skirting the left hand edge of a large cow pasture with a well-hidden gate at its top left corner.
6. That gate brings you to a road. Cross over and take the concrete farm road marked ‘Private Drive. No Entry. Footpath Only’. Dog owners be aware you may well encounter cows here. At the end of the concrete road, carry straight on over a stile, still following NCW arrows, until you reach a metal foot bridge over Arley Brook. Cross here and continue on the path which eventually becomes a wider track. Follow this until you reach the tarmac driveway to Arley Hall. Bear left and continue until the crossroads where a left turn brings you back to the walkers’ car park. w
Area of Walk: Arley and Great Budworth
Distance: 5½ miles
Time to allow: 2½ hours
Map: OS Explorer 267.
Refreshments: The George & Dragon, High Street, Great Budworth; Great Budworth Real Dairy Ice Cream Farm, New Westage Farm, Heath Lane (open weekends only in November and December, closed January and February, but open daily April to October); Tudor Barn restaurant, Arley Hall.