Cheshire Walks - Alderley Edge
Keith Carter describes a route through the myths and stories of Alderley Edge
The popular perception of the village of Alderley Edge as being fashionable and upmarket goes back a long way. Originally the land hereabouts was owned by two wealthy families, the de Traffords and the Stanleys who kept it largely to themselves until the coming of the railways, a significant trigger for social change that made a massive impact on the way people lived.
The de Traffords decided to divide their land into plots for building and the growing class of industrialists from Manchester were persuaded to move to this desirable location and travel in by train. Free travel was even dangled as an incentive. The best plots were high up the hill and these were the first to go, the higher up the hill you lived the higher your place in society.
The Stanleys were less eager to part with their land and sniffily referred to the incomers as ‘cottentots’, a slighting reference to their connections with the cotton industry. Lower down trades people and shopkeepers staked their claim, leaving the labouring classes to pack into the back-to-backs in the town at the bottom of the hill, their ranks swelled by the influx of Cornish miners brought in to mine the copper and lead from the sandstone ridge.
Although the class system has levelled out in modern times it still holds that the properties higher up the hill command the best prices in the housing market. Fresh air and exercise are of course available to all and the Edge has become a popular and delightful area for recreation, one of the finest in Cheshire.
The wooded sandstone escarpment has a network of paths that would be impossible to map since the continuous walking of dogs and criss-crossing of the area mean new paths are springing up all the time. Many of these paths do not appear on the Ordnance Survey map and it would take several visits to become familiar with the whole area.
The most convenient access is via the National Trust car park next to The Wizard pub on the B5087. The Wizard owes its name to one of the many local legends - this one involves a farmer refusing to sell his milk-white mare (horses are always either milk-white or coal-black in these legends) to an old man with a long white beard, the story becoming ever more fanciful the longer it goes on.
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The Wizard is a lovely pub with flagged floors, oak settles and low beams and you can find great local beers there brewed by the Storm Brewing Company of Macclesfield, a discovery for real ale enthusiasts.
From the car park, take the short connecting path past the shelter and turn right on a broad trail that passes the Cheshire County Council works depot responsible for the maintenance of many of the county’s country parks. Stay on this trail and where it comes to a prominent gate on the left we bear right. Don’t go through the gate at this stage of the walk, although we return through it towards the end.
Our path approaches a detached house, empty and a group of farm buildings, derelict. This is Edge House Farm which we leave on our left on a narrow path that connects with the farm access track, now unused. Cross this to a path opposite and follow a post and rail fence until we meet the road just past Adders Moss Farm. Cross the road to a path directly opposite, entering a wood where a poorly drained path leads through to a lane opposite stables. Turn right here and walk along the lane until it bears sharp right at which point we leave it and keep ahead on a footpath that runs beside a large detached property with a high hedge.
The path is diverted into a field to avoid passing through the house ahead and we turn left to keep to the left hand boundary soon noting that the path divides, our direction bearing right along a line of mature trees, mostly oaks, heading for the right hand corner of a wood where we cross two stiles in succession. The second stile has stepping stones in the shape of cheeses to act as a step. Head half right to a third stile and at a fourth, enter a wood.
Leaving the wood we come to a farm track where we turn left to pass the fine property of Bradford House Farm on the right. At a new conversion, Bradford Cottage, look for a sign post on the right and enter a field. From here we keep along the right hand boundary crossing two stiles and a band of woodland before meeting the road opposite The Butts.
Turn right here and stay on the road until you see the carved figure of an owl beside the road. Just beyond it take the opening on the left through an area of scattered woodland alongside a stream. At a prominent crossroad of paths turn right, the path quite boggy, to enter the National Trust wood marked by the Trust’s familiar oak leaf logo.
Here a panel describes the excavation of Hagg Cottages, a row of workers dwellings that were the subject of a dig during the 1990s, the archaeologists discovering, among other things, early examples of linoleum. You can imagine the excitement when that came to light. There is no sign of the cottages now although our kitchen has an example of mid-70s Nairn lino if you’re interested.
An obvious path rises slightly through mature woodland to the road where we cross straight over to an opening beside Beacon Cottage, a forest lodge with three gables.
From this point five paths radiate into the wood and counting from the left we want the second, quite prominent, which we follow until we come upon the fenced hollow of an old quarry.
The path skirts round it and next crosses a broad clearing beyond which appears the gate that we saw early in our walk. Now we can go through it. Turn right and follow our outward path back to the Wizard pub and the car park.
Alderley Edge rewards frequent return visits at all seasons of the year and it must be a pleasure to have such a wonderful area on your doorstep. Hats off to the National Trust for preserving it in such excellent shape!
Area of walk: Alderley Edge.
Start and finish: NT Car Park beside the Wizard pub on the B5087.
Distance: Four miles
Time to allow: Two hours
Map: OS Explorer 268 Wilmslow Macclesfield & Congleton www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/shop/explorer-map-wilmslow-macclesfield-congleton.html
Refreshments: The Wizard. There is a tea room behind the pub which is open on summer weekends.
Further reading: www.alderleyedge.org.history.htm