15 Nov 2023 Gradbach to Gig Hall return Leader: Helen & Clive, Length of walk: 8 miles, Driving Distance: 21 miles, Number walking: 19
Start from Gradbach Car Park. SK17 0SU What3words ///charts.many.showrooms
Click here to see a map of the walk.
Clive went lame on the day of the walk, so Helen took sole charge of the navigation. She did a fine job.
The car park at Gradbach is labelled as the access to Lud’s Church, which is just over the hill, but was not on the route for this walk. The car park was, as always, muddy with puddles.
Gradbach Mill used to process flax and silk before closing in 1880. After being used as a sawmill it was abandoned in 1900 and left unused until 1978, when it became a youth hostel. Its current incarnation offers 13 bedrooms for hire with a large entertaining space on the ground floor. The walkers left it behind as they climbed through Forest Wood to reach the coffee stop at Hanging Stone, where Helen issued Welsh Cakes to the needy walkers. They were delicious.
The hanging stone bears two plaques, which were attached by the Brocklehurst family who lived in Swythamley Hall in the valley below. One lauds a favourite dog with the following inscription:
“Beneath this Rock
August 1st 1874
a noble mastiff black and tan
faithful as woman
braver than man
a gun and a ramble
his hearts desire
with the friend of his life
the Swythamley squire”
The second plaque, is an epitaph to Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Courtney Brocklehurst written by his brother Sir Philip Brocklehurst, the last resident of the hall before it went out of the family:
LT COL HENRY COURTNEY BROCKLEHURST 10TH ROYAL HUSSARS
AND PILOT IN THE ROYAL FLYING CORPS 1916-1918
GAME WARDEN OF THE SUDAN
BORN AT SWYTHAMLEY MAY 27TH 1888
KILLED ON ACTIVE SERVICE IN BURMA
ON COMMANDO JUNE 1942
(Lt Col Brocklehurst drowned trying to cross the Chindwin River as his unit retreated from the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942. He volunteered for service even though he was 54.)
After the coffee stop, the route went down the hill past Swythamley Hall, where the Brocklehurst family lived from 1832 to1978. The family money came from silk manufacture and banking in Macclesfield. The house has been divided into separate dwellings but is hidden from the hoi polloi strolling down the road.
More downhill walking took the group to the steep-side Bearda valley which drains into the Dane. The house labelled Bearda Mill has a mill wheel, but it looks ornamental according to the millwright experts in the group. After a steep climb up the hill on the other side of the stream, the route passed the semi-derelict Hannel farmhouse and then led down to Gig Hall by the Dane, where a mown grassy area hosted lunch.
The route back to the cars followed the Dane Valley Way and included a remarkable number of hills for a path which follows the river. The walkers passed the site of the trout farm, which looks abandoned, and Wincle brewery before crossing the Dane bridge which gave its name to the settlement. On a map from 1900, Danebridge appeared to occupy both sides of the river, but Wincle seems to have crept down the hill since then and annexed the Cheshire side. The river Dane forms the boundary here between Cheshire and Staffordshire.
Although the café at Gradbach Mill is closed for the winter, a bit of enterprising scouting discovered that the toilets were operational. Only one person took advantage – possibly for fear of capture by CCTV.