A Gorgeous Week In Crete

Descending to Sweetwater Beach on the E4

Last Saturday eighteen long walkers returned safely from Crete on the annual continental walking holiday.

Based in Loutro on the south coast, we set off westwards on the 1st day to Marmara Bay from where we commenced the 800m ascent of Aradena Gorge.This entailed plenty of scrambling over pretty rough terrain.If people were expecting easier days to come they were somewhat disappointed, as all the walks were what could be described as challenging . Still, all survived ,with only a few tumbles and grazes.

The following day we descended the Imbros Gorge, following the route of the British Army retreat to the waiting warships in 1941.The 1st World War slogan “Lions led by Donkeys” could equally have applied to the campaign on Crete. In fact I’m sure I heard muttering to that effect over the week as I led the group over the difficult terrain.From the bottom of the gorge we walked westwards on the E4 back to Loutro via Sweetwater Beach.Instead of completing the walk with the rest of us Graham Bothwell chickened out at Sweetwater Beach, and caught a boat back. His lame excuse was that we weren’t going fast enough for him.What he failed to mention was that Sweetwater Beach is a nudist beach !

The 3rd day proved pretty gruelling ,involving a water taxi,a 3 hour coach journey,a 5 hour/1200m descent of the spectacular Samaria Gorge,followed by a 1 hour ferry journey back to base.

A shock to the system for some! Westwards on the E4

The following day we took a water taxi back to the base of the Samaria Gorge , and walked back along the E4 ,trudging through soft sand 20/60m above the shoreline for the first few miles.We enjoyed beautiful views of the coast and clear blue sea.

Graham was delighted to be given the opportunity of returning to Sweetwater Beach for a bit of rest and recuperation on the 5th day.

The steep 600m ascent behind Loutro on the final day in mid/high 20 degree temperatures was perhaps the most gruelling of the week, but rewarded with spectacular views of Loutro.It was worth the effort though to descend the narrow ravine that took us down into Chora Sfakion and a well earned lunch (and cold Beer!) in a waterside tavern.

Brian Griffiths

The alternative,and slightly easier way up the Aradena Gorge

Six go snowshoeing in the Dolomites

A couple of weeks ago six long walkers enjoyed a week away with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays ,snowshoeing in the Dolomites.
It was surprisingly easy for those of us who had never done it before to adapt to snowshoeing.That said, it was pretty strenuous going at times.
Based in the hamlet of St Zyprian we enjoyed spectacular views from the hotel of the Rosengarten limestone peaks.

Negotiating The Labyrinth

A relatively gentle 1st day was followed by a walk through The Labyrinth,a boulder field of thousands of snow covered rocks.Those at the front were amazed that our local guide managed to navigate his way through.Several days involved journeys by bus and skilifts to get above the snowline to enjoy spectacular scenery,and some of the best walking any of us have experienced.

Last day ,and down to a mountain hut for a hot meal followed by a sledge ride back down to the cable car.

The final day culminated in sledging 3 kms with a descent of 400 meters:exhilarating !
Brian Griffiths

An Oriental Surprise At Rudyard Lake

The group pictured at Rudyard Lake.

A touch of the orient was awaiting East Cheshire Ramblers when they set out from Rushton Spencer recently along the track bed of the old North Staffordshire Railway – known as the ‘Knotty’ – heading for Rudyard Lake.

For after following the Staffordshire Way south down the wooded west side of the reservoir, they arrived at Rudyard Sailing Club where a festival was taking place with various events, including dragon boat racing and competitors wearing fancy dress.

Coffee was taken here supplemented by home made cakes from one of many tented stalls raising money for charity.

Moving on across the dam at the end of the lake, the walkers next came to Rudyard Station in time to see a miniature train pulling into the platform. Having climbed a steep flight of steps, the route was then across fields – several with very long grass and overgrown vegetation and no physical evidence of the public footpath that was clearly shown on the map.

Reaching Poolend the ramblers continued across the main Macclesfield – Leek road after which more field paths took them to the half way point of the walk at Fould Farm where they began a long, steady climb up the bridleway to Gun plantation and across the Meerbrook road to reach Gun Hill.

Lunch was taken admiring the many great views all around which included Bosley Cloud, Mow Cop, Shutlingsloe, the Roaches and the communications tower on Sutton Common.

Until now the weather had alternated between sunshine and cloudy intervals but great banks of threatening rain clouds steadily gathered.

The trig point at just under 1,200 ft was passed before the group descended to Gun End and on past Hawksley Farm and Tofthall to reach the attractive hamlet of Heaton where waterproofs had to be donned as they made their way back to the start.

Peter Cummins

Le Tour de Pott Shrigley

Tour de Pott Shrigley – the walkers pictured at Dale Top.

Readers will recall the grand depart of the Tour de France in Yorkshire two years ago and more recently the Tour de Yorkshire. Given rural Pott Shrigley’s obvious popularity with cyclists, local resident John Goodman recently decided to offer East Cheshire Ramblers something similar. However, it was only nine miles and cycle clips were optional.

Starting from Poynton Coppice car park, twelve ECR members quickly crossed the Poynton/Pott Shrigley parish boundary, the bird song in the woods being briefly replaced by the eerie darkness of the Macclesfield Canal aqueduct.

Passing Green Lane chapel the group began to gain height, pausing briefly at the historically- named Keeper’s Cottage before continuing the ascent to the moorland high point of Dale Top. The climb was compensated not only by a coffee break but also with sweeping 360 degree views that extended from Kinder Scout, Shining Tor and the Cheshire plain to the Metropolitan areas of Stockport and Manchester.

