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

Scan-001

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

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

Around the Cheshire Flashes

The party around the stump cross at St Chad’s Church, Winsford

Winsford was the starting point for this recent eleven mile walk for the East Cheshire Ramblers. Heading south from the town, the group soon reached Bottom Flash, one of many lakes in the area formed by the ground subsiding due to rock salt being mined. Turning away from the lake it was only a short walk to St Chad’s Church. This fine church built of ashlar sandstone the oldest building in Winsford and dates from the 14th century. It once belonged to the adjacent parish of Over. A local legend states that the people in Over would not worship the Devil and as a result, the Devil stole the church with the aim of taking it far away, however the local monks knew that the Devil hated the ringing of the church bells and hearing these bells, the Devil dropped the church only a mile away so that today it is hidden in rural countryside just a mile from the town.

Leaving the church, the group skirted around via School Green and Hebden Green later pausing at the deep and mysterious lake known as Marton Hole. The lake came about due to the mining of salt and is believed to have appeared overnight.

Following field paths the group next headed towards Vale Royal, a grand house which stands on the site of what was once the monastic site known as Vale Royal Abbey. The original abbey was founded around 1270 but was destroyed in 1538 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

An afternoon break at Vale Royal locks

Nearby and a little further beyond the ramblers reached the secluded Vale Royal Locks which lie on the Weaver Navigation and time for an afternoon break. This canal was completed in 1732 and enabled boats of up to 40 tonnes to reach Winsford. Today, a good surfaced path follows the eastern bank of the canal back to Winsford and recently erected display boards depicts the local industrial heritage of the area synonymous with salt. On this occasion the autumn colours were approaching their best.

Colin Park

Forest and Trail – A Bollington Walking Festival Walk

On Wednesday September 30th, as part of the Bollington Walking Festival, David Gylee led a long and strenuous walk from Bollington to Macclesfield Forest and back.

The participants can’t agree on which way to go at Snipe House

Twenty-four walkers set off initially from the bus terminus in Bollington and along Oakenbank Lane following the bridal path to Rainow. From there a steep climb past Snipe House Farm took the group to a fine vantage point overlooking the Cheshire Plain. The walk then continued via Walker Barn before eventually reaching Macclesfield Forest.

Macclesfield Forest, now owned by United Utilities, was once part of the large Royal Forest of Macclesfield, an area owned by the Earl of Chester that stretched from the Pennines to the Staffordshire Moorlands. Large areas of the forest have been clear felled with the ultimate aim of replanting with native broad leaves.

Above the Dean Valley at Rainow on the way back to Bollington

Having lunched by the side of Bottoms reservoir, the group returned to Bollington along the Gritstone Trail, stopping for interest at Teggs Nose, and White Nancy.

At the summit of Teggs Nose are the remains of Quarry workings which until 1955 provided good quality building stone, evident in many local buildings.

White Nancy, overlooking Bollington was built by the Gaskell family in 1820 to commemorate the 1815 Battle of Waterloo and on the walk the group enjoyed seeing the current decoration of soldiers from that battle, now 200 years old.

Although a long and strenuous walk on this occasion, East Cheshire Ramblers provide leaders for walks of different lengths and intensity, on a variety of weekdays and weekends throughout the year.

At White Nancy near the end of the walk

FOUR VILLAGES AND A HAMLET – A WALK IN THE WHITE PEAK

John in conversation with Brian during the climb to Longstone Edge

The ‘plague village’ of Eyam in Derbyshire was the starting point of a recent 12-mile circular walk by East Cheshire Ramblers.

Eyam is best known for an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1665 when the brave villagers chose to isolate themselves rather than flee in order to prevent the disease from spreading.

As well as numerous graves and moument that can be seen among its quaint stone-built cottages, the ten walkers passed one of several boundary stones around the village where incoming food and supplies were exchanged for coins saturated in vinegar.

With perfect timing, light drizle just before the start soon gave way to sunshine (causing walk leader John Goodman to utter some words about sunshine and the righteous) and indeed, the weather remained fine, if a little gusty, all day.

