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: Cheshire

Wandering around by the Roaches

Sunday, 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.

Brough Park, Leek, Staffordshire, England

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.

Tittesworth Reservoir, Upper Hulme, Staffordshire, England

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.

Hen Cloud, Upper Hulme, Staffordshire, England

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.

Doxey Pool, The Roaches, Upper Hulme, Staffordshire, England

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.

Ramshaw Rocks, Upper Hulme, Staffordshire, England

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.

Trig point and weathered rocky outcrops, The Roaches, Upper Hulme, Staffordshire, England

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.

Roache End as seen from near Allgreave, Cheshire, England

Ramshaw Rocks as seen from near Allgreave, Cheshire, England

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 streetlights 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.

Travel Arrangements

Bus service 109 from Macclesfield to Leek.

Hiking the Sandstone Trail

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

2007 saw me complete the Gritstone Trail but it took me until the summer of 2010 to follow up on its western counterpart by purchasing a guidebook. After that, it was not until December 2015 that I got to walking along any part of the Sandstone Trail. The 34 mile or 55 km length is similar to that of the Gritstone Trail it links Frodsham in Cheshire with Whitchurch in Shropshire by means of a crossing of the sandstone escarpment that divides Cheshire.

Getting There and Away

One of the things that forestalled any explorations of the Sandstone Trail for real was lack of knowledge regarding public transport arrangements. Other causes such as the wearying intrusions of life were responsible too but the transport arrangements puzzle was to be solved using Monday to Saturday bus services 41 and 41A running between Chester and Whitchurch. Calling points such as Tattenhall and Hampton Heath were to prove invaluable with the latter avoiding any need to set foot in Malpas, though it would make a pleasant spot to visit.

With the bus transport puzzle solved, the railways were to play their part. Frodsham, Delamere and Whitchurch are well served while Chester became somewhere from which to catch onward bus connections. For train travel, the Cheshire Day Ranger ticket proved invaluable for getting to my starting points from Macclesfield without having to depend on single tickets. Stations where changes of train were needed such as Crewe, Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly were covered, which added to any peace of mind.

A Purposeful Division

The length of the Sandstone Trail is such that it is possible to walk it in two long days if you are pressed for time. That makes it a possibility for a weekend though it hardly is best to be rushing a countryside hike. Runners proceed at a different pace and should be able to complete it in a single strenuous day and I know of some who have done the same with the Gritstone Trail.

Sandstone Trail Milepost at Manley Common, Cheshire, England

My own pace is a much gentler one than this and it is curious that I walked the Sandstone Trail during autumn and winter. This meant shorter hours of sunlight and light had faded to darkness by the time some of my walks came to an end. It shows that possession of a headtorch is no excessive load during such months.

Apart from the first piece between Delamere Forest and Frodsham that I completed on the first Monday in December 2015, the others were done on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the same week in 2017. That made travel connections a little bit easier and meant that I started during the last days of October and finished in early November. This also was the mid-term break for schools in the Cheshire West & Chester borough so there were family groups out and about in some parts of my route.

Strangely, the idea of walking south from Delamere to Whitchurch in one sweep came into my head but good sense prevailed and I left the trail near Peckforton to reach Tattenhall in the dark. The same thing happened with the next stretch that returned me to the trail from Tattenhall before better reason got me to the bus stop at Hampton Heath after a great day of elevated strolling. It was just as well since navigation needed care between Hampton Heath and the Llangollen Canal.

With my four part route splitting explained, I will describe the walks themselves. The first section preceded a time of unfulfilling work combined with much to sort in Ireland while the rest happened during a much needed career break. In its own way, the Sandstone Trail book-ended a tumultuous time in my life.

Delamere Forest to Frodsham

Towards the end of 2015, I have outstanding annual leave to use. The prospect of legal works in connection with my late father’s estate was the cause of my hoarding the remaining days and there were two separate weeks away from work as a result.

The first was in November and the days were used to facilitate an elongated weekend spent around Warwick, Stratford-upon-Avon and Bath as well as a day trip to York. In between these, I had time to address such things as a mobile phone upgrade and the purchase of a new laptop computer. The second week facilitated a trip to Ireland and that was preceded by my first encounter with the Sandstone Trail.

It was a bright Monday after a run of grey days that saw me head to Delamere Forest Park by train. Still, sunshine was not ever present so it did not become a day for much in the way of photography. Passage through woodland limited things further as it so often does. Nevertheless, the need for a day away from ongoing cares overshadowed any possibility of disappointment.

