In early 2017, the PRoW officer for East Cheshire, Evan Pedley, asked if our Footpath Projects Team would install finger posts and waymarker posts on certain paths around Jenkin Chapel in Rainow Parish. He highlighted posts for paths FP 7, 8, and 10.
Six of us turned out for the day to transport the posts to their sites, carry the tools and dig the holes. And despite appearances (taken advantage of by the author’s descriptions above), all six worked hard on a cold day, chiselling holes in bouldery ground, compacting backfill around posts, placing staples at stiles and clearing some brush and branches.
On FP 7, two waymarker posts were placed either side of the brow on Fox Hill and a finger post was placed by the semi-collapsed pasture wall at the missing stile crossing point.
Some tree branches and ground vegetation were cut back to clear the route through light tree cover descending to the wall. A tangle of old, trampled fence mesh was made safe by rolling it up and depositing it clear of the ‘stile’.
A finger post was placed for FP 5’s intersection with FP 7.
A finger post was erected north, and clear of, the farm building plot, to show the route for FP 8. Disks were added to the existing ‘post’ south of the building to add clarity to the routes of FPs 6, 7 and 8.
Footpath 10 was walked northwards to determine the commonly used route between sedge-filled boggy ground, and to find the options for crossing the stream at Green Stack. To aid finding the former option when going south at the wall corner, a fallen waymarker post was re-established twenty metres south of the road. A finger post was placed near to where the road crosses the stream.
Lower branches were taken out from fir trees alongside FP 10 approaching a stile beside Green Stack.
This project was completed in 1 day by 6 ECR Footpath Project Team members who, between them, worked 25.5 hours (excluding lunch break). Helen Battilana, Roger Fielding, Ken Hobbs, Duncan Learmond, Chris Munslow, and myself, Brian Richardson, attended.
This article describes ECR Footpath Project Team’s restoration works in Poynton-with-Worth Parish on paths, in an area of 1.5 sq km, northeast of Poynton and west of Middlewood. It is encompassed by Norbury Brook (north), the Middlewood road (east), Higher Poynton (south), and surrounds Rabbit Burro Farm and Prince’s Wood. Improvements took place, throughout 2017, on eleven footpaths, all identified on the map below.
This is a historic coal-mining area, and many of these paths are relics of coal-transporting routes which criss-cross the land with carting tracks, and railway wagon haulways etc. and which, at different stages of history, connected with (or avoided!) turnpikes, High Lane (north), the Macclesfield Canal (east) and, later, the railways in the east, and in the west at old sidings by Poynton Station.
The comparatively well-drained colliery railway and haulway embanked paths have been inundated with gorse bushes and trees over recent years, such that ramblers have been forced off the raised ground and have had to pick their ways along deep muddy cattle-formed tracks.
Crewe-based PROW Officer for this part of East Cheshire, Evan Pedley, presented me with 1:5,000 plans, marked up to show heavily overgrown or ‘lost’ gorse-smothered sections of paths. He asked if our Projects Team could clear the paths of the excessive overgrowth, and if we would provide replacement handrails in some places.
I programmed this work at Poynton-with-Worth in phases, alternating with visits to other East Cheshire project work sites. The Poynton project took up 18 days with visits to the area’s footpaths from February to October. As a result, 2017 was a busy and productive year for the Projects Team, which included 17 days through June to August spent reconstructing a long series of steps at Bollington*, and visits to work on paths in the parishes of Prestbury, Rainow and Wincle*. (*see previous posted articles).
Aspects of the team’s work in this Poynton-with-Worth area:
General vegetation clearing (and grubbing up of roots)
Establishing new finger posts and waymarker posts
Preparing the north seating for a boardwalk – and erecting a new notice post
Constructing new, and restoring old, handrailings
I will describe our work, in categories.
General vegetation clearance
Footpath FP 9
We commenced on February 15th with clearances on FP 9 progressing from east to west. Linked clearances encompassed various intersecting paths as pictured above.
FP9, between FPs 85 and 53, was especially smothered in gorse, and was unwalkable. Considerable effort and time was spent cutting down the bushes and grubbing up the interwoven roots, enabling a clear view and walkable path along its embankment.
Four views taken in December 2020 along FP 9, east and west of its crossing of FPs 17 and 54, are shown below.
Footpath FP 85
FP85, whilst walkable, was heavily overgrown and the team cut back the hedgerow each side extensively.
FP 85’s intersection with FP12 was found to be located too far north, and we cut through the hedgerows either side of FP 85 at the correct location for FP 12 and relocated the finger post. (For more views see ‘Finger and Sign Posts – further below).
The south section of FP 85, is ‘lost’ in Prince’s Wood approaching FPs 6 and 7. The ‘selected’ approach follows the fenceline using unlocked gates for passage. Finding, clearing and clearly waymarking the designated path is a task for the future.
