I reflect on the temporary healing powers of beer and Brufen as I hobble into Nantwich on a lovely sunny morning. The Church of St. Mary doesn’t open its doors until 10am, so I poke about in the narrow streets with some surprising finds.
St Mary is an amazing church – cathedral like. You are enthralled as soon as you enter the Nave. Most of the church is C14th, and it is recognised as one of the finest Medieval churches in England. The splendid, intricately carved Monks stalls with triple canopies and their Misericords grab your attention. A fine tomb to a Thomas Smith and his wife from the C17th… …and an effigy of C14th Sir David Cradoc, patron of the church, in alabaster. A majestic modern stained window depicted life in rural Cheshire, linked into the creation story with Halley’s Comet in the right trefoil, dating it to 1985. I forgot to look for the several ‘Green Men’ in the church. On the outside there were some fine gargoyles, in the red sandstone.
At last, I was away and walking through pleasant parks alongside the River Weaver. Dog walkers were in ascendancy – I wonder how long this passion with dogs will last? Nantwich seemed to be a good place to live.
And then I was in the countryside with well-marked paths leading me on. I was on my way to Wybunbury, Winbury to you, and I was pleased to find the post office open with coffee and sandwiches available to enjoy on the seat outside. I take every chance I can for a sit down and some caffeine.
At the end of the village was St. Chad’s tower once a C15th church but now truncated since the demolition of the main part of the church in 1972 due to subsidence. The tower was stabilised in 1832 using methods of under-excavation, later employed to stabilise that leaning tower in Pisa. Apparently it still leans to the north. It is thought that one of the figures at the entrance depicts St. Chad. A modern St. Chad’s church was passed in the village earlier.
The path out of the churchyard took me through a wetland reserve and up into horse paddocks with a multitude of stiles, when a simple footpath diversion would have been more sensible. On the outskirts of Hough I met up with a man and his Springer Spaniel, both as keen as each other on exploring the boggy land in the woods which we traversed. Then it was into fields of tall maize, where you just had to follow a narrow corridor. Somewhere along there I crossed the West Coast mainline, the real one this time. I was glad of a sit down and coffee at the White Lion in Weston. Across the road was the small brick built All Saints’ Church with its unusual semicircular chancel.
Time was passing on as I walked the narrow lanes to Englesea Brook a small hamlet with a museum devoted to Primitive Methodism. Originated in America, the movement began in England around 1807. It was mainly a working class movement and had a part to play in the establishment of the trade unions. A prominent tomb in the graveyard is that of Hugh Bourne, one of the pioneers of Primitive Methodism. Onwards past some fine houses with a few hills to climb at the end of the day. At last the steeple of St. Bertoline’s Church at Barthomley came into view, standing on Barrow Hill an ancient burial ground. This is where on a visit a few months ago I discovered the Two Saints Trail, it felt good to return here. Each section of the way has an interpretation board erected by http://www.twosaintsway.org.uk
St. Bertoline’s is a handsome church in red sandstone, most of it dating from the 15th century, though there is a Norman doorway built into the north wall. Inside are tombs of past notables in the Crewe Chapel. The chancel was rebuilt in 1925–26 by Austin and Paley, well known church architects from Lancaster. Above the west door are three carved heads, the left one was replaced in 2015 with the homely face of Bishop Peter Forster of Chester. I met the vicar as he came to lock up and of course discussed at length ‘my pilgrimage’. He had recently come to this church from a Blackpool parish – what a contrast.
Adjacent to the church is the friendly White Lion Inn where I enjoyed a pint of beer in memory of Dor whose relatives are buried here and who loved this pub. This has been a long day, five churches, but it was not finished. I had struggled to find accommodation in Barthomley and all I could manage was the Travel Lodge a mile or so away just off the motorway on a busy dual carriage way. I risked life and limb getting there only to find I wasn’t booked in. Not knowing there were two, I had by mistake booked the Travel Lodge in Crewe, a few miles away. They could accommodate me here, but at the cost of £100, the ‘walk in rate’. I laughed at that, as they had never had anybody actually walk in before, cars and lorries only. Helpfully, the receptionist suggested getting me a taxi to the other place and before I knew it I was putting my feet up in my booked room. That was the least expensive way out of the dilemma, and I would book a taxi to take me back to Barthomley in the morning. But I did feel stupid.
The arrow on the map shows my eventual destination.