Walk report Wildboarclough & Gradbach 25th November

At Three Shire Heads – our stopping point for lunch on this rather cold day. A passing rambler kindly offered to take a group photograph.

It’s amazing how the weather can change within a few miles. Whilst Macclesfield bathed in some late autumn sunshine a few miles east the hills were clad in low cloud with just a hint of drizzle in the air but this didn’t deter seventeen East Cheshire Ramblers setting off on an eight mile Sunday walk from Clough House Car Park at Wildboarclough.
Kathryn Carty led the party east on the stony track which ascended Cumberland Clough before heading northeast to gain the misty moorland at Danebower Hollow. Turning right, the party headed along the high level path towards the Danebower Quarries where shelter was found for the morning break. The quarries have been long abandoned but spoil heaps and remains of old buildings are still very much visible on the ground in this bleak landscape. Stone from the quarries was used locally mostly for building walls.
Crossing the River Dane and staying on a high level path, the party next headed towards Orchard Farm before heading down to a sheltered valley which descended to Three Shire Heads – the meeting points of the counties of Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. This was our lunch stop and is a popular spot for picnics on a warm summer’s day but today there was a chill in the air that the group were soon ready to move on but not before a group photograph.
The packhorse bridge here over the infant River Dane is said to date from the eighteenth century and is grade two listed. Heading south, the party now followed a section of the Dane Valley Way, a forty eight mile long way-marked trail which follows the course of the River Dane between Buxton and Northwich. Reaching Gradbach, the group re-crossed the River Dane from Staffordshire in to Cheshire before taking the delightful hill path via Bichenough Hill and finally descending via quiet lanes back via Wildboarclough to the end of the walk.

A brief interval of sunshine as the group head back towards Clough House Car Park.

Contrasting weather in the Cheviots

The Breamish Valley west of Ingram. Twenty minutes earlier it was raining and the place looked so different.

I want to walk in the hills in the Northumberland National Park and a chance to bag some of those outlying summits close to The Cheviot or so that’s the plan.

It’s September and with several wet Sunday’s in a row, surely it was time to have a decent Sabbath. I’m staying in Berwick upon Tweed and the weather is dawning fine and sunny and so with a forecast of possible showers later in the day I set off south to drive via quiet B-roads and through a sunny Wooler to head to the Breamish Valley. As I near the Cheviots I begin to have some doubts as my plan is to walk over the remote moors to Bloodybush Edge then bag Cushat Law and Shill Moor on the way back. Driving up through the Breamish Valley there is a rainbow ahead of me and the sunny skies of earlier is quickly filling in. I’m expecting to see many cars at the limited parking at Hartside but on my arrival there was no one there. It is blowing a gale and the hills around Cushat Law are now draped in hill cloud and shafts of rain are sweeping across the hillside. The prospects don’t look that good so it is time for a rethink. Walking in these conditions will not be fun, and here I am with yet another hill walk not coming to fruition. At least back at Ingram the weather is fine and that is only a few miles further east. Perhaps I could do a walk from there I think.

Returning to Ingram the car park is now full with a large rambling group assembled and so I have to cross the road bridge and park on common land on the far side.
My plan now is to head generally southwest and see how the day progresses. It is unusual for me not to plan a route in advance. The sunny weather has returned, even on the higher hills and for awhile I think that a day on the higher summits has been missed. On the other hand it is blowing a gale and this interval of fine weather isn’t to last.

Walking at its best. A easy open track climbs into the hills at Turf Knowe west of Ingram.

My route ahead towards the isolated house at Chesters, seen almost in the centre of the photograph. For awhile the weather looks good. My original plan was to walk in the hills on the horizon.

Under sunny skies I’m setting off west from the village of Ingram and soon take a good hill track southwest climbing gradually to higher ground and according to my map passing several areas of medieval Cultivation Terraces although these are mostly lost in the bracken. My plan is to follow the bridleway over to the isolated house at Chesters and for the first part, the track is well defined. Further west as I descend towards Chesters Burn so the path becomes overgrown with bracken and not only that, it appears to veer off further north to what is shown on my map. At first I can’t see any way through the forestry block ahead of me but I eventually find an old wooden gate. At least here is a sheltered spot for my morning break before venturing through the forest. It is by luck that I pick up a path that runs all the way through the forest and despite this being a bridleway, it would have been hard to get a horse through here. The western edge of the forest has a much clearer gate and I now head uphill across open pasture towards Chesters and here the path is not that well defined. Chesters is a large house in good repair but certainly has not been lived in for some time. Beyond, I pick up a good track but now the weather looks to be on the change. There is little shelter in this area and on reaching the crest of the windy ridge I opt to divert to a woodland block to my right to have an early lunch. Climbing a fence I enter the edge of the forest. It gives some shelter as I tuck into my lunch and meanwhile the rain mostly passes to the south of me.

Hart Law (341 metres), the first of two trig points visited on my walk but the weather is beginning to close in.

Back out on the open moorland, a good track runs south and I opt to bag the first of two trig points of my walk. Leaving the track, I divert east over easy grassy ground to reach Hart Law 341 metres. It is blowing a gale on top and more rain is on the way. To the south, the Simonside Hills are already into the cloud base as shafts of rain are sweeping across the area. At least now I will be heading to lower ground but for the time being, I am walking into a headwind. Back on the track, the walking is easy and later I veer off to follow the right of way down passing Pennylaws South Plantation. I had expected this to be easy, but the enclosed path is quite overgrown and squelchy. At the foot stands an old tower house and traces of the medieval village of Alnham. The adjacent church is barricaded off and closed for restoration work but I manage to get into the churchyard for a closer look. St Michael’s Church dates from around 1200AD and stands on the site of a Roman Camp. The adjacent Tower House is very much obscured by trees and dates from around 1405 with a 19th century house attached. It was formally a youth hostel and has also been used as a vicarage.