Footpath FP 17
Three thickets of trees were thinned out or cleared on FP 17 between FP 9 and the intersection with 53 and 62.
An extensive length of FP17 north of FP53/62 intersection was cleared of branches, saplings, and brambles.
Footpath FP 54
On FP 54 within Prince’s Wood, several hollies and small trees were cleared from the path’s line, mainly between FPs 5 and 6.
Footpath FP 14
Two of us visited FP 14 in woodlands at the north edge of this area, and cleared some hollies and other branches. We added new waymarker disks to existing posts, and, as described later, erected a waymarker post.
Preparations for a new boardwalk
At the north end of FP 54, where FP 17 crosses FP 9 onto FP 54, there are two sunken channels orientated east-west which flood in winter and walkers used to need to find alternative ways around these obstructions to go south on 54. As our path clearances exposed the crossing, East Cheshire Ramblers Group was inspired to approach the PROW officer, Evan Pedley, at Cheshire East Council to arrange installation of a boardwalk across the two hollows. East Cheshire Ramblers Group arranged finances from Ramblers UK for the boardwalk’s purchase and its erection. The erection contract was arranged by Evan Pedley.
As part of FP 54 clearance, our project team cut down obstructing silver birch branches at the boardwalk north abutment on FP 9 edge.
With the boardwalk construction imminent, I attended the location for two days by myself to prepare the north embankment for the boardwalk seating pad, and to ensure free passage from the boardwalk to FP 9. For this, I completed cutting out tree branches, and grubbed up gorse bushes and some tree stumps.
A contractor to CEC carried out the boardwalk installation work, which, as stated earlier, was financed by Ramblers UK through East Cheshire Ramblers Group.
Finger, waymarker and notice posts
As footpath vegetation clearance progressed on FP 9, the crossing point with FP 17 and 54 was exposed and the location for a four-way finger post was determined. Just south of this intersection FP 54 crosses the new boardwalk and a waymarker post was erected on the brow of the large field further south.
FP 12, crossing FP 85 and approaching FP 9 seemed to be mis-located 20 metres too far north. Thanks to GPS, this was readily confirmed, and its correct alignment determined. Following hedgerow clearances described above, finger posts on FPs 85 and 11 were moved south to locate the FP 12 intersections correctly. A waymarker was added to FP 12 on the brow of the rise crossing the grassy field eastwards to New House Farm.
Two waymarker posts were erected at the customarily used south end of FP 85, where it splits to join FP 7 at two spots. Waymarker posts were added at the intersections of FP 54 and both FPs 5 and 6.
A Finger post was added at the intersection of FPs 11, 18 and 19. A waymarker was added on FP 14 in the wood near a bend.
We erected a notice board at the north end of the linked boardwalks on FP 54, visible on FPs 9 and 17.
Stiles were repaired or improved on FP 54 in Princes Wood, on FP 85 near its north link to FP 17, and on FP 17 by FP 53.
New handrailing and repairs
In Princes Wood a single wood sleeper crosses a small brook. A handrail was constructed there. Meanwhile staples were hammered to the stile steps to enhance boot grip.
In the northeast corner of this area, adjacent to FP62 there is a deep sump collecting water into a pipe culvert in a hollow formed by an adjacent brook. Evan Pedley had asked for a guard rail to be positioned by this sump and culvert to protect walkers and their children. In May, three of us attended to the installation.
Our third handrailing foray was to FP 13 across Middlewood Road, east side of the area. Mike and I engaged in replacing handrails on steps to a footbridge across Norbury Brook. We replaced the roadside posts, mid-height and top handrails both sides on these steep steps.
ECR Footpaths Project Team Attendees
The project tasks described above were carried out by Janet Allan, Helen Battilana, Ian Black, Mike Collins, Roger Fielding, Adrian Flinn, Barbara Hare, Ken Hobbs, David James, Roger Jubb, Duncan Learmond, Gillian North, Tom North, Brian Richardson and Ian Wasson.
Amongst us fifteen team members, we visited the project on 18 dates between February and October 2017, attending on 51 person-days and fulfilling 219.5 hours of labour (excluding lunch breaks).
Dumbah Hollow holds a brook which runs along the east side of the north end of the Silk Road, Macclesfield. The main path, Prestbury FP 33A follows a route from Flash Lane, between the Silk Road and the brook, to meet with Bollington FP6 where it crosses the brook further south. Prestbury FP 3 crosses the Silk Road and our path 33A to descend and cross the brook to Bollington FP5. Noise from the road impinges a little upon our appreciation of the natural beauty of this stream and its wooded banks, but it is a lovely path to walk.
