Distance: 6km/3.5 miles
Time: 2 hours
Map: OS Explorer 258 or 268
Terrain: Field paths, canal towpaths. Muddy patches in winter. Fairly flat.
Barriers: Steep canal bridge at Red Bull
The name Lawton originates in the Lawton family with its family crest being the head of a bleeding wolf. Local legend talks about a man saving the Earl of Chester from being killed by a wolf. This act of bravery took place in about 1200, and to repay the deed, this man was given an area of land between Congleton and Sandbach. The one thousand acre estate became the Parish of Lauton, (later Church Lawton), and is recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The family crest can be found in the church.
Lawton Hall, the country seat, of the Lawton family was built in the 17th century, but was almost destroyed by a fire in 1997. During the First World War the hall was used as a hospital, until this time it was still the Lawton family seat. Later it became Lawton Hall school which closed in 1986. Today it has been renovated into private dwellings.
Iron smelting took place in the woods during the late 1600’s early 1700’s. Coal mining took place in nearby Kidsgrove and some of the mines extended into the Church Lawton / Red Bull area.
The Trent and Mersey canal is linked to the Macclesfield canal at the Harding’s Wood Junction. At the junction of the two canals (point 7) it is well worth turning right and walking further along the Trent and Mersey canal to view the Harecastle tunnel entrances. This detour will take about half an hour. The tunnel on the left was built in 1827 by Thomas Telford and the tunnel on the right was built in 1777 by James Brindley. Brindley's Harecastle Tunnel took eleven years to complete as conditions were treacherous. In 1767 the tunnel was described as "the eighth wonder of the world …" as nothing like it had ever been attempted.
The tunnels are without a towpath so the boats had to be moved through the tunnels by men who "legged" the boats along. The men lay on the top of the boat and literally "walking" on the stepped roof and sides of the tunnel to send the boat forward.
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