Cheshire walk - Trentabank and Macclesfield Forest
PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 May 2019
It might start with a steep climb, but this stunning Macclesfield Forest ramble rewards you with a gentle descent and a good pint.
Reaching Ridgegate Reservoir, I tend to think I've arrived in Little Switzerland, what with the glassy waters, and the hills bristling with conifers.
It is a landscape which is largely man-made. Yes, the Macclesfield Forest was a place of leisure as long ago as the Norman Conquest, the Earls of Chester using it for their hunting grounds. But it must have looked very different in those days.
The conifers are 20th century additions, and the reservoirs were created – Ridgegate in 1850, Trentabank in 1929 – to provide drinking water for Macclesfield. But you have to admit that, for a man-made landscape, it looks very much as nature intended. The wildlife certainly thinks so. You may spot red deer hereabouts, Trentabank Reservoir is home to a heronry comprising 20 breeding pairs, and there are all manner of ducks, grebes and coots to be spotted.
This is a walk which begins with a slightly steep climb, the reward for which is a breather at Forest Chapel, a simple place of worship in a charming hamlet in the middle of nowhere. This little church, St Stephen's, has history dating back to 1673 and a small but devoted congregation.
From here, we head into the forest before winding downhill to the Leather's Smithy – a proper country pub definitely worth a pit stop – ambling around Ridgegate Reservoir for the final leg back to the car park.
1. Head for Trentabank car park, postcode SK11 0NS, though you may also use the designated on-street parking between the Leather's Smithy and the car park if you can find a space (which, on a sunny day, you probably won't). From the Trentabank car park entrance, head across the road towards the reservoir, through the wooden gate and take the path which goes to the water's edge then loops back to the road. Keep ahead on the road until, after veering left at the end of the reservoir, it heads uphill. Take the gravelly path on the right, marked Standing Stone, going through trees and returning quite soon, via steps to the road. Cross over the road and take the path opposite, winding uphill, again signposted Standing Stone.
2. After climbing, the path descends and crosses a stream near to a small pond. Head left, uphill, following the sign for Forest Chapel, and when the path veers right for Standing Stone, keep ahead until the path emerges on a narrow lane. Go right up the lane and you soon arrive at St Stephen's Church, in a little hamlet where the other buildings include a school house and teacher's cottage. After having a look in the church, go a few yards back up the road by which you arrived and turn right beside Toot Hill House, going uphill along the forest bridleway.
3. Look over to the right here to see, in the distance, the Cat and Fiddle Inn which, before it closed at the end of 2015, was England's second highest pub (after the Tan Hill Inn in North Yorkshire). As the bridleway reaches the forest, head left through a wooden gate onto a path through the trees. Views down across the Cheshire Plain soon open up. Keep to this path for some time, until it descends, via steps, to meet a wider track with a ruined barn, bearing a carved stone 'JB 1880'. Bear left here, going downhill, but before doing so, have a look at the barn. On my visit, a touching little shrine explained how Dimples Farm, in Macclesfield Forest, was the childhood home of Walter Whiston Bullock, who emigrated to New Zealand, but then fought in the First World War at Gallipoli and the Somme before being killed, aged 34, in 1917 at Passchendaele. He received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Follow the signpost for Langley, heading gently downhill for quite some time. Coming to a metal gate beside a wooden five-bar gate, keep ahead on the road, which soon reaches the Leather's Smithy pub.
4. Cross over Clarke Lane and take the path ahead, running below the dam of Ridgegate Reservoir. Keep to this path as it winds round the reservoir, eventually bringing you back to the road where you can bear right to reach Trentabank car park.
Area of Walk: Macclesfield Forest
Distance: 4 miles
Time to allow: 2 hours
Map: OS Explorer OL24
Refreshments: Leather's Smithy, Clarke Lane, Sutton, Macclesfield, SK11 0NE
Paul will be back next month with a stroll around Kelsall but if you can't wait that long log onto cheshirelife.co.uk where you'll find more walks to enjoy around the county. And don't forget your camera - your pictures could win you prizes. See online for full details of our readers' photos competition and to see the entries we've already received.