Incidentally, the stream with no name can be traced to its confluence (a grand name for such a lowly stream!) with the Bollin. It joins the Bollin at Top o’ th’ Hill, opposite Mottram Hall, avoiding the River Dean and Buttley sewage works on the way. It once served a hydraulic ram near its Bollin confluence.
By November 2013, Path 33A was overgrown with brambles and tree branches, and the wood structures needed major repairs. There are several flights of wooden sleeper steps, and boardwalks and footbridges crossing the stream. I shall describe our Project Teams’ restorations work by types and locations thus:
Clearing brambles and bushes.
Clearing tree branches on FP 33A near Flash Lane.
Replacing the bridge handrails at Bollington FP 6.
Clearing vegetation, and replacing woodwork at Prestbury FP 3/Bollington FP 5 bridge steps and boardwalk.
Clearing vegetation, and replacing woodwork on steps down to the north kissing gate on FP 33A.
Clearing brambles and bushes
ECR Projects Team began work on this path on 25th November 2013, cutting out and grubbing up brambles.
Clearing tree branches on FP 33A near Flash Lane
In October 2017, we returned to the low-lying northernmost section where trees from The Silk Road wooded verge had overhung the path and were resting upon the highway authority’s wooden fence.
The trees grow very profusely in the moist environment here. We have cut the branches back to beyond the fence, knowing they have space to thicken out within the fence confines for several years. Better exposure to sunlight will help to dry the path now….
Replacing the bridge handrails at Bollington FP 6
Prestbury CP FP33A crosses the bridge to Bollington CP FP 6 here. In May 2017, in response to the PROW Officer Evan Pedley’s request, and along with other works, our team attended to the replacement of the handrail here. New railposts and a handrail were constructed.
Clearing vegetation, and replacing woodwork at Prestbury FP 3/Bollington FP 5 steps, boardwalk and bridge.
Soil and vegetation were scraped off the steps and new wooden pegs were driven to support the wooden step faces, and thereby extending the sleeper servicability. Rather than disturb the step by removing firmly nailed old pegs, the new pegs were driven next to them. On this flight and on the flight further north on FP 33A, we drove over fifty new wooden pegs.
Several rotted posts and damaged handrails were replaced on the stairflight. The soils rested on shallow bedrock and we found concrete support to them necessary. Two planks were replaced on the boardwalk.
Clearing vegetation, and replacing woodwork on steps down to the north kissing gate on FP 33A.
Vegetation clearance and placing staples on the steps was carried out as a priority, since we used them frequently in damp conditions.
New handrail posts were required to replace missing and rotted posts.
The paths of Dumbah Hollow will need further attention at some time to replace the wooden steps and improve the muddy low-lying section of the path’s surface. We have laid branches to alleviate the worst of the mud.
Our thanks must go to sixteen of our volunteers: Janet
Allan, Ian Black, Mike Bull, Mike Collins, Susan Dale, Andy Davies, Brian
Griffiths, Barbara Hare, Ken Hobbs, Philip Hodgkinson, Duncan Learmond, Gill and Tom North, Ian Wasson, Nick Wild and
16 Projects Team team members made 29 visits to site on 9 days and worked 122 hours, excluding lunch breaks.
In March 2015, Cheshire East PROW Officer, Evan Pedley, expressed concern at the condition of Disley footpaths, FPs 18, 63 and 64, and invited ECR’s Footpath Projects Team to improve them. Evan had cleared the work required with the land-owners, and I was delighted to add these tasks to our cheerfully hardworking team of volunteers’ diary. Subsequently, our projects team paid several visits in 2015 and early 2016 to work on various tasks along these paths.
FP 63, starts at Disley Golf Club and crosses the course towards the Peak Forest Canal. I walked the route with Evan Pedley. Initially I describe the route and tasks we set out to achieve, as a project sequence in the following twelve months, alongside works elsewhere in East Cheshire.
A long stretch of the path runs between Stanleyhall Wood and a field, where the path has a steep crossfall towards a stream hidden in the wood’s undergrowth. Along the path, the original route bore left, down the bank through the thickets , across a now-waterlogged level area to to join FP18.
A long term goal of Evan’s is to restore the lost section of path with wooden steps and a boardwalk. In this project sequence we would remove much of the physically, and visually obstructive vegetation as an exploratory task, but the structural woodwork will have to wait for a future project visit.
Near the canal, FP63 meets a short FP64 which crosses the canal, but this intersection provides the optional route for walkers to turn away from the canal and descend the gentler slope, southwards, onto FP18.
In this project, water from the boggy land, at FP18’s west end, would be drained by digging a new ditch, to discharge water through a new pipe, passing under the path, northwards, towards slightly lower ground by the canal.
FP18 continues NW, negotiating streams and boggy areas, towards the canal.
