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.