Gawsworth hosts a trinity of features that define an English village – old church, medieval hall and classic pub. The church is at one end of the village-centre fishponds; the eye-catching old ‘magpie’ hall at the other. Such Englishness deserves a spectre; cue the ghostly form of a lady dressed in green seen abroad in the lanes, church and hall. She is said to be the shade of Mary Fitton, the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets and member of the local gentry.
A spinney at the edge of the village is known as Maggoty Wood, after Samuel ‘Maggoty’ Johnson, England’s last professional fool or jester. He was buried in the wood in 1773 and his ghost dances among the trees. Last but not least, the Harrington Arms is a memorable ghost of what all village pubs must once have been like.
A Church start
Walk along a lane past the sublime St James’ Church, which has some superb effigy tombs, alongside the fishpond and bend left on Church Lane, with the imposing New Hall on your right. At the crossroads go ahead a few paces, then divert left into Maggoty Wood to find Maggoty Johnson’s tomb – an information board tells his strange tale and the derivation of his assumed title, Lord Flame.
B Danes Moss Nature Reserve
Return over the crossroads and take the waymarked stile, left, onto a field-side path. At the end, turn right on Woodhouse End Road. Remain with this for 800 yards to a sharp-right bend; here turn left on the waymarked sunken track. Just before a stile, bend right on an old tramroad along the fringe of Danes Moss Nature Reserve. This rare raised mire is an SSSI renowned for its dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies. Cross the railway footbridge to gain the nearby towpath; turn right alongside the Macclesfield Canal.
C Head back for a pint
At the Fools Nook lift bridge, turn right along the lane; in under a mile cross the railway and go ahead past Mount Farm. Look left for the rutted track to and through a handgate; then skirt the left field edges to reach Gawsworth and the Old Hall complex beyond more village ponds. This superb old building has its own jousting ground and was home both to the tragic Mary Fitton and to Maggoty Johnson, whose violin is displayed within. Turn left on the lane, passing the church to reach the Harrington Arms, part of a working farm and one of England’s least altered, timeless old pubs.
How to get there
Gawsworth is three miles south-west of Macclesfield, just off the A536.
Find Out More
Town Hall SK10 1DX
The Harrington Arms Church Lane, Gawsworth SK11 9RJ
Yew Tree Farm
North Rode, Congleton CW12 2PF
www.yewtreebb.co.uk B&B on a working farm.