Cown Edge Way Part 2: Mellor to Chisworth

Published 2 August 2017

St Thomas's Church, Mellor
Sitting on top of a hill, St Thomas’s Church requires its congregation to get some exercise if they want to attend services.

The Cown Egde Way is an 18 mile walking trail that is named for, and visits, Cown Edge, on the edge of Manchester. Over two days. I set off to walk its route. In the morning, I spent half a day on the Cown Edge Way walking from Hazel Grove to the village of Mellor, without seeing Cown Edge itself once. Now it was time to rectify that situation.

For sixteen years I in London. London is many things, but hilly isn’t one of them. It’s a rather flat place. The result of this is that when you do find a hill in the capital, it’s generally not very high, although it will usually be high enough for it to provide a spectacular view of the area.

These days I live in the east of Greater Manchester. There are parts of Greater Manchester that are pretty flat too. Head up to the fifth floor of of my employer’s office in Salford and everything below you looks all rather level, although look east and you can see the hills that surround the east of the area. That’s where the Pennines sit, and there’s a string of smaller hills before that.

Mellor sits on the side of one of those hills, and the hill itself is topped by the parish church; a fine looking building in a commanding position that stands tall over the community it serves, which is down below. From its location, not far from the hill’s 278m high summit, you can get a grand view of the local area, be it the city of Manchester, the local airport, or just the towns and golf courses where I’d spent the morning walking.

The climb up to Mellor Church also marks a change in the Cown Edge Way. Up until this point, it had mostly meandered around the edge of the suburbs. Now it began heading to moorland, and to Cown Edge itself, although that particular hill still remained invisible.

A reconstructed iron age round house in Mellor
How the locals of Mellor may once have lived.

The area around the church also features an archaeological site in the old vicarage garden, where a variety of remains have been uncovered from the Roman and Bronze Age eras. A small area has been uncovered, with a walkway for visitors to view site, and some interpretation boards that bring it all to life. There’s even a sculpture of two faces – on one side a Roman centurion is displayed, but go round to the other and you’ll find a Bronze age peasant.

In an adjoining field stands a replica of an Iron Age roundhouse, recreated by local students, and which gives an idea of how local residents once lived; although subsequent digs showed that the local roundhouses would have been built with stone walls, rather than the mud ones that were assumed to be the case when the students were busy in their build in the early 21st century.

From Mellor Church, I walked to the small hamlet of Mill Brow, and then through farmland to Ludworth Moor. And it was on that path that, at long last, Cown Edge itself came into view. To be honest, from where I stood it just looked like a line of trees on a hill top, and it wouldn’t be until I was at Cown Edge’s summit that it’s true glory would really be unfolded to me.

On my way, I came across a local landmark that the Ordnance Survey names as “Robin Hood’s Picking Rods.”

Robin Hood's Picking Rods - two stone columns by the side of a track.
Robin Hood’s Picking Rods. A spot for legends?

What’s a picking rod, you may ask? And if you did, try asking someone else, as I have absolutely no idea. What I can tell you is that these particular picking rods are two stone columns that date from the 9th century, and that are assumed to have been carved by the Anglo-Saxons.

No one is particularly sure why they exist, and certainly not why they were placed here on this particular stretch of moorland. The pair sit next to each other on a stone base, although one theory is that the two columns were once one, and formed part of a stone cross. Over time, the idea goes, the cross broke, and the two parts were set upright in the formation they sit in now. But even that’s just a guess. As for how it came to be named after a 12th century folklore hero, that just leads to even greater speculation. One theory is that the famous outlaw was in the area used the column (or, indeed, columns) to bend his bow on. It’s a nice explanation, although doesn’t answer the question of what he was doing on Ludworth Moor, some sixty odd miles from Sherwood Forest. We will never know for sure, although perhaps, just perhaps, he’d come to see Cown Edge?

Cown Edge
Cown Edge. Perhaps not as glamorous from afar as you may expect.

Beyond the picking rods the trail went sharply to the left, just after a fine view of that most famous of fells, Kinder Scout. And then it was a steady stroll across the moorland to the star event. After spending most of the day not being able to see it at all, I was finally going to see Cown Edge up close and very personal. And there it was. A long, rocky outcrop, topped with two distinct groups of trees.

It’s these trees that are the main distinguishing feature of Cown Edge when seen from the distance; two wide plantations with another wide gap in between. You don’t get to see the rocks at all when viewing from afar. But when you’re stood on top of them, you get to see that they line the side of a wide, swooping bowl. It’s subtle. It’s under-stated. And it’s utterly spectacular. A reward only to be seen by those who make a little bit of effort.

One thing I had expected, was, however, very absent. Unlike every other hill I’d climbed that day, there was no view of Manchester and its suburbs. And that also helped make Cown Edge rather special. Of all the higher places I’d been to, this was the one that offered something different.

The village of Charlseworth, in the High Peak of Derbyshire
Looking down in Charlesworth, nestling in the hills

That’s not to say there wasn’t a view. Far from it. They went on far and wide. It’s just they were different views. And most noticeable of all were the villages of Charlsworth and Chisworth, just down below, both of which nestle attractively in the hills. The Cown Edge Way would take me to both, following the side of the Cown Edge bowl, going down hill to Charlesworth, the larger of the two settlements. And then, after meandering through the village playground, and stumbling through some muddy fields, it would deposit me at its neighbour, Chisworth.

With a population of 409, Chisworth’s barely anything to look at. Seen from the main road that passes through it, it’s just a collection of houses and a pub nestling in the hillside. Yet Chisworth actually has had a rather industrial past. Three different cotton mills were built here, as well as a bleach works, all of them employing many hundreds of people.

Only one of those buildings now remains, and that hasn’t been a source of manufacturing for some time either. Kinderlee Mill struggled on until finally closing its doors in 1997. The building fell derelict, but such is the way with an old mill building in an attractive rural location, it was eventually converted into residential use in 2008.

Kinderlee Mill - now converted to residential use
Once a place of industry, Kinderlee Mill in Chisworth is now housing.

A little bit of industrial past seemed as good enough way as any to end my day’s walk. Especially as there was a bus stop nearby where I could head home from. Less convenient was the fact that the bus only ran every two hours and I would have to wait an hour and ten minutes for the next next one (and indeed last one for the day.) On the other hand, the bus stop was close to the village pub; the Hunters Inn. And it was just opening for the afetrnoon.

I’d been in the Hunters as a child, for a family Sunday lunch many years earlier. The modern day Hunters now is substantially different, and a lot smaller. It had survived closure, and whilst most of the building had been converted to housing, new owners had kept a smaller pub going. It was a rather cosy place, and a perfect one in which to toast a good visit to Cown Egde. And all before a small white and orange minibus whisked me back to my doorstep. Really, what more could you ask for?

Next time, the walk concludes by looking back at where it has been.


Roger Greenhalgh

21 May 2022 at 5:21 pm

Thank you. .. .. This is a delightful description of the area. The photographs frame the description. I led a circular walk covering the Mellor Church area with ten members of my Moss Side church on this May morning. The panoramic views are stunning and they were a surprise to many in my group. Your walk has encouraged me to create further circular walks based on this area.
Roger Greenhalgh 2022.05.21

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