Fail to prepare? Then prepare to fail. That mantra of the know-all nagged at me as I retraced my steps across a boggy field, eyes fixed on the mud.
Barely a tenth of the way into my planned circular ramble from Gawsworth, I had managed to drop the one and only pen I had with me to record every twist, turn and waypoint for the readers of Cheshire Life. What a dismal start.
And then, hurrah! A fellow walker sauntered into view, holding my ballpoint aloft and inquiring: ‘Is this yours?’
More remarkable even than recovering a pen in an acre of mud is that this Good Samaritan was one of only three people I passed on this entire walk of over three miles. And yet, back at Gawsworth Hall, where my walk had begun, there were coach parties being disgorged, the car park was filling up and a mini-throng was milling up and down the poolside lane which leads to St James the Great Church.
The statue of Robert Peel near the entrance to Gawsworth Old Hall.
It’s a lovely spot, and Gawsworth Old Hall (open May 5 to September 22 on Sunday afternoons, and daily from June 24 to August 31) is a Tudor manor house with a rich history, including its part in one of the most famous duels in history. The rakish Lord Mohun and the Duke of Hamilton took up swords in 1712 in Hyde Park as part of their legal tussle over these Macclesfield estates. Both men ended up dead. It was Lord Mohun who began building of the magnificent Gawsworth New Hall in 1707, though, of course, he did not live to enjoy it.
1 Our walk begins at the car park on Church Lane, Gawsworth, but the plan is to escape the crowds.
Exit the car park and turn right, heading towards the main entrance to the Old Hall, but carry on past that entrance. You will pass a statue of Robert Peel on your left - one of a dozen in his honour around Britain - and also Gawsworth Fisheries.
The Harrington Arms
Ahead of you is a metal gate. Go through it and walk straight on across six fields, passing through six more gates along the way, enjoying expansive views on either side. This stretch may be boggy if the weather has been wet.
2 The path leads eventually to Woodhouse End Road. Bear right and walk along the road, passing Mount Farm on your right, cross the bridge over the railway and turn left at the public footpath on the drive up to Woodhouse Green Farm. When you get to the farm yard, look for a metal field gate to the right. Go through that and on the left is a hand gate with a yellow footpath sign.
Head down and across the undulating field, crossing over a ditch at the bottom, through a wooden style and up a flight of stone steps.
see jpeg label for caption
3 This brings you to the Macclesfield Canal. Turn left along the towpath and carry on walking for about ten minutes until you reach the white swing bridge. This is bridge 47 and it is the last remaining example of a Macclesfield Canal swivel bridge, most such structures having disappeared long ago. Bridge 47 too was very dilapidated when the decision was made to preserve it, hence the 1998 plaque, commemorating its official reopening by then Macclesfield MP Sir Nicholas Winterton.
4 Bridge 47 is where we leave the canal, taking the footpath to the left and following it down to the footbridge, by which we cross the railway again. Keep following the path now across Danes Moss, which is, according to Cheshire Wildlife Trust, ‘the largest and highest lowland raised bog in Cheshire’. There is certainly an slightly eerie beauty to the place, with ponds and puddles all around you in the dense vegetation. The trust describes the moss as ‘a real treat for flying insect fans’ with 11 species of dragonfly and damselfly and 19 species of butterfly.
5 The path comes to a crossroads, and here we go straight across and up over a style into another field. More possibility for bogginess here, and, in my case, a close encounter with a couple of curious cows reluctant to be shooed away. We follow the path through the field until we get to Woodhouse End Road. Turn right along the road and follow it for a few minutes, taking the next public footpath to the left. A short stroll across three fields brings us to Church Lane, where we turn left and soon find ourselves back at the car park.
Area of walk: Gawsworth and Danes Moss
Map: OS Explorer 268
Distance: 3½ miles
Time to allow: 90 minutes to 2 hours
Refreshments: Gawsworth Hall and Harrington Arms, Church Lane, Gawsworth.