The ancient medieval church at Alnham and with the weather set to turn wet, its time to get my waterproof gear on.

With showery rain very much around, it is time to put on full waterproof gear although for now the rain isn’t amounting to much. Setting off, I take a bridleway crossing fields over to the small settlement at Hazeltonrigg. It seems that I am the only person out walking today and there is very little life at any of the farms I pass. A short steep descent leads down to the valley through which flows Scrainwood Burn and here I turn left down to reach a lane. En route, I stop to investigate a new sturdy wooden shelter with seats which would have been an excellent place to stop for lunch if I had known. I can only imagine that it is some sort of shooting shelter.

From the hill country, I enter level farmland after passing through the large farm complex at Scrainwood. The wet weather is now sweeping in from the southwest making it a miserable afternoon. I briefly take shelter behind a tall haystack but this weather is moving through so quickly that rain one minute is often replaced by strong sunshine the next.
A left turn takes me onto the homeward leg and here it is easier to follow the field boundaries despite my map showing paths crossing open fields. With a sunny slot in the weather, it is a good opportunity to bag the trig point on Blackchester Hill (214 metres) which is not on a right of way. Passing through a gate, I follow the field boundary on the south side of a well built wall but at the same time keeping an eye on increasingly restless cows and calves to the south of me. I cross a gate at the far end of the field then through another gate to gain the trig point which stands on the edge of a shallow quarry which has been partly in filled with farm rubbish.

With more rain on the way and with the cows and calves up against the route I had just taken, I opt to walk along the edge of the field to the north of the wall which means crossing an electric fence at the end. A right turn at the end takes me down to Alnham and now the driving rain sets in for a short while. I am just glad now that I wasn’t on those higher hills.

A lovely vivid rainbow as I leave the tiny village of Alnham. The sun has come out but it’s still raining hard.

I’m at the hill fort to the northeast of Cochrane Pike and another shower is closing in.

At Alnham, I join the lane towards Prendwick and I am soon rewarded by a most vivid rainbow. Despite the rain still lashing down, I manage a few decent photographs. For now, the sunshine returns as I make my way along quiet lanes to Prendwick and at the end of the hamlet I join a hill track towards Ingram. This is proving a lovely walk and at a gate I opt to remove my waterproofs as it looks as if the showers might be over for the day but I am wrong. In the meantime it is a delightful walk over the shoulder of Cochrane Pike but those ominous shower clouds are again making an appearance. I divert from the track briefly to look at an ancient hilltop settlement northeast of Cochrane Pike and now to the west it looks as if the heavens have opened. I am so glad that I decided not to venture up to Bloodybush Edge and Cushat Law. The end of my walk isn’t far off and with the storm clouds becoming ever closer I follow a most pleasant track down to Ingram. On the way I stop to photograph a rainbow and the heavy shower which is passing just to the north of me. Reaching Ingram, I am in good time before the tea room closes and treat myself to a locally made ice cream. The place is full of ramblers who I find out is a re-union of the Newcastle YHA Group. I sit inside to have my ice cream as the heavens open briefly which means that I have timed it well.

Homeward bound. It’s time like this when walking is most rewarding. – A good track, a rainbow, bright sunshine and I’m not getting wet.

Shadows begin to lengthen at St Michael all Angels Church at Ingram almost at the end of my walk during a visit between two downpours.

Afterwards and back in bright sunshine I briefly take a look at Ingram Church before walking the short distance back to the car and changing out of walking boots moments before it pours with rain again. On my drive back to Berwick I am rewarded by yet another vivid rainbow.
Despite not venturing into the remotest part of the Cheviots I have had an excellent day’s walk skirting around the foothills and dodging the showers. It’s been one of those days that was good to be out in the elements and rewarded by some very contrasting weather.

A ragged day beside the Severn

One of the paths between Berkeley and Purton. A ragged December day with fleeting glimpses of the sun but always a hint of drizzle in the air and that ever present rainbow.

The Severn Way is a long distance trail running 224 miles from the source of the River Severn, high on the slopes of Plynlimon in Powys to the centre of Bristol and for this walk I am going to sample a short stretch of it between Purton and Berkeley in Gloucestershire.

I’m setting out from home early on a dark December morning and being a Sunday I should get a clear run down the M6 and M5 despite all the road works which is currently going on. Dawn breaks as I get south of Birmingham and through Worcestershire and the northern half of Gloucestershire brings the promise of a fine winters day but alas, further south, that mild and moist south westerly air flow is funnelling a lot of murky low cloud well up the Severn Estuary.

It’s 08.50am and I am setting out from the large village of Berkeley and I leave the car parked in the free Marybrook Street Car Park. The blue skies of earlier have been replaced by a fine drizzle as I head north out of the village along Station Road but I have high hopes that the weather will improve.

After a half mile I leave the road and head along a drive leading to the former Berkeley Railway Station. Nothing is left of the station but there is still a single track railway line. The station opened in 1876 but services came to an abrupt halt when the Severn Railway Bridge was destroyed in 1960 and the reason for this I shall come to later. To reach Purton I stay on field paths via Butler’s Farm and Ironwells Grove which involves crossing several slippery wooden stiles. Paths tend to follow field boundaries rather than cross fields and signposting is rather poor but at least the paths do exist. It is turning out a ragged morning with fine drizzle blowing in the brisk wind, fleeting glimpses of the sun and often a faint rainbow is visible. Nearing Purton I have good views towards the Severn Estuary but the Cotswold Hills to the east remain firmly into the cloud.

