Cheshire walk - North Rode and Gawsworth
PUBLISHED: 19:35 12 February 2017 | UPDATED: 13:51 25 May 2020
We head for the much-hymned delights of Gawsworth on this month’s walk, writes Howard Bradbury, but we start with the less-feted charms of North Rode.
I love the description of North Rode as a place where ‘nothing ever happens but there is always something going on’.
That phrase - which I found in a short history of North Rode written by Anne Lever, available in St Michael’s Church - could no doubt be applied to village life anywhere in Britain. North Rode may have done little to trouble the history books (a summary mention in the Domesday Book aside) but that does not make its centuries of quiet endeavour and community any less fascinating.
The name of North Rode means ‘clearing in the forest’ - the Macclesfield Forest which was a royal hunting ground, that is - and wolves would have roamed here until the 14th century.
The fate of villages so often turn on the involvement of one family, and in North Rode’s case, that family was the Daintrys. The banking family built the present manor house in 1838 (two previous manor houses had succumbed to fire), built St Michael’s Church in 1845 (its architects Charles and James Trubshaw also designed, respectively, the Midland Hotel in Manchester and the Grosvenor Bridge in Chester), and built a school.
In the mid-19th century North Rode had its own shoemaker, wheelwright, blacksmith, undertaker, joiner, tailor, miller and clogger. It is not quite so self-sufficient these days, but Anne Lever’s history assures us that the village - with its combination of incomers and long-established farming families - is still very community-minded.
1. There is parking in the lay-by on Bullgate Lane at Bosley Top Lock (postcode for your sat nav is SK11 0PP). From here, walk in a westerly direction along Bullgate Lane (the top lock and canalside facilities will be on your right as you walk down the lane). Cross the railway bridge and instead of following the road when it veers right, carry straight on along the drive to North Rode Manor. You pass by a lake with an intriguing ‘plug hole’ overflow which put me in mind of the famous Cup and Sauce waterfall at the Erddig stately home near Wrexham.
2. Just before you get to a cattle grid, take the footpath to the left, heading for the top left corner of the field, near a farm. Cross the stile and go just a few yards along the lane before turning sharp right and crossing a cattle grid to follow a concrete road through a field. If you would like to take a detour to look at the village of North Rode, then, instead of taking that sharp right, carry straight on and you soon arrive at the church.
3. Continue on that concrete road until a fork where you keep left, cross a cattle grid beside the farm and go straight ahead, across a stile beside a metal gate and straight across a field towards trees where you join a field track, cross another stile and continue on the track until it reaches a lane. Go right up the lane and at a T junction go straight ahead through a metal kissing gate. You will be crossing several fields now and the footpath is clearly marked. Along the way, you will pass a large wind turbine in a field and the tower of St James the Great Church in Gawsworth will come into view.
4. When the path arrives at a series of fishing ponds, go left beside two of the ponds and then go right, following the footpath between the second and third ponds, heading up a grassy slope, over a stile and on along the left edge of a field towards the church. The path emerges at a road. A very short walk to the left is the Harrington Arms - highly recommended as a refreshment stop. But our walk continues by turning right up the lane. You will be passing through a scene which, to many, is the very quintessence of the county. As Pevsner’s The Buildings of England says: ‘There is nothing in Cheshire to compare with the loveliness of Gawsworth: three great houses and a distinguished church set around a descending string of pools, all within an enigmatic large-scale formal landscape.’
5. Keep on the lane, enjoying all that loveliness, past the church, the pools and the hall off to the right, and when the road turns to the left, go right towards the hall entrance. Continue on past the entrance, past the statue of Robert Peel, with Gawsworth Fisheries on your left and on to a metal kissing gate into a huge field. You head straight along the left hand edge of several fields now, and you are likely to encounter some very muddy bits along the way.
6. Eventually the path emerges onto a lane. Bear right, past Mount Farm, over the railway bridge, and look for a footpath sign on the left. Head down this track to a farm yard where you go right, through a gate, left down the field for a few yards and then left through another metal gate and down a field, heading towards a house. There is an earth bridge over a stream and a metal gate which takes you up steps to the canal. Turn right along the towpath and it’s a couple of miles back to Bosley Top Lock.
Area of Walk: North Rode and Gawsworth
Distance: 6½ miles
Time to allow: 3 hours
Hazards: Muddy patches likely. You may encounter cattle, but, these days, no wolves.
Map: OS Explorer 268
Refreshments: Harrington Arms, Church Lane, Gawsworth SK11 9RJ.