A stream flowing along the path further west would be culverted at the first meeting point of stream and path. A pair of new pipes would take the stream under the path onto slightly lower ground, canal-side. We would reduce the flooding of the upstream land south of the path and east of the stream by clearing the stream of obstructions, and capturing the overflowing waters where the stream meets the level ground from the higher woodland. A ditch would be dug alongside the path to draw off the surface water and feed it into the stream near the twin-piped culvert where it would pass under the path to the slightly lower ground.
The path heads north-west near the canal through very overgrown and encroaching holly, rhododendron and other shrubs along most of the path. The rhododendrons would, especially, be extensively cut back.
The path follows another stream westwards to Cheshire East’s boundary where it crosses the stream and continues within Stockport’s jurisdiction.
The Team at Work
ECR Projects Team members assembled at the golf club carpark on 24th March 2015 for the first of five intermittent days work. Several team members concentrated on vegetation clearances – initially on FP63.
At the golfcourse clubhouse a ten metres length of obstructive Leylandii hedge was cut back. This hedge is young enough to re-establish its side shoots further away from the narrow path. Six wood ‘sleeper’ steps were re-set and their surface stapled for grip, as a temporary measure. The steps will require replacement after adjacent building works is complete, or later.
Beyond the golf course, FP 63 heading
towards the canal was formed on a steep cross-slope beside very overgrown holly
and other trees. These were heavily cut back, by attacking from inside the wood
and from the path, to widen the path to 1.5 to 2.0 metres clear width.
To investigate the original route profile linking FPs 63 and 18, smothered by vegetation, the mix of tree branches, brambles, holly and dense undergrowth were substantially cleared. This was aided by a bladed strimmer to expose where the path originally descended the bank to FP 18. A large standing tree and a fallen tree partly blocked the direct line for steps and a boardwalk on the swampy ground below. The remaining clearance and timber structural work might be a future project.
Our team carried out extensive removal of rhododendron and holly along FP 18.
The current path adequately follows the field fence to FP 64 and its shallower descent cutting back to FP18 below. But the intersection with FP18 is situated by the swampy ground described earlier.
In May 2015, a 250 mm diameter pipe (purchased by ECR) was embedded to carry the flow under the path, with a stone flagging outfall apron, and the pipe’s surround protected by scavenged bricks, boulders and stones. Sedge clumps were built over the inlet and outfall to protect the pipe ends from UV sunlight and footfalls.
Ditches were dug to ‘gather’ the water from the upstream boggy areas. Eleven weeks later the pipe and trenches merged well with the surroundings……
In early January 2016, our team returned to the site, twenty metres further north of the completed first pipe crossing. Here, we gathered to construct a larger capacity piped crossing for the stream crossing the path. The path here is barely above the stream bed and adjacent ground’s somewhat flooded level on both sides. Winter flows are substantial. Therefore a pair of 250mm dia. pipes was adopted for this crossing. The small diameter enables the pipes to be kept above the stream-bed level for full effective water flow. Whereas a single larger diameter pipe would be half-buried below stream-bed level and its lower half would silt up permanently.
The path between the two piped crossing sites is not raised clear of the wet-land south of the path, and is perpetually prone to mud surfacing. To alleviate this, by lowering the water surface, the wet-land’s stream bed was cleared of vegetation and adjacent obstructions on its course to the path over the wet-land margin from as far south as where the woodland rose.
In addition, a new collecting ditch was dug alongside the path and drained into the stream near to it’s twin-pipe culvert.
At a future projects visit, gravel may be imported along the canal towpath to the bridge accommodating FP64. From here, it would be wheelbarrowed 25~50 metres and laid to raise the path above this wet-land section of FP18. And wood steps and a broadwalk may be built up the bank as discussed. There is a ponded area further east, separated by the path from the canal drainage. A pipe would be beneficial across the path here, and the path similarly raised with gravel – in the future.
A discarded finger post was re-set southwest of the club house, with extra disks to indicate several intersecting paths. A finger post, by the carpark start of FP 63, disturbed by neighbouring building works, was reset by Stanley Hall’s new wall.
A Conundrum arises when crossing the twin fairways between the clubhouse and Stanleyhall Wood:……
The path has a twenty degrees change of direction at a point between them, which is indicated on the waymarker post located here, by the arrows on its opposite faces. These are angled to point at 11 and 1 o’clock accordingly. However, the post is regularly removed by a groundsman mowing the fairway, and their disk faces are re-installed either a) correctly, b) at 90 degrees, c) 180 degrees (thereby pointing about-face at 1 and 11 o’clock!), or d) left lying on the ground. The dilemma arises for a walker faced with a) -correct, b) or d) -useless, or c) -completely mis-leading. The paths direction is especially difficult to see coming from the clubhouse. Many walkers feel exposed to criticism if they ‘go astray’ on fairways. So I ‘solved’ the problem by tacking waymarker disks lightly onto a nearby tree, and replaced the disks on the post with new ones orientated at 12 o’clock – as the best compromise.
