• Start: Mow Cop, South Cheshire
  • End: Mow Cop, South Cheshire
  • Country: England
  • County: Cheshire
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub: The Rising Sun at Scholar Green, café at Little Moreton Hall 20 mins off route.
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 268 Wilmslow, Macclesfield & Congleton
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Keith Carter takes in reminders of our spiritual and industrial heritage on a walk around Mow Cop

For this months walk we go down south south Cheshire that is, to the very border with Staffordshire. Mow Cop (Mow to rhyme with cow) is a hilltop village topped by a convincing-looking ruin, every inch a castle at first glance except that it was built to please the eye and enhance the view by a local landowner in 1754 and has never seen or heard a shot fired in anger. Silhouetted against the sky it brings to mind sieges, barons and dungeons but has never appeared in the pages of history.

Mow Cop has a past centred round the quarrying and mining industries and the dark, satanic mills of the industrial revolution when it was known for the manufacture of a coarse cloth known as fustian, used primarily for making the clothes worn by the workers. You dont see it about now and the word has come to mean something of slight value, worthless.

Talking of Mow Cops past, it became the home base of the movement known as Primitive Methodism during the early 19th century, standing for the principles of self-help, simple living and the rights of working people. In 1807 a huge rally was held here with open-air sermons preached to thousands of people. There is a fine example of a Wesleyan chapel on our walk, a reminder of the wide support the movement enjoyed.

I found somewhere to park opposite the Mow Cop Inn and started by walking uphill past the pub towards the radio mast on the skyline. As the lane levels, a track departs on the right, the signpost confusingly indicating both the Staffordshire Way and the South Cheshire Way. Where this tracks bends to the left our route is forward but an interesting diversion can be made here.

If you remain on the track and take a path to the left you come to an old quarry. Sitting in the middle of it is a stone column resembling a seated figure and this is the Old Man of Mow. In the quarrying industry they often left columns of rock standing as fixing points for overhead cables and lifting gear which probably explains how this curious figure still stands.

Return to the bend and take the stile that leads us downhill, the radio mast on y our right. Enter a wood and descend through it, emerging onto open hillside with great views to the north. We continue downhill past an isolated smallholding and on reaching the bottom join a cart-track, staying on it as far as the railway which is crossed by a concrete tunnel under it.

Turn left on Yew Tree Lane and at the T-junction turn right along the road to the canal bridge. Go down the steps to the towpath and turn under the bridge to join the towpath with the canal on your left. This is the Macclesfield Canal, one link in the famous Cheshire Ring and it provides pleasant walking especially in spring. There is also the chance of a diversion to visit Little Moreton Hall, reached by field paths from near bridge 86. This 15th century house is probably one of the best examples of a half-timbered building in England but may be worth a visit on another day.

The canal along this stretch has some nice restored railings looked on by the impressive gables of Ramsdell Hall. Im not personally into railings but I know a good set when I see one.

We pass Sherborne Marina with its colourful narrow boats and then bridge 87 where you can take a short walk to the Rising Sun pub at Scholar Green. At bridge 91 we leave the canal and cross by the bridge to enter an enclosed path beside a huge metal gate. Go under the railway again, ducking down to avoid the supporting girders and enter a field by a stile then follow a left hand boundary.

Cross the next field by a clear path left through the crops, the gritstone escarpment of Mow Cop visible ahead. Enter a wood at a stile and keep right, following a sunken path through the wood and emerging in a field. From this stile head slightly left, aiming for a footbridge over a stream and cross the next field again by a path left by the farmer through his crop. This brings us to the road where we turn left, climbing the quite steep hill towards the houses.

Just as they begin, take a footpath on the right to go along behind the houses and on reaching a road, turn right at a bend. Take the footpath in 40 yards on the left and climb through old quarries to the top, the edge to our right. Turn left then next right and pass to the left of a bungalow joining the lane which serves it. Where this meets the road turn right and the four-square Hillside Chapel is passed, the largest building in the area. Just beyond it take a footpath to the left which passes gardens, climbs steps then keeps right at the top.

We can soon see Mow Cop Castle atop its well-placed boulders up to our left and by taking a zigzag path can climb up to it and survey the countryside on all side. Its in the care of the National Trust but has no interior so is for looking at, not going in. Say what you like, it deserves being called a castle even if it isnt one.

Our return to the Mow Cop Inn is by way of a footpath along a wall taking the radio masts as our direction and on meeting the lane we turn right past Sugar Well Farm and descend to the road junction with the pub on our left. It seems to be open only at the weekends so if like me you do this walk mid-week youll have to look elsewhere for that tempting pint. n

Compass points

Area of walk: Mow Cop, South Cheshire

Distance: 6 miles

Time to allow: 3 hours

Map: OS Explorer 268 Wilmslow, Macclesfield & Congleton

Refreshments: The Rising Sun at Scholar Green, caf at Little Moreton Hall 20 mins off route.

Wheelchair/Pushchair friendly? Not suitable

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