Please see below the notes of the meeting taken at the Walk Coordinators’ meeting on the 30th October 2023.
EAST CHESHIRE RAMBLERS ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
All members are invited to our AGM which will be held at 2pm on Saturday 25th November 2023 at Macclesfield Tennis Club, Learning Zone Campus, Park Lane, Macclesfield SKI1 8LF Papers for the AGM are available to download below. To help with conserving the planet no paper copies will be available unless requested.
East Cheshire Ramblers stayed at the Elan Valley Lodge in Powys on a great weekend away trip organised by Ann Thompson.
The Elan Valley Reservoirs are a chain of man-made lakes created from damming the Elan and Claerwen rivers within the Elan Valley in Mid Wales. The reservoirs, which were built by the Birmingham Corporation Water Department in the late 1800, still provide clean drinking water for Birmingham in the West Midlands of England. The five lakes are known as the Claerwen, Craig-goch, Pen-y-garreg, Garreg-ddu, and Caban-coch.
The River Elan runs through the wide expanse of upland moors, traditionally known as Elenydd, in central Wales. Its valley is known as the Elan Valley. The name probably arises from ‘elain’ meaning ‘hind’ or ‘fawn’ in reference perhaps to the rushing, bounding nature of its course. It has its source in wet moorland on the eastern flank of Pen y Deunant in Cardiganshire. It is joined by Nant Dderwen, Nant Cwta and Nant Hirin before entering the top of the Elan Valley Reservoirs at Craig Goch Reservoir which in turn discharges to Garreg-ddu Reservoir and then Caban-coch Reservoir. It emerges from this chain of reservoirs in a north-easterly direction and forms the county border between Radnorshire and Brecknockshire for the rest of its journey. It passes through Elan Village before turning south-east after two miles and making its confluence with the River Wye.
Saturday 30th September
On the first day we set off in two groups to enjoy two walks with flexible walking lengths which aimed to satisfy everyone. The scenery was fabulous; we walked through golden deciduous woodlands, copper coloured bracken and velvet green fields. We were led by two local guides who shared their extensive knowledge of the Elan Valley. The history of the area amazed us all!
Having reached the Nantgwyllt Church the group of walkers divided. Those wanting a longer, more strenuous walk departed over the dam while the others looked at the church and then took the Elan Valley trail back to the Lodge. The longer group turned north-east on the trail and then east up a valley between Y Foel and Y Glog Fawr. A steep pull took us to open moorland and then steeply down to a track reaching the road to Elan from Rhayader. We then followed the Valley trail back to the village and lodge. Around 11 miles altogether with about 2000feet of ascent and only a little dampness
Sunday 1st October
Our second day proved to be very, very wet and it was no surprise to any of us that the Elan Valley is known as the Welsh Lake District! It poured with rain all day. We had two more guided walks on the Sunday. The long walk began at the Lodge and involved a walk to Nantgwyllt Church; from there the group walked along the Garreg-ddu Reservoir to the Pen y Garreg Dam and then continued on to the Craig Goch Dam, often referred to as ‘The Top Dam’. Construction on the dam began in 1897, and it was completed in 1904.
From there the group turned and traced their way back to the Lodge along the Elan Valley Trail. The shorter walk started from the church and followed the same route round the Garreg-ddu Reservoir. At the end of the reservoir the shorter walk split into two groups. One group had a coffee and cake and then walked back along the other side of the reservoir to Elan Valley Lodge whilst the other group decided to walk further and walked on to the ‘Top Dam’ before making their way back to the Lodge.
Monday 2nd October
The final day of ECRs weekend away proved to be the best day in terms of weather! The walkers enjoyed a pleasant five mile walk which took in the confluence of the River Elan and the River Wye.
Eight members set of in dry weather and had a very good walk from Rhayader, learning more about the Birmingham pipeline which they crossed twice. They also reached the waterfall on the Wye which gives the town its name along with the location of the railway lines. The group enjoyed a superb coffee break at the confluence of the Wye and Elan followed by a walk past the Laura Ashley farm. Crossing a suspension bridge added to the fun and most of the group managed to get across using their hands. The sun peeped out, the views were clear and it made a splendid end to the weekend.