Purton Upper Swing Bridge , one of two swing bridges in the village over the Sharpness Canal.

In Purton I cross the Sharpness Canal via the Purton Upper Swing Bridge to join the good towpath towards Sharpness. I shall now stay with the Severn Way for most of the remainder of my walk. The canal was built to connect the tidal River Severn at Sharpness with Gloucester, a distance of sixteen and a half miles. Shortages of funds meant that the canal took much longer to build than originally planned and it was only finally completed in 1827.

The Purton Hulks, the largest ship graveyard in the British Isles.

The Purton Hulks which lie between the Sharpness Canal and the Severn Estuary. This barge dates from the 19th century.

Heading southwest I soon make a diversion to view the Purton Hulks. This location is the site of the largest ship graveyard in the British Isles. During the 1950’s and 60’s small ships and barges were deliberately beached beside the River Severn in an effort to reinforce the river bank where it runs parallel and close to the Sharpness Canal. These ships are in various states of decay and some have almost disappeared altogether. Each site is now marked with a small plaque identifying each vessel. In all, there are around 68 such wrecks and many date from the 19th century. After a morning break on a seat overlooking the Severn I set off along the canal towpath towards Sharpness.

Plaque to the Severn Railway Bridge disaster.

The solid round tower formed the centre part of the swing bridge over the Sharpness Canal. Note the model in the foreground.

The next point of interest is the remains of old Severn Railway Bridge. Built in the 1870’s this was for many years the lowest bridging point on the River Severn and was built to exploit the coalfields of the Forest of Dean. The bridge cut off thirty miles for the journey between Bristol and Cardiff and rail services no longer needed to go via Gloucester. With coal trade from the Forest of Dean not being exploited in the volumes anticipated, and the later opening of the Severn Railway Tunnel, the owner, the Severn Bridge Railway Company eventually ran into financial difficulties. During World War II there were several instances where spitfire pilots flew under the bridge but this dare devil stunt eventually resulted in court martial’s and the practice stopped. The fate of the bridge met an abrupt end on the 25th of October in 1960. Two barges named the Arkendale H and Wastdale H loaded with fuel oil overshot Sharpness Docks entrance, and in thick fog and a strong incoming tide was swept upstream and collided with the bridge resulting in a massive explosion destroying two spans of the bridge. There was so much damage to the structure that the rebuilding costs were considered just too high, so it was decided to demolish the bridge later in the 1960’s which itself proved more of a challenge than anticipated. Today, just two abutments remain on the Sharpness side of the River Severn. The substantial round tower on the seaward side of the Sharpness Canal was once the tower which supported the swing bridge over the canal. Below the tower is a scale model reconstruction of the swing bridge.

Memorial to T.S. Vindicatrix, tucked away in a corner of Sharpness Docks.

Further south I reach the southern end of the Sharpness Canal and continue out to the former harbour master’s house which commands unhindered views up and down the Severn Estuary. Downstream the weather is now looking bleak and murky. I next press onto walk around the Sharpness Docks passing on the way a new memorial to the former training ship Vindicatrix. The ship was moored on the Old Arm of the Sharpness Canal between 1939 and 1966 and served as a base for training boys as deck hands and stewards for the merchant navy and during this time around 70,000 boys received their basic training here. As for Sharpness Docks, it was a depressing looking place on this dull drizzly Sunday morning. For awhile, Sharpness Docks were quite prosperous, but today sees little shipping traffic and the place is generally run down and forlorn with abandoned warehouses and rusting cranes.

After walking along some dismal service roads I return to the estuary and head south on the bleak and open riverside embankment. I am now walking into a stiff headwind with the fine rain now setting in. The Forest of Dean side of the estuary is gradually misting away and downstream, Oldbury Power Station has disappeared into the gloom. With my rain hood up and head bowed I press on. I am pleased when the path veers inland and soon I have the weather beating more into my side and back. Thankfully it isn’t too long before this particular bout of fine rain passes through and with it comes some fleeting glimpses of sunshine lasting no more than a few seconds so I have my camera ready to capture the moment.

Capturing the moment. I had the camera ready for this fleeting glimpse of sunshine on this otherwise dismal day. This is part of the Severn Way as it runs beside Berkeley Pill.

Trees laden with mistletoe on the Severn Way west of Berkeley.

My lunch stop with a breezy view towards the long abandoned old corn mills west of Berkeley.

After passing some trees laden with mistletoe, I cross a road and continue with the path beside Berkeley Pill. My plan is to head back to the car for lunch but I find a new south facing seat and opt to stop for lunch as the rain has gone off. It is blowing a bit of a gale and so I don’t stop too long for lunch and soon head into a rather deserted Berkeley. Over to the south the skyline is dominated by the abandoned Sea Mills Corn Mills complete with mill chimney which looks like a scene from a century ago. In Berkeley I head up along High Street. There is hardly anyone around but the tea rooms are open and doing absolutely no trade. In the centre of the village, a couple of shops are trading but on this drab Sunday in December virtually everyone has opted to stay indoors. It is now just a short walk back to the car but it has been an enjoyable walk and full of some fascinating history and a good day to blow away those cobwebs.

Berkeley High street on a mild, windy and damp Sunday in December. The tea rooms were open but there were no customers as I passed.

