Dunham Park & The Bollin Valley

Dunham Park

This is a fairly long yet moderate walk through the contrasting landscapes of the National Trust's popular Dunham Park, the lesser visited quiet Bollin Valley and the affluent mansion lined roads of Bowdon. Walking through the Deer Park or along the idyllic River Bollin Valley you would have no idea you were so close to the urban sprawl of Greater Manchester. There is plenty of wildlife on offer including the Fallow Deer, Birds of Prey, Kingfisher and even an elusive Otter. There are a few tempting diversions along the walk including the Dunham Massey micro brewery, the Stables Restaurant and the Swan with Two Nicks country pub. The entire route is steeped in history, the most fascinting of which is the motte and bailey of Watch Hill Castle. A nationally important scheduled ancient monument and the most important archaeological site in the area. A great escape for anyone who lives in the busy commuter towns of South Manchester.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the market town of Altrincham at the south western edge of Greater Manchester. The start point of the walk is the small parking area opposite St Margaret's Church on the main A56 Dunham Road at grid reference SJ760878. If there are no parking spaces, there is ample free roadside parking down Devisdale Road adjacent to the small car park.
  2. There are excellent public transport links to Altrincham. To find the start of the walk from the bus, train and tram station turn left out of the station and walk two hundred and fifty metres down Stamford New Road, until it reaches traffic lights at a junction with Regent Road. Turn right up Regent Road all the way to the end to reach the A56 Dunham Road. Turn left along the main road and after three hundred metres you will reach St Margaret's Church.
  3. Cross the road to St Margaret's Church then turn left to head west along the pavement on the north side of the A56 Dunham Road. Cross the top of Gorsey Lane and continue along the pavement for another hundred and seventy metres.
  4. At the road bend cross the top of both Highgate Road then Bradgate Road to reach a wooden gate and stile leading into the woodland at Dunham New Park. Follow this path through some beautiful oak woodland. Avoid the smaller paths on the left and stick to the main path.
  5. The path eventually turns in to a wider track as the golf course appears on the left. This area is known as Dunham New Park, it is now taken over mostly by the golf course but was once used as an American Army base and then as a German prisoner of war camp during the second world war.
  6. Once the track enters the golf course you will see signs warning of flying golf balls. Obviously this is a right of way through the golf course, do keep as quiet as possible and respect the golfers who are usually very friendly and often raise a hand to say hello.
  7. The track will come to a bend by the green keepers sheds. Here turn left through the wood on a sign posted footpath. After just over a hundred metres the path opens out at the edge of one of the holes. Here you can either follow the right of way in a straight line across three holes, which I must say I do not recommend, or you can turn left and skirt the edge of the wood to reach a proper path.
  8. So to make sure you don't annoy the golfers, turn left and skirt the woodland to meet a proper path. At that path turn right and pass two very small buildings. Continue along the path as it bends right in a north westerly direction and reaches a stile on the left with a footpath sign.
  9. Cross the stile into a wide open farmers field and follow the left edge of the field into another. Stay on the same trajectory crossing the second field to reach a stile that takes you on to Charcoal Road in Dunham Town.
  10. After you cross the stile to Charcoal Lane you can take a slight diversion to the excellent Dunham Massey micro brewery and pick up a bottle of Milk Stout, Cherry Cherry Mild or a real ale that tickles your taste buds. To get to the brewery, turn immediately right after the stile down Oldfield Lane, the micro brewery is in a tall barn behind the Big Tree Farm.
  11. After the brewery or after crossing the stile, turn right in a north west direction along Charcoal Lane into Dunham Town. You will reach a triangular road junction with a tree in the centre of it. The tree is not so grand these days but is known to locals as the Big Tree and is said to be around four hundred years old.
  12. At the Big Tree in Dunham Town turn left and head down Woodhouse Lane. You will pass some lovely cottages before reaching the minor B5160 road. At the main road cross carefully then make your way to the big white wooden stile that crosses the boundary wall into Dunham Park.
  13. Within the confines of this tall boundary wall is the National Trust's huge Georgian mansion of Dunham Massey Hall and its surrounding three hundred acre Deer Park. The park is home to a herd of beautiful fallow deer and is a haven for wildlife, flora and fauna. The hall was donated to the National Trust by the Earl of Stamford in 1976.
  14. After crossing the stile turn immediately left. You will pass the duck pond of Smithy Pool on your right. Keeping the tall boundary wall to your left continue walking until you reach the two storey eighteenth century Deer House. Well worth exploring and a great place to eat lunch inside on a rainy day.
