Countryside Wanderings

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out of doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

Category: England

Ambles within sight of The Cloud

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

There are many walks that could fall under this ambiguous title since so much of Cheshire lies within the sight of this hill. It is one of those landmarks like Shutlingsloe or Croker Hill (distinguished by its radio broadcasting station) that overlook so many of my strolls and cycles near where I now call home. These not only extend towards the Cheshire Plain but the landmark can be identified from among the hills that lie between Macclesfield and Buxton so those following the Gritstone Trail will see the hill long before or long after crossing its summit. There was a temptation to add Leek to the preceding list of towns but that may be going too far.

National Trust sign, The Cloud, Bosley, Cheshire

Calling a hill a “cloud” looks incongruous to modern eyes until you realise that it is a usage dating from old English as much as calling a valley a “hope” much like what happens in north Derbyshire and south Yorkshire. The latter has been know to trap the unaware like a new vicar in Oxenhope as described by Simon Armitage in his book “Walking Home”. Sometimes, place names can be a last redoubt for older meanings so it is best to keep that in mind as we saunter through countryside, even or especially when following the route of the Pennine Way.

Bear installation, Astbury Mere Country Park, Congleton, Cheshire, England

Not at all far from The Cloud is another town that I have yet to mention: Congleton. It may not sound like a starting or an ending point for walks but it has been both for me over the years and some of these have been described on here already. One took me to Leek via Biddulph and Rudyard Lake and Congleton was my destination on a walk along part of the Gritstone Trail that started from Langley.

The Cloud, Bosley, Cheshire, England

The Macclesfield Canal passes by Congleton too and very handily is next to the town’s train station. Sometimes, life can way us down so much that we can fail to engage in activities that offer momentary relief. Anything that makes it easier to get out for a walk has to be helpful. Simpler often is better so what can be easier than trotting along a canal towpath? Certainly, that helped to get me walking between Macclesfield and Congleton in the dying months of 2012 and the first one of 2013 while there was quite a lot on my mind. This was the start of emotion consuming events that have carried on over the last few years even though there have been episodes of release too and it was during one of these that I walked along the canal in bright spring sunshine in April 2015.

The lure was the prospect of getting pleasing views of The Cloud, particularly on the section between Crossley Hall Farm and Bosley Locks. For a time, I was relieved of the cares of life as I passed numerous familiar sights. It is difficult to anything very new about those and there is one section of the canal that I have yet to walk that goes south from Congleton until I am lead again onto previously trodden reaches on the way to Kidsgrove where it connects with the Trent & Mersey Canal. That opens the prospect of a cycle along its wide towpath that may lead me from one train station to another if I went far enough.

The main linchpin of this piece is another walk, one that I did at the start of November 2015. However, it was not what I had in mind for that day. Only for a late train, my preference was for a walk commencing from Disley. What is somewhat lost to memory is the route that I wanted to follow. In March of this year, I did follow the Gritstone Trail as far as Kerridge before following our paths on the rest of the way home so it could have been that. There was another option that was just as likely: a circular stroll around Disley and Lyme Park.

Astbury Mere, Congleton, Cheshire England

Instead of sticking with the disruption of a delayed train journey, I caught a bus to Congleton. My next port of call was Astbury Mere and I followed part of Route 573 of the National Cycle Network to get to it. It might have been the spontaneity of my choice of destination that caused me to overlook a section the Dane Valley Way in favour of a discovery from an evening cycle during the summer of 2015. Encounters late on those days probably inspired me to consider a midday visit when light would be more plentiful for photography.

Astbury Mere Country Park is surrounded by residential areas despite its name so folk were to be found pottering about on that mild November day. Everyone still had plenty of space to themselves though and I enjoyed my walk around the mere before leaving it to get to Astbury.

St. Mary's Church, Astbury, Cheshire. England

Once I made my way along some streets, a public footpath called Stony Lane then took me most of the way to Astbury. The village has been a calling point on numerous cycles but this was the first time that I arrived there on foot. With a curious church and lines of cottages leading to it from the A34, it is a photogenic spot so I lingered a while before retracing some of my steps while walking to the Macclesfield Canal.