Walk report Penyffordd to Wrexham 21st November

Poppy cascade St Cynfarch’s Church, Hope near Wrexham

The East Cheshire Ramblers recently ventured slightly further afield for a linear walk just inside northeast Wales. Starting out from Penyfford, the group followed a section of the Wat’s Dyke Way, between the village and Wrexham before catching the bus back to the start.
The Wat’s Dyke Path is a 61 mile long way-marked recreational route running between Llanymynech, south of Oswestry north to the coast at Greenfield in Flintshire and follows the ancient earthwork known as Wat’s Dyke. For much of the way, the dyke runs parallel with its more famous neighbour Offa’s Dyke. The date of the earthwork is thought that it was constructed around the 8th century but scholars have often disputed its exact date.
Heading south, the group first stopped at the historic church in Hope where a cascade of poppies was still hung on display from the church tower. The present building was built on one of the earliest Christian sites in North Wales. The substantial church tower dates from the 16th century and was built later than the nave.
Continuing with the Wat’s Dyke Way, the next stop was Caergwrle and we entered the village by crossing the ancient packhorse bridge over the River Alyn before making to the ruins of Caergwrle Castle. A stiff but short ascent led to the ruinous walls which still stand quite high. The castle was one of the shortest lived in castles in Wales. Work on the castle begun in 1277 by Dafydd but was partially destroyed before it was finished. When work began again, a disastrous fire in 1283 broke out and work on the unfinished castle was abandoned. It is believed that the castle was only lived in for around six years. Quarrying in the 16th century undermined part of the building and it collapsed.
Leaving Caergwrle, we passed the former Caergwrle Spa. The heyday of the spa was in the early 20th century and the natural spring waters here were noted for their health giving properties. The adjacent bottling plant, which is a rather unusual building, is now a private house.
Continuing on field paths, we diverted into the Alyn Waters Country Park for our lunch stop before pressing on to reach Wrexham Bus Station for the return journey. Despite the gloomy skies of the day, the group enjoyed exploring an area with plenty of unfamiliar paths and much historical interest.

Exploring the Sheep’s Head Peninsula

One of several way-markers on the Cahergal Loop Path. Here I’m heading towards Caher Mountain.

Of the five fingers of land which thrust out into the Atlantic in counties Cork and Kerry, Sheep’s Head is the smallest and probably the least known, but for me, it was a real gem waiting to be discovered and I was very much taken by this peninsula.

After a full Irish breakfast cooked by professional chef and host Chris at my Airbnb, I set off for the drive via Bantry out along the road called The Goats Path and park up at the small car park at Black Gate. I plan a circular walk taking in the western end of the peninsula but first I head uphill taking a farm track then well signed footpath with frequent way-markers on what is known as the Cahergal Loop. This is one of several signed looped paths in the area. High on the hillside I leave this trail to follow another set of way-markers which ascend to one of the high points on the ridge. This is the Peakeen Ridge Walk and provides a rocky but short climb to the summit of the 338 metre Caher Mountain. On the summit I rest awhile and have my morning break. Visibility is poor but I have a view across Bantry Bay to the north and Dunmanus Bay to the south.

The restored dwelling which once belonged to Tade Carthy. there are remains of several dwellings in the area where once families egged a meagre living of the bleak hillside.

Afterwards, I back track and descend to rejoin the Cahergal Loop Path. On my descent I pass and speak to another family making their way to the summit. Following the Cahergal Loop Path north, the trail is very undulating to say the least and involves some steep but short descents and ascents. Without the path, this terrain would have been very difficult to cross. Eventually I make it down to cross the road and set out west on the extremely well signed Sheep’s Head Way. Never have I seen so many way-markers and each one numbered. It is a bit like a ‘dot to dot puzzle’ except you are walking between each post. I follow the coast on a path and soon pass the ruins of a hamlet. One house has been restored and on its door is the name of the family who once owned it ‘Tade Carthy. These simple dwellings had a door facing west and one east so that there was a through draft for the smoke from the fire to escape the building. These houses had no chimney and living in these parts life was hard with no shops or facilities anywhere nearby. Part of this area was known as Crimea (pronounced crymay) as it got its name by two quarrelling families who didn’t get on at the same time as the Crimean War was taking place.

On the Sheep’s Head Way at a spot where it comes close to the cliff edge.

The ruins of the miner’s cottages can just be made out above the bracken. there are several mine shafts in the area but copper mining never really made a profit.

I head west to spot where there were once copper mines and today I found old shafts cordoned off only by wool-tufted barbwire and a line of miners cottages, roofless and half hidden in the bracken. In its heyday it was home to 24 miners and experienced Cornishmen were brought over to work the mines not that they were all that profitable. It is at this spot where the path comes close to the cliff edge and a rope has been provided for security for anyone with vertigo. A little further west I stop for lunch on a rocky spur where I could stair out onto the Atlantic and what a peaceful spot this is on this fine summer’s day. Nearby at a spot which I didn’t find on this walk is a man made blowhole and the story tells of a local farmer who blasted a hole in the cliff so that the waves would force sand onto his land to make it more fertile but the plan however never worked.

On the Sheep’s Head Way en route towards the Sheep’s Head and providing many miles of first class coastal walking. Way-markers are are frequent intervals so it is near on impossible to get lost.

I set off skirting around a little rocky cove and take a good enclosed track up to a minor road. For the next three miles I simply followed the empty coast west following an endless line of way-markers. The path is undulating and becomes rockier as I near Sheep’s Head and over this section I meet several people out walking. Off the path, the going would have been tricky. At the headland, a sign points down to the lighthouse which is initially out of sight. The lighthouse was built in 1968 to guide tankers towards the Whiddy Island Oil Terminal. It is perched high above the cliffs and is only seven metres tall. A flight of concrete steps with red railings lead down to the building. Nearby, I stop on the cliff top for a rest with a view out towards the open Atlantic.

The lighthouse at the Sheep’s Head, perched high on a cliff and hidden from view until you are almost there. This view looks out across Bantry Bay.

The western end of Sheep’s Head thrusting out into the open Atlantic Ocean. The next landfall is North America.