Next they crossed the access land of Bakestone Moor and went on to join the Gritstone Trail for the return leg to Pott Shrigley via Berristall Hall.  Pott Shrigley cricket ground  is perhaps the epitome of an idyllic English village cricket green and  offered a tranquil setting for lunch.

After passing through the grounds of the Grade 1 listed St Christopher’s church, the group descended to the picturesque Styperson Pool.

Briefly leaving the parish by the canal towpath , the walkers completed the “”Tour” via Redacre Hall farm and Mitchell Fold where they paused to admire an ancient metal notice erected by the Great Central Railway Company setting out the weight limits on farm vehicles crossing the bridge over the canal.

John Goodman

A Witches Brew Of Mystic Sites and Legends

The walkers pause for a break on the edge of Stanton Moor.

Tales of witchcraft and mystic ceremonies surrounded a recent 8½-mile walk by 13 East Cheshire Ramblers recently led by David Hough which started from Winster, Derbyshire, and ascended to Stanton Moor between Matlock and Bakewell.

Among an astonishing array of prehistoric and other stone structures, the moor contains four Bronze Age circles of which the best known is Nine Ladies. According to Derbyshire legend, the ring of upright rocks (or menhirs) occupies the spot where nine maidens danced on the Sabbath and as a punishment were turned into stone along with the fidler who stands nearby.

Apart from walkers and wildlife enthusiasts, the site is believed to attract followers of the occult and witchcraft for pagan ceremonies and rituals. Indeed, the ramblers were intrigued to see a strange assortment of objects hanging from the branches of an oak tree on the edge of the circle, such as ribbons, pieces of coloured glass, a spectacles frame and even an inflated pink rubber glove !

There are at least another three stone circles dotted around the moor plus prehistoric burial mounds and glacial erratics left over from the last Ice Age with names such as the Duke of York, the Cat, the Duchess of Sutherland and the Cork Stone.

Before leaving the moor to make their way back to Winster via Birchover and the Limestone Way, the group paused to admire the Reform – or Earl Grey – Tower which was erected by local landowner and Member of Parliament William Pole Thornhill in 1832 to commemorate the passing of the Reform Act under the Whig prime minister Earl Grey, who is said to have given his name to the well-known speciality tea flavoured with bergamot.

Roger Norton


Walking along the Wye side

On the path over Cressbrook tunnel with Cressbrook village in the background

Our East Cheshire group of well-seasoned Ramblers began a 11½ mile walk from Miller’s Dale station last Saturday, May 28th.

John lead us down across the B6049 to begin a steep climb up a staircase of steps through a woodland full of cowslips, sorrel, and red campion. Emerging from the wood we walked along well used tracks through beautiful countryside towards Lydgate farm, then crossed Broadway Lane into fields where our nostrils were flooded with the aromas of Hawthorn blossom on either side of us.

We paused for coffee overlooking a lush green dale on one side and farmland on the other side. Continuing we walked through Middle Farm with its established holiday cottage business, and Lower Farm, both amid a wealth of lush green trees. We made a right turn through the new plantation flanked by woodlands on either side, again with the abundance of wild flowers. We even saw water-aven and purple orchids.

Descending into Lees bottom we crossed the A6 to walk alongside the river Wye. The Great and Little Shacklow woodland with a profusion of wild garlic was on our right, tailing off into the village of Ashford where we ate lunch.

A lot of wild garlic in Great Shacklow Wood

Refreshed we returned up over Longstone Lane to Thornbridge Hall where the 12 acres of surrounding land was said to reflect 1,000 shades of green!

We turned left onto the Monsal Trail which we veered off near Cressbrook tunnel onto a stunning path overlooking the water-cum-jolly-dale. We continued along this path looking down on Litton mill before returning onto the Monsal Trail to amble contentedly back to the car park at Miller’s Dale.

Marion Duff

We’re In The Paper!

Our publicity guru, Roger Norton, does a great job of providing regular articles for the local paper, the Macclesfield Express.  Here is a scan of the latest feature, written and illustrated by the walk leader Ken Hobbs.

An Ecology Walk in Natural Spring Woodland

Professor Handley explains that Cotterill Clough is noted for native wild bluebells.

East Cheshire ramblers were privileged recently to see a traditional, natural woodland in all its spring glory and receive an expert account of its flora and fauna from walk leader John Handley, Professor Emeritus of Planning and Environmental Management at Manchester University and a long term member of ECR and Cheshire Wildlife Trust.

Cotterill Clough near Manchester Airport was acquired by public subscription to celebrate the memory of TA Coward, a great Cheshire naturalist and writer. In his book, Life of Wayside and Woodland, he described May as ‘the height of spring, the acme of the observer’s desire’ and remarked somewhat wistfully that there is only one month of May each year.

Indeed, the Cheshire beauty spot was at its best with wild cherry blossom in the tree canopy, sheets of scented bluebells below and a riot of wild garlic and golden saxifrage above on the lower slopes of a burbling stream.

Discussing the eco system of tree roots in a beech wood at Styal Country Park.

Access to the nature reserve, which is managed by Cheshire Wildlife Trust, is carefully controlled to preserve its special qualities and the 26 ramblers present were fortunate to get their own exclusive viewing at such a special time of year.

Cotterill Clough was the highlight of the walk which had many other points of interest taking in the ecology of the National Trust woodlands at Styal, the transformation of the River Bollin into a navigable waterway for migratory trout and salmon and the remarkable creative conservation around Manchester Airport’s Runway 2, where compensatory woodlands, grasslands and wetlands are now really coming into their own,” said Professor Handley. “There was much to enjoy and celebrate here besides the month itself.”

Professor Handley with fellow ramblers in Cotterill Clough surounded by a sea of wild garlic.

Here it is in the Macc Express

John Handley's Walk