Trig Point on the Cloud, Bosley, Cheshire, England

Following the canal towpath, I crossed through Congleton before dropping into Dane-in-Shaw Pasture where I found a public footpath leading to Brookhouse Lane. Then, I took to following the Gritstone Trail for the rest of the way to the top of The Cloud. Though unseasonably warm, it was getting late in the day by this point and the sense of the whole exercise might be questioned by some if they knew what I was doing. Nevertheless, I stuck with my plan and climbed through woodland as I did so. It did not take long to come out of the tree cover to take in amble views over the Cheshire Plain and whatever else I could see in the late afternoon light.

It was sensible not to delay either so I started on my descent of Cloud Side to reach a lane that would start me on my return to Congleton. That meant going around the hill again but the views made it worth doing and I was to stick to lanes anyway given the now fading light. Further lanes that I was to use included Tunstall Road, Pedley Lane and Middle Lane as I passed Key Green to come under the streetlights of Congleton before too long. Freed from any chance of getting benighted, my main concern was getting to where I needed to be to catch my bus back to Macclesfield after a very satisfying day.

Various wanderings around Hare Hill

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Avenue leading into Hare Hill, Prestbury, Cheshire, England

Casting my mind back to a time when I often walked home through the fields from my workplace, which then was out in the countryside, at the end of a working day reminds me that I often passed between the National Trust properties of Alderley Edge (the sandstone escarpment, not the village of the same name that once might have been called Chorley) and of Hare Hill. Even so, I hardly stepped inside of its boundaries until a visit made by bicycle in October 2011. Until then, the closest to doing so had been an after work incursion during an extended cycle home and I have passed the place on many a commute to work too.

Until I found the relevant entry on here, I would not have realised that I undertook there trots around both Alderley Edge and Hare Hill in twelve months. The first of these was spoilt by a nip from a terrier in a leg that resulted in a trip to the local A&E department for sake of safety. For some reason, the original account played down the story of my phoning the NHS helpline and the need to spend several hours awaiting the consultation that resulted in a tetanus booster injection and the prescription of a course of antibiotics as a precaution. Nothing more came of the altercation though it did nothing to reduce my wariness of unleashed dogs.

All that happened on the first Sunday of May 2014 and it was to take until September of the same year before I embarked on hike from the village of Alderley Edge back home in an effort to exorcise memories of the previous encounter. That was not nearly as sunny as I would have liked and there was a reprise the following April when I found both sunshine and signs warning of the need to control dogs. Since then, the affect concessionary path now is out of use during the winter when Hare Hill is not open to the public.

Mushroom spotted on September 2014

Unlike the ill-fated first circular stroll, the September 2014 was a linear affair. It also replaced other aborted plans for what I had in mind for Wales needed to be postponed. Instead, I headed to Alderley Edge in the middle of that Saturday and spent the afternoon walking from there back home.

Starting from Alderley Edge village, I went up Macclesfield Road before making using of a tempting public footpath and wend my way towards the National Trust land where the escarpment was to be found after a road crossing. If my memory serves me correctly, that took me along an indirect course for some reason lost to me unless it was my own curiosity that was the cause. From the escarpment, the route taken was more focussed albeit with twists and turns as it took me through Dickens Wood, Waterfall Wood, Clock House Wood, Danielhill Wood and Alder Wood. It comes as surprise to see every single piece of woodland named on the Ordnance Survey 1:25000 map of the area. After the last of these, it was time to cross fields to get to Hare Hill before continuing to the road along its entrance drive. After that, it was onto Prestbury by a route that I can neither recall or retrace but photos help with working out my route from Prestbury home and that followed the course the River Bollin as far as Riverside Park. From there, home was just a short stroll away.