For the return walk I follow a good path back to the first settlement of Tooreen . On the way I unknowingly pass close to one of the eighty two ‘Eire’ signs. These signs also known as neutrality signs were placed on strategic headlands around Ireland coast to show Ireland’s neutral position during World War II. Many of these signs have faded into obscurity but there are plans to restore some of them. The signs were made of boulders painted white and large so that they could be seen from aircraft.

At Tooreen I visit the tea rooms which I would consider as having one of the best views anywhere in Ireland and perched high on the ridge with far reaching sea views.
Setting off I now follow the path along the rocky ridge gradually climbing to a trig point at 239 metres. I chat with a couple of English walkers here and in our conversation the man shows me a book about the Sheep’s Head Way. It is such an excellent guide, full of local history and so many things that I had missed on my walk today that I just had to buy it when I got back home.

The trig point at 239 metres at Ballyroon Mountain which lies east of Tooreen.

A good way-marked path leads all the way along but often high above the southern coast. Either side you have views to the sea. Caher Mountain is visible in the distance and visited early in my walk before heading out along the north coast to the left of the photograph.

Continuing, my route I head east along the highest part of the ridge with glorious views everywhere and bursts of late afternoon sunshine behind me. I pass the remains of an old signal tower before making a long gradual descent to reach a minor road where I turn left then right. The path continues east, still with those very frequent way-markers. I had joined the path in the morning where the way-markers were numbered just over two hundred but now I was passing way-markers with numbers in the three fifties. A small signed diversion off the route leads to the Caherulagh Marriage Stone. This fine standing stone has a hole through the middle where a couple would join hands perhaps before a marriage ceremony. Unlike a similar stone I visited on Cape Clear Island a couple of days earlier, this hole was easy to fit my arm through. It is believed that these standing stones date back to the Bronze Age.

The Caherulagh Marriage Stone possibly dates back to the Bronze Age.

Turning right downhill across some fields it is then just a short lane walk back to the car. In many respects it is a shame that this was the end of the walk. On reflection some walks when you get near the end you start to count off the last few miles but this one I just wanted it to go on. So full of history with excellent views this place was just magical insomuch I’ve just got to go back some day.

Long walk from Rainow by Linda Brackenbury

Enjoying some of that rare November sunshine.

The sun decided to come out of hiding for the East Cheshire Ramblers 11.5 mile circular walk from Smithy Lane, Rainow. The first objective was the hamlet at Gin Clough where a footpath was taken past Yearns Low Farm down to the Works used for Lamaload Reservoir. A climb then brought the party through a plantation of larch and pine to the reservoir’s United Utilities car park. After a short lane walk, we followed a moorland path leading up the slopes of Shining Tor, the highest point in Cheshire at 559metres. The group had a welcome break for coffee partway up with the slopes noticeably steeper after the rest. However, before the last ascent to the Shining Tor summit, the party turned left to follow a side valley parallel to the Tors Ridge above and so arrived at the ruins of Thursbitch. This evocative, remote valley stirs the imagination as evidenced by author Alan Garner, who specialises in books based on local locations, writing a book titled Thursbitch. Following Thursbitch’s old access track brought the party out on the lane above the well-known landmark of Jenkins Chapel. However, an indirect route was taken to the chapel via Green Stack Farm and then Green Booth Farm.
From the chapel, the ‘No Through Road’ of Back Lane was taken which drops to cross the Todd Brook. A steep ascent followed which is called The Corkscrew as the track turns in order to lessen the upward gradient. Even so, it was a significant ascent and the group stopped at the top for a well-earned lunch in the sun. Afterwards, a moorland path was taken towards Summer Close Farm but was then left for a concessionary path which enabled the group to continue along the ridge before dropping to Charles Head. Across the Macclesfield to Whaley Bridge B-road, an old farm track to Further Harrop Farm was taken. Beyond, a path parallel to the Harrop Valley led into Harrop Wood. Through the wood, the party turned left to cross the brooks in the valley bottom before a field path and track brought the party to Billinge Head Farm. A restricted byway now led on to Rainowlow Farm and just beyond the party joined Smithy Lane, a short distance above the walk starting point. The sun was still smiling on our return to round off an excellent day’s walking.

Win Hill walk report 3rd November led by Michael Murphy

A breezy day on the summit of Mam Tor

On Hope Brink

Leaving Mam Tor en route towards Lose Hill

Ascending Win Hill

On a fine Autumnal day recently, a group of East Cheshire Ramblers set out on a 12.5 mile walk from the Mam Nick National Trust car park in the Peak District. The route initially involved climbing Mam Tor (“Mother Hill”) which overlooks the town of Castleton, and gives splendid views of the Hope Valley on the right and the valley of Edale on the left. Mam Tor itself was once the location of a Bronze Age hill fort, which would have made it a citadel commanding the countryside for miles around.
The walk continued along the crest of the Great Ridge, with the walkers braced against the blustery winds, to Lose Hill from where we could see our next target – Win Hill. These two peaks are said to have been named following a battle, preceding which the opposing armies faced each other from the vantage points they afforded. According to this version, the army from Win Hill prevailed, but modern research indicates that no battle was ever fought here and that the origins of the names are more likely to have been based on their natural features.
After descending from Lose Hill the party followed a diagonal path onto the moorland above Ladybower Reservoir. The periodic bursts of sunshine lit up swathes of the hills and valleys, highlighting the spectacular autumnal colours and providing rich reward for the steeper climbs.
The rocky outcrop at the summit of Win Hill provided shelter from the strong winds for the lunch stop, after which the party began the descent into the village of Hope
The footpath along the valley to Castleton provided the return route, tackling the final ascent via Treak Cliff, and Windy Knoll before returning to the car park.

