The Great White Shark himself, golfer Greg Norman, declared that happiness is 'a long walk with a putter'. In the opposite corner, Mark Twain called the pursuit a 'good walk spoiled'. As a non-golfing rambler, I’m sitting decisively on the fence, but I’ll admit I sometimes hesitate before recommending a route that crosses a golf course, on the grounds of safety and sometimes awkward route-finding. But, on balance, I don’t think golfers and walkers are a completely incompatible mixture: keep your wits about you as you cross the fairways and be ready with a smile and a courteous acknowledgement to those teeing up, and you’ll be welcomed – or at least tolerated – by sensible players. Better the green space of a golf course, however manicured, than yet more concrete and, in Cheshire at least, the sport has given several venerable old houses a new lease of life.

The course at Mottram Hall is a case in point. The River Bollin winds lazily alongside the 1,006-yard Championship course, and the Grade II* listed country house is maintained by Champneys as a hotel and spa. The course hosted the 2013 European Senior's PGA Championship and offers a contrasting playing experience: the opening nine holes wind through gently rolling meadowland, while the back nine are more demandingly wooded.

The Bollin rises in Macclesfield Forest and runs through Macclesfield, Prestbury and Wilmslow before joining the Mersey near Lymm. At this point in its journey, it is still a fairly youthful river. In winter I’ve seen dipper on the Bollin at Prestbury (not a common sight in Cheshire away from the fast-flowing streams of the Peak District) and on my latest visit I was pleased to see the electric blue streak of a kingfisher, despite low flow after recent dry weather. In fact, this walk was remarkably productive of wildlife throughout – a lithe weasel scooted across the path in front of me near Mottram Hall and I saw numerous butterflies feeding on fieldside brambles, including an early migrant Painted Lady. As I ate my lunch on the Bollin riverbank I found myself spellbound by a handsome Red Admiral curling and uncurling his remarkable spiral proboscis to imbibe minerals from the damp mud.

Those interested in the built environment will enjoy this walk too. There are several listed buildings en route, from a picture-postcard thatched cottage to handsome brick farmhouses. Spittle House has a medieval wing that once sheltered a leper colony – the grim-sounding name has nothing to do with sputum, but comes from the same etymological root as 'hospital'. And of course, there are the obvious Georgian splendours of Mottram Hall. The walk begins and ends close to the venerable Mottram Cross, green with algae under the shady beech trees: the shaft and head of the cross is 19th-century and the latter bears the arms of the Wrights of Mottram Hall but the base is medieval.

Great British Life: Pretty in pink: Hunter's Pool Cottage (c) David DunfordPretty in pink: Hunter's Pool Cottage (c) David Dunford

1. From the front of the Bull's Head, turn left and left again into Priest Lane. After 100 metres, turn left into the driveway for Brook House Farm. Cross the brook and turn immediately left, in front of the farmhouse and past a metal kissing gate into a shaded footpath. After a stile cross the brook again via a footbridge and follow the path beyond a waymark which bears right before a gate along the top edge of a small meadow. Cross two stiles at either end of a narrow path along a garden fence, then cross the driveway in front of the thatched Hunter's Pool Cottage. Keep along the left-hand edge of the field, to a stile in the top corner. Cross a short mown area and descend steps to a farm drive. Turn left up to the A538.

2. Cross and take a few steps to the left then walk down the driveway of Legh Hall, waymarked with an NCW (North Cheshire Way) roundel on a footpath sign. Pass a pond on the left and pass the entrance to Legh Hall. Turn right in front of the gates of Legh Old Hall to a circular parking area at the end, and turn left along a laurel-hedged path to a kissing gate into fields. Head half-right down the slope to a stile to the left of the field corner. Follow the right-hand edge of the next field to a kissing gate then continue to a further stile, beyond which a fenced-off path leads above Woodend Farm to a stile into the driveway.

3. Turn left and take the driveway to the right of the entrance to Woodend Farm. Walk down to the gates of Lower Gadhole Farm and turn right along the path that skirts the various properties. Follow the fenced path left and right then bear left down to a short footbridge-cum-boardwalk over a stream, followed by a few steps up. A short length of path leads to a wooden kissing gate, beyond which you turn left along the field edge to skirt Spittles House. Beyond the property bear left along the hedge past an animal shelter to a stile over the fence and thence to the driveway. Turn right down to a cattle grid and cross the River Bollin beyond.