Danielhill Wood, Alderley Edge, Cheshire, England

April 2015 was to see its share of sunshine and the combination of a sunny Saturday and the need for a stroll was enough motivation for a partial reprise of its autumn predecessor. Another benefit of the pleasant weather is that I have more photos from the day so reconstructing the full route with most of its deviations becomes an easier exercise. One of those was seen in the route that I took from Alderley Edge village to the escarpment after which it has been called. That saw me cross a field with some ponds in its centre before going through what I think is Windmill Wood. After that, it was a repeat of the route followed the previous time.

Avenue leading into Hare Hill in April, Prestbury, Cheshire, England

From Hare Hill, the route to Prestbury differed and it may have zig-zagged around the countryside too. From Chelford Road, it headed north and crossed a minor road before reaching the A538. After following that thoroughfare for a while, I was glad to leave it near Legh Hall to rejoin the North Cheshire Way for a short stretch for the road was not as friendly for walkers as I might have liked. At this point, I started to retrace steps taken on those hikes home from work as I passed both Woodend Farm and Spittle House to reach the River Bollin and the Bollin Valley Way. Both would be followed much of the way home.

St. Peter's Church Tower, Prestbury, Cheshire, England

My reaching Prestbury saw me potter away from the Bollin to visit its pleasant parish church and pass through its churchyard to reach another public footpath that would take me back towards the Bollin again. Macclesfield was not far away and I was well within surroundings where I have walked so often that there was no need to consult any map.

Longhorn Cattle in Riverside Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

Longhorn cattle are kept in the fields by the Bollin between Prestbury and Macclesfield every summer to keep the grass down in a more natural way. Cheshire East Council rangers might rather that dog walkers kept their pets on a leash during this time but there never is any sign of that.

Currently, there is a consultation on the use of Public Spaces Protection Orders to deal with those who do not control their dogs as well as they should or clean up after them. For the latter, something is badly needed but nothing takes any effect unless there is actual enforcement. Also, one wonders what effect it might have on those who leave their dogs run loose in Riverside Park for exercise. For one thing, it hardly seems appropriate for fields with cattle regardless of how docile they appear to be.

A flower bed in West Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

The final stretch of my way home took me somewhere that I have visited countless times and seeing flowers in West Park on a sunny evening like this possibly was the lure as it has been all those times and more have followed since then. Places like this are cathartic when life needs them and it is good to string a number of them together to make longer walks.

Travel Arrangements

Bus travel using service 130 between Macclesfield and Alderley Edge.

Not quite the reprise I once thought it was

Friday, September 29th, 2017

A thought recently struck me. There has been a fair amount of melancholy and reminiscence in what has appeared on here during this year. The events of the last few years and the resultant change of circumstances will have been part of this, so much so that I now am taking the time to take stock of things before anything else happens. After all, moving forward to happier prospects would bring happier tales for sharing too.

Depletion of energy reserves has not helped either and even causes me to reprise routes previously followed instead of exploring new ones. That brings its share of reminiscence and there is a bit of that here too, even though I am recalling a route that was varied rather than repeated.

The original hike took place at the end of January 2009 and it now feels like a very different time. After all, that was eight years ago and a lot has happened since then. There was a change of job, bereavements and subsequent inheritance as well as other things that have gone on in the world. It is all too easy to look back to a happier time when work was steady and ageing parents still retained their independence despite their advancing years. What really is needed is to create moments from which new happy memories can be gained.

The account of the more recent walk takes me back to May 2015 when so much was behind me and so much lay ahead of me. Usefully, work then offered a lull that allowed me to make use of a sunny day to revisit a trail that I fancied seeing again in brighter sunshine and with less wind about. The first would allow for the creation of satisfying photos while the second would make for easier walking.

Danethorn Hollow, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

My starting point was the currently closed Cat and Fiddle Inn. From there, my route took me along Whetstone Ridge before descending through Danethorn Hollow along the headwaters of Cumberland Brook. Clouds may have abounded but there was amble sunshine too as I followed a path first spied on a muddy walk in November 2004 that took me as far as Rushton Spencer via Three Shire Heads and the Dane Valley Way.