A rather unusual walk in the West Midlands.

A quiet morning by the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal at Wightwick.

During my treks around the various parts of the British Isles I come across some unusual areas where few people choose to walk and this area is one of them. Why head off the urban part of the West Midlands when there is so much to see elsewhere? There are two reasons for this that I want to visit two places of interest that have fascinated me for some time but I’ve never got around to visiting. Firstly, I want to see what is large old house and now a care home which is located not far from Dudley. A care home it might well be today, but I am interested in the events that took place here late in 1605 which I will come to later. Secondly, I want to visit a public house which is located in one of the least attractive areas of the West Midlands and is surrounded by land fill sites. You may be excused that you might come away from this pub thinking that you have had one too many but all will be revealed.

Booking my train ticket in advance, I have managed to get a cheap day return from Macclesfield to Wolverhampton. As its a Saturday I walk down through a rather quiet Macclesfield, to catch the 08.26am train to Wolverhampton where it is just a short walk to the bus station to catch the number 10 bus to Compton Square. The bus is already at the stance and is virtually empty for the short journey to the start of my walk. I set out along the towpath of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal for the first couple of miles to reach an over bridge by Pool Hall then divert on a good field path to join the railway path to the northern edge of the large village of Wombourne just to add some variety. This former railway line, known as the Wombourne Branch started construction as recently as 1913 but was work was halted during World War I. Work resume again after the war but the railway proved unsuccessful and only operated with passenger traffic for seven years between 1924 and 1931 after which the line was only kept open to serve the Baggeridge Colliery. Today, several people are out walking with even more cyclists using this route. On the edge of Wombourne I leave the railway path and head down to visit Bratch Locks. These locks were planned by James Brindley and opened in 1772 as a three lock staircase but later re-engineered as three separate locks.

The fascinating Bratch Locks at Wombourne. The original canal lock staircase was planned by James Brindley.

I stay with the canal towpath to Giggetty Bridge then follow a woodland path east to rejoin the same railway path as before. I continue south, now passing through a long cutting and in places passing between sandstone rock walls and later passing close to the village of Himley where I find a seat for lunch. It isn’t exactly the best place to stop for my break due to the amount of rubbish lying around.

Beyond Himley, the railway path passes above the A449 and this is where I leave it and descend to the busy road as I want to take a closer look at the nearby Holbeche House. Today Holbeche House is a care home but historically it was known as the hide out for the conspirators of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot. A couple of nights after the attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, Robert Catesby, leader of the group and his men sought refuge at Holbeche House having raided Warwick Castle. Their downfall came when they tried to dry out some damp gunpowder close to an open fire and a stray spark caused an explosion. On investigation by the local militia the conspirators were discovered and a gun battle took place killing four of the conspirators and capturing the others who were taken to London, tried then executed. Just imagine being a fly on the wall on that evening and witnessing the whole event!

Holbeche House – today a care home but events here on the 7th November 1605 changed British history.

I wandered in through the grounds pausing close to the front door not really knowing if I would be stopped but I wasn’t challenged and continue out via a minor side route. The lane running east is known as Holbeache Lane and is gated to traffic and disused but unfortunately has become a spot for fly tipping but this was nothing compared with what was to follow. I now attempted to re join the railway path and encounter the worse fly tipping that I have ever come across. Once on the railway path it isn’t much better. Who on earth would want to walk here? The place is hemmed in by old clay pits which are now used for landfill on one side and scrap yards on the other side. This is England at its worse! I want to get across to the Crooked House Public House (the clue why I want to visit it is in its name), but the first path simply doesn’t exist as the area is surrounded by a high security fence and is a active landfill site. After over shooting a second possible unmarked path I opt to try and follow the course of this path northwest despite this area being now put to other uses. I ascend a steep bank only to find a group of workmen preparing a deep landfill site well below me. For now I’m not noticed as I head along a recently constructed high earth embankment but to exit the site, I have to walk between several portacabins and contractor vehicles are parked all around. I haven’t gone far before I am stopped by security so I have no option but to talk my way out of the situation and that I am trying to find the path to the Crooked House Public House. The security man shows me a route down to squeeze through a gap in the fence to gain the service road to the pub and I am pleased that I haven’t needed to make a long detour.

The Crooked House Public House is located in one of the worse areas imaginable with landfill sites on all sides although the ones to the north are no longer used. The reason I want to visit this pub is in its name as the building has taken on an amazing lean. The pub is around four foot lower at one end to the other. Originally built as a farmhouse in 1765, mining during the 1800’s resulted in the building taking on this incredible lean. During the 1940’s there were plans to demolish it but a brewery took it on and made the building safe whilst still retaining its leaning appearance.

The Crooked House Public House (before I had a drink!)

The Crooked House Public House (after I had a drink)! I’m sure its not the camera playing up!

I find the path leading north from the pub across the former landfill site but this proves to be a path that virtually no one uses. I next have some road walking east before passing through the residential area of Lower Gornal. Next I opt to follow a woodland nature trail up through Cotwall End which is easier said than done due to numerous unmarked paths. Through an open area called The Dingle I briefly join up with a family who are interested to know where I had been and where I was aiming for. Leaving them, the path north proves to be water logged but just about passable. I join a road as a dog walker is passing and I walk with him for awhile. He thinks it strange that I had come down from Cheshire to walk here.

Reaching the outskirts of Sedgley I can divert to catch a bus back to Wolverhampton but I have made fairly good time despite a few path problems, and so I choose a route west of the town and mostly through residential areas with cut through paths between houses.

