Saturday, 23 February 2013

Brereton Heath to Cranage Hall

The lake at Brereton Heath Nature Reserve

About the walk

We were in Cheshire for a birthday party and staying at Cranage Hall hotel. A study of the map revealed that the Dane Valley Way passes reasonably near to the hotel, so I had myself dropped off at Brereton Heath Nature Reserve, six miles away, with the plan to follow the DVW back.

When I arrived at the Country Park, it was grey and cold and just beginning to snow, and I did question the wisdom of this plan. The Visitor Centre was firmly shut, so presumably no visitors were expected, although in fact there were a surprising number of people at various points around the lakeside, including some very hardy fisherman. I felt in great need of some exercise, so I resolved to carry on.

The route led back up to the Holmes Chapel-Congleton road and across to soon join the drive to Davenport House. The fenced gravel path studiously followed the contours of the hillside to leave the house completely hidden from view. As you leave the grounds you enter the river valley and a small bridge offers the first clear view of the river Dane. This impressively winding stream rises near Buxton and flows into the river Croco at Middlewich.

A tarmaced road led uphill towards Swettenham, with pleasant, if unclear, views across parkland.

At Swettenham, the church is an odd mixture of a red brick tower and chancel dating from about 1720 and a mid-Victorian gothic aisle.

The path beside the church passes a lovely half-timbered house. I was struck by the proportion of vertical beams compared to the number of horizontal ones.

You now descend to cross the Swettenham Brook and climb to reach the edge of the north side of the Dane Valley. You follow this past a couple of farms and then into open country. The snow was still falling and the eerie effect was compounded by the plaintive cries of a buzzard.

A bit further on a heron was stimulated into flight. The route now follows field edges, through a bit of woodland, to approach Tremlow Viaduct near Holmes Chapel. It really is very striking - this view was taken having just passed under it. The snow had mercifully stopped by now.

-->The viaduct consists of of 23 arches each spanning 60 feet or so and stands at a height of 105 feet. It was completed in 1842. The valley is much wider and shallower here and the route follows the winding river on grassy banks until it hits the Knutsford road northwest of Holmes Chapel.
I left the DVW here to walk up the road to the hotel. Once in Cranage, I was truck by the picturesque village hall and later by a group of what could only be almshouses (or at least former almshouses, as one was for sale). The central archway gives it away. Pevsner dates them to 1913 and comments that the village hall is a "very enterprising little job" in the style of Voysey. It is slightly earlier and both buildings bear the initials WOO, presumably the benefactor of both.

Cranage Hall itself dates from 1829 and it seems that the section with the porch was not added until 1932. It was a hospital at the time Pevsner was writing (1971).

Conditions: cold, dry powdery snow. Wet and muddy in places.

Map: Explorer 268 (Wilmslow, Macclesfield and Congleton).

Distance: about six miles.

Rating: three and half stars.

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