Cheshire Walks - Swettenham and Holmes Chapel
PUBLISHED: 14:31 11 September 2012 | UPDATED: 18:51 12 March 2018
Keith Carter takes evasive action on a walk through the green and pleasant land near Swettenham
I was last in Swettenham in February 2008 to research a walk published in the April issue of Cheshire Life that year. Since then it hasn’t changed, which is exactly what you want. Villages like Swettenham are not meant to change but to stay as they are to remind us of what being English is all about.
Who could forget the lovely Swettenham Arms, a perfect example of what a pub should be like, welcoming, comforting and a haven of good fellowship for walkers like us?
The red brick church tower stands as a counterpoint to the pub and it is only a shame the church was locked, as so many are now, for security I suppose. Walking around the outside I came face to face again with the startled expression on the carved ass’s head above a doorway.
This is taken from the arms of an old Cheshire family, the Mainwarings, reputed to have come over with William the Conqueror. One of the line, a knight at arms, had his mount killed under him and rode back into the battle on an ass. This probably explains the look of shock on theass’s face.
1 The pub car park is enormous so we can leave the car there. If any of the party feel like staying behind there is an interesting local stroll to take in the Quinta Arboretum and the lavender and sunflower meadow close by.
The land was originally bought by Sir Bernard Lovell of Jodrell Bank fame who purchased it in 1948 to create a space for everyone to enjoy. It passed to the Cheshire Wildlife Trust in 1996 and they entrusted it to the Tatton Garden Society in 2003.
For our walk we take the signed footpath opposite the lych gate, joining the Dane Valley Walk signified on the way marks with the letters DVW which follows, as its name suggests, the river from its lifelifelifelifesource in Macclesfield Forest to where it flows into the Weaver.
The Dane is a remarkably winding river, twisting and turning endlessly in its meandering course along its fertile valley. We keep right at a picnic area, passing the lavender field and a rather fine chicken run from which no chicken, however resourceful, could ever escape, to reach a lane via a short gap in the corner of the field. Turn right then immediate left and go down into a shady dell, cross a stream and climb up the other side to a farm track crossing our path.
2 The farm in front of us is Ash Tree Farm, one of many farms locally with a tree in their name: Oak Farm, Peartree Farm, Hollytree Farm, Beechwood Farm, names going back many years when it was easier to identify ownership by a prominent tree. Turn left on the track and after passing Brook Farm take the path that diverts us to the left of the barns ahead. This involves negotiating an appalling slurry pit and a short stretch of churned up mud, no problem in the dry but an obstacle course in wet weather.
Once past this our way continues along the top of a bank, the land falling away to our left to a heavily wooded ravine. The path becomes thick with bracken, in places chest high, before we meet a stile which brings us into a field where we turn left and keep to the edge to where we leave it and take a short rutted track to enter a meadow. Keep right, skirt a pond and cross a stile into a field sometimes used to graze horses.
3 Cross to the opposite boundary and follow the fence down to a footbridge across a stream which leads us into a wooded hillside to be climbed up, leaving the trees by a stile at the top. At this point stop for a moment and look ahead to be sure of the way forward. We are essentially to cross the large field ahead to the top left, our direction via a large isolated oak tree in the middle of the field. It may be possible to discern a field path created by the passage of walkers’ feet although I don’t imagine a great many pass this way.
Once across the field, go through a recently erected gate and take a path leading down into a dell and up the other side where a second, similar gate leads us into a field planted with crops. Cut across the corner then keep right along the field edge, the river on our left and we come to a stile to climb down into a field heavily grazed by cattle.
This brings me to the ticklish topic of walking through fields of cows. Normally dairy cattle will take no notice but young heifers can get quite excited by anyone passing through their field. It’s worth being careful when walking with a dog on a lead which can agitate cows, particularly those with calves. The important thing is to take a moment to weigh up the options and be prepared to find another way forward if any doubt lingers.
On the day I was walking this route with my companion Jim we became aware that this field contained not only about fifty cows but also a large bull and we decided discretion to be the better part of valour and took evasive action. We reached the main road, the A535 through the adjoining field. As you come to it the brick viaduct taking the railway over the Dane Valley appears and remains in sight as we walk along the road towards Holmes Chapel, at first on the verge then on the pavement once past the bridge.
4 At the grassy bend known as Salterford Corner we leave the road and take the lane on the left and escape the traffic at last. Follow the lane for nearly a mile until it runs out at Woodhouse Farm and becomes a track that ends at a gate where there are a few spaces for parking cars. Through the gate, take a footpath on the right, down a dell and up out of it and emerge in a meadow where the river winds its way over to the left. Keep ahead across two
fields. The sign pointing to the right isn’t of any use to us.
5 At the top of the second field we meet a bulldozed track laid with concrete sleepers and take it for a short distance down to the left then leave it. Our way follows the river, at times touching the very edge, at others nearly losing site of it altogether where loops take it away from our path.
We finally climb up a steep bank and turn left on a path inside the boundary fence of a field then take to a path that contours a bank, in places quite challenging, then descending to a gate through which we find ourselves on rather a good track obviously well cared for. This is Davenport Hall land so everything is well kept. This track crosses an ornamental bridge, exits via a gateway beside the gate house and brings us back into the village.
An eventful walk with much variety and the occasional obstacle which can be overcome with a little resourcefulness, adding to the enjoyment. The lush green of the fields and woods are typical of deepest Cheshire and exemplify that classic description of ‘a green and pleasant land’.
Area of walk: Swettenham, South Cheshire.
Map: OS Explorer 268 Wilmslow, Macclesfield and Congleton
Distance of the walk: 6 miles
Time to allow: 4 hours
Refreshments: The Swettenham Arms
Wheelchair access: None
Further reading: Walks leaflet available at the Swettenham Arms.