North of the town I enter a parkland area and join a woodland track but the way ahead is later blocked as somewhere I have overshot a hidden stile on my right and instead have to get over a barb wire fence. The path north is hemmed in between back gardens and a steep wooded hillside with dense vegetation which serves nicely for the local residents to tip their garden waste. Some welcome open countryside follows over Park Hill which makes a change before entering the Goldthorn Park area of Wolverhampton. It is now all street walking which initially is along quiet residential roads before having no choice but to follow one of the busy arteries into the centre of Wolverhampton. I am still in good time to catch my allotted train back to Macclesfield and so have time for a wander around the centre of the town.

North West Scotland’s Jewel in the Crown

The south east facing corrie on An Teallach.

Of all the mountain walks in the Northwest Highlands, An Teallach must be the jewel in the crown. I had wanted to climb this mountain for a number of years but knew that it would be a strenuous day in the hills. With a spell of perfect weather in May this year, it was a good time to set out to bag these two Munro’s.

Nick Wild accompanied me and we set to set out from a roadside lay-by near to the Dundonnell Hotel which was just as well as the car park at Corrie Hallie (the starting point for many walks and Shenavall Bothy) was packed and the road either side was crammed with cars parked at all angles.

The hill path close to the Dundonnell Hotel was a little hidden from the road but as soon as we set out it was well defined and ascended gradually up the rocky hill side in a series of zigzags. As we climbed, the path later veered towards the stream called the Allt a’Mhuilinn which disagreed with the path shown on the map. The path stayed parallel with this stream and crossed it higher up. We now had the stream on our right which ran in a deep V-shaped gully filled with deep snow. With the stream running in a tunnel beneath the snow there were in places where great holes that had appeared in the snow and certainly not a place to venture.

Nearing the col after a long climb in very warm conditions. Further down, this snow filled gully had several holes in it under which a stream flowed.

After a lengthy and quite warm climb we eventually reached the spur at Sron a Choire where we got our first view ahead to the twin shapely peaks of Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill and Sgurr Fiona which are only two metres different in height. An ever steepening path led ahead to our first summit of Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill and we toiled up the rocky northern ridge. The 1062 metre summit provides what is arguably one of the best mountain views in the British Isles and today we were blessed with perfect weather conditions. We spent awhile on top which is crowned with a trig point which has seen better days. It was a good spot to stop for our morning break and take numerous photographs. Our route ahead looked awesome and now was a time to watch where you put each foot and stop only if you wanted to admire the view.

The view from below the summit of Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill of our route ahead. Note the path ascending on the right of the photograph. this was the route we took before ascending the northwest ridge to the summit of Sgurr Fiona.

Lord Berkeley’s Seat and Corrag Bhuidhe. We set out along this ridge before veering off to the right to take a very narrow terraced path below the pinnacle ridge.

We set off cautiously down the rocky southwest slope to the col before tackling Sgurr Fiona which looked even steeper. A path ran across the northern face of the mountain where we could gain the northwest ridge for the scramble to the summit. It was an exciting climb and the summit perch was our lunch stop. Shared with another party, there were precious few places to sit with steep drops on all sides but what a view of the roof top of Scotland on this perfect day.

The view across Loch na Sealga towards Beinn Dearg Mor as seen from below Lord Berkeley’s Seat.

We had not planned to do the pinnacle ridge over Corrag Bhuidhe but to take an easier path below the crags on the western side. From Sgurr Fiona we started off down the southern ridge towards Lord Berkeley’s Seat, an unusual summit which overhangs the corrie. Even on this section there was a bit of a scramble down. In the col prior to Lord Berkeley’s Seat we veered off to the right to follow a terraced path with cliffs above and below us. As we worked our way along, so the going became tougher with increasing amount of ‘hands on’ work. The path was becoming so narrow that when we met a walker coming the other way we had to find a passing point. It was a blessing in disguise that we had a conversation with him whilst he waited for his colleague to come along. These two men were the people we saw at Inverlael the day before and had undertaken a similar walk to us and had found Nick’s walking pole which he had lost. Not only that, they had taken the pole back to their base at Ullapool which was only a few hundred yards away from where we were staying. Nick was therefore able to collect his pole later that evening.

Looking back to Corrag Bhuidhe. We had taken a terraced path on the left side of the ridge.

With the two men reunited we were able to continue along the spectacular path but the terrain was becoming quite steep with scrambles involved. We were reassured by the two men that after a couple of hundred yards the going would become easier but not before a few awkward moves around a point where the cliffs above came out to almost meet the cliffs below. This involved a few airy steps and concentration. Once around these last rocky obstacles the going became easier and we returned to the ridge below the crags of Corrag Bhuidhe.

It’s a long way back as we descend the rocky southeastern ridge from Sail Liath. Note the black speck towards the end but in the middle of this rocky ridge which is a lone walker heading towards us.

The next rocky summit was Stob Cadha Gobhlach (960 metres) which we took direct and beyond we had one easier summit that of the 954 metre Sail Liath. It was now quite a long walk back to the car and we struck off down the rocky southeast slope from Sail Liath only to find walkers still ascending this route. For awhile the slope became steeper and this section proved fairly rocky before gaining easier ground. We eventually reached the path to Shenavall Bothy which surprisingly wasn’t that well defined. It was quite a rough path across the moors and I would gather quite a boggy one in wet weather. But with all the fine weather, the ground had certainly dried out. Heading northeast in the bright afternoon sunshine we eventually joined a stony track for the longer descent down to Collie Hallie. We did pass one walker loaded down with a heavy pack and supplies and making his way towards the Shenavall Bothy. He was going to spend several days in the hills. Not long after the sound of a quad bike drew towards us with a woman who turned out to have a load of shopping stacked up on her vehicle and a dog running alongside. The stony track was beginning to tell on our feet well before we reached the road. At Corrie Hallie the area was still crammed with cars which meant many people were still out and possibly camping out in the hills. For us, we now had a two and a half mile road walk along the A832. At least it was all downhill and there was very little traffic. It was a bit of an anticlimax but we did see some deer along this section.