Our thanks go to team volunteers Helen Battilana*, Mike Bull, Mike Collins, Sue Dale, Roger Fielding, Adrian Flinn, Ken Hobbs, Duncan Learmond, Elizabeth Lees, Frances Moore, Gill* and Tom* North, Steve Osborne, Lynda Shaw, Ian Wasson and myself. The team contributed 124.5 hours of work (excluding lunch breaks) over five site visits on which days 16 persons attended 35 person days. * Sorry – no photos.
Back Dane is by the confluence of the River Dane with Clough Brook, just south of Burnt House Farm, Wincle. Wincle footpath 26 follows the rural river valley at a higher elevation.
Alan Catherall is the ECR Footpath Inspector in this parish and whilst there, has expended some of his time and enthusiasm in 2017 by negotiating with the very cooperative land-owner, Mr Francis Goodman, to allow an old Defra-created ‘Conservation Walk’ to be restored as a Concessionary Path.
The path, marked in red dashes on the OS map, descends to follow the river at this lovely, secluded location in the valley bottom. It forms a one km. diversion from the higher level PROW path FP 26 between Allmeadows and Bartomley Farm.
Alan sought the resources of ECR and its Projects Team to supply and install the signage for this path, and to clear the route of obstructive vegetation. On an autumnal day in November ’17 Alan and I spent a delightful time walking the proposed concessionary path and planned the locations of five way-marker posts defining the route, and restoration of two finger posts on FP 26 intersections.
Walking the Concessionary Path from the north end, we approached two hairpin bends on a rocky and grassy descending track to the River Dane……
The route follows the river down-stream…..
At the rivers’ confluence, the route climbs to join FP26……
We also walked the higher path FP26 to return to our start, and judged it needed selective vegetation clearance to keep its route clear.
Walking FP26 north to our starting intersection with the concessionary path……
On 6th December 2017, seven ECR Projects Team members arrived at Allmeadows to carry seven heavy posts, post-digging tools, and various tree and shrub clarance tools down to Back Dane and beyond. This day four waymarker posts and one finger post were installed.
Whilst posts were being installed, other team members cleared vegetation on the new path and much of the PROW path between the concessionary path intersections with it. I am sorry not to have photos to include of all our helpers listed, but we were working on parallel paths simultaneously.
Three members returned on the 12th December, installed one finger post and one waymarker post, and continued with clearance works on the concessionary path.
Upper PROW FP 26 work:-
Concessionary path waymarker posts erected and disks added:-
Three of us returned on 12th December to work in snow in minus two degrees Centigrade crisp cold air to finish the post erections and fix waymark disks.
We also cut away some fallen trees and removed gorse clumps.
These days proved very enjoyable and Alan was very satisfied with the result.
ECR Footpaths Project Team members who attended were Janet Allan*, Alan Catherall, Mike Collins, Roger Fielding, Chris Munslow, Gill* and Tom* North, and myself, Brian Richardson. We eight people contributed 12 person-visits providing in excess of 43 hours work excluding lunch breaks etc. * Sorry – no photos.
Those of us who have read the notices at either end of the Charles Head concessionary path will note the value of this linking path along the Todd valley watershed (marked CP in mauve on the map) and can thank Alan Catherall and John Goodman for their aptly described patience in gaining the landowners’ permissions for the path.
Therefore, it was unfortunate that, after descending southwards from the permissive path onto Rainow Footpath 14, it met five metres of sedge-covered and very boggy ground, then a wire-mesh fence with a wooden stile, followed by a further ten metres of sedge and bog before the path followed up a narrow cleft between a fence close by on the east side, and a steep bank on the west side, thence to a stile stepping onto Broad Moss.
The waters, coming from the sedge-covered hillside west of the path, are fed by springs above. Negotiating this area seriously dampened the pleasure of walking this route!
ECR Footpaths Projects Team was asked by our Footpaths Committee to consider if we could improve FP 14 at this location. I said the task was well within the capabilities of our enthusiastic and committed volunteers to complete a scheme. Permissions were given by the land-owners, with the support of CEC PROW Officer, Evan Pedley. Farmer Andrew Maynard gave permission for us to utilise derelict dry stone wall materials nearby. He asked me to ensure a cattle-run across the ravine, below the path, would be restored during the works.
I proposed to dig a trench on the west side of the path, rising southwards along the hillside, to collect the bog water and deliver it to a pipe we would place across the path in the worst boggy area further northwards where the concessionary path was met. The trench would be edged with rocks to protect the path, and the path surfaced in rocks to replace its boggy sedge-vegetated surface, currently flooded by water from the higher hillside to the east. The pipe would outflow into the steep clough below and flow away to the east. A few feet below the pipe outfall, its waters would be collected into another short length of pipe, over which a rock platform would be constructed to enable cattle coming up from Summer Close Farm to cross the clough, below our newly surfaced FP 14, to reach the field beyond.
