Cheshire walk - Wincle

Follow the Gritstone Trail down to the River Dane

Follow the Gritstone Trail down to the River Dane - Credit: Paul Taylor

A circuit around Wincle takes Howard Bradbury within a stone’s throw of Staffordshire but, sadly, not a wallaby in sight.

This walk was rather longer for me than it will be for you, I hope. A wrong turning meant I climbed a large and unnecessary hill on an unseasonably hot day. Having blithely set out with not so much as a bottle of water, I arrived back at my starting point much later than anticipated and with a raging thirst.

And then I beheld – like an oasis shimmering on the horizon in a desert – Wincle Brewery, with its shop open for business.

A pint of delicious Wibbly Wallaby was not just welcome rehydration, it was also a reminder of my favourite story about this part of the world.

In the 1930s, Captain Courtney Brocklehurst, a former game warden in the Sudan with connections to London Zoo, set up his own private zoo at Roaches Hall, between Buxton and Leek, using animals which were surplus to London’s requirements.

One curious sheep in a field near the start of the walk

One curious sheep in a field near the start of the walk - Credit: Paul Taylor

When wartime regulations demanded the closure of private zoos, five wallabies were released into the moorland wilderness of the Peak District, where they bred their numbers up to 50 before the cold winter of 1963 killed half of them.

Only a handful survived into the new millennium, and the last photographic evidence of them was a sighting in 2009 near Swythamley, only a mile or so from the brewery which now commemorates these hardy wallabies in ale. Some feared the marsupials had died out entirely by 2012, but there have since been a couple more reported sightings, the last in April 2015.

It would have been nice to spot one of the elusive critters on this walk, though that pint of Wibbly Wallaby was, perhaps, just as welcome a sight.

View of weir on the River Dane from the footbridge

View of weir on the River Dane from the footbridge - Credit: Paul Taylor

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The Walk

1. There is some parking available on Barlow Hill below the Ship Inn, postcode SK11 0QE. Heading up the hill, passing the Ship Inn on your right, look for a footpath leading up some wooden steps on the left, just a few yards beyond the pub. Cross the stile and head across the field, bearing at roughly two o’clock towards another stile. Go straight across the driveway, over a stone stile and follow the yellow arrow up the next field, sticking to the left edge, to find another stone stile in the top corner. Follow the path up through woodland to a stone stile and then cross the next field, looking for a slatted wooden gate three quarters of the way up the right hand wall.

2. This brings you to a lane. Head left up here and when the road reaches the farm, keep ahead, ignoring a fork to the right. There was a distinct lack of footpath signs here on my visit, but the aim is to continue roughly ahead in the same direction beyond the farm. To do that, you will need to head left towards the barn and then right, looking for a stile beside a metal field gate leading to an open field. Head slightly left across this field, aiming for a metal field gate with a stile beside it. Head across the next field, over a slight hill and down towards the largest and furthest right of a line of trees. There is a waymark sign on an old tree trunk directing you further downhill to a stile close to a farm. Cross this stile and turn left, following the line of trees.

A pond beside the road at the start of section two of the walk

A pond beside the road at the start of section two of the walk - Credit: Paul Taylor


3. At a stile beside a metal gate, bear slightly right over the hill, reaching another stile and crossing another field, bearing slightly right. At the stile in the bottom right hand corner of the field, go a few yards downhill and you have footpath markers in two directions.

This is where I took the wrong route, down into the valley and up the other side. Instead, take the left hand path which, the next waymark informs, is the Gritstone Trail.

4. Stay on this path for quite some time, ignoring footpaths leading off it. You are walking along the side of a valley, with some boggy sections traversed by wooden boards. Eventually, you reach the River Dane. Cross over it at Barleighford Bridge and follow the road up until you reach the bridge over a disused canal. Bear left before the bridge, along the canal, following the sign DVW (Dane Valley Way – a 40-mile route stretching from the River Wye to Pavilion Gardens in Buxton).

5. Continue beside the canal, with the Dane to your left until you reach a footbridge over the river. Cross here, enjoying a view of a rather spectacular weir. Turn right, walking beside the river, or, if you want to save your legs, cut out the meanders. The path narrows eventually and you emerge above Danebridge Fisheries, where you can catch your own trout for £3 a time, if you are so inclined. Just on the corner with Barlow Hill, you will find Wincle Brewery.


Compass Points

Area of Walk: Wincle

Distance: 4 miles

Time to allow: 3 hours

Map: OS Explorer 268

Refreshments: The Ship Inn, Barlow Hill, Wincle, SK11 0QE

Howard will be back next month with a walk around Errwood Reservoir and Shining Tor but if you can’t wait that long, log onto where you’ll find more walks to enjoy around the county. And don’t forget your camera – your pictures could win you great prizes. See online for full details of our readers’ photo competition and to check out the entries we’ve received already.