Will Sir Martin Bell rise up and fight?

THE SUNDAY WALK; Alderley Edge lies is in the heart of Neil Hamilton's constituency. It is 12 miles south of Manchester and it residents drink more champagne than anyone else
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The Independent Travel
Legend has it that beneath the escarpment of Alderley Edge - deep in the dark heart of Neil Hamilton's constituency - 140 knights lie in enchanted sleep, watched over by a wizard. They wait for the day when England is in danger and then they will rise and drive the enemy into the sea. Could it be that Martin Bell has been inspired by such stories?

Just 12 miles south of Manchester, the Edge is approached through the village of Alderley Edge, where money is more evident than mysticism. This is Manchester stockbroker belt. It has a main street lined with designer dress shops and wine merchants. A recent survey by Victoria Wine found the village has the highest consumption of champagne in the country.

But the Edge itself is still enchanting. A sandstone ridge rising sharply above the Cheshire plain, it has beechwoods clinging to the steep, sandy slopes. And there are viewpoints with names inspired by the legend, such as Wizard's Well and Stormy Point.

This walk, a leisurely four miles, takes in the woods of the Edge and some fine farmland on its gentle southerly slope. First, head out of the village towards Macclesfield. You'll pass Victorian villas jostling for position on the slopes of the Edge, hidden behind moss-smeared walls and overhanging shrubbery. Begin the walk from the National Trust Visitor Centre and car park, and turn left into a broad track through oak, Scots pine and holly trees.

Walk past an area of bare sand leading into a shallow valley, which forms a yellow scar across the woodland floor. Here are blocked-off entrances to some of the old copper and lead mines which are dotted over the hill. You may see groups of cavers, in orange hard-hats, heading for holes that look more suitable for rabbits than human beings. Continue to Beacon point, now obscured by trees. From here head to Stormy Point, which still has a magnificent view. This amphitheatre of red rock, divided by gulleys, has been eroded by the feet of thousands of visitors gazing out over the green fields of Cheshire. Beyond is the urban sprawl of Manchester and Stockport, and on the horizon the Pennine hills and summits of the Peak District.

Walk along the Edge heading east past Edge House Farm. Make the most of the views and try to ignore the barbed wire fences bounding the track. A few clumps of hawthorn hanging on for dear life mark the site of the old hedgerows. Cross the Macclesfield road into Finlow Hill Wood and wade through the thick beech leaf-mould. Then after a short stretch down a lane take a path downhill across farm land, away from the Edge. Here there are views south-west across the Cheshire plain, the unearthly bulk of Jodrell Bank satellite dish rising above the trees. At this point we came across a field of sheep, a perfect pastoral scene. But theydecided that we had brought their lunch, and the flock headed towards us. Within seconds a few bleats had turned into a wall of demanding noise. The word "baa" does little justice to the ovine vocal range - from a high-pitched ghostly shriek to a guttural grunt. Here the fields are rich green pasture, bounded by hawthorn hedges. But this classic view of English farmland is spoilt by the rumble of aircraft taking off from Manchester airport, five miles away. The noise will no doubt get worse when the second runway is built. Although there are local protest groups, there is ambivalence to the camp set up by environmental activists. One Alderley Edge resident, interviewed on the local news, said: "It is not the sort of thing one does around here."

The walk now follows ancient lanes back up the hill. Bradford Lane is cobbled and bounded by mown verges, reflecting the large, well-spaced houses dotted along its length. They have tennis courts, perfectly manicured lawns, and even thatched garages for the BMWs and Range-Rovers. Continue past the rather incongruous Wizard Country Park, a collection of mobile homes, and through a silver birch wood back to the car park.

Nearby is The Wizard Inn, which is open on Sundays from 12-5pm. With stone-flagged floors and a mishmash of old wooden furniture, it offers a good selection of home-made food to rather well-dressed Sunday-lunchers. The Tea Room next door is a better bet for muddy boots, and makes up for its spartan decor with enormous slices of chocolate cake and flapjack.

This walk is from "Lancashire and Cheshire Walks" compiled by Brian Conduit, published by Ordnance Survey and Jerrold Publishing (1995). Trains to Alderley Edge leave from Manchester Piccadilly

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