Cheshire Walk - Plumley

Gable of Holford Hall

Gable of Holford Hall - Credit: Keith Carter

Keith Carter strays off the beaten path on a walk from Plumley

Plumley is the starting-point for this month’s walk with Holford Hall as our outward objective. This fine half-timbered black and white manor house with moat dates from 1601 and was built for Lady Mary Cholmondeley which I believe is pronounced ‘Chumley’. They must have been known as the Chumleys from Plumley. How droll.

Lady Mary was famously litigious, one of her law suits going on for 40 years. The hall is now in private hands and not open to the public, in fact strenuously denied to them as I shall recount, having myself been ‘seen off’ uncompromisingly by the owner.

Maltkin Farm

Maltkin Farm - Credit: Keith Carter

The area of Holford Moss was once used for cutting peat which tenants were allotted a share twice a year. Under the soil, brine is found and the deposits worked by INEOS Enterprises for the chemical industry. Just before World War One ammonium nitrate was manufactured here for making TNT and once the demand ended with the cessation of hostilities the buildings were demolished and the area left to nature. The lime beds became fertile soil for rare orchids.

Path through Barley Field

Path through Barley Field - Credit: Keith Carter

1 Park at Plumley Station car park and go up the steps to the railway bridge, cross the bridge and continue on Plumley Moor Road past the Golden Pheasant pub. Within 300 yards, opposite a farm opening, take a stile in the hedge on the right at first following a fenced paddock to a second stile.

Enter a field and follow the left hand boundary to a further stile with a short footbridge over a ditch. These stiles are in good repair. Pass to the right of a pond then continue with the boundary hedge on your left towards a white gate ahead. When researching this walk a large brown bird flew up practically at my feet and made its stately escape with steady wing beats before I had time to get the camera ready. Buzzards are becoming quite common and can be seen all over Cheshire as well as further north. Their size sometimes makes people mistake then for the Golden Eagle but beside an eagle they are puny. Their colour can range from light to quite dark brown and you will usually hear their mewing cry before you see the bird.

2 At the white gate go onto the lane and turn right to pass Trouthall Farm, followed by a left into Cheadle Lane. We cross the stream called Peover Eye which is known to have trout in it, hence the name of the farm I imagine. Stay on Cheadle Lane past the drive to Moss Farm and at a footpath sign and a notice for Keeper’s Cottage, cross a cattle grid and proceed on a farm track towards a band of trees.

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Approaching a renovated farmhouse ignore the signs to the left but keep forward, step over a low gate and keep forward on a path bordering a crop of maize which, when I walked this way, was growing above my head and I’m a good six foot. (“Come off it KC you’re five foot eleven with shoes on.”)

3 On reaching a farm track keep left then just before a cattle grid turn right to stay beside a left hand hedge until the path comes to a bridge across the railway. Cross it, step over a metal stile and follow an enclosed path to the edge of a field which had a ripening crop of barley. Fortunately the farmer had left a path through the crop and once across we go through a short belt of trees, keep right and walk on the field edge past a further field.

4 On coming to a broad track turn left and walk on it until you come to a T-junction with to the right a five- barred gate with a stile beside it, apparently a bona-fide footpath. Holford Hall can be seen to the left. But not so fast. A second gate has a no entry sign and a notice saying the footpath has been diverted.

Walkers are advised to follow the diversion signs. Readers, there were none. In my efforts to get to the bottom of this dilemma I found my way into the garden of the hall and thence to the front door where I enquired whether I was on the Right of Way. The owner assured me I was certainly not and if I had followed the ‘obvious’ diversion signs, I would have not had to intrude upon them. I replied mildly that I had seen no such signs and was firmly told that the Footpath Team had visited only yesterday and declared themselves thoroughly satisfied with the diversion signs. In these circumstances I never argue, humbly pleading ignorance and gratefully accepting directions to get me off the property.

5 Back at the gate I took the only option, to go left, and in the absence of way marks followed a path at first through trees then on tarmac, eventually leading to the railway with a pedestrian crossing to the other side. My original route was scuppered so I crossed the railway and turned left along the access road, passing the road to Holford Brinefield offices and a signal box and keeping forward until just past a water treatment reservoir we find ourselves back at the same railway bridge we crossed earlier in the walk.

Cross it a second time and at the farm track where we turned left, go right and on reaching the ornamental gates to a property, turn left and cross Peover Eye again. The lane leads back to Plumley through housing and emerging on Plumley Moor Road opposite the village shop. Turn right and a short walk on the pavement passing tennis courts brings us back to the station.

Compass points

Area of walk: Plumley

Map: OS Explorer 267 Northwich and Delamere Forest

Distance: 4½ miles

Time to allow: Two hours

Refreshments: Golden Pheasant pub