A woodland walk near Marton that is great for all seasons
- Credit: David Dunford
David Dunford takes a woodland walk in Marton
Trees, forests and timbers are the theme of this springtime walk in eastern Cheshire
How often do you catch something interesting out of the corner of your eye as you whizz by in the car, and think, 'I must come back and have a look round some day?'
In reality, we rarely do, but a spring walk provides a perfect excuse to make the effort. Anyone driving the A34 south of Macclesfield can hardly have missed the striking black-and-white church of St James and St Paul, sited on a prominent rise right next to the main road in Marton.
This walk offers a chance to have a close look at this historic building, but there’s much else to be seen on this cheering walk through the rolling countryside east of the village.
St James and St Paul dates from the 14th century and is a rare example of a church whose original wooden frame has survived the attentions of fire, damp and Victorian restorers.
The building has a medieval ‘Doom’ painting on the west wall, and contains the worn stone effigies of two knights. These are thought to be the Davenports of Capesthorne Hall, who endowed the church in 1343. They were Serjeants of Macclesfield Forest, and had the right to impose capital punishment against poachers.
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Although the timbers of the church are more than 700 years old, it’s astonishing to think that, within a stone’s throw, is a living tree that is even older. This is the Marton Oak, thought to be around 1,200 years old.
Once something of a local tourist attraction, it’s now tucked away in a private garden, and impossible to date precisely as its heartwood has rotted away and it now appears as separate trunks.
However, their shared rootstock confirms their identity as the remnants of a single gigantic tree. It’s difficult to conceive that this battle-scarred old veteran was a straight-limbed stripling when Offa ruled Mercia and Viking longboats were lurking on the horizon. It could well be the oldest living example of a sessile oak in the country.
The several small woodlands encountered on our wandering route through the valley of the Chapel Brook hold no such Methuselahs, but they do offer bluebells and birdsong, and the walk is a delightful way to spend a spring afternoon.
It’s one of 20 routes described in my latest book, Guide to Pub Walks in Cheshire, published by Countryside Books (£5.99) and expected to arrive on the shelves of your local bookshop this month.
1. From the Marton Arms cross the main road carefully and turn right, past a small retail estate in converted farm buildings, to the church. Having visited the church and churchyard, continue along the left-hand pavement of the A34 until it crosses a stream (Chapel Brook).
Just after the stream, turn left into the driveway of Brookside Cottage. When the driveway curves right, take a footpath to the left of the barn ahead of you.
Bear right, then turn right over a stile. Follow the hedge ahead of you then, when it turns right, carry on in the same direction across the field to the far corner. Cross another stile onto a road.
2. Turn left and follow the road past the Old Rectory on the right. Continue along the road for a little over 200m, ignoring a gated track entrance on the left about halfway along. When the road bends right, turn left into a driveway. This leads past a house, and the entrance to an outdoor activity venue, to Mutlow Farm.
3. Walk between the farm buildings and bear right along a track. Follow the track along the edge of a field to a triangular junction with a metalled driveway, where you turn left.
4. After a cattle grid, at the entrance to Higher Mutlow, take the footpath on the left, through a kissing gate. Follow the hedge, then turn right beyond a gateway at the end of the property.
Follow the track through another gateway then turn left down the hill, following the left-hand field edge. Before you reach the very bottom of the valley, bear right along a slight bank with a few trees to a kissing gate. Turn left and walk down to a footbridge over the Chapel Brook.
5. Follow the right-hand field edge up the other side of the valley then, when it curves right, strike out diagonally up the hill, aiming to the right of a barn conversion.
At the top of the hill, bear right past a tree to a stile into a driveway. Turn right and immediately left and follow the main track between the buildings of Great Tidnock Farm. Bear left past a silo and take the track ahead of you, to the left of the open-sided barn and leading downhill.
6. Follow the track as it winds between fields and then through a small wood. Continue through more fields to a larger piece of woodland, where you ignore a track off to the right and pass a house on the same side. Follow the track through the wood and then out to the public road.
7. Turn left and follow the road for half a mile back to Marton, passing first Pikelow Farm on the left, then the entrance to Holly Bank Farm on your right. At the primary school on the edge of the village, turn left into Oak Lane.
Follow the narrow lane past the end of Oak View and round a series of right-hand bends as it winds its way between houses and cottages back to the main road. Cross carefully and turn left to return to the Davenport Arms.
Area of walk: Marton
Start point: Davenport Arms, SK11 9HF
Distance: 3½ miles
Time to allow: 2 hours
Map: OS Explorer 268: Wilmslow, Macclesfield & Congleton
Refreshments: The Davenport Arms 01260 701353 grill.co.uk/davenportarms
The Old Barn Kitchen and Coffee Lounge 01260 224344 facebook.com/theoldbarnmarton
Practicalities: The bottom of the valley may be muddy in places. Some road walking at the start and finish.
The Davenport Arms
Formerly part of the Pesto chain of Italian-themed restaurants, the Davenport Arms, refurbished in autumn 2020, now styles itself as a Country Pub & Grill and is operated by The Grill Co., which has five outlets across Cheshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire.
The group's chefs are proud to support British farmers and specialise in premium 35-day aged British steaks, highlighting less ubiquitous cuts such as T-bone and tomahawk, but lighter appetites are well catered for by the lunchtime menu, available from noon until 4.30pm. On Sundays, the emphasis is on traditional British roast dinners.
A pub walk wouldn’t be complete without a pint of hand-pulled ale, and the Davenport has a policy of sourcing its cask beers from local Cheshire suppliers, including the breweries at Wincle and Mobberley. There’s also a wide choice in the gin collection, a range of cocktails and a decent list of wines and spirits.
Manager Mike Chapman welcomes ramblers and walking groups and assures me parking isn’t a problem. The pub is blessed with a large car park and has an overflow area that’s equipped with power points for camper vans and motorhomes (overnight stays by arrangement).
Dogs are welcome in the spacious beer garden and in selected areas inside and may be offered a bowl of water and a doggie treat. As ever, booking is advisable, particularly at peak times.