  15. From the Deer House make you way to the tarmac Main Drive. Turn left along Main Drive in the direction of the white entrance gates at Charcoal Lodge. However just before you get close to the gates turn right on a path that heads south following the eastern boundary wall. It passes a through an open area and a few gates before eventually reaching the bottom of a wide open tree lined avenue.
  16. Looking up this wide tree lined avenue you will get your first glimpse of Dunham Massey Hall. Make you way along the tree lined avenue in the direction of the hall. Half way down look out for the quirky eighteenth century Slaughter House in the trees on the right, also well worth exploring.
  17. You will eventually reach the area in front of Dunham Massey Hall. If you are a National Trust member you can visit the hall and/or the gardens. The gardens here are the largest and most impressive winter gardens in Britain. There is a cafe shop, restaurant and visitor centre in the barns to the left of the hall.
  18. When you reach the end of the wide tree lined avenue in front of the hall, turn left and head down to the old Saw Mill. This is a seventeenth century corn mill come saw mill. Walk to the left of it, passing its front where you will see its water wheel. Keep descending this path to reach a large wooden stile over the boundary wall.
  19. Cross the stile then walk along the tree lined and fence lined path through farmers fields to reach Bollington Mill. The mill here has now been converted to modern apartments. Our route here now goes left following the Bollin Way long distance footpath over a stile sign posted as a National Trust permissive footpath. However a slight detour can be made to the fantastic Swan with Three Nicks pub on the other side of the river, to reach it go straight on crossing a narrow bridge over the River Bollin weir.
  20. So turn left and over the stile sign posted as a National Trust permissive footpath. This path, which is now the Bollin Way, soon reaches the banks of the River Bollin. The path follows a slightly raised bank most of the way. On your left after a while you will see two fine examples of Oxbow Lakes. A lake that was once a river bend, created when the winding river bent back on itself then finally broke through re-navigating the main course of the river and leaving its old bend behind.
  21. After the Oxbow Lakes the path hugs the side of the quiet and slow moving River Bollin through farmers fields for two kilometres. This is a lovely part of the walk where you are most likely to be by yourself for some time. Lookout for Buzzards circling above on warm days and Mallards and Cormorants making their way down the river. You may at times encounter the odd cow, but from my experience these ones do tend to just move out of the way.
  22. The path will eventually reach the bridge where the main A56 dual carriageway crosses the River Bollin. Here head up to the road via a small stile. You now need to turn left and head along the road side for a hundred metres. Unfortunately despite this being part of a dedicated long distance route there is no actual pavement so do take care. You must now wait for a long gap in the often very fast moving traffic and carefully cross the dual carriageway.
  23. Once you reach the other side of the dual carriageway head through a stile and gate on to a track with a footpath sign. The path soon gets away from the noisy road and heads into a birch forest. After a while the path rejoins the banks of the River Bollin.
  24. Around fifty metres after the path rejoins the bank of the River Bollin there is a tree covered mound up to the left hand side. This is no ordinary lump of soil but actually the early medieval motte and bailey of Watch Hill Castle. A nationally important scheduled ancient monument and the most important archaeological site in the area. I wonder how many people speeding past on the A56 know it even exists.
  25. Continue along the riverside path which is now very sandy in places. The River Bollin brings a lot of sandstone silt down from the Peak District. There is a path sign posted to Bowdon that goes left on the course of another old and in my point of view pointless right of way through a muddy farmers field. Avoid this path and instead continue on the same path.
  26. The path ascends away from the river then heads to a stile over a fence on to a tarmac road at Pool Bank Farm. Here turn right along the tarmac and concrete road to reach a road bridge over the River Bollin. This is the area where it is rumoured the elusive River Bollin Otter can seen around dawn and dusk.
  27. Cross the road bridge then turn right off the road and through a metal gate following the footpath signs. The path crosses muddy ground passing a few sheds then heads over another stile in to a wooded area. The path descends slightly to reach Birkin Brook.
  28. Continue along the path which passes through birch trees before opening out to a large farmers field. Stick to the right hand side of the field keeping the Birkin Brook on you right. Pass a wooden footbridge, don't cross it, instead continue walking round the right hand side of the field.
  29. You will pass under an electricity pylon then the Brikin Brook sticks out slightly. At this point start to make your way left crossing the field towards the hedgerow. Once you reach the hedgerow follow it to the right towards Ryecroft Farm.
  30. As you approach the farm you will see footpath signs pointing left. Follow the footpath as it skirts another hedgerow on the right through a farmers field. After two hundred and fifty metres you will reach a stile. Here turn right crossing the stile and now heading south through another farmers field.
