• Start: South Park Drive, Poynton Park
  • End: South Park Drive, Poynton Park
  • Country: England
  • County: Cheshire
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub:
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 268 Wilmslow, Macclesfield and Congleton
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Keith Carter take a stroll round a village once famous for 'steam, stone, coal and canal'

AWALK around Poynton brings us in touch with the area's extensive industrial past which can be summed up as steam, stone, coal and canal.

Looking today at the peaceful greenery of Cheshire south of Manchester it is difficult to believe that this was at one time literally a 'hive of industry'. All that remains today are abandoned quarries, which provided the building stone for the local towns, and the shafts of coal mines that supplied the fuel to drive the looms in the cotton and silk mills that
were once the main source of employment in the area.

The Macclesfield Canal, opened in 1831 at a cost of 320,000, carried coal, stone, bales of cotton and silk and now provides simple leisure pursuits like cruising and for us walkers a great opportunity to do what we like best. One has to remind oneself that we are walking in the footsteps of the past and I for one count myself lucky that I am able to do so.

There is little evidence left today of these hectic industries unless it is in the place names left to us, offering a faint reminder of an era now long gone. 'Princes Incline', for example, is a reference to the gravity-drives tracks used for transporting coal; Nelson Pit, an obvious reference to a
now-disappeared mine; and Mount Vernon Wharf, named after Lord Vernon, local lord of the manor and industrialist.

There is some good information displayed in the Nelson Pit Visitor Centre with details of how the coal was mined and the stone quarried with lots of handy leaflets to take away for a browse.

Through the area runs the Middlewood Way, an eleven-mile long trail laid down on the line of the old Macclesfield, Bollington and Marple Railway which was closed in 1970. It's ideal for cyclists and horse-riders, less so for walkers in that it is dead flat and straight and fairly featureless but it provides a useful link on many walks in the area. On the walk I describe below we touch on it twice for a few hundred yards which is enough to give us a taste.

There are many places where a car can be conveniently parked but I found an ideal one on South Park Drive on the edge of Poynton Park just off the A523. Heading south from Hazel Grove take the next right after passing the Bulls Head pub. A handy free car park, hardly signed at all but known to local dog-walkers, does nicely for today's walk.

1 WALK back to the main road past the end of Poynton Lake, or Poynton Pool as it is known locally, keeping an eye out to spot its regulars such as the heron and the greatcrested
grebe. A passer-by pointed out a number of what he called 'gillymonts' although to me they were definitely cormorants. I did not like to correct him.

Turn left towards Poynton and take the left turn into Woodside Lane with the cricket ground to your right. This is the access road to a private estate, Kingswood, but there is a path that strikes off to the left just as you reach the houses. This broad, earth path follows the same line for over a mile heading due east and we stay on it, in places going through some newly installed galvanised metal kissing gates, probably designed to deter cyclists. Never mind.

They have the Middlewood Way. I met a man absorbed in photographing the flag on the golf course with a camera I would have given an arm and a leg for. It turned out he was learning to cope with retirement in common with thousands of competent, resourceful folk whose job has defined them for their working lives and who are suddenly faced with limitless free time and not enough to fill it with. It takes some doing but with an optimistic outlook most of us find out that there is more to life than work.

2 WHEN you come to a crossing lane called Bluebell Rise, go straight across and a rough track then metalled road with some housing leads to a railway bridge. Looking over it, you soon discover that there is no longer a railway line below but the Middlewood Way.

Turn down on to it by way of some steps on the right on the far side of the bridge then go under the bridge and walk north as far as bridge number 18 where we leave the Middlewood Way and go right towards Jackson's Brickworks, now a Nature Conservation Area. A sign explains that this was the site of a brickworks run by Jackson's, relying on the old rule
that if in doubt, state the obvious.

Keep to the right of the car park and go through two gates to emerge at a stables. Turn left and go through two kissing gates, the path bordered by pasture. At a third gate, keep to a
hawthorn hedge on your left and at the fourth gate keep right and in 75 yards come to the Macclesfield Canal next to bridge 13.

Take to the towpath and go right. In about a kilometre we come to Mount Vernon Wharf. Notice the bridges crossing the canal hereabout, known as 'flat-decked' as opposed to stone-arched.

This was to make them easier to raise in the event of subsidence due to the widespread mining in the area. There are narrow boats moored all along here, some of them seemingly permanent judging by the flower pots and bird feeders at the mooring. We come to Nelson Pit
marina and boatyard where a sign writer has his workshop, his colourful work on display.

3 LEAVE the canal here and go down right on the road to the Nelson Pit Visitor Centre, well worth a visit if only to pick up a few leaflets for future reference.

There are toilets here too and you can get a drink at the Boars Head pub just across the bridge. Continue the walk by going down steps on to the Middlewood Way and going left for a few hundred yards, passing under Shrigley Road bridge before reaching a large car park serving Poynton Coppice. Leave the Middlewood Way just before the car park and go through an opening on the right.

Take the right hand path signposted Ward's End, winding up onto the ridge above the wooded ravine through which a stream flows. Poynton Coppice is classified as an ancient semi-natural wood because it has never been ploughed. In 1847, 44 acres were planted by Lord Vernon to provide timber for the mines and the alders used to be coppiced to provide wood for the clog-making industry. The narrow path meets a broad track and we follow it to the left, bordering a nursery. Houses begin to appear and the track becomes metalled as it descends to its junction with a road by a little bridge. The road it meets is delightfully named Moggie Lane.

4 TURN right and take the next left, Dickens Lane, and stay with it on the pavement all the way back to Poynton. Where this lane meets the main A523, turn right and walk through the centre of Poynton. Once through the traffic lights by St Georges Church, our turning soon
appears and we are back at the car.


Walk area: Poynton
Start and finish: South Park Drive, Poynton Park
7 miles
Time to allow:
31/2 hours
OS Explorer 268 Wilmslow, Macclesfield and Congleton
Refreshments and toilets:
Nelson Pit marina.
Useful web site:

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