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Peak District walk: Kettleshulme from the Swan Inn

Water power: Todd Brook at Grove Mill. (c) David Dunford
Water power: Todd Brook at Grove Mill. (c) David Dunford

Four of the Peak District’s historic high-level routes – the A57, A537, A635 and B5470 – are nicknamed after roadside hostelries that served travellers using them. But that honour turned out to be a curse: none of the four places is still open as a pub.

The Snake Inn is a bunkhouse, the Cat & Fiddle a distillery, the Isle of Skye burned down in the 1950s and the Highwayman is a private house.

Fortunately for walkers using the B5470 to reach the attractive and underrated Cheshire Peak countryside between Macclesfield and Derbyshire’s Whaley Bridge, a couple of alternatives have outlived the Highwayman and still offer a restorative drink or a bite to eat after a walk in the hills. One of them is the thriving Swan at Kettleshulme, a pioneering former community pub that is our start and end point for this invigorating route. We begin and end in Cheshire, but dip our toes briefly into Derbyshire to visit an enigmatic monument, the Dipping Stone. The gritstone boulder, with its two brimming basins of rainwater, is actually a socle – the technical name for the socket of a cross, in this case a double one. If you want a slightly better idea of how it once looked, visit the nearby Bowstones above Lyme Park, where the carved cross shafts have survived for more than a thousand years.

These ancient crosses, and others like them, were raised by the shepherd monks of Basingwerk Abbey near Holywell in Flintshire, the landowners hereabouts in the Middle Ages.

Great British Life: Grove Mill: a rare survivor. (c) David DunfordGrove Mill: a rare survivor. (c) David Dunford

After an exhilarating path along a grassy terrace running just above the county boundary, with superb views all the way, our route returns to Cheshire and passes below another historic lump of gritstone. This is the Murder Stone, a hilltop standing stone dating from the Bronze Age that has the distinction of being designated as both a scheduled monument and a listed ‘building’. The return to Kettleshulme passes Grove Mill, an impressive Kerridge-stone building tucked away discreetly in the valley of the vigorous Todd Brook that once powered it. The former candlewick mill originated in 1797 and retains much of its original machinery, including its waterwheel, though this was supplemented with steam power from the early 19th century onwards: Historic England describe it as 'the last example of a mill where water-powered and steam machinery were used together and survive intact'. It is privately owned and not open to the public, though there is talk of renovation. And when Kettleshulme folk have an idea, things tend to happen…

Great British Life: Last pull: a redundant tractor near Kettleshulme. (c) David DunfordLast pull: a redundant tractor near Kettleshulme. (c) David Dunford

1. Cross the road from the Swan and turn right along the pavement. After a short distance, turn left into Kishfield Lane, and keep right at the junction with Paddock Lane. Follow the lane out of the village, passing the entrance to Broad Carr Farm on your right, and various properties to left and right. At a junction with a sign reading: 'Unsuitable for motor vehicles ¼ mile ahead', turn left. Follow this lane for a short distance to a row of houses on a bend; take a narrow footpath to the right of the houses that shortly emerges, via a stile and gate, into a field. Follow the right-hand field edge then cross another stile on your right into the adjoining field, where you bear left down to a footbridge.

2. Cross Todd Brook and follow the stream right (downstream) for a short distance, then leave it to reach a stile below a tree. The path beyond zig-zags left then right through bracken, then climbs steeply up a field parallel to a wall on the right. At the top of the slope, turn right over a stile by a gate to Cornhill Farm. At the end of the farmhouse, bear right then left along the farm drive, which winds along the hillside to New House Farm, a listed farmhouse with a 1795 datestone. Beyond the gate, bear right to another farmhouse by a cattle grid, and continue along the drive. The track divides; the formal right of way is along the lower track.

3. The two tracks rejoin just before the public road. Turn sharp left up a similar farm track to a cattle grid. Head right off the track here and follow a grassy path through gorse up the slope. Once clear of the scrub, cross to a slightly awkward stile over a wall. Aim straight on, on an initially inconspicuous path over rushy grazing land. A small, ruined building comes into you view; pass to the left of it to a through-stile in a dry-stone wall. In the next field, bear left parallel to the wall until you reach the Dipping Stone.

