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A Walk to White Nancy Above Bollington

Exploring a short but scenic ridge, with a strange landmark, above the leafy town of Bollington.

Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 1,180ft (360m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Easy field paths and farm tracks, one short, sharp descent

Landscape Mostly gentle rolling pasture and small pockets of woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL24 White Peak

Start/finish SJ 937775

Dog friendliness On lead through farmland, but off lead along lanes

Parking Kerbside parking on Church Street or Lord Street, Bollington

Public toilets Bollington town centre

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1 The walk starts towards the top of Lord Street (which Church Street leads into) where it turns sharply right at the top of a steep hill. Go along Cow Lane, a cul-de-sac, and through the gate at the far end. Take the upper of two field paths, quickly passing into a larger sloping field on the right. Aim for the gate and cattle grid at the far left top corner.

2 Turn left on to an open farm track and follow this all the way down to the lane in the bottom of the valley. Turn right, and then almost immediately fork right again past some terraced cottages. A weir and pond below on your left are all that remain of the former silk mill. Follow this path through the Woodland Trust's Waulkmill Wood.

3 Leave the wood via a stile and go across the lower part of a sloping field, then in the second aim for the buildings on the far side. Follow the gated path around to the right, and on through successive fields.

4 Go over a stile with a Gritstone Trail waymark (a footprint with the letter 'G') and along the bottom edge of a very new, mixed plantation, then down a walled track through woodland to reach the main road at Tower Hill.

5 Turn right and walk along the pavement, past the Rising Sun Inn, for ½ mile (800m). Turn right into Lidgetts Lane, then as it bends almost immediately right go over a high stile ahead and on to a gated track past a row of hawthorn trees. Swinging left follow this grassy path up to the ridge above - ignore the lower route by the right-hand fence.

6 Follow the obvious hilltop track all the way along the spine of Kerridge Hill, ignoring tracks off left and right.

7 After admiring the views at the monument (White Nancy) at the far end, drop sharply down the eroded path beyond, with Bollington spread out below, then cross a sunken farm lane and continue down across two more steep fields to reach a stile back into Cow Lane/Lord Street.

Bollington lies just outside the far western edge of the Peak District National Park, but it continues to attract walkers and sightseers due in part to the short but inviting ridge of Kerridge Hill that overlooks the small Cheshire town. However it's not just the superb views that will hold your attention, but also the curiously shaped monument that occupies the far northern tip of the hill.

Visible from below, and for some distance around for that matter since it stands at 920ft (280m) above sea level, White Nancy is a round stone construction that was built by the local Gaskell family in 1820 to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo. It was originally an open shelter with a stone table and benches, and was presumably a popular spot for picnics, but gradual decay and occasional vandalism led to it being bricked up, and now the building has no discernible door or windows. Nor does it bear any plaque or information panel, and most striking of all it is painted bright white. In terms of shape it resembles a large bell, or perhaps a giant chess pawn, with a large base that tapers into an odd little point. As for its name the most entertaining version suggests that Nancy was the name of one of the eight horses that pulled the heavy stone table to the summit when the tower was built. Beacons are still lit next to it to mark special occasions.

For all its scenic qualities the lower western slopes of Kerridge Hill are still quarried, although it's not visible on the walk until you reach the main summit ridge. The dressed stone is used for roofing slates and paving slabs and originally it was removed via narrow boats on the Macclesfield Canal that also served the mills and factories that once dotted the Bollington area. For a while shallow pits in the hill even yielded enough coal to supply the local engine houses, as steam power replaced water power during the Industrial Revolution's relentless advance. But inevitably your eye will be drawn to sights further afield, and if the weather is clear there will be good views across Macclesfield and the Cheshire Plain to the Mersey Estuary, the urban sprawl of Greater Manchester, as well as the long, high outline of the Pennines away to the north. Meanwhile White Nancy continues to sit impassively, a fittingly ambiguous monument to a past era when people felt compelled to mark the winning of a great overseas battle by building a picnic shelter on top of a small hill in Cheshire.

While you're there

The Highwayman, a historic 16th-century inn on the B5470 north east of nearby Rainow, is reputed to be one of the most haunted in the Peak District. It's known locally as 'the Patch', and the small dark rooms, with their low beams, log fires and ornate wooden furniture exude character. But keep an eye out for the smoke rings that appear mysteriously in the middle room, and the old man in the snug bar that no one seems to know!

What to look for

In the mid-1800s there were as many as 13 mills in Bollington, spinning cotton and silk, and later synthetic fibres such as rayon. The last cotton mill closed in 1960, but as you may see towards the bottom of Lord Street and elsewhere some of the town's surviving mill buildings have a new lease of life as modern offices and flats. Another fascinating throwback to a previous industrial age is the impressive Telford-designed aqueduct, which carries the Macclesfield Canal high above the main road through Bollington.

Where to eat and drink

Bollington has a staggering number of pubs and community clubs (over 20 at the last count!), as well as a few cafés and a cheerful bakery on the main road (B5090). But in terms of access to the walk try the Church House Inn at the bottom of Church Street and the Red Lion Inn at the top of Lord Street; and at Tower Hill (half way along the walk) the Rising Sun Inn. All serve food and drink at lunchtime and evenings.

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