First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
‘Heavy, persistent rain – gale force winds – weather warnings issued!’
The forecast for south Cheshire sounded dire. This was nothing new, however. Last time we’d stayed at the Cholmondeley Arms, fallen trees had blocked all the roads and a power cut had necessitated a candle-lit, rug-wrapped evening in the old schoolroom-turned-pub.
We glanced outside. A racing sky and scurrying clouds, but no downpours on the horizon. Shall we? Shan’t we? Oh, come on, let’s give it a go.
The wind blustered round Wrenbury’s old sandstone church of St Margaret. Inside were wide arcades, a maze of box pews, and a fine memorial to Stapleton Cotton, Viscount Combermere, Governor of Barbados, C-in-C of the Leeward Islands, Ireland and the East Indies. Also a box pew for the parish dog whipper, a post sadly in abeyance these days. The dog whipper kept canine upstarts in order during services with a 3-foot rod and a pair of dog tongs. It must have been quite a challenge.
Out in the fields lay glinting pools, witness to the impermeability of the glacial clay spread across this gently undulating landscape. The wind hissed in the leafless hedges and tossed parcels of rooks about the sky. Ashes and oaks roared as we trudged by.
In Aston we passed the Bhurtpore Inn, named for a victorious siege conducted by Lord Combermere in 1825. Old wars of empire seemed very far away, though, as we crossed Paradise Bridge in a dell of restless oaks, and forged north across beet fields and clover pastures.
A sweet treacly smell blew after us from a feed mill downwind. At the half-timbered old farmhouse of Sound Oak young cattle munched hay in their sheds. A last stretch across squelchy fields and we were following the grassy towpath of the Llangollen Canal back towards Wrenbury. At Baddiley Lock water chuckled down the spillway and ran rippling and flirting with the wind under bare boughs of oak and aspen.
If we’d taken heed of that portentous forecast, we would have missed out on a wonderful blowy walk, the canal waters spattered gold with oak leaves, and this stretch of winter country, green and quiet, under its racing sky.
Start: Wrenbury station, near Nantwich, Cheshire CW5 8EX (OS ref SJ 601471); or Wrenbury village, CW5 8HW (OS ref SJ 593477)
Getting there: Rail to Wrenbury station; bus 72 from Whitchurch
Road: Wrenbury is signed off A590 (Nantwich-Whitchurch)
Walk (7¼ miles, easy, OS Explorer 257): From station, follow Wrenbury Road past industrial estate on left. In 100m, left (stile, ‘South Cheshire Way’/SCW) diagonally across field to road (604469). Left; in 300m, right (607470, kissing gate, SCW) across field, paddock, plantation to road in Aston (610469). Left past Bhurtpore Inn. On left bend, right up Woodcotthill Lane (609472). In 20m, right (SCW); in 300m, in 3rd field, fork left off SCW (612472, kissing gate, yellow arrow/YA).
Half right across field to hedge (614473); left along it to cross Paradise Bridge (614475). Field edge path north for 700m to road at Sound Hall (614481). Right; in 100m, left (YA) across field. Through gate; aim across field, and follow hedge on right (617484), then railway on left (618486) to road (619489). Left; in 240m, left (618491) up Sound Oak Farm drive. Pass to right of house; on across fields for ½ mile to road (608495). Left to steps down to canal; left along towpath for 2 miles to Wrenbury Bridge (590480).
Left along road to Wrenbury (NB Alternative Start). Right opposite church down New Road (593477, ‘Marbury, Whitchurch’). In 700m, opposite Smeaton Hall drive, left (590471, gate, SCW) across fields. Aim left of battery sheds (593470); stile, then 2 fields to Wrenbury station.
Conditions: Fields can be very wet!
Lunch: Dusty Miller, Wrenbury Bridge CW5 8HG (01270-780537)
Accommodation: Cholmondeley Arms, Wrenbury Rd, Malpas SY14 8HN (01829-720300, cholmondeleyarms.co.uk) – fabulous, candle-lit pub-in-a-schoolroom, friendly and comfortable.