We commenced work on 1st August 2014, by hand-hauling a six-metre length of 225mm dia. pipe, a galvanised steel gate, two finger posts and a way-marker post, up the steep hill climbing from Summer Close Farm in the valley below.
Considerable time and effort was spent, using mattocks and spades, on the four metres length by two metres width of path between the southerly fence and stile and the northerly intersecting permissive link path, to dig out a foot in depth of thick-stemmed, densely-rooted sedge biomass which inhabited all the water-logged ground over a gritstone base. In rainy weather, water flowed across, unabated from the hillside above. The boggy sedge mass was disposed of by shovelling it eastwards over the edge and into the steep sedge-filled clough beyond. It is worthy of comment that the sedge was extremely tough to cut with spades and was extremely acidic. The metal eyes and lugs of laced leather boots immersed in the bog showed rusting by a day’s end! A channel was dug to take away the water and to bed a four-metre long, 225 mm diameter, pipe diagonally across the path just north of the fence.
Stones recovered from the collapsed walls about the site, and from rock rubble originating as a buried track in the bog, were sorted into stockpiles on what was becoming a very muddy and congested site. The pipe was embedded in a surround of smaller stones to protect it from being punctured and covered with rocks to form the path surface.
At the east end of the pipe, the ground fell away steeply, and we constructed a retaining wall with the largest rocks surrounding the pipe outfall. Some of these large rocks were claimed from collapsed walling by the path 30 metres downhill towards Summer Close and were wheelbarrowed to the retaining wall site, helped by a team member pulling an attached tow rope.
Just south of the stile and fence, a twenty-metre long drainage channel was cut along the west edge of the path through the sedge vegetation and weathered glacial boulderclay bedrock at the base of the hillside. The channel was linked to the downstream pipe by extending the ditch northwards, cutting through the projecting hillside where the fence crossed the path. At the fence a short pipe was laid in the ditch and surrounded with rocks to make it stock-proof under the fence.
Large sumps were dug and lined at both pipe inlets to collect and guide the waters collecting in the channel. The main pipe’s inlet was protected with rocks to divert walkers and deter them from dislodging rocks and debris which might cause blockage.
A low dry-stone ‘wall’ was constructed alongside the trench to support the path’s edge and the path was cleared of sedge and mud and surfaced with selected packed rocks. These rocks were collected by wheelbarrow from the collapsed wall along the path.
When excavating for the main path and the crossing pipe’s bed, the biomass was tipped into the clough. The biomass was subsequently shovelled beyond the cattle-run location to find bedrock underneath upon which to found the lower pipe culvert.
A pipe was laid, embedded and surrounded in rock, and covered in large stones to make the path robust against cattle hooves. A retaining wall and outfall rock apron was formed to support the pipe outlet. An inlet sump was dug and rock lined to collect the outfall water from the upper footpath pipe. It was essential to construct this cattle path to a standard the farmer would consider satisfactory, in view of his cooperation in allowing us to construct the paths using his collapsing dry stone walling rocks.
A stile entering the path from the east, which allowed some waterlogged bog and sedge to be by-passed, was dismantled. The top barbed-wire strand along the path-side fence was disconnected from the fence posts, lifted to the more remote field-side of the fence and re-stapled in place. This was an essential safety measure, because the path is situated in a deep Vee notch, tight against the fence as it climbs up southwards to Broad Moss.
The drainage trench collecting hillside seepage was extended more shallowly high up this Vee path, to divert water from running down the lower path surface.
At one location, stonework was placed to divert the trench into the more substantial channel below, and three stone steps were built beside it; for which specially selected, very large flat stones were taken from the wall debris northwards and collected with a wheelbarrow as described above.
Two finger posts were placed on Broad Moss and a way-marker post placed at the top of the gully to direct walkers navigating the southern approach to the correct path. Projecting staples were embedded in the top stile’s two steps as an anti-slip measure.
Gateposts were erected, the new galvanised steel gate was hung, and the fencing was linked permanently over the new piped segment of the new ditch. An essential spring closure mechanism was added as a finishing touch to the gate later in September.
Mike Collins’ photos taken after very wet weather a year or so later show the effectiveness of the project. Thanks Mike.
I would like to thank all ECR Projects Team participants for their tremendous support and strenuous work in mixed (some very wet) weather. This work was carried out by Mike Bull, Alan Catherall, Mike collins, Susan Dale, Andy Davies, Roger Fielding, Barbara Hare, Ken Hobbs, Gill and Tom North, Steve Osborne, Brian Richardson and Ian Wasson. In summary, 13 Project Team members made 44 day-attendances between them, actively working (breaks excluded) 219.5 hours, spread over 11 attendance days; attending on average as four volunteers per day.