Cumberland Brook, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

Cumberland Cottage, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

The descent was steep as far as the track linking Clough House with the A54. As I was headed for the former, the descent continued and it passed woodland as I continued to shadow the brook before crossing it at a ford. When I reached the roadside, I decided against a shortcut along a public footpath that appeared to pass through a farmyard in preference to going around by road to reach another one that would get me going towards Shutlingsloe. That passed along the edge of woodland as it shadowed the road below while gaining some useful height.

Crag Hall as seen from Shutlingsloe, Cheshire, England

Eventually, I had to double back on myself for a while as more height was gained until a final turn led me directly to Shutlingsloe’s summit. Dappling of landscape by broken cloud cover was there to be witnessed as I continued my ascent. Care with timing meant that I could control how shaded my surroundings would appear in any photo so it was not as if I was going to lose completely the delights of sunlit landscape.

My route down from Shutlingsloe was a reverse of one followed only last week, albeit with some deviations that I cannot explain. The way down to Macclesfield Forest and the track through there was the same as was that along lanes as far as Forest Chapel. Following Charity Lane brought me to path through more of Macclesfield Forest. It was then that I first met the sign at a cross of four tracks that again met last week. Hacked Way Lane should have featured too but it was after that where I inexplicably turned to field crossings on various public footpaths instead of sticking with the track that ran between them. It is all the more curious given that I was headed for Tegg’s Nose.

Clough House and Shutlingsloe as seen from Tegg's Nose, Langley, Cheshire, England

Ridgegate Reservoir and High Moor, Langley, Cheshire, England

My route also went around another Clough House before picking up Sadler’s Way to reach the visitor centre for Tegg’s Nose Country Park. Sunshine still abounded though my memory would have me believe that everything has clouded over, such are the tricks that can be played on you. The way from Tegg’s Nose back home is one that I have taken that I hardly is worth mentioning. That also may explain how I have so little to say about it because other memories could take over even if it did.

All in all, the day was a satisfying one that produced a good collection of pleasing photos. Dan Kieran may have written in his book “The Idle Traveller” that he trusts the evolution of memories in his mind more than photos when recalling his travels. When your recollections are gap-filled like mine, then photos really come into their own when rebuilding something to recall afterwards. There are those who reckon that they may take from the overall experience but that is not how I feel, especially when looking at them again brings its share of satisfaction after the passage of time. Anything that fuels future happy reminisces has to be good.

A walk that itself recalled numerous trots around Shutlingsloe

Monday, September 25th, 2017

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.

Looking back towards Tegg's Nose, Langley, Cheshire, England

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.

Sign in Macclesfield Forest, Cheshire, England

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.

Forest Chapel, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

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.

Road sign passed on Easter Monday 2015, Forest Chapel, Cheshire, England

Looking towards Cat and Fiddle, Forest Chapel, Cheshire, England

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.

Looking out over Trentabeck Reservoir, Langley, Cheshire, England

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.

Cats Tor and Shining Tor, Cheshire, England

View north from summit of Shutlingsloe, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

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.

Ridgegate Reservoir, Langely, Cheshire, England

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.

A weekend spent in England’s northeast

Monday, July 24th, 2017

The previous posting on this blog may have been a sunnier reprise of a walk that I did before but what I describe here is not of that ilk. Firstly, I decided to stay in Newcastle on a Saturday night. Though my initial explorations along the Tyne were done after dark, I liked enough of what I saw that another visit would not go amiss. On Sunday, I took myself off to Bamburgh to see its famous castle and walk from there to Belford, enjoying bright sunshine for much of the time.

2014-10-11

Initial notes on here updated my recollection of this trip. For instance, I never recall having played with the idea of a weekend among the Brecon Beacons or that a delayed start put paid to notions of a walk around Rothbury that took in nearby Simonside. What I remember much more clearly is what actually happened.

