Cheshire walk - Barthomley circular
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 December 2019
A stone’s throw from the busy A500, and close to the Staffordshire border, lies the lovely village of Barthomley, where this month’s walk begins and ends.
Legend has it that Wulvarn Brook is so named because the last wolf in England was killed in Barthomley Wood in the 16th century.
I can confirm Barthomley is now a wolf-free zone, though I saw plenty of other animal life on this five-mile stroll: a herd of bullocks whose playful stampede hastened my exit from their field, a gang of recalcitrant rams whose refusal to budge from the path caused me a detour through ankle-deep mud, squirrels, rabbits and an autumn swarm of bees. Oh, and some dangerous plant life in the shape of nettles as big as triffids.
This walk crosses the A500 twice and comes quite close to the M6. Yet at all times you feel lost in nature; quite literally lost at times, for several of these footpaths seem very lightly used and somewhat overgrown.
I urge you to end the walk with a visit to the White Lion Inn. If you were asked to conjure a vision of a country pub, this would be it: thatched roof, black and white Tudor construction and a low-beamed cosy interior. Pints have been pulled here for over 400 years.
High above the pub stands the grade I-listed St Bertoline's Church, parts of which date back to the 12th century. The late Raymond Richards - owner of Gawsworth Hall and author of Old Cheshire Churches - said: 'Barthomley still remains one of the lovely places of Cheshire. Its church is among the most beautiful in the county.'
But St Bertoline's is a beauty with a dark past, thanks to the English Civil War. On Christmas Eve 1643, parishioners fleeing Royalist troops took refuge in the church. After smoking them out, the soldiers killed a dozen of them in what has been known since as the Barthomley Massacre.
1. Head for St Bertoline's Church, Barthomley, postcode CW2 5PF. There is some parking in the village, though you may struggle for a space on a sunny Sunday afternoon. With your back to the church, walk up the road signposted for Alsager, passing the White Lion on your right. Just a few metres later, bear left along a grass and gravel track (there's a well-concealed footpath sign) and moments later bear right into an overgrown path which runs beside a building. Crossing a stile, head slightly right onto a footpath crossing a large field which, on my visit, contained a herd of curious bullocks.
2. At the far end of the field, bear left on a path running parallel with the A500. Look out for a stile on the right, which takes you down steps to the road. Cross over with care and go up steps on the other side, cross a stile and then bear left along a green lane with a metal gate at its entrance. After a few minutes, you reach another metal gate with a stile beside it. Cross the stile and head round the right hand side of a duck pond and on through a kissing gate, along a field edge path which emerges eventually onto narrow Mill Lane. Go left along the lane.
3. At a T-junction, go left, crossing over the A500 and walking round several bends before arriving at a bridge over a stream. When, soon after, you reach a sign indicating a footpath to the left, bear right instead into an overgrown (knee-high nettles on my visit) grassy track. Keep to this path until it emerges on a lane. Go right here and, 300 metres later, cross a stile on the left, taking a footpath along a left-hand field edge. When you get to a small pond on the left, go left through a field entrance and head up the next field, passing a large pond on your right, towards the stile just to the right of a clump of trees.
4. Cross the stile, then another immediately to the left, and a short walk through the trees brings you to Deans Lane. Head right along the lane and, just beyond the entrance to Limes Farm, cross a stile on the left. Two footpaths are indicated here, and you take the one ahead, up the field towards the farmhouse, with trees to your right. At the next stile, go right along the field edge, with a deep wooded valley to your right.
5. Keep on this path, following it down at one point to a small wooden bridge and back up again. A short time after this, following a little uphill climb, look for a stile on your right, which could be very well hidden by vegetation. Cross here and head right, winding down to Dean Brook. Head left along the valley, passing through several gates along the way. At a point where the brook widens, take a gate in a fence on the left and continue in the same direction along a track which eventually brings you to Barthomley Road. Head left up this narrow lane and you will eventually arrive back in the village.
Area of Walk: Barthomley
Distance: 5 miles
Time to allow: 2 hours
Map: OS Explorer 257
Refreshments: White Lion, Barthomley, Crewe CW2 5PG