Beautiful Elan Valley Powys

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

Long Walkers tackling the steep ascent high above the valley
All the way down and all the way back up the other side!

Sunday 1st October

Woodland walkers
Water pouring into the reservoirs!

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.

Top Dam
We couldn’t get much wetter!

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.

An Epic Walk – 6th January 2010

Plodding through the spindrift towards Sponds Hill

A walk that will always stay in my mind and gave me a certain reputation was one that I lead from Adlington Road car park in Bollington on a winter’s day in January 2010.

Bollington, like most of Cheshire at that time was covered in snow, so much so that all other East Cheshire Ramblers’ walks had been cancelled that week. Undeterred, but also living in Bollington at that time and able to walk to the start point, I was keen for my walk to go ahead. I cannot remember everyone who came on this epic walk, although I do remember Roger Fielding, Brian Griffiths, Ruth Harrison and the Eversons came, along with a few others.

Setting off along the Middlewood Way we progressed as far as the North Cheshire Way in order to enter Lyme Park. Going through fields and having to guess largely where the footpaths would have been we encountered snow several inches deep which hampered progress to some degree. With a break for morning coffee by the Macclesfield canal we did eventually reach the courtyard at Lyme Park where we stopped to eat our packed lunches. That was the easy part of the walk, although we didn’t realise it at that point in time.

Following the leader’s footsteps through a snow drift

The planned route back to Bollington was to follow the Gritstone Trail, heading uphill first of all towards the Bowstones. Some in the group questioned the wisdom of heading uphill in a blizzard. However, uphill we went and we all arrived somewhat snow covered by the Bowstones. Here we met a group of walkers coming in the opposite direction, whose advice was to “avoid the footpath” as it was about a foot deep in snow. Keeping as best as we could to the high ground we followed the Gritstone Trail and descended via a snowdrift onto the road above Pott Shrigley. Getting through the snowdrift proved to be tricky, as once in it there was no easy way out. I recall that Ruth Harrison rolled over the top of the snow but poor Georgie Everson was well and truly stuck. Brian and I eventually pulled Georgie out and the group made it back down to Bollington, as the sun shone and we felt that the effort was worth it.

Snowdrifts on the road towards Charles Head

I did repeat this walk early in March 2020 before lockdown. On this later occasion it was a very wet and windy day but somehow this walk failed to capture the magic of the walk in January 2010.

David Gylee, January 2021

Photographs by courtesy of Roger Fielding.

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.

I know my neighbor always has a couple of erectile dysfunction pills. I shot him several times until he discovered the raw secret. It turned out that he was buying pills at online pharmacy without prescription.
Briefly leaving the parish by the canal towpath , the walkers completed the “”Tour” via Redacre Hall farm and Mitchell Fold where they paused to admire an ancient metal notice erected by the Great Central Railway Company setting out the weight limits on farm vehicles crossing the bridge over the canal.

John Goodman

A Witches Brew Of Mystic Sites and Legends

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Norton


Walking along the Wye side

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

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

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

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

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

A lot of wild garlic in Great Shacklow Wood

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

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

Marion Duff

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


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