Last week, I left my house to go for a day walk that threaded its way around Macclesfield’s nearby hills. Regular readers may be aware that this is something that I often do and that I manage to vary routes thanks to the number of rights of way around these parts. There are times that I set out without a map too, such is my knowledge of the area. Otherwise, I would not risk such a thing or advise anyone else to do the same.
Still, I set off mapless and with the intention of summoning directions from memory with a little help from my general sense of direction and any existing waymarkers when confirmation was needed. Thankfully, the day remained largely sunny aside from times when clouds got in the way.
Buxton Old Road lay at the start of my route but I fancied using it as little as possible because more folk drive along it than is ideal given how narrow it is. It is not a recipe to relaxing carefree strolling. so I instead deviated away from the road to go around near Higher Blakelow Farm and chose Teggsnose Lane as part of the way to Tegg’s Nose Country Park. From then on, quite lanes and public rights of way were to be my lot.
From Tegg’s Nose, the hike followed the general line of a route that I walked in April 2006 after a week spent in Delaware on a business trip. Jet lag had not gone away but there was a day off in lieu of my arriving in Manchester Airport on Saturday and that extra free time saw me head out to make use of the spring sunshine. There were digital photos captured with a Canon EOS 10D too but fumbling during autumnal computer maintenance meant that these have been lost so repeat visits have been needed to create some near replacements.
As I lost height on the way down Sadler’s Way, a permissive path created by prisoners and volunteers, I was retracing these steps. Near Clough House, a sign pointed out a way to Macclesfield Forest and Shutlingsloe so that was to convey me onto the wonderfully named Hacked Way Lane. That too was left for a delightful forestry track that I reckoned would lead towards Forest Chapel. Once I negotiated my way through a four way junction that I last met on a ramble in May 2015, I was en route to Charity Lane and I easily knew which way to go next because I was now following a route last taken on Easter Monday 2015, though I set off from Walker Barn and finished up in Hurdsfield on that occasion.
Once I got to Forest Chapel, I lingered a while in the sunshine. All was quiet apart from the occasional sounds of a building work. This was evidence that I was out and about on a working day. Even so, there still were folk like myself enjoying the countryside in the sunshine. We were not everywhere but places like Tegg’s Nose, Macclesfield Forest and Shutlingsloe were places that lured more than others.
Though signed as forest bridleways, metalled lanes were what I plied on my way from Forest Cottage. If I recall correctly, not a car passed so I could linger some abandon and put a recently acquired second hand Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR through its paces and there was plenty of inspiration for any testing. Especially in these days of digital photography, camera behaviour can differ so you really need to spend some time getting to know how your equipment performs if you are to get the best from it.
To get to Shutlingsloe, metalled lanes were left behind me for a forestry track that took me ever higher. The gradient never was too taxing but it was enough to allow view to open out around me. Sometimes, photographic efforts were stymied by the leggy remains of dying weeds that remained in sheep pasture from the summer season. Autumnal colour was starting to appear in trees too and there were new views to be savoured though Trentabeck Reservoir was somewhat hidden among its surrounding trees.
Leaving the forestry track for a while, I set off on a path to the top of Shutlingsloe. There was more height gain this time around so wider views were on offer and they caused me to linger on Shutlingsloe while I had it all to myself before another person came along. Naturally, it was less busy that I found on my visit on Easter Monday 2015. Then, I started my descent down Shutlingsloe’s southeastern slopes to drop onto a public footpath that circled the hill before rejoining my more usual route again. This time around, I settle on the more direct approach and I would have an undisturbed descent of the section of step stepped pathway. Maybe the suspected lack of that was why I chose the course I did in 2015 but those thoughts are erased now, possibly by the passages of life’s troubled course since then.
Once back on the forestry track again, I continued towards Langley and eschewed a path descending to Trentabeck Reservoir for a longer course that would drop me at the foot of Ridgegate Reservoir, where I stopped a while. This took me round by Nessit Hill and I noted that more folk were out enjoying the afternoon hereabouts, prompting the thought that they may be doing so after a working day. This was a route first followed in January 2009 and that encounter was a muddy one before the current gravel had been laid and settled.
There was a sign for Langley that would have taken me onto tarmac too soon and keeping away from roads as much as possible was as much a guiding ideal as enjoying my surroundings in the sunshine. Instead, I sought out the Gritstone trail and followed that to the end of Bottoms Reservoir. There were signs advising of a diversion by the dam of Teggsnose Reservoir while work on the dam was in progress. Thankfully, the diversion was not onerous though the car park is closed until all is over later in the year.
From the reservoir, I continued through the village of Langley before I left roadside hiking again. Tiring legs might have preferred a more level course but I still continued up around Birch Knoll before dropping down through Macclesfield Golf Club to reach Macclesfield Canal. That was followed by a shopping stop and a rest in Victoria Park before I continued my return home after a satisfying afternoon full of relaxing walking. In places, you could say that I gambolled and that momentary freedom of spirit was much needed.