Great British Life: The Dipping Stone. (c) David DunfordThe Dipping Stone. (c) David Dunford

4. From the Dipping Stone continue to a stile over a wire fence and drop down to a footbridge over a wet flush. The path beyond is a delight – a springy, grassy trod below the steep slopes of Whaley Moor on your right. Eventually, after crossing a couple of wall stiles, the path descends towards the former Moorside Hotel. Before you reach the road, though, you encounter a track where you turn left over a cattle grid.

Great British Life: The Murder Stone, a hilltop standing stone dating from the Bronze Age. (c) David DunfordThe Murder Stone, a hilltop standing stone dating from the Bronze Age. (c) David Dunford

5. When this track swings left through a gate, continue ahead along the wall. Beyond a further farm gate and kissing gate the track divides; take the lower path, leaving the wall and heading down the slope to your right. This joins a fence to pass below the Murder Stone (right) and then skirts Cornfield Farm (left), patrolled by its herd of alpacas.

Great British Life: Alpacas at Cornfield Farm. (c) David Dunford Alpacas at Cornfield Farm. (c) David Dunford

6. When you reach the road, turn left then almost immediately, before another property, turn right onto a footpath. The path, narrow at first, heads down through grassland to a footbridge with stiles at either end. Technically here, the path crosses rushy ground to a further stile by a projecting wall corner, but an easier if unofficial alternative is to follow the stream left to meet another footpath, where you turn right up to a handgate in the wall. Either way, you pass the buildings of New Hey and follow the track-cum-driveway to Todd Brook and Grove Mill. Beyond the mill, follow the track back up to Kishfield Lane, where you turn right and retrace your steps past the end of Paddock Lane to the B5470 and the Swan.

Great British Life: The Swan Inn, a finalist in the 2023 Cheshire Life Food & Drink Awards. (c) Swan InnThe Swan Inn, a finalist in the 2023 Cheshire Life Food & Drink Awards. (c) Swan Inn

The Swan Inn

Although it avoided the fate of the Highwayman, it was a near thing for the Swan, despite a long history of serving travellers on the former turnpike road through Kettleshulme. After faltering as a going concern, the pub was on the market in 2004 and seemed destined for conversion to a private residence. The locals rallied round and a consortium of 21 residents purchased the freehold and reopened it as a community pub, one of the first of its kind. Rob Cloughley, former licensee of the Oddfellows at Mellor, volunteered his expertise and got the kitchen up and running. Once the pub was back on its feet, Rob made an offer to take over the whole operation and has continued to invest in the place since 2008, including new cellars, sensitive extensions to the dining area and improvements to the beer garden. The latest innovation is a suite of three luxury sound-proofed double bedrooms, which have been available since May last year.

Under Rob’s stewardship the Swan has gained a strong local reputation for its food, with a particular focus on fish and seafood. A favourite is the bouillabaisse, a flavoursome medley of mussels, claims, prawns, stone bass, monkfish, coley and scallops. The pub’s state-of-the-art Josper charcoal ovens are used to prepare Aberdeen Angus steaks, guinea fowl breast or racks of spring lamb. Vegetarians aren’t overlooked, though – meat-free dishes might include wild mushroom tagliatelle or a sweet potato, pepper, chickpea and spinach Madras curry.

On Wednesday evenings from late October, the pub will be hosting cosy ‘charcoal and candles’ evenings, with the house lights switched off and the food prepared solely on the Josper grills. Over the weekend of December 9 and 10 they are promoting a Victorian weekend, with deals on room bookings, an eight-course breakfast and special dinner menus and a gentle local walk to Windgather Rocks, complete with mulled wine, laid on in between.

Even on ‘normal’ nights, you are recommended to book in advance to secure a table.

Cask ales usually include a Marston’s brew such as Pedigree, supplemented by locals and independents including Wincle or Thornbridge. The car park is fairly small, and strictly for patrons – in addition to limited street parking nearby, spaces are available by arrangement at the local primary school during the evening and weekends, on a voluntary donation basis. Dogs are welcome in the bar but (apart from assistance dogs) are excluded from the dining area and guestrooms.

Great British Life: OS Explorer OL24: White Peak area. OSOS Explorer OL24: White Peak area. OS

COMPASS POINTS

Area of walk: Kettleshulme

Start point: Swan Inn, Macclesfield Road SK23 7QU

Distance: 4 miles/6.3 km

Time to allow: 2 hours

Map: OS Explorer OL24: White Peak area

Refreshments: Swan Inn, swaninnkettleshulme.com

Practicalities: Significant ascent and descent. Several stiles. Kettleshulme is served by the 60 bus between Macclesfield and Whaley Bridge



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