In Stoney Middleton the group noted the early 19th century octagonal toll bar house, now a thriving fish and chip shop.

Coffee overlooking the wooded Coombs Dale was followed by an ascent to Longstone Edge and its outstanding views. Formerly a productive mining and quarrying area, the Edge has now been widely reclaimed by nature.

The next objective was the attractive village of Great Longstone, which was approached through colourful meadows. Appropriately, on a Test match day, lunch was taken on benches at the village cricket ground, again with extensive views.

The fourth and final village of Little Longstone was the next objective, before the party headed up to Longstone Moor, and a wind-assisted return to Eyam via the hamlet of Housley.

As well as various places of historical interest, including a pre-historic ‘double dyke’, the group also spotted a rare bee orchid in full bloom.

A bright and breezy day on Longstone Edge

John Goodman

Rambling in the Dane Valley

Pausing for a group photo on the lane towards Hanging Stone

Our walk on April 18th started at Danebridge, from where the party of eleven walkers set off in glorious sunshine to the Ship Inn, then following a footpath passed Wincle Grange, towards Dumkins. High overhead, we spotted two buzzards circling effortlessly.

As we gained height, we enjoyed spectacular views, with the countryside opening up all around. Rolling hillsides were revealed, covered in many shades of fresh green vegetation, all lit up in the bright Spring sunshine.

We descended to Whitelees Farm and had morning coffee break beside the River Dane, glimpsing the occasional yellow flash of busy grey wagtails.

Our route ascended from the valley once more, passing Bearda Mill, with its old water wheel visible from the road. As we crested the hill we were surprised to see a bust of Karl Marx staring down at us from an open barn window.

The dramatic Hanging Stone was our next waypoint, and on the descent through woodland our party was amazed to come upon a group of kilted Scottish warriors, en-route to battle, complete with faces painted – Braveheart style – with blue woad.

The Warriors

We crossed the River Dane once more to pass the former Youth Hotel at Gradbach, shortly before lunch. The afternoon saw us visit the picturesque Three Shires Head, where the boundaries of Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire meet, before traversing the moorlands leading to Wildboarclough.

After another waterside coffeebreak we crossed Hammerton Moss before returning via Wincle to the start point, having covered a total of 13 miles.

Michael Murphy

Outside the Ship Inn at the end of the walk contrasted with a photo taken around 1935

 

The Three Highest Peaks in Cheshire

On Whetstone Ridge

In spite of the forecast of a very windy day, seven members of the Ramblers met at Clough House Farm car park to face the challenge of climbing the three highest peaks in Cheshire. Their route started along Cumberland Brook and on towards Three Shires Head. Crossing over the packhorse bridge, the group headed over rough moorland to join the Dane Valley Way and the made their way over uneven stepping stones across the swift flowing River Dane. After sheltering for a brief stop in the now abandoned Danebower sandstone quarries, they headed into the bitterly cold gale force winds across Danebower Hollow and ascended over tussocks of grass and heather to the first summit being Whetstone Ridge at 547m (1795 feet).

Crossing the River Dane

 

Hurrying across the A537 at the Cat and Fiddle Inn, the next target was Shining Tor, the highest peak in Cheshire at 559m (1834 feet). By this time the wind seemed even stronger and, combined with snow and ice under foot, made the ascent quite a battle. Little time was spent admiring the view from the summit. Dropping down across the rough track over Chest Hollow the route progressively descended before climbing again to reach Macclesfield Forest and some welcome shelter. Leaving the trees behind, the windswept steep sided summit of Shutlingsloe, sometimes called ‘the Matterhorn of the Peak’, at 506m (1660 feet) lay ahead. The group was greeted on the top with glorious views in the late afternoon sunshine, pausing awhile in spite of the unrelenting bitter wind. Finally it was back down to reach the car park after a memorable winter’s day in the hills.

Roger Thompson

On Shutlingsloe – the final summit of the walk