Plaques have now been installed next to Harrop Brook Bridge which
acknowledge the financial contribution East Cheshire Ramblers made to saving
this historic footbridge.
The Gritstone Trail near Bollington
re-opened in February 2020 following an eighteen month closure for repairs to
an iconic stone arch footbridge across Harrop Brook. After severe
flooding in 2018, it was judged to be unsafe due to movement of some large stones
at its base. The bridge was probably built in Victorian times, it looks
like a pack-horse bridge and is known locally as the ‘Donkey Bridge’. It was
saved from collapse thanks, in part, to a donation by East Cheshire
Ramblers. The bridge is located in the Peak District National Park
(at grid reference SJ 948785) and on the Gritstone Trail, a popular long
distance trail stretching south from Disley through East Cheshire and
Staffordshire to Kidsgrove.
Over the years the bridge supports had been
eroded by the force of the Harrop Brook and the bridge was in danger of
collapse. However, the cost of restoration far exceeded the cost of replacing
it with a ‘standard’ timber footbridge. East Cheshire Ramblers considered
that it would be tragic to lose this unique little structure and pledged £500
towards the cost of restoration. Cheshire East Council obtained similar
donations from Pott Shrigley and Rainow Parish Councils and also a donation
from the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society. The repairs took a long time to
organise as Harrop Brook is, surprisingly, classified as a ‘Main River’ and the
responsibility of the Environment Agency. However
the restoration was completed in early 2020 when stones were replaced in the
arch and bags filled with fast-set concrete were carefully placed at the side
of the stream to protect the bridge from further damage. Whilst the
repairs looked stark initially, we expect they will mellow over time and blend
into the surroundings.
This is an example of the work of the Footpaths Committee of East Cheshire Ramblers whose members regularly liaise with the Public Rights of Way Unit of Cheshire East Council. The Footpaths Committee monitor all public rights of way in an area of East Cheshire stretching from Disley and Poynton in the north to Wincle in the south. We hope that the many walkers using the Gritstone Trail will appreciate the retention of this historic bridge.
East Cheshire Ramblers ensure their footpaths are in good orderThe East Cheshire Group of the Ramblers is active in checking and inspecting the network of Public Rights of Way which exist across the splendid countryside in East Cheshire. There is a legal duty on the highway authority and on landowners to ensure that public footpaths are maintained in a walkable condition.
If, after submitting this form, you do not get a satisfactory response, please report the problem to us using the link at the end of this article and we will follow it up.
East Cheshire Ramblers
cover an area of 33 parishes from Poynton in the north to Wincle in the south
and, east to west, from Chelford to Rainow.
There are over 1270 paths which criss-cross the area and every path is
surveyed annually by our volunteer inspectors. By far the majority of
paths are in good order, thanks to the
co-operation of the landowners and the tireless work of Cheshire East Council
Public Rights of Way (PROW) Unit.
Sometimes a path can be obstructed by a fallen tree, a newly erected
fence or sometimes a stile or gate is damaged. Our inspectors report these
faults to the PROW Unit who ensure the fault is rectified promptly. Some inspectors also fix yellow waymarking
signs to ensure walkers can keep to the correct line of the path. To cover such
a large area, over 40 of our members are inspectors and we are always on the
lookout for more volunteers.
In addition, we have a
group of volunteers who undertake more practical tasks such as cutting back
vegetation, repairing stiles and improving the path surfaces.
How is all this
co-ordinated? Well, since 1986 East Cheshire Ramblers have organised a Footpaths
Committee who meet regularly to discuss the latest problems and the progress
with the annual path inspections. At this forum proposals for the legal
diversion of the rights of way are debated and comments made to Cheshire East
Council. We look after the interests of all walkers and we will not agree to
any proposal that significantly reduces the enjoyment of the path. If necessary, but rarely, we will make a
formal objection and argue our case at a Public Inquiry. In such cases we are
able to draw on the legal expertise of the Ramblers Central Office in London.
If you enjoy walking, please join the Ramblers organisation and help to support
this vital work.
Here are some photographs to illustrate the group’s work
Here are some links which will be useful to obtain further information on footpaths and rambling in our area
Sometime before October 2015 Evan Pedley of PROW, Crewe, asked me if our project team would repair a flight of wooden steps on Bollington FP22, which climbs from Ingersley Road up to Shrigley Rise. This seemed feasible at the time, because we could collect new wood for the steps as a contribution by PROW Department from its depot at Winsford; and Bollington Town Council would contribute up to £500 (plus VAT) towards materials.