  31. After two hundred metres you will reach the farm road. Turn left along the road now heading north east. Follow the road through farmers fields with big horizons with jets rising from the runway at Manchester Airport. After just over half a kilometre the road dog legs as it passes a wood on the left.
  32. After the wood the road bends right then follows a straight line again. Look out for a stile in to the field on the left just a hundred and thirty metres down the road. Cross the stile and follow the footpath over a corn field with a camber. From the stile or the fields high point, on a clear day if you look south east, you will see the Peak District and the distinctive side on pyramid shape of Shutlingsloe.
  33. At the other side of the field is a wide gate on to a tarmac road. Turn left towards the house that was once Ashley Mill. At the house head to the right down a steep cobbled path. This turns right then crosses a footbridge over the River Bollin.
  34. At the other side of the bridge turn immediately left and follow an often muddy tree covered riverside path. After a hundred metres you will reach an opening, here you can turn left and explore the sandy bank at the river bend. To continue the walk carry on along the same path. It crosses a small stream then starts to make a slight ascent through a wood.
  35. The path eventually turns into a track, which eventually turns in to the bottom of Grange Road, with school fields on your right and a new housing estate on your left. Head north along Grange Road for two hundred metres until you reach Fletcher Drive.
  36. Turn left down Fletcher Drive, as the road starts to bend left look out for a walkway through the houses on the right hand side. Head down this walkway. It will cross the top of Birch Tree Close then come to a T junction. At the T junction turn left and you will eventually find yourself on a corner of Sunny Bank Road.
  37. Turn right down Sunny Bank Road. Keep on Sunny Bank Road which turns in to Bailey Walk with houses on your right and a field to your left. At the end head through the walkway to the top of Priory Street. Cross the top of Priory Street and keep heading through the walkway, this time now on to a corner of Priory Road.
  38. Turn left and follow the main road round the bend. Stick to the main road which is now Bow Lane. Head east down Bow Lane for half a kilometre. The northern side of the road is best as there is a pavement and a dedicated walkers path at the far end.
  39. When you reach a sharp bend to the right, instead of following the bend, cross the road and head down a small minor road. Pass Bow Green Farm on the left then walk down this road for just two hundred metres where you will see a stile and footpath sign heading right.
  40. Cross the small stile and head along the tree lined path. This wonderful path crosses two farmers fields and is lined with birch and oak trees. After half a kilometre the path crosses a stile on to Bow Lane again at its junction with Bow Green Road.
  41. Cross the road from the stile and head north to north east along the affluent Bow Green Road. After half a kilometre where the road bends to the right, cross the road and head through a small opening to The Springs. Head north along The Springs until you reach the main B5160 Park Road.
  42. Cross the main road with care. Turn right and after just thirty metres, before the path starts to ascend Church Brow, turn left up a narrow sign posted alley with steps. After a hundred and thirty metres the alley will reach the wide mansion lined road of Green Walk.
  43. Turn left down Green Walk for just over two hundred metres until you reach Green Courts on your right. Head down Green Courts to a grassy area at the bottom. Here you will find a gate heading into the green space of Devisdale.
  44. This is a lovely green space looked after by the local 'Friends of Denzell Gardens and Devisdale' volunteer group. Like Dunham New Park across the main road Devisdale has an even longer history. The Devisdale was also used during war times as a camp where soldiers camped under canvas. The impressive Denzell House building in the south west corner of Devisdale, now refurbished as offices, was once a wartime hospital.
  45. The Devisdale attracts a lot of wildlife including Rabbits, Kestrel, Sparrow Hawk, Buzzard, Newts, Frogs, Tawny Owl, Grey Heron, Pipistrelle Bat, Green Woodpecker and many more. It is mainly used these days by joggers and friendly dog walkers.
  46. You can explore the Devisdale and check out its fabulous pond. I suggest as you enter Devisdale from Green Courts, turn left and do a complete circle of Devisdale, ending up back towards Green Courts but heading to the south east corner where you will find the exit to Groby Road. Follow Groby Road for just a hundred and fifty metres then turn left down Devisdale Road and after a short walk back at the start of the walk.
  47. If you can't find the Groby Road exit from Devisdale, instead just head to the west and out on to the main A56 Dunham Road, turn right along its pavement to end up back at the start of the walk, just half a kilometre down the road.
  48. For food and drink after the walk I would suggest you head down St Margaret's Road opposite the church. At the end of St Margaret's Road turn right down The Firs and when you reach Bowdon Church there is the Stamford Arms and The Griffin pubs on your left where you will find tasty pub food and drinks.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer 268 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 109 Map Click to buy OS Explorer 276 Map Click to buy Pathfinder Guides Cheshire

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.