All the walkers expressed their appreciation to Ann Thompson for organising the weekend away in an area very few of us had every visited. Thank you Ann.
Early History of East Cheshire Ramblers
The inaugural meeting of what was to become East Cheshire Ramblers was held at Roe Street Sunday School in Macclesfield on the 4th October 1973. It was organised by Lesley Meadowcroft from Manchester Ramblers Association and about fifty people attended the first meeting.
The meeting covered Rights of Way and the need for a definitive map for Cheshire. Some of those present at the meeting expressed some concern about potential confusion with Macclesfield Rambling Club and not everyone was keen on the idea of public rights of way! Concerns were raised about walkers leaving gates open, climbing walls, letting dogs loose and “How would you like people walking through your garden?” One person was particularly vocal about walkers trespassing on Big Low, Rainow.
Despite the views aired, twenty people were keen to start Macclesfield Ramblers Association and a committee of ten was established. It was made up of Chair Tom Chalmers, Secretary David Hughes, Footpath Secretary Pat Bowyer, Treasurer Alan Pedlar, Publicity Pauline Pedlar and committee members Sid Forse, Henry Trufit, Mike Corfield and Margaret Oldfield. Later Marjorie Cooper became Chair and Anne Court became the Secretary.
One of the first tasks was to create a copy of the Definitive Map of Cheshire showing the Public Rights of Way in the Macclesfield area. The only maps, available at six inches to the mile, were held in the Cheshire County Council Offices in Chester and the Macclesfield library. The committee spent hours creating maps with a scale of 2.5 inches to the mile with each footpath drawn in by hand. These maps still exist today. Routes were colour coded: Purple (Footpaths) Green (Bridleways), Yellow (Parish Boundary). They created a “real treasure trove of footpaths”. In addition a great deal of time and effort was spent to ensure that every right of way was inspected annually. In order to achieve this, footpaths were divided into Parishes and each member agreed to inspect the footpaths in two Parishes. As we do today, the data was collated centrally. In the early days it was sent through annual reports to Pat Bowyer, the Footpath Secretary. Complaints about ‘obstructions’ were passed to Cheshire County Council who, it has to be said, at that time, ‘moved very slowly in the plains’! The Committee achieved more progress in Peak Park area where the support of the Countryside Rangers was invaluable. Pat Bowyer also had great support from Donald Lee of Peak and Northern Footpaths Society.
The Committee faced a constant battle to prevent developers building over footpaths, particularly on new housing estates. In addition, major issues arose over the proposed route of the Silk Road through Dumbah Hollow. Over the years careful negotiation was required when farms were converted into private residences. No one wanted a public right of way through their new back garden. Paths were moved away illegally from farms and often via unsuitable diversions.
The group gained publicity and increased members through Pauline’s articles in the Macclesfield Express, where they allowed her a ‘few inches’ each week. A particularly difficult confrontation with a farmer on a footpath in Wincle required the intervention of the local police. Fortunately, the constable was familiar with the Definitive Map and the walkers were allowed to proceed. This resulted in some welcome but unexpected publicity! The Macclesfield Express ran with the headline: “POLICE CALLED IN OVER FOOTPATH DISPUTE”. Numbers in Macclesfield Ramblers doubled as a result! The path in question now has a stile, gate and footpath.
The group also offered support to Chris Bamsey, one of the Country Side Rangers. Together they put in stiles, improved muddy paths and helped install the bridge over Shell Brook. Another major legacy is the work the group did to secure the Gritstone Trail. Initially the route was to be called the Cheshire Ridgeway as Derbyshire Ramblers were setting up the Gritstone Way. It was eventually agreed to call the route the Gritstone Trail to match and complement the Sandstone Trail in the West of Cheshire. It’s proved to be a great success and has certainly increased footfall over the years. Forty miles of the trail were walked in the 40th Anniversary year and this year fifty miles were walked to celebrate our Golden Anniversary year.
With grateful thanks to Alan Pedlar