South Cheshire Walk - Audlem and Hankelow
Keith Carter leads a walk in Cheshire's southern extremes around Audlem
1. Our walk takes us out of town to the countryside to the north and the valley of the River Weaver and the Shropshire Union Canal, once used to carry the local cheese to Liverpool and Birmingham. Our return leg is along the towpath of a canal that brings over 60,000 visitors to Audlem each year.
We can park for free at the car park in the centre used by the public hall and doctors’ surgery, turning left out of it and walking towards Hankelow on the pavement as far as the village green a third of a mile from the town centre. Turn right on reaching it then next left into Monks Lane which soon takes a sharp bend to the right. Here leave the lane and keep ahead between the pillars of a gateway, the drive to a large property called The Parkes.
Approaching the house, look for a white-painted metal kissing-gate on the left which allows us to by-pass the house and avoid the guard dog the other side of the fence. You often find barking dogs when walking in Cheshire, sometimes roaming free.
I won’t say where but I was once confronted by an Alsatian, snarling and barking at me and I can tell you that animal was not looking for me to throw it a ball. The owner seemed mildly surprised that his dog should have acted aggressively towards anyone since she normally ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’. It wasn’t a fly she was barking at.
2. The path avoiding The Parkes enters a field and follows the left-hand margin of a field to meet a lane by a further white kissing-gate. Go straight across the lane and up steps to a stile to enter another field. Follow the right-hand margin, the ploughing leaving no verge at all either in this field or the next. Obviously the farmer doesn’t participate in the Stewardship Scheme whereby a two metre margin or ‘headland’ is left around the edge of fields.
3. We approach the buildings of Manor Farm currently under refurbishment with the yard piled high with rubble. Keep an eye out for the guard dog here. Through the farm buildings we meet a lane and turn left, soon coming to a drive that leads to a large converted property, Hankelow Hall which featured in the May 2010 issue of Cheshire Life.
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Don’t go up the drive but take the stile on the left joining the route of the South Cheshire Way. The footpath follows the left-hand field boundary then cuts through a short stretch of woodland to emerge in a meadow. Descend gradually through this field and at the next stile turn right onto a muddy track that leads to the winding River Weaver, here brown and willow-fringed.
There is a stile on the left before the river but the footbridge with it has collapsed so you must use the gate. Head across the water meadow to a bridge that hasn’t collapsed, cross the river and continue forward along a bank as far as a concrete lane leading to Coole Hall Farm, a B&B.
Go through the farmyard trusting more to guesswork than signposting and follow the track to the neighbouring farm, Monks Hall. The map shows a footpath avoiding the farmyard but I couldn’t find it so went through then took a track heading right directly towards the canal. You can see the bridge ahead.
4. Turn onto the towpath to the left and walk with the water to your right, passing the extensive Overwater Marina where there is a caf�, tantalisingly out of reach since there is no bridge across to it. At the Moss Hall Aqueduct we go over the River Weaver then arrive at the Audlem locks with scope for watching while canal boat enthusiasts make a mess of things.
Just beyond, a path goes up the bank on the left where a kissing-gate gives access to a meadow. Look ahead and you will see a clear field path dropping down to a second kissing-gate then rising to a third. At this point we join a narrow lane and turning right takes us back into town.
Area of walk: Audlem, South Cheshire
Map: OS Explorer 257 Crewe and Nantwich
Distance for the walk: Five miles
Time to allow: Two-and-a-half to three hours
Refreshments: Cafes and pubs in Audlem
Wheelchair/pushchair possible? No.
Keith will be back next month with a walk around Swettenham.
Audlem is the most southerly township in Cheshire, escaping being in Shropshire by a few miles. The name derives from the prefix ‘aud’ or old and the suffix ‘lem’ or lyme meaning a forest, seen in places such as Newcastle-under-Lyme, Lyme Green and Lymm, reminders that Cheshire was once one great forest.
The town is dominated by the church of St James the Great, the patron saint of pilgrims and stands on a large mound with the ancient colonnaded Buttermarket by the church steps. The town is, to some extent, in the grip of the traffic that passes through, the busy A525 carrying heavy lorries westwards into Shropshire and eastwards towards Stoke. It was certainly not built for the 40-foot trailers that rumble through guided no doubt by malevolent SatNavs.