This month’s walk takes us to a lovely stately home, with some panoramic views thrown in for good measure, writes Howard Bradbury

Much photographed, much painted and much loved, The Cage in Lyme Park is a uniquely inspirational spot. Rising grandly and, somehow, insolently from a hilltop, it gazes down across an urban sprawl across which aeroplanes flit like mere flies.

The Cage is, of course, there because of its views, the original 16th century building being a vantage point from which to watch the deer hunt. It had been rebuilt by 1737 as the grand four-turreted pile we know and love, and by the 19th century the name - thought to be a reference to the building’s similarity to a birdcage - became yet more apt when it was used to ‘cage’ poachers overnight before facing the magistrate.

I wonder whether any of those unfortunate poachers were miners from nearby Poynton, for whom a nice piece of venison would be a rare treat. In 1870, a miner could be earning as little as 13 shillings (65p) for five and a half days hard graft. For these men, the word ‘cage’ would have another meaning: the hoisting gear by which tubs of coal were brought to the surface.

This history is laid out for us at the start of this walk, at Nelson Pit Visitor Centre. The displays tell us that Nelson Pit was one of over 70 coalmines in the Poynton area, with a history of coal extraction stretching from 1589 to the last pit closure in 1935. How quickly that history has been supplanted by an idea of Poynton as a pleasant and genteel place to live. Where there was muck, now there is brass.

Great British Life: The Cage in Lyme ParkThe Cage in Lyme Park (Image: not Archant)

1. We start from Nelson Pit Visitor Centre on Lyme Road, Higher Poynton, SK12 1TH, which has ample parking. Go back to the car park entrance and turn left up Lyme Road, following the road over the canal and carrying on as it becomes a slightly rough track.

Just after Woodside Cottage, cross the cattle grid and go straight onwards, following the sign indicating Haresteads Farm, keeping the woods just to your right. Stay on the road over two more cattle grids, then climb the hill, through a metal gate and continue uphill on the same track as the fields open up on either side.

Great British Life: A view from the bridge over the Macclesfield Canal.A view from the bridge over the Macclesfield Canal. (Image: not Archant)

2. A weathered old wooden gate takes you into Lyme Park. Keep going straight ahead with the stone wall to your left, but take a moment to look back at the sprawling panorama that is now available from this vantage point. This really is a walk to reserve for a good clear day. The track levels off and then bends to the left, becoming tarmac as it is joined by another track coming from the right. When you reach a junction, turn left heading downhill to reach Lyme Park’s car park.

3. Across the car park, you will see the information centre. Head up the steps to the left of this building, and you soon reach the front of Lyme Hall. Head left, directly away from the hall’s entrance, taking the well-worn path uphill across the grass towards The Cage. This stretch of the walk gives you the very best of the views, but on a blustery day, you will pay for those views with a right old battering.

Great British Life: The Coffee Tavern in Shrigley Road North opened in 1876 as a temperance house for the miners.The Coffee Tavern in Shrigley Road North opened in 1876 as a temperance house for the miners. (Image: not Archant)

4. After enjoying a rest at The Cage, head north down the hill. How do you know which way is north without a compass? Find the only one of The Cage’s four sides which has no sundial, stand with your back to that face and start walking. It is a well-worn wide track which takes a good few minutes for you to finally reach the main tarmac road running through Lyme Park. Turn right onto the road and you are soon at the admission hut.

5. Turn left here, following the sign indicating Platwood Farm, and cross two bridges and go up the hill, over a cattle grid and through a large wooden gate which is also a farm entrance. Bear slightly right here, following the green sign for Middlewood, through a narrow slatted gate, following a track with a stone wall to the right. Look back and you get another view of The Cage. Continue along this path, then over a stile, along a path with woods to the right and a field to the left, over another stile and into a thickly-wooded path. Cross a footbridge and steps bring you to a metal gate.

6. Keep following this path, crossing over a farm track - at which point you see a footpath direction sign. Follow the sign for Higher Poynton, which sends you straight on past an old tree stump and into a path running on a right hand field edge. At the field end, follow the yellow arrow onto a gravel path. Go over the stile and carry straight on, along a left hand field edge. Go through a metal gate and continue on the path, over a wooden stile and turn right, along a left hand field edge with a lane parallel.

7. You see the canal to your right at this point. Go over a stile and turn right into the lane, cross over the canal and continue until you reach a stone bridge. Don’t cross the bridge, but take the steps to the right leading down to Middlewood Way. Bear left under the bridge and then take the path to the left, which is higher, more picturesque and designed for walkers rather than horse-riders or cyclists. A few minutes later, you emerge back at Nelson Pit Visitor Centre.

Area of Walk: Higher Poynton and Lyme Park

Distance: 4½ miles

Time to allow: 2½ hours

Map: OS Explorer 268

Refreshments: The Coffee Tavern, Shrigley Road North; The Boar’s Head, Shrigley Road North (both just a few yards from Nelson Pit Visitor Centre); Bailey’s Trading Post, near to bridge 15 on the Macclesfield Canal, just off Lyme Road, right at the start of the walk; Lyme Hall’s cafe.