On leaving the train, I made for the Baker Way. This took me past a cafe and one car park to reach a lane leading to another one. Once beyond the latter, I was following a forestry track with no chance of any encounter with motorised traffic. Even on this weekday, there were folk pottering about without their presence introducing any sense of intrusion.

In time, I reached the junction with the Sandstone Trail and turned right since I was destined for Frodsham. It was to be the most of two years before I was take the left turning for a southbound hike. That was unknown to me in 2015 so I continued north through the woods.

Blakemere Moss was passed unperceived but I do recall the subsequent road crossing. All was quiet but I been along the lane before while cycling from Macclesfield to Chester in 2010. That was of a Sunday and I still remember the sight of numerous parked cars. It showed that Delamere Forest Park is a well used amenity that must be valued by many.

Delamere Forest Park, Cheshire, England

There was more tree-lined tramping to come on the way to Manley Common. The route may have been rambling but good progress was made nonetheless. In fact, there was plenty of time around aforementioned collection of houses before I got some road walking out of the way before crossing a field to reach yet another road from which I was released around Simmond’s Hill. Just a little way along a lane let to some off road walking that continued after another lane crossing.

Sign on seat near Alvanley Cliff, Alvanley, Cheshire, England

While pottering along the way past woodland surrounding Alvanley Cliff, everyday life intruded with a phone call from my solicitor in Ireland. Later in the week, I would need to meet him but that was pushed to the future as I continued on my way after surveying a touching sign on a bench that lay by the trail. It was getting late in the day and I needed to reach Frodsham.

After two more road crossings, I was under tree cover yet again. My journey was to take me through Snidley Moor Wood and around Woodhouse Hill. Feeling buried inside woodland, Frodsham felt much further away than it actually was. These are good places to linger since modern life appears so far away.

Though the map clearly showed the trail following the line of the escarpment, there remained scope for wandering off its line. Woodland can have this effect so it often is better to get your direction right and not worry too much about precision beyond that. It was an approach that would serve me well on the final stages of my walk.

Arriving at the War Memorial on Beacon Hill above Frodsham around sunset reduced any scope for photography but there remained pleasing views over Frodsham Marsh towards the Mersey and Weaver rivers as well as those of Helsby Hill to the west. After enjoying those, it was time to drop into the town and find its train station. All this was completed before light finally failed and my train home did not leave me waiting for too long. Though relatively gentle, the saunter had been a delight.

Delamere Forest to Tattenhall

Much of 2016 saw the continuation of important time-bound work in Ireland that often saw contacts made from over there late in the working day or even later than that again. Such intrusion often meant that resting after a day of work was not as easy as it once was for there was a continued sense of being on call. Seeing something at the end of the working week often felt dispiriting for having personal space at weekends was more sought than it ever was. Now that I look back at it, the problem was that my working life felt a chore anyway so leisure time was much needed while also being much reduced.

There was some such work ongoing during the autumn of 2017 too though it was far less pressured. Mainly, it pertained to paperwork though some improvements to a house in Ireland had been ongoing too. Maybe that is why I had been choosing Sundays for walks in the Dark Peak and the possibility of an Irish bank holiday was seized as an opportunity to take in another part of the Sandstone Trail.

It started with a return to Delamere Forest, much busier than it was on my previous visit. Because it was mid-term break time in Cheshire West & Chester borough, the woods were full of the exuberant sounds of children. During my reprise of the Baker Way from Delamere train station, an enquiry regarding the whereabouts of Go Ape came my way and I reckon that I sent them the right way though I stuck with continuing on my way without checking.

It might seem odd now but my quest was some peace and quiet. Simpler pleasures like walking in woods or through other parts of the countryside suffice for me so I have little need for activity-based attractions like Go Ape. Continuing away from noisier parts drew me to the junction with the Sandstone Trail where I turned left to pass Eddisbury Lodge.

Surroundings grew ever quieter as I continued towards a crossing of the A556. This was more like what I was seeking and I reckoned that the busy road would present a barrier to family groups too. More and more satisfaction was being earned all the while.

Getting across that road was a tricky manoeuvre that had me wondering if a bridge over it was in order like in other places. Fast moving traffic on a broad carriageway made the prospect feel more like crossing a motorway. Patience was much needed to find any opportunity for a crossing and fortitude then helped to complete the act. Doing so was passing a point of no return.