The path climbed over fourteen metres in height over a length of 69 metres from its start in the field below a bottom kissing gate. The path was a surface drain for regular rain run-off from the impermeable surfacing of Shrigley Fold, and even off the main Shrigley Road in heavy rains, at the top of the path. It formed a deep gulch (a word chosen conservatively) and walkers were required to straddle the hollow and walk the haunches when the surface was wet and slippery. It held twenty-four rotting wooden steps.
Evan requested that precast concrete (p.c.) highway kerbs are deployed to resist the waters and to provide more durability than wood on this frequently used urban path. The prospect of me asking a voluntary project team of predominantly senior citizens who, with respect, are past their prime, to manoeuvre 70+ kg kerbs for 60 metres along the path, and up to 14 metres down the steps, was daunting. So, despite spending time on several occasions surveying the existing eroded wooden steps with my family’s help, I deferred the work to a future suitable period. Gradually, a sense of obligation took control and triggered me to allocate June through August this year, pending team support, to ‘fit’ the steps into the diary.
Ken in an overgrown section of the path before work started
Rainwater run off had undermined the path
Shrigley Rise neighbours have been very accepting of our disruption, allowing me to park as many as four bulk bags of gravel and two pallets of kerbstones on their private driveways on several deliveries, and special thanks go to Siobhan and Max for allowing us to store large tools and two wheelbarrows in their rear garden, Sarah for passing Ice cold drinks through the hedge and Rob for his oil for the wheelbarrows! Additionally, the team was given enthusiastic encouragement by path users.
To create a safe and durable working/walking space, we started by clearing vegetation, predominantly of naturally established, but badly located, trees and branches. We next repaired two wooden steps and added a third step in the field approach from Ingersley Road, below a bottom kissing gate. Higher up, two existing p.c. highway kerb steps were relocated, and the 24 existing wood steps were replaced by 47 new p.c. bull-nosed (rounded top corner) highway kerbs. Some steps were constructed full width of the space between walls to reduce erosion. We have placed twice as many steps (52 instead of 28) and a more even gradient between step rises in our construction. There are important benefits in that both of the latter measures dissipate the energy in rainwater flows down the path and steps and minimise erosion; and the threshold of difficulty for locals in scaling the steps has been considerably reduced,
We commenced step building, by progressively removing old steps, excavating for the new ones, placing them to line and level, and constraining their facing lower edge by steel pins. For safe working we spread ourselves in pairs up the path, but inevitably found coordination and cooperation between the teams was essential to enable materials to be moved across each of the work fronts. As the workdays passed, the shape of the stairflights crystalised, and a bulge in the slope was reduced by excavating for, and lowering, some steps. The bulk of our fill material is 40mm sized limestone aggregate, which allows water to pass in a restrained manner, but is firmly positioned. A surface skim of 14mm limestone chips is gentle underfoot and knits the surface together.
Ian tipping a barrow load of limestone chippings as Nick is poised to spread them out
Mike and Alan at work. Kerbs ready to be laid on the right
Several thoughts disturbed my sleep prior to starting on site: I dreaded finding we could not drive 16mm dia. steel pins 400mm into the underlying ground, to hold the kerbs in place, due to being rebutted by solid rock here and there. Such rebuttals occurred only once or twice. I was majorly concerned about moving the 70+ kg kerb units along the path and down the steps. I purchased a two-wheeled bag trolley to park them next to their final resting place, and two proprietary lifting tongs for multiple lifting to place them on a trolley and at each temporary and final accurately allocated placement. My overall concern, of course, was whether sufficient team support members would declare themselves willing to carry out this very heavy labour. But, as always, a team performed on each day.
We completed the project on 9th August. On which occasion two walking groups of eight and twelve persons coincidentally chose to pass respectively up and down the path!
Between two and six team members have attended on seventeen occasions between 26th June and 9th August, (generating 62 volunteer-attendance days) and served 296 man-hours of labour (excluding lunch breaks). During this project, 13.5 tonnes of limestone have been shovelled, and accepting that each pc concrete kerbstone has been lifted and transported twice, 8 tonnes of pc concrete has been lifted and placed. Also, a large amount of soil has been dug, moved and reprofiled during the scheme.
ECR Group have purchased £1792 (Vat Incl.) of materials, and Bollington Town Council have contributed £558 (Vat incl.) of that total.
The bottom end of the path as completed
For the success of this project, my thanks go to Janet Allen, David Bates, Helen Battilana, Ian Black, Nick Brearley, Mike Collins, Roger Fielding, Adrian Flinn, Barbara Hare, Ken Hobbs, Philip Hodgkinson, David James, Roger Jubb, Gillian and Tom North, Ian Wasson, Nick Wild, Alan Wilson, my wife Helen and son Damian (as surveying assistants).