Cheshire Walk - Marton and Capesthorne Hall estate
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 October 2013
Keith Carter finds fascinating history on a walk from Marton, near Congleton, which passes through the Capesthorne Hall estate
The A34 Congleton road carries a steady stream of traffic through the village of Marton to the detriment of an otherwise lovely village, which should by rights nestle in some rural seclusion untouched by the mighty roar. Since there is no likelihood of a by-pass, this has to be endured by those who live there and those like us only visiting for the pleasure of a walk. We only have a few hundred yards of main road pavement to negotiate when setting off from the car park at the church, just as far as Chapel Bridge, where our route leaves the thundering lorries behind.
The church of St James and St Paul has been described as one of the ecclesiastical gems of Cheshire and so it is, an example of medieval wooden church architecture seldom rivalled throughout England. Built with a wood shingled bell-tower and black and white half-timbering, it was founded in 1343 by Sir John Davenport, the family name repeated in the pub, the Davenport Arms, a thriving hostelry.
The village has other notable echoes of the past, not least the half-timbered birthplace of one William Buckley who was sentenced to transportation for life for taking part in a mutiny. He broke out of prison in Australia and spent the next 32 years of his life living with Aborigines, becoming integrated into their way of life in spite of being 6ft 6in tall, and white. Known as the ‘Wild White Man’, he died in 1856 after falling from a horse and is commemorated in the town of Buckley Falls, Victoria.
1. Our walk this month has no such dramatic events, departing from the village into the peaceful surroundings of farming country. After leaving the A34 the footpath takes us to a gate to the left of the garage of Brookside Cottage, passes some abandoned machinery and crosses a stile on the right beside a telegraph pole.
Enter a field and stay alongside a right-hand hedge, keeping forward as the hedge turns right and striking across pasture to a stile in the facing hedge where we come out onto a lane. Along here we came upon a recently deceased fully-grown badger, presumably hit by a car. That’s one less for the badger-culling fraternity which does not include me. Anyone who has seen badgers in the wild could never accept the idea of exterminating them, in my opinion.
2. At a bend in the road, keep forward on a farm track leading to Mutlow Farm, pass through the farm then continue along a left-hand hedge to reach a five-barred gate across the track. Turn left and as you approach Higher Mutlow Farm an alternative permissive path presents itself. In an effort to conserve wildlife, efforts have been made to take walkers on a loop that leads eventually back to the farm. Every credit to whoever had the idea but sadly the way-marking has become either lost or vandalised and the only guide really is to follow the fending put in by DP Fencing Contractors whose yellow signs adorn the fence at rather too frequent intervals.
The landowner has tried to encourage birds by smothering the trees in nesting boxes, including on one tree an owl box. I can see the point in putting up nesting boxes in domestic gardens but in open country I’d rather leave it to the birds to decide where to nest.
If you have chosen to follow this permissive path it brings you back to Higher Mutlow Farm. If not, as you approach the farm take a gate on the left, turn right at a second gate then left at a third then follow a left-hand hedge to a meadow at the bottom. Turn right along a line of trees then left towards a footbridge over Chapel Brook with a gate either side.
3. After crossing the footbridge, look up to the right to a brick-built barn and head for it on a rising field, the buildings of Great Tidnock Farm appearing as you get nearer. Keep to the right of the barn and you should meet a farm track at a gate with a stile beside it. Turn left and pass the farmhouse, then take the right-of-way through the yard where horses are stabled.
Once through the farm the clear track winds down through a belt of trees then enters a wood where a signboard says this is part of the Capesthorne Estate. We are some distance away from Capesthorne Hall but I imagine most of the land around here belongs to the estate. The Hall is the seat of the Bromley-Davenports, the current squire formerly Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire.
4. Continue on the track through the woods past some fishing lakes just visible on the left and emerge onto Marton Lane. Turn left, soon to pass Pikelow Farm where the owner runs the fishing lakes and also offers wildlife photography opportunities including likely sightings of kingfishers in the pools.
Continue on the lane which when I researched this walk had been resurfaced. Judging by the farm traffic along it, it needed it. At a junction by the school, bear left onto Oak Lane and follow round housing to meet the A34 again, emerging nearly opposite the Davenport Arms. Turn left and walk on the pavement past a group of premises that include the Marton Kitchen and a bistro, La Popote, said to be very good. Within a few hundred yards we return to the church car park. The church was open at the time of my visit and one could enjoy its peace and serenity.
Area of Walk: Marton, near Congleton
Distance: 4 ½ miles
Time to allow: 2-3hrs
Map: OS Explorer 268 Wilmslow, Congleton and Macclesfield
Refreshments: Pub and café in Marton
Not suitable for wheelchair users or pushchairs.
Keith will be back next month with another glorious walk through the Cheshire countryside. For more great walking routes, go to cheshirelife.co.uk.