Footpath restoration works between Middlewood and Poynton on eleven linked footpaths.

Map centred on OS SJ 934 845

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
  • Relocating footpaths
  • Preparing the north seating for a boardwalk – and erecting a new notice post
  • Constructing new, and restoring old, handrailings
  • Stile repairs

I will describe our work, in categories.

General vegetation clearance

Showing paths with vegetation clearances

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

Showing new and replacement finger and waymarker posts and new boardwalk ‘acknowledgement’ notice

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.

Stile repairs

Showing Locations of Handrailing Installations (in green), – and New Boardwalk (in Red)

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

Showing Locations of new and repaired handrailings

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).