Wandering around by the RoachesSunday, April 15th, 2018
After the preceding post leaping forward to April 2017, this one returns to May 2016 when I walked from Leek to Macclesfield by way of the Roaches. It had been a while since I last explored these parts for there was a circular walk from Leek that took in Hen Cloud of a Sunday in a time when there was a direct Sunday bus service between Leek and Macclesfield (now, you need to travel to Stoke-on-Trent by train before travelling by bus from there). That was followed in 2009 with another Sunday stroll that took me from Leek back to Macclesfield while glimpsing the Roaches from afar. Both inspired the route of the more recent encounter because it linked the two towns of the second outing while taking in more of the hills that featured in the first. Given the lack of a direct Sunday bus service and a point to point walk not being compatible with the use of a car, it may not surprise anyone that this account tells of a Saturday walk instead.
Like its predecessor in May 2009, this hike also had a lunchtime start. With lengthening hours of daylight allowing more time of an evening, that was no issue and there also was a greater chance of seeing surrounding scenery in more flattering light too. That was just as well because the preceding sunny week had been beset with a fragile mindset. There might have been the foreboding prospect of a meeting involving senior management and work life was not going as I had liked either. Given energy, it was a useful time to go for a long walk.
One thing that gave my spirits a lift was that I got more sunshine than was forecast. Clouds may have got in the way at times but there was enough sunshine to allow the making of memorable photos as I sauntered along. After getting off the bus before it went on a circuitous route around Leek, I started to encounter and enjoy my first spells of sunshine on the way to and across Brough Park on the way towards Haregate.
From Haregate, I had planned on following a public footpath that would take me along the eastern side of Tittesworth Reservoir. A seven year absence made its presence felt by sending me along the western side instead. Faded memories and new building in the intervening period cannot have helped my route finding. There was no irritation though and I opted for a visit to the reservoir itself and a stroll all around it on a path then newly constructed by Severn Trent Water. My attire and rucksack must have looked like a case of overkill to any families who were enjoying the amenity but I was en route to other places that were more in keeping with my appearance.
After leaving the reservoir following a call to the visitor centre for some sustenance and to address some ablution needs, there was some road walking before I found the route of the Churnet Way that I should have been using all the while. The road leading to Tittesworth Reservoir is narrow so I was happy to leave it after me because the pleasant afternoon meant that others were driving along it. Having to keep your wits about you all the time on a walk hardly is a recipe for relaxation and I had a better way of reaching Upper Hulme. After that staging post and a short stretch of a quiet lane, I was back threading on grassy ground again and with Hen Cloud in sight.
Having come around its eastern flank, I reached the saddle between Hen Cloud and the rest of the Roaches. Though it was by now late afternoon, the prospect of short up and down visit to Hen Cloud’s summit was too alluring to resist and it showed me just how popular the crags of the Roaches were with climbers for a line of parked cars could not be missed in these wilder surroundings. The ascent route was subject to diversions and the direct route that I followed involved some scrambling before I reached the top where gentler gradients and better paths prevailed. Thankfully, the way down was a gentler affair aside from having knee-testing gradients.
After returning to the saddle, I made for those tops that I had been surveying from the top of Hen Cloud. Though the place is criss-crossed with different paths, I fancied sticking to the public footpath so my line was a less direct one around the eastern side of the Roaches. It meant that any encounter with climbers was delayed as I made my indistinct way uphill over ground that would be soggy if I came at another time. Doing so meant putting any qualms about route finding to one side because I can find myself fussing too much about such things at times. Soon enough, I was brought to the spine of the eminence and climbers were so well scattered as not to present any intrusion. It was becoming a quiet evening stroll and I was surprised by coming across Doxey Pool even if I would have spotted it on a map if I had planned things in more detail beforehand.
My preference is for keeping plans flexible because hill countries can be different to what you expect and I had been playing with the idea of a circular walk from Leek similar to the one I enjoyed in January 2008. The time of day and the pleasant surroundings decided me so a walk to Macclesfield was to occupy for the rest of any daylight hours. Possibilities for other excursions in the area were presented to me in the form of Ramshaw Rocks, another haven for crag climbers. It might be that a hat-trick of Leek to Macclesfield walks might be completed if I go around by these sometime. The prospect is an appealing one and could have made use of the sunny day on which I am writing these words. Sunnier and warmer weather is forecast for later in the coming week so that could have a use yet.
The northern end of the Roaches is more rounded than other parts and is topped with a trig point that I reached during what was by then a sun-blessed amble. It too has its weathered rocky outcrops though and I was leave this as I lost height, first to reach a lane near Roach End and then to reach the River Dane near Gradbach after passing through Forest Wood where I had rested a while. It all seemed so calm that one could surmised that a piece of heaven had been encountered.
A short stretch of the Dane Valley Way beckoned before I passed a noisy scout troop camped near what once was a YHA hostel. It left me wondering why some felt the need to disturb the wondrous peace of such a location but I soon noted that the old hostel had been turned into an outdoor pursuits centre before a steep uphill climb presented itself after a crossing of the River Dane using a useful bridge.
One gradients levelled off, there was a lane crossing ahead of me before I started on a track that would convey me to the A54. While there was some disquiet in my mind about passing signs of a working farm, it was here that I also got some wonderful backward glances of where I had been. The added height meant that I could see as far as Roach End and Ramshaw Rocks from well within the county of Cheshire. Staffordshire may have been left for the day but it was not out of sight just yet.
That took a crossing of the A54 after which exploratory route finding was needed to ensure that I was on the right path. It was early evening by then so there was no soul to disturb with my wanderings. Others must come this way to for there was an honesty purvey such items as cartons of orange juice and I was to relish one of these after contributing the appropriate recompense. The village of Wildboarclough was my next landmark after some descent near Berry Bank Farm and getting there needed more attention to navigation.
After Wildboarclough, fields again were crossed to reach the lane leading to Greenway Bridge and the use of red and green bucket bucket lids to make out the positions of stiles was welcome given how far apart field boundaries were. Fields of suckler cows and calves were negotiated with signs declaring some leniency in the line of the path to be followed, never a bad thing given incidents where cows injure passing walkers though my farm upbringing adds extra experience that others may not possess.
At Greenway Bridge, I could have taken another path around by Oakenclough Farm but decided to stay with the road because of the time of day. That may have had the unintended effect of exposing tired legs to even stepper gradients but steady progress with a few rest stops got me to the road that was to take me down via Higher Sutton. Tarmac travel made for sore feet though but I was glad of the still easier progress as the sun was setting. Daylight stayed long enough for me to meet with street lights after Gurnet and not have to worry about its decline any more. It had been a good simple day out, something much needed after the complexities of the preceding week. The good weather continued for another day but my limbs needed recuperation so I limited myself to less strenuous enjoyment.
Bus service 109 from Macclesfield to Leek.