The path climbed south from the car park following the Gritstone Trail. We gained height quickly as we trudged through gloopy mud and splashed through rain-formed rivulets streaming across the path.
'You'll see deer a bit further up', someone informed us as we climbed over a tall ladder stile. A bit further up, we stopped to look back and admire the view that had opened up below us. Despite the cloud and rain we could still see the estate spreading out beneath us and the built-up areas skirting it. On a clear day we'd have been able to see as far as Liverpool and probably North Wales as well.
No deer though. They must be much further up than we'd been led to believe. As we turned back to the path to continue onwards and upwards, something moved and caught my eye. That'd be the deer then. There must have been well over a hundred of them. They were close to the path and not at all bothered by us. Their coats blended into the yellowed grassy background camouflaging them perfectly. If we hadn't stopped to look at the view and had hurried on, heads down, hoods up we'd have walked right past them and not seen a single one.
We followed the lane downhill for a while. At a pond alongside the lane we stopped to chat to the very vocal white geese. Behind them, sat at the pond's edge, was a very large white goose. Presumably it's used for rides by guests staying at the hotel to which the pond belongs. We wondered what the geese made of this inanimate giant in their midst.
Heading north now, we climbed a few stiles, plodded across fields and got dripped on by trees as we picked our way through a small wooded area. One wooded area was fenced off and a sign informed us this was an area planted with a variety of native trees for the millennium. The fences weren't to stop humans, just deer and rabbits.
Bollinhurst Bridge was closed off as it has been declared structurally unsound even for walkers. A wooden walkway has been created to the side of it, so we were still able to cross the river without having to resort to wading.
We followed Bollinhurst reservoir with views to the Cage on the far side. Originally built as a hunting tower in the 16th century, this Gothic looking building had a make-over in the 18th century, later becoming an overnight prison for poachers. This area has been a traditional hunting ground through the centuries and long ago was part of the King's hunting forest of Macclesfield. The Cage could be seen intermittently throughout our walk and was a good navigation aid. The house itself is hidden in the trees and couldn't be seen at all on our walk.
Reaching the far end of the reservoir we followed a lane back into the grounds of Lyme Park and down to the main drive. As we didn't want to walk down the tarmacked drive dodging cars, we crossed and looped through the woods on the far side instead. We walked alongside the river coming out very conveniently at the teashop. We went inside for tea and scones just as the sun was finally breaking out.
Lyme Park has been in the care of the National Trust since 1946. Prior to that it had belonged to the Legh family who had been granted the land in the Royal Forest of Macclesfield by Richard II in 1398. Over the centuries the medieval manor house was transformed into the classic stately home of today. Between Easter and October the house and formal gardens are open to the public and definitely worth a look. The house is probably best known in modern times from the BBC's 1994 adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is here that Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) was famously filmed in the lake, semi-clad and soaking wet.
Approximately 6 miles