The folly on the hill

Mow Cop Cas­tle, on the Cheshire-stafford­shire bor­der, is the des­ti­na­tion of this month’s walk

Cheshire Life - - Wildlife - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: Howard Brad­bury

At first glance Mow Cop Cas­tle looks like a bat­tle-scarred, tum­ble­down relic which has seen a mil­len­nium of wars and weath­er­ing.

Not so. Pevs­ner de­scribes it as a ‘sham ruin’. It was built in 1754 by Ran­dle Wil­bra­ham, not as a fortress but as a sum­mer­house. The hill­top pre­tend-cas­tle also served to en­hance the view from his other, more sub­stan­tial piece of real es­tate, Rode Hall.

These days, the cas­tle - Na­tional Trust prop­erty since 1937 - is more ru­ined than its cre­ator in­tended. It is still an im­pres­sive sight, but turn your back on the cas­tle and gaze over the Cheshire Plain and there’s a more im­pres­sive view.

Be­fore reach­ing the cas­tle, you will pass the Old Man of Mow - a pil­lar of grit­stone 65 feet high, which re­mained af­ter the stone around it had been quar­ried. Quite why it was left in that fash­ion is not cer­tain. But per­haps the in­ten­tion was to mark the fact that a cairn once stood on this site. This cairn was prob­a­bly a bound­ary marker

be­tween two coun­ties and two manors and was there for so long that even in 1530, it was de­scribed as a ‘roke of old stones that of old times have been reared’.

Other points of in­ter­est on this walk in­clude a church, re­mind­ing us that this vil­lage was the birth­place of the Prim­i­tive Methodist move­ment, af­ter a gath­er­ing on Mow Cop in 1807. Close to the church, you will pass, in a hole in the wall, the Par­son’s Well, dated 1858, which ex­horted the drinker to ‘keep thy­self pure’.you may need a drink by this point. The first half of this walk takes us up­hill, much of it through wood­land.

1

Head for New Road, post­code CW12 3GZ, where you will find park­ing in a lay-by near to a bridge over the canal. You can see Mow Cop ahead. Walk in the di­rec­tion of the rail­way and the hill and turn left into Yew Tree Lane, then right into a foot­path pass­ing be­neath the rail line. As it meets the South Cheshire Way, head right, and when the wide paths fork a few yards later, go right. A few min­utes later, the path forks again, with a stile and foot­path be­tween the two wider tracks. Ig­nore this foot­path and go left, up­hill on a wooded track. Very soon af­ter, take a path which rises to the right, to a metal gate and a sign for the South Cheshire Way.

2

Fol­low the path into the field as ex­pan­sive views open up to the right. Pass­ing the cot­tage on your left, head up­hill along the left field edge, look­ing out for oc­ca­sional way mark­ers for the South Cheshire Way. At the top, go through a metal kiss­ing gate into wood­land. Keep up­hill for some time un­til a flight of stone steps brings you to a kiss­ing gate into a field. Head along the right edge of the field to­wards the mast, through an­other kiss­ing gate and over a stile un­til you are al­most level with the mast, then go right along a track signed as the South Cheshire Way. At the Na­tional Trust sign for the Old Man of Mow, bear left onto the path which takes you past this jut­ting stone, con­tin­u­ing on this path which then re­joins the track you have just left. A few yards later you reach Wood Street. Go right for just a few yards and then left into a track bear­ing a Na­tional Trust sign for Mow Cop. Al­ter­na­tively, if you want to break

your jour­ney with a meal, you could in­stead turn left when you reach Wood Street and fol­low this road for less than a third of a mile un­til you reach The Mow Cop Inn.

3

Ex­plore Mow Cop Cas­tle, then head down one of the well-worn paths on the other side of the hill to reach the car park. Exit the car park onto High Street, go­ing left down the road un­til you reach a house on the right called The Old Post Of­fice. Go right here to­wards Mow Cop Methodist Church and take the path, marked as the Grit­stone Trail, pass­ing be­side the church on its left. Even­tu­ally, the path meets a track. Go right, then a few yards later left onto a bri­dle­way which will bring you to Sta­tion Road. Head left on the road, down­hill. Pass­ing the junc­tion with Birch Tree Lane, Sta­tion Road be­comes Drum­ber Lane. Keep go­ing down­hill, through sev­eral bends, look­ing out for a foot­path to the right. Take this track and af­ter a short while, go ahead through a metal kiss­ing gate onto a path through a field.

4

Keep to the left edge of the field, pass­ing through an­other metal kiss­ing gate into wood­land. Af­ter a while, you will cross a stile at a point where a stream crosses the path. The noise of the rail­way can be heard, sig­nalling jour­ney’s end. At a farm house, take the stile to the right, and the path which runs be­hind a black farm build­ing. The path re­joins a track and soon af­ter meets an­other track. Go left here and you are on the same track on which you started. Re­trace your steps back down to the path be­neath the rail­way line.

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