Cheshire walk - Styal and Manchester Airport
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:04 25 May 2020
We head for Styal for a walk which combines river and woodland with the din of international air travel, writes Howard Bradbury.
I had hoped to bring you this walk earlier, but my first attempt to wander through these woods in Styal a few months ago was thwarted by barricades. The reason? Phytophthora ramorum, an infectious plant disease which meant that larch trees in Chapel Woods were being felled.
The result of that work was still evident on my return visit, along with an information plaque explaining why the area around the Oxbow in the River Bollin was looking a little denuded.
This is a walk of vivid contrasts; for the first half of it, you are going through woodland, crossing and re-crossing the Bollin. For the second half, you are skirting the perimeter of Manchester Airport, with its high security fences before strolling the picturesque Altrincham Road back to the starting point.
The Bollin is very pretty as it meanders through this woodland. But it is also the force of nature which brought industry to Styal. When Samuel Greg founded Quarry Bank Mill - now, of course, a fascinating industrial heritage site for the National Trust - in 1784, it was to harness the river’s power to drive the machinery.
The Gregs also built homes here for the workers, much better than the slums of industrial Manchester, and places of worship including Norcliffe Chapel, which we pass at the start of the walk. Opened in 1823, the chapel was built by Samuel Greg at a cost of £307 18s, and all the local villagers were invited to lay a brick in the foundations.
A word of warning. This is a short walk, but it includes lots of quite steep steps, the possibility of very muddy stretches and lots of exposed and slippery tree roots, so care and appropriate footwear are advised.
We begin at the car park for Norcliffe Chapel, on Altrincham Road, Styal, postcode SK9 4JE. After parking up, walk away from the road towards the end of the car park, following the path round to the obvious landmark of Styal Cross. Although it looks like an ancient fixture, the cross has stood here a relatively short time, moved from Holly Lane, where it was felled after being hit by a car in 1980. It was unveiled after a restoration in 2010 by Styal’s most famous son Terry Waite, the former Church of England envoy who spent 1,763 days as a hostage in Lebanon until 1991. From the cross, head towards Norcliffe Chapel, then take the path to the left of the entrance to the chapel - and running parallel to it - until you reach the gate signposted as the entrance to Northern Woods. Within yards of passing through the gate, the path forks. Go right here, along a path with a stream to the left. When you reach some stone steps to the right, go down the first few then bear left onto a path which skirts around a hill before arriving at a well-defined gravel path. Go right here, downhill to Kingfisher Bridge.
Cross the bridge and keep ahead, passing an information sign about phytophthora ramorum, and on, following the riverside path, to Oxbow Bridge. Cross the bridge and go left, soon ascending a long flight of steps. After levelling out, the path descends to more steps with the river visible to the right, and then goes left into more woodland, where the way forward may be a little less obvious. It was very muddy indeed on my visit. There are more steps uphill and then downhill to Giant’s Castle Bridge.
Cross the bridge and go up the steps, following a path high above the river. More steps bring you back down to river level where you now keep to the path for some time with the river to your left. You will soon become aware of the proximity of Manchester Airport. Eventually the path ascends and you come to a wooden gate on your right. Through this gate, up a few steps and then right up the winding path and you will emerge at a path running around the perimeter of the runway.
Go right along this path and follow it until you reach Crash Gate no 4, where the path bears right and puts you on a tarmac road. This quiet road, with some very pleasant houses beside it, is Altrincham Road. Follow it for a few hundred yards and it brings you back to the car park at Norcliffe Chapel.
Area of walk: Styal and Manchester Airport
Distance: 3 miles
Time to allow: 2 hours
Map: OS Explorer 268
Refreshments: The Ship, Altrincham Road, Styal, SK9 4JE