When a wet-shirted Colin Firth strode into Jennifer Ehle’s life, an iconic television moment was born. Lyme Hall played the part of Pemberley in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and the lake into which Darcy dived (they actually used a stuntman because of the risk of Weil’s disease!) is much the same today. The park nestles in the foothills of the Peak District and this ramble explores the memorable outdoor set while taking in fine viewpoints, canalside heritage and, of course, that unforgettable pond.
Join the towpath, canal on your right. Just past the end of the moorings, the woods on your left hide the remains of the little-known East Cheshire Coalfield, which thrived until the 1930s. Tramroads connected it both to the canal and the mainline railway in Poynton.
Pass under Bridge 13, then leave the towpath and circle back over the bridge, joining the rough lane skirting Middlecale Farm to reach, in 700m, a cross-path waymarked by the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society.
Turn left on the path through Ryles Wood to reach, beyond fields, the lodge house at the edge of Lyme’s Estate. Keep ahead along the rough track through a high gate to the main driveway.
1. TWO MILES
Turn right, and in 220m drift left on to a stony track that eases up the hillside towards the ridge-top and the Cage, an elegant hunting lodge. Clear days offer extensive views across this corner of Cheshire and the nearer moors of the Peak District National Park.
Continue from the Cage along the ridge-top, to a driveway near the courtyard of Lyme Hall. This superb National Trust property, which featured as Mr Darcy’s home in the BBC series, is renowned for its fine furniture, Mortlake tapestries, Edwardian rose garden, 1,400-acre deer park and the orangery designed by British architect Lewis Wyatt.
2. THREE MILES
Turn left up the drive, and in 175m bear right through a gate signed no cycling, along the staff car park road behind the former stable block. Skirt to the left of the car park to and through a handgate, then alongside a hedge-side fence. In a further 250m, take the high handgate on the right, signed to the Fallow Deer Park. The path runs beside a fence on your right, revealing luscious views across Mr Darcy’s pond to Lyme Hall. Keep ahead to another high gate, then head right down steps to the National Trust Information Lodge.
3. THREE AND A HALF MILES
To visit the hall and gardens, turn right and climb the steps to the courtyard entrance passed earlier. Otherwise, go left on the driveway past the huge wellingtonia trees, with the car park on your left. Bear right over a cattle grid, then shortly fork right and then right again on a sandy wall-side track, remaining with this through gates and past remote houses.
Simply follow this lane, as it becomes tarred, down to a canal bridge. Cross this and then turn right at the old colliery wharf to find the nearby car park. To find out more about the area and the history of the long-dead mining industry, drop into the visitor centre.
Undulating ways on towpath, estate drives, upland paths and grassy tracks. Muddy in places during the winter months, especially near to Ryles Wood.
The whole walk is only suitable for able-bodied visitors. Much of Lyme Park and parts of the hall and gardens are accessible to wheelchair users.
HOW TO GET THERE
By car: Start from the Nelson Pit Visitor Centre at Higher Poynton, beside the Macclesfield Canal. Reach this from the crossroads in Poynton where you turn off the A623 up Park Lane, signed for the Anson Engine Museum. Follow the museum signs, then beyond to the Middlewood Way car park off Lyme Road, just beyond the Boar’s Head pub.
By public transport:
Bakerbus Shuttle 391 links Stockport to Higher Poynton (Boar’s Head) on Mondays to Saturdays.
call: 0871 200 2233
The Boars Head
Higher Poynton, Stockport SK12 1TE
call: 01625 876676
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL1.
Grid ref: SJ 945 834
Disley, Stockport SK12 2NR
call: 01663 762023
The park is open during daylight hours, the hall is open March-Oct, 11am-5pm, but not Wed or Thurs. Different hours and dates for the gardens. Adults from £5.50, children from £2.75.