Though passage through pastoral countryside lay ahead of me, much of this was by means of holloways that left one detached from the surrounding fields within a cocoon of tree cover. At least, that is how it felt as I passed through Primrose Wood with only occasional other strollers instead of the perceived throng that I had met earlier in the day. The added detached from that circumstance was reinforced when I finally reached Tirley Lane.

Height had been gained too so views had opened out over the Cheshire Plain where other obstructions allowed. My lot was the following of a well waymarked trail around fields and woods while crossing from lane to lane. As well as being pastoral, the countryside also was tilled. It was a point that passage through muddy fields of harvested maize brought home to me and there was even a field that was being ploughed and I crossing it.

All the while, I enjoyed the afternoon while pondering transport arrangements. Arriva Northwest was experiencing a strike that was resolved later in the year so leaving the trail to reach such places as Tarporley was not an option. As the day wore along, any daydreams about continuing as far as Whitchurch met a similar fate.

Beeston Castle in silhouette, Cheshire, England

Landmarks such as the A51 (thankfully easier to cross than the A556) came and went while conurbations such as Tarporley and Hand Green scarcely add themselves to memory. Near Hand Green, I crossed the Shropshire Union Canal and passed under a nearby railway line along which I often have travelled between Crewe and Chester. The countryside now was more familiar even if I had not trodden thereabouts before then. Beeston Castle lay ahead me after becoming more prominent as I got closer to it.

Though an English Heritage site, the hour of day meant that I was not stopping there. There was a halt though after my spotting a strand of wire left across my planned route. Uncertainty descended on me so I returned to the reassurance of a signpost. In the meantime, the reason for the obstruction became apparent. Young cattle were being driven from a farmyard into a field. The farm moving the animals shouted a “Thank you” in my direction so my discretion was rewarded. From my own upbringing on a farm, I know how the presence of a stranger can mess up such operations so staying back is best.

With the wire removed, I continued on my way to the lane that led me around the foot of hill on which Beeston Castle is built. Soon enough, that was left too and I was planning how to end my walk once I had got as far as the foot of Peckforton Hills. It was near there that I left the Sandstone Trail after me.

Staying on the lane and the the subsequent track took me all of the way into Pennsylvania Wood where I should not have gone by rights. In my gathering haste, a sign had been misread and a friendly estate worker helpfully put me right after asking where I was headed. Continuing into the wood brought me to another right of way that conveyed me to Wood Farm. Pheasants were roosting for the night so it was not ideal but I had permission to continue and was soon away from where I was spooking any nearby birds. Hopefully, they settled after my passing.

More careful navigation got me onto Wood Lane so I was on tarmac again and would be road walking for the rest of the way to Tattenhall. What was gathering in my mind was a sense of irritation at my earlier lapse of concentration. More pressing, light was failing so a headtorch was needed to light much of the way.

From Wood Lane, I turned left onto Birds Lane before eventually right onto Burwardsley Road for the final approach to Tattenhall. Despite the growing darkness, I still could track my progress and satisfied myself that I would be in time for the next bus to Chester. Thankfully, roads were not so busy either and I made my bus with time to spare. The walk had been a good one and any sense of embarrassment and bewilderment following my navigational faux pas was turned into impetus for finishing the trail.

Tattenhall to Hampton Heath

It was a sense of annoyance at Monday’s misnavigation that caused me to return to Tattenhall on Wednesday. There may have been emails flying around about tax affairs but there was space between these for attending to other things. An irritation had to be salved and a repeat visit was the cure. Episodes of sunshine were to brighten my mood as much as regaining a lost sense of navigational competence or being delighted by hilly surroundings.

Beeston Castle, Cheshire, England

The start was where the previous walk ended and, this time, I avoided road walking as much as I could. The advantage of having bright daylight meant that only map reading stood in my way and a first field crossing eased any nerves. Several more of these were needed before Dark Lane was reached and many had views of Beeston Castle as if to confirm that I was heading in the right direction. Crossing Burwardsley Lane brought me more field tramping until I reached Carrs Lane. My boots were well wet after all the plodding through damp grass and there could have been a blunder if attention had not been maintained for crossing from one side of the hedge to another was in order.