For one thing, there was an overnight stay in Newcastle that allowed for a bit of strolling along the banks of the River Tyne. It was then that I got to realising just how near Newcastle and Gateshead actually are and that the former of these is a not unpretty place. It helps that there has been some urban regeneration with a new footbridge across the river and that a tower belonging to the castle giving the place its name still stands in spite of the depredations of railway building.

Much of my wandering took place after dark so I made it my business to see things in morning light before I headed north the next day. Still, seeing everywhere lit up has its appeal too and there were plenty about the place. It was not only those out for the night on the town for a cancer charity was holding a night walk and I made it my business to be out of the way before that hoard set off on its way. The repeated booming of the line “Stand up to Cancer” was a little too extrovert for my tastes but it still told me that I had time before the charity stroll was to begin. In the event, I was largely out of the way before things really got going so my own amble was a pleasant one.

2014-10-12

After that quick morning stroll along the Tyne, it was time for me to get to Berwick-upon-Tweed by train. It would have been more complicated if I had been going to Scotland for there were engineering works between Berwick and Edinburgh so it was just as well that my sights were on Northumberland instead.

Bamburgh Castle, Bamburgh, Northumberland, England

Before travelling onward from Berwick by bus, I took the chance to potter around the place in the morning sunshine, peering at its bridges as I did so. Then, it was time to continue to Bamburgh where its castle awaited. It did not take long to find once there since Bamburgh is not at all large and it is situated atop a hillock.

Rather than going into see the castle on a wonderful sunny day, I opted to stroll around it instead. First, I headed a little south along the road and crossed to the beach through grassy dunes. Only the faded colours of the grasses gave any hint that this was autumn and not summer. Given where the sun was as the time, this also was the best vantage point for photos with good lighting and I was to find that the usual photos that you see published need to be made at another time of day, more likely morning.

Inner Farne, Bamburgh, Northumberland, England

Lindisfarne as seen from Bamburgh, Northumberland, England

It was when I got onto the beach that I was discover that last fact but there were other sights to see. In hindsight, it might have been better to have had a camera with a telephoto lens for some of these. Even capturing views of the Inner Farne would have been helped but it was the more distant ones of a well lit Lindisfarne where the usefulness really would have been seen. Still, it was good to get what I got and to savour what lay about me anyway.

It was around Harkess Rocks where I was to see the classic view of Bamburgh Castle and realise that this was not the time for my own version of such an image. It was no disappointment given what I had got from the day already and I was about to rejoin the Northumberland Coast Path that was set to carry me all the way to Belford.

That conveyed me around the coast as far as Budle Bay while largely avoiding the Bamburgh Castle Golf Club course before I was directed inland towards the B1342. That gave me a chance to look back at the castle where my walk began and it had fallen into cloud shadow. Since I was to head downhill from Galliheugh Bank, this was to be my last sighting for the day.

Outchester Ducket, Belford, Northumberland, England

The sea was not to be seen much as I headed for Spindlestone Heughs by footpath and road. Near Outchester, I got to see more of the sea again but there also was a curiosity in the form of an old windmill called the Outchester Ducket. The word “ducket” is a local form of dovecot so that makes the name an unusual one for what is now a building let put as tourist accommodation.

Passing Outchester Farm led me along quiet roads and public rights of way towards the East Coast Mainline that I had to cross to reach Belford. Rather than over a bridge as might be found on the West Coast Mainline, this crossing went straight across the tracks, a striking thought given the chance of an accident. Before making my crossing, I used the provided phone to check if I could cross and did the same on the other side to let them know that I was safely across. The latter was as much for sake of courtesy as anything else.

After that Belford was near at hand under cloudy skies with more industrial surroundings for company for much of the last stretch of what had been a pleasing walk with much bright sunshine. It is how Bamburgh Castle and how the nearby coastline looked in the sun that is what I remember. It was a much needed interlude of brightness in a life with a lot happening.

Travel Arrangements

Train journey from Macclesfield to Newcastle with an overnight stop before continuing by train from Newcastle to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Outbound bus journey from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Bamburgh followed by a return bus journey from Belford to Berwick-upon-Tweed before going from there to Macclesfield.


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