4. Turn left through a kissing gate onto the riverside path, initially fenced in and then, after a gate, following the edge of a field. At the end of the field a further gate leads into another fenced section, and after a kissing gate the next stretch passes between the river and Prestbury’s water treatment works for a fragrant kilometre or so before continuing through trees to a kissing gate into a field. Cross the field and rejoin the river bank until you reach a footbridge.

5. Cross the river, climb the bank and bear right, ignoring a footpath onto the golf course over a stile on your left. Follow the Bollin Valley Way along the top of the riverbank, passing the end of another footpath onto the golf course on your left and descending back to river level, though the river mostly stays out of sight on your right. After a kissing gate, cross the grassy surrounds of the golf course and pass a football pitch on the left. Turn left round the far end of the pitch, then bear left onto a track leading to the golf course car park.

Great British Life: Mottram Hall: country house turned hotel and spa. David DunfordMottram Hall: country house turned hotel and spa. David Dunford

6. Pass the golf shop and keep to the right of Mottram Hall, passing the grand frontage of the house to join the service road heading towards the exit. Partway along the tree-lined avenue, shortly after a pond on the left, turn off the road over a stile in the iron fence and follow the grassy path beyond over a further stile to a third. Pass between two of the holes on the golf course then with care cross the fairway of the 15th just below the tee. Beyond, the path leads up to a gate below a farm. Go through the gate and bear right across the grass to join the drive.

7. Follow the track beyond, passing the Grade II listed Keeper’s Cottage on your way back to the A538. To the right of the junction before repairing to the Bull's Head for a restorative tipple, take the time to view Mottram Cross.

Great British Life: Map: OS Explorer 268: Wilmslow, Macclesfield & Congleton. OSMap: OS Explorer 268: Wilmslow, Macclesfield & Congleton. OS

Compass Points

Area of walk: Mottram St Andrew, near Prestbury

Start point: The Bull's Head SK10 4QH

Distance: 4½ miles/7.4 km

Time to allow: 2 hours

Map: OS Explorer 268: Wilmslow, Macclesfield & Congleton

Refreshments: Bulls Head

Practicalities: Fields may be muddy after rain and contain livestock. Exercise caution crossing golf course. Several stiles.

Great British Life:  The Bull's Head serves well-made pub classics and good beer. (c) David Dunford The Bull's Head serves well-made pub classics and good beer. (c) David Dunford

The Bull's Head

As I sat in the garden of the Bull's Head enjoying my post-walk pint, the familiar face of an ex-colleague appeared unexpectedly from around the corner. After a few pleasantries and expressions of mutual surprise, It transpired he had walked over from his home in Wilmslow and I was pleased to hear him endorse my choice of watering hole, saying, 'the food here’s always very good'. I can’t vouch for that from this occasion as I didn’t stop to eat, but the Brunning & Price menu is reliable and I enjoyed my well-presented bitter. The range of real ales always includes the house B&P best bitter, but also features guests from local breweries such as Weetwood, Wincle or Thornbridge. Authentic German lagers will come to the fore this month as the pub celebrates Oktoberfest from 14th–16th, with sausage-adjacent dishes and other Teutonic tucker served by suitably attired waiting staff and accompanied by live music.

A printout provided near the entrance provided an interesting potted history of the pub, with reminiscences from previous occupants and anecdotes from episodes in the pub’s long past. Apparently, it hosted a TV commercial featuring famous footballers of yesteryear; of course, the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Prestbury still attracts the stars of the Premier League. There’s also a printed guide offering details of a local walk, though at 1½ miles the route is rather shorter than that described here.

The menu is the typical Brunning & Price mix of well-made pub classics and tempting starters and sides. Customers accompanied by dogs are welcome in selected areas but are requested to mention their canine companions when booking to eat. Similarly, large groups of walkers are encouraged to car-share as parking, while ample, is not unlimited, especially at busy times. Advance booking is, as always, recommended to guarantee a table when eating.