The day was passing quicker than was ideal while all this was done so I did not delay along Carrs Lane, Birds Lane and Wood Lane. Leaving tarmac behind me, I again frequented where I had gone the previous time. This time around, I skirted Pennsylvania Wood rather than passing through it like before. Passing where I made my previous error, I retraced my steps to reach where I had left the Sandstone Trail only two days before.

Rejoining it, I went through gates into the Peckforton Estate and enjoyed following a clear track with all the annoyance of Monday’s slight misadventure being exorcised. There were others ahead but they stopped to consider their plans and I overtook them. Height was gained and rewards enjoyed in the form of westward views over the surrounding plain. That added altitude was to be retained as I continued along the edge of the Peckforton Hills.

Bulkley Hill was the first of two National Trust properties that I crossed and it had collected more folk than I had encountered up to that point. Exactitude with route finding was overlooked in favour of keeping near the edge of an escarpment that offered eastward views over the Cheshire Plain. Tree cover was plentiful so paths were not so distinct.

Bickerton Hill, Cheshire, England

Leaving Bulkley Hill brought me out into more open countryside before I again reached a slither of tree cover that would accompany me to Raw Head, the highest point of the whole trail where I tarried a bit in spite of both the time of day and much farther I was to travel. Soon enough, I continued on my downhill way towards the A534 after which more road walking took me to my second National Trust property, Bickerton Hill.

Light was growing more golden by now as the sun lowered towards the horizon. That added to the enjoyment of my surroundings once more height was gained. Again, more folk were out and about but they were soon lost when I dropped down to pursue a course that would take me around the base of the hill. In between all of this, I passed plaques memorialising the lady whose loss caused her husband to give this land to the National Trust. These too were touching affairs drawn from fond memories.

Before I left woodland for pasture, there was a call from my solicitor about some business but it was no intrusion. The timing was as impeccable as my location and it was good news too. Crossing a field afterwards lost more height before a lane crossing saw me continue around by Larkton Hall and Manor House (with its own horse training facilities that needed negotiation) to reach Shay Lane.

Scotching a daydream about torch-lit continuation to Whitchurch, I again left the Sandstone Trail to get to where I could catch a bus. Malpas was in my mind as a plausible destination but I was to do better than that. Staying on tarmac, I followed Shay Lane and then Cholmondley Road before making a careful crossing of the busy A41. To my surprise, I was to find a bus stop that saved me needing to go to Malpas. Taking a calculated risk, I waited there in the knowledge that there was a later bus if my gamble did not pay off. In the event, it did and I was on my way home after a satisfying hike along one of the best parts of the Sandstone Trail.

Hampton Heath to Whitchurch

Though that Friday looked dull and largely stayed that way, the prospect of completing the Sandstone Trail proved too strong. From looking at my map, I knew that I would be walking through pastoral countryside anyway. That meant that there would not be so much to occupy my camera so the absence of sunshine would not cause much in the way of irritation.

After arriving at Hampton Heath, I found a better crossing point on the A41 so that proved easier than the one before it. Then, it became a matter of following lanes until I reached where I left the trail only two days before. Though I had intended otherwise, I ended up reaching Shay Lane by way of Ashtons-cross and it was not to matter much.

Once I was travelling how I wanted, Hampton Green was only a few field crossings away. A ploughed field made the way across it look less clear so my adherence to the intended line was less exact than I would have liked. As well as having a machine working there, there was a farmer inspecting the work so I set aside any inclinations towards exactitude and continued on my way. In any event, the farmer paid me no heed even if tried a quiet greeting so I got the impression that I was unwanted so I kept going.

Straight line progress conveyed me to the next lane crossing from where I went around Bickley Hall Farm on the way to Chads Farm where maize harvesting was in progress. Though the trail goes right through the farmyard, I opted for a diversionary concessionary path given how busy it was there and how I dislike passing through other people’s yards anyway. There may have been some reproach in my mind for doing this but that faded, partly because route finding took a little more effort and convinced me that attempting this in the dark might not have been the best of ideas. The undulating nature of the terrain and the weaving line of the route saw to that.

Once I got across Willeymoor Lane, it was not long before I found myself nearing the banks of the Llangollen Canal. Navigation duties were relaxed as I merely turned in the right direction and kept going. Shropshire was not so far away now and sunlight momentarily relieved what had been a grey November day. Others were out strolling too and increased in number, the nearer I came to Whitchurch. Each landmark was ticked off in an effort to assess progress as signage became more sparse. In fact, signs for the Shropshire Way were to take precedence over those for the Sandstone Trail.

