A good walk home on a blustery dayWednesday, February 11th, 2009
Recent entries on this blog have wandered into areas not often frequented by my thoughts so it is high time that I got the first trip report of 2009 on here. One of the causes of those thoughts darting here, there and everywhere is the current cold spell with its numerous dumps of snow. In everyday life, snow has become avoidable but, on my first trek of the year, I didn’t encounter any of the white stuff at all.
That was because I was out the day before the snow came. When it came to weather, a strong frigid south-easterly was the main encumbrance though it was possible to escape its influence in sheltered spots. That didn’t stop me taking a bus journey up to the Cat and Fiddle Inn between Macclesfield and Buxton to commence a walk back to my house again. The idea had been in my head for a while and the fact that it would only take part of a day allowed time for other things afterwards has its appeal for me.
It was sufficiently breezy about the pub in question that I invested more attention in crossing the A537, a road with a foul reputation thanks to its ability to attract bikers with its many bends. The reason for that crossing was to pick up a bridleway that was more or less due south though it does change to a more easterly direction later on its length. In November 2004, this was the start of a very muddy hike (some may have forgotten it now but the whole year was well wet and grey and that’s how I remember it) that took me to Rushton Spencer with much of route following the Dane Valley Way and passing Three Shire Heads, Gradbach and Danebridge along the way. In fact, I met up with the Gritstone Trail as I approached the A523 for a walk into Rushton to catch a bus home.
Returning to 2009, I was going nowhere near Three Shire Heads, let alone Gradbach, Danebridge or Rushton Spencer. In fact, I was wanting to pick up a path that tempted me in 2004 but thoughts of muddy feet kept me away and there is irony in the way that things turned out that way as it happened. So, I continued along the bridleway through former coal mining land until I lost sight of Shutlingsloe and Croker Hill to reach the signpost erected by the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society. Progress was set to be downhill from here as Cumberland Brook was first found and then followed. At one point, I may not have followed the path as intended but, given that it was all Open Access land anyway, I was never going to have anyone shouting at me for it. The path met a track that was to take me towards Clough House near Wildboarclough and by a delightful wood too with views of Shutlingsloe ahead of me.
There might have been a path by Clough House but I stuck with the road rather than cutting though its yard. Another path was reached without delay and I was on my way towards Shutlingsloe itself. At this stage, I was between two minds as to go around the hill or up and over. Having walked to its summit twice before, I was minded to skirt its slopes but decided to ascend it in the end. The path rounded Banktop to reach my second island of access land after leaving the first en route to Clough House. That allowed me to pick my own more gentle way to the top of the hill and it proved to be just as well with the public footpath taking a steeper line through crags. In one sense, the gentler line might have been more manageable with the strength of the wind but it could also have been that the traditional route was less exposed to it. Returning to the strength of that wind, I and those around me were to feel it more keenly the higher that we went. I have to say that this was the strongest breeze that I have ever felt and there was one that came close when it hit near the end of a hike from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hawes along the Pennine Way. Even standing was difficult and movement became much more of feat than usual. Nevertheless, I was so near the top that I continued inching my way forward; in another situation, I would reconsider what I was doing. Intriguingly, the wind was less strong on the top and standing around the trig point was no problem; it can be surprising where shelter is found.
I felt the wind again on the way down along the slabbed path to Macclesfield Forest but it was no way near as intense as before. On the way into the forest, I met a gentleman who was wondering where the path along which I had come was going. I showed him where he was on his forestry visitor map and he decided on another course that kept within the forest itself; he and his young one might have been better off. Rather than dropping straight down to Trentbeck Reservoir, I chose a concessionary bridleway that took me round by Nessit Hill before dropping me on a minor road next to Ridgegate reservoir. That track was very muddy in places thanks in no small part to tree felling operations but it took nothing from my enjoyment of the walk.
From the road, I took another concessionary bridleway before making my way onto the Gritstone Trail to come out on Clarke Lane near Bottoms Reservoir. After a walk along the road through Langley, I left tarmac after me again to tramp though fields around by Macclesfield Golf Course while en route to Macclesfield Canal. Tiredness raised its profile about this time but home was near at hand and a mixture of street negotiation and canal bank strolling returned me to my doorstep. I suppose that staying upright in that strong wind had taken its toll as did the distance travelled together with the amount of ascent and descent that was involved. It had been a good few hours walking on a dry if cold day with the sun occasionally breaking through the cloudy sky. 2009 had started well.
Bus service 58 between Macclesfield and the Cat and Fiddle Inn.