For the latest in Notchy’s ‘Deepest Cheshire’ series of evening walks, we convened, just about on time, at the Swettenham Arms, where our leader confessed to having crocked himself on the recce. “Tricky terrain” he commented.
So he gave me some instructions and legged it back home (insofar as he can ‘leg it’ anywhere these days). That left me and Sue and Richard and Jenny pondering what would happen, as we left The Lavender Meadow, which was lovely in the evening light.
By some sort of fluke we found the prescribed route without too much difficulty as we left the fleshpot – though socialising with the heavily strapped and even more fed up Notchy had delayed our start by 30 minutes, the consequences of which would become apparent later.
Following Notchy's instructions assiduously, we ventured down a country lane and bravely negotiated the River Dane - there would be no way to cross back to 'our' side of the river for several miles...
The footpath was slightly eroded, as we headed west towards Holmes Chapel, with some giant lumps of earth seemingly about to head off towards the river, possibly taking my companions with them.
After this eroded bank section the map showed a path going in a straight line. I’d been told an easy mistake would be to follow the river too closely. I did the opposite and managed to give some electrocution lessons whilst negotiating the lively fences installed by the local farmer.
We'd strayed a little from the faint path, but everyone seemed happy enough as we marched on beyond Woodhouse Farm, blinded by the dipping sun. We weren't anywhere near half way along Notchy's route, but nobody seemed bothered, other than ‘mole’ who had retired gracefully by turning turtle when faced with yet another muddy barrier.
We lost the sun, but we gained the A535 main road, which delivered us safely back onto the correct bank of the river, beside a fine railway viaduct.
After dodging some commuters, a barking donkey and a tuneful tandem, we escaped from the dangers of the verge of the A535 and followed the DVW - Dane Valley Way - all the way back to Swettenham. This wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds, as the path was a bit tricky to follow through the fields in the dark, so we deviated slightly where it wasn't clear; but at least the moon behaved as a good torch (except under tree cover, which was frequent).
I think Jenny may have preferred the road route given the frisky cows, attentive horses with soft noses, honking ducks and muddy declivities. And Sue’s shorts weren’t the best equipment to avoid the nettles and brambles of the ‘open road’ – ie the bits of the path that weren’t in deep wet grass, through fields of sweetcorn, or through troughs of mud.
The moon, and the signposts, did come in handy on their occasional sightings.
Civilisation, on the edge of Swettenham, greeted us in the form of a large black dog and a recorded message informing us that “Attention – your movements are now being recorded by a security camera”. Some of our group found this a little intimidating, but I suspected it was just one of Notchy’s jokes, so I ignored any danger and carried on.
When others had had been counselled into following, we found a bit of tarmac that led miraculously to St Peter's church, last renovated in 1926, but dating from Norman times.
This was a welcome sight, and my companions were so pleased to have been delivered to mercy from Notchy's muddy adventure into the Murky Depths of Deepest Cheshire, that they bought me a drink! Notchy was of course nowhere to be seen.
The route we followed wasn't quite the green dashes that were intended, but we gave it our best shot - 9.5 km, 90 metres ascent, in a shade over 2 hours.
There’s a slideshow – only 17 pictures – here.
Thanks to Notchy for planning this route, albeit not actually accomplishing it on the night. It was considerably entertaining!