Even so, I found my way from the canal into Whitchurch easily enough even though I did not find any indication of the end of the trail that I had been following. Having had my fill of walking, I resolved to continue into the town centre and find the train station from where I made my way home. News came from Ireland that some business was completed over there before the train arrived so that was another cause of satisfaction.

Possible Future Encounters

When I completed the Gritstone Trail in 2007, it did not stop me traipsing the countryside in its vicinity. In fact, some parts are so near my home that such a thing would be impossible. Following the entire length of the Sandstone Trail could have something similar because there are parts that are worth seeing again. Trekking along a route sometimes limits how long you stay anywhere and I would like to revisit Beeston Castle, the Peckforton Hills and Bickerton Hill again. Shorter strolls that allow more time for photography would be a bonus around these parts. Seeing more of Delamere Forest and the wooded escarpment near Frodsham would pay their dividends. Often, an initial encounter makes for future visits and this may happen yet with these locations. Much good walking was enjoyed in an area that was largely new to me and that is how good memories get made. There is much continual need for them.

Incidental ambles

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

The start of a new year can be a useful time to take stock of life. January can be a month that some find too quiet but it has its uses as I am finding out for myself. A current career break means that I have added occasion to think over what I would like to do for a living. After five years of family bereavements followed by responsibilities added through inheritance, there is plenty of reason for this. What had not been obvious to me is that my last job was not a match and the experience left its mark, one that needs to be overcome.

Throughout all of this, I am not forgetting that I am an explorer at heart. There has been time to catch up on reading and I now have my fill of travel writing so I will not be lured into book purchases as easily as before. More discernment could be the way of things for me and that cannot be so bad when finances need to be kept in check during times like this hiatus from work.

Also, I have been travelling around England and Wales collecting ideas for walking trips like Roseberry Topping and Pumlumon Fawr. Surveying the countryside about the latter brought me the added benefit of a short if muddy stroll around Llangurig. Visiting nearby Rhayader is another thought and a short stay in Aberystwyth could facilitate more than initially had come to mind. Other parts of the Welsh River Wye are ripe for exploring too and the hills of the Black Mountain in the western side of the Brecon Beacons could be another tempting idea.

City visits to Edinburgh and Cardiff have come to pass. In the middle of the latter, the banks of the River Taff offered an oasis of calm with Llandaff Cathedral feeling as if it is in a country rather than where it is. Bute Park was another delight that makes me wonder why it took so long for me to make an independent visit to the place and there is Cardiff Castle if I wanted to include that as part of a return visit. There is plenty there for cyclists too and I am not surprised that bicycle hire is available.

Those city wanderings remind me that there have been times during the last few years when energy for more strenuous outings has not been as readily available. Edinburgh has featured quite a few times and there are regular haunts nearer my home in Macclesfield. Knutsford’s Tatton Park, Disley’s Lyme Park together with Macclesfield’s Tegg’s Nose Country Park and Dane’s Moss Nature Reserve all have been places where quick visits offered respite from life’s tumult when enthusiasm for longer trips was not to be found. The same could be said for more urban spots like Buxton, Chester, Sheffield and even Manchester. Anywhere where a coffee can be enjoyed away home has had its uses.

Strolls on my own doorstep like circuits taking in Prestbury all had their uses when my head needed clearing, like on Christmas Eve during my first ever Christmas spent in Macclesfield. That was a stormy affair, as much in my mind as it was out of doors. When a brighter interlude offered, it did not need much persuasion for me to head out on a longer round that linked Tegg’s Nose, the Saddle of Kerridge and the White Nancy. It became just the breather that I needed at the time.

The last few months have been as much about exorcising hurtful memories as anything else. That included the past Christmas and New Year period when it felt more normal than others. Trips to Tatton Park, Manchester and Lincoln all broke up the flow and I also got learning that camping stoves should be used out of doors too, a misadventure that I have no relish for repeating.

Getting past that was like everything else in life in recent times. 2017 became a year when I lightened some of life’s load so I need to think ahead now. Getting an enjoyable and fulfilling work life is one thing and my zest for exploring countryside continues. Overseas excursions could restart yet since I am making my way through Kev Reynolds’ Walking in the Alps at the moment and there is his The Swiss Alps, The Pyrenees and Trekking in the Alps after that. That lot should keep me going for a while yet and I am not overlook what hill country is nearer to hand either.

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.


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