The Tas Valley Way part 2

The Tas Valley Way Logo sign which appears intermittently along the trail.

It is day two of my walk along the Tas Valley Way and I need to get from Cringleford to Long Stratton by bus so that I can pick up the trail where I left off on the previous day. The cheapest way to do this is to get a ‘day ticket’ on the bus which will get me into Norwich then out again.
It’s a cool, grey and cloudy October morning as I wait for the bus on the main Wymondham to Norwich road. A endless line of cars are heading like every other day towards the City centre. Thankfully the number 15 bus is only running a few minutes late and it is good that a bus lane runs much of the way into the City Centre so I get there quicker than many of those car drivers that had passed me whilst waiting at the bus stop. In Norwich, my bus pulls in opposite the next bus I want, – the number 38 which will take me down the A140 to Long Stratton. My timing is perfect insomuch that I was starting my walk a half hour earlier than planned and it’s not even 9am!

A typical view across the water meadows at the start of day two. The isolated church at Forncett St Mary is visible across the valley.

Leaving the bus at Long Stratton I head west to pick up the Tas Valley Way where I left off yesterday. This time I vary the route so as not to trek across so many ploughed fields and head out via the hamlet of Bustard’s Green. A brisk wind blows across the open fields on what is quite a cloudy and nondescript morning. After a good half hour, I rejoin the Tas Valley Way to head north and for once I am now in a very shallow valley with crop fields on my right and poor grazing meadows interlaced with water channels on my left. This is the scenery for the next two miles and some of the meadows have cattle grazing. Along this section I stop at a stile for an early morning break. I later cross the infant River Tas then continue north with water meadows now on my right. Ironically this is the only point I see the River Tas on the whole walk.

On a diversion to visit St Margaret’s Church at Hapton I find the building locked.

Reaching the small village of Hapton I opt to divert and visit the local church but the place is locked. Returning to the Tas Valley Way, my route now passes through the grounds of Hapton Hall which is a fairly upmarket equestrian centre with countless paddocks and stables and stable girls everywhere learning on the job. The place is a hive of activity unlike much of Norfolk I’d seen so far.

Typical walking on the Tas Valley Way south of Bracon Ash – good,dry paths.

Beyond, I joined a road briefly, and again divert along a hidden enclosed path to visit the little church at Flordon and like Hapton Church it is locked but this churchyard is very overgrown and neglected. To reach Bracon Ash the landscaped changes and I cross slightly higher ground with well maintained arable fields and a good path to boot. At Bracon Ash I briefly join a lane then take a woodland path north but I go slightly astray due to the numerous paths being unsigned. Some road walking follows to reach the larger village of Mulbarton and entering this larger community I opt to stop for an early lunch break in a small park with many seats close to a large but empty play area. By now the sun is making more of an appearance.

The northern part of Mulbarton lies around a large common which I cross and head to the village church which is unlocked. Inside I find a detailed documentation of those who were killed during World War I together with much information on local family trees. It makes for some interesting reading, and on a wet day I could have spent some time reading about the short lives of the various soldiers from their birth through childhood to their sad end during the World War I.

The church of St Mary Magdalen at Mulbarton was open and was well worth the visit.

From Mulbarton I leave The Common and take an extremely overgrown path west and one I will report to Norfolk County Council on my return home. Afterwards I head northwest and now the conditions are better but it appears that the Tas Valley Way had been re-routed away from this overgrown path. As I head north it is ironic that I enter a long section of shady woodland called The Carrs to walk through just as it turns a really sunny afternoon. Afterwards I have water meadows on my left again but this isn’t the River Tas which takes a course well to the east and far out of site. A lane is followed west from Swardeston Common before joining a footpath through Lower East Carleton. I join the same lane again further west then take a driveway north followed by a field path with a couple of fields with cattle in including a bull which thankfully carries on grazing. Of note along this section is a series of broken stiles which means that I will report these faults to Norfolk County Council later. The remainder of the Tas Valley Way is via lanes to reach Cringleford and on the way I stop at Intwood Church which is dominated by its tall flint round tower. There was little of interest beyond this point as I follow residential roads through Cringleford to the northern terminus of the Tas Valley Way which I take to be Cringleford Bridge over the River Yare but there is no evidence that I have reached the end of the trail.

Isolated Intwood Church seems to be all that is left in this parish. The church has a fine round tower.

The attractive thatched lodge at the entrance drive to Intwood Hall.

The afternoon is still young so I continue my walk slightly by visiting Eaton Church. It had been fifty eight years since I was here last, when with my parents I attended the wedding of an aunt and uncle. The medieval church which is thatched, now has the addition of a large modern second church attached on the southern side which I feel has spoilt the fabric of the older church. In my opinion it would have been better to have built a second church away from this historic building.

It is merely a case now of heading back to the Travelodge at Cringleford but not before a brief visit to the parish church in the village. My route back is parallel to the busy A11 dual carriageway which is rather unpleasant and noisy for the last mile.

Another trail had been completed but overall this trail didn’t have a lot to offer except for passing through one or two interesting villages. I feel that Norfolk County Council have failed to maintain and promote this path. I came across so many rotted wooden way markers dumped or propped up in hedges and in places vital way markers were simply missing. At least I had two dry days in which to undertake this walk and saw no one else walking it except for the occasional dog walker. I am left with the question,- Will the Tas Valley Way fade into obscurity in the not too distant future?