A trot atop tors19th December 2007
The prospect of some winter sunshine last Thursday had me taking a day off work for a spot of walking after my near hibernation for November. I rifled my way through the possibilities in my head before arriving at the idea of heading to Keswick and then Borrowdale. That plan never came to fruition, though, and I ended up embarking on a local stroll instead. The more adventurous plan remains a good prospect for the future…
That local stroll was to take me along the hills lining the Cheshire-Derbyshire border in the cold, chilly clearness and with a certain amount of concentration so as not to slip on any ice or mud. While up high, ice was the main concern, with flags attracting hoar frost and any water collected on tracks and paths was frozen. In contrast, slippery mud was cause for attention on downhill sections towards the end of the walk. All the while, I was well wrapped up and enjoying the sights.
My starting point was the Cat and Fiddle Inn, the second-highest pub in England and a short bus ride from the centre of Macclesfield, and the idea in my head was to redo part of a walk that once returned me to Macclesfield by way of Shining Tor, Pym Chair and Rainow in cloudier conditions. The idea of seeing the landscape around Cat’s Tor and Pym Chair in better light was enough to encourage me. This time, instead of returning to Rainow from Pym Chair, I continued to Kettleshulme by way of Windgather Rocks and Taxal Edge. I could have finished in Kettleshulme but, given that there was an hour or so of daylight left, I opted to continue to Whaley Bridge via Toddbrook Reservoir and avoiding the B5470 as much as I could.
This is hill country that I have frequented on a number of different occasions, and with my following a slightly different route each time. For instance, the start of last Thursday’s walk was also the start of a walk to Buxton via Errwood Reservoir in the Goyt Valley. I left that track for a path up Shining Tor. That path is a good one, though it is showing signs of wear with webbing meant to support the path appearing above the gravel in some places as it crosses very boggy terrain, a fact reinforced by the sight of a very bogged down DK55-registered Massey Ferguson tractor. I assume that its owners will be back for it, but it is telling that even a four-wheel drive tractor cannot manage these conditions.
The boggy theme was continued with the appearance of flagstones underfoot, a situation very much reminiscent of parts of the Pennine Way. A gentle descent and ascent saw me to Cat’s Tor, though the appearance of hoar frost on the flags concentrated the mind. That didn’t stop me making the most of the photographic opportunities offering by a sun using the clouds to play hide and seek. I made up for earlier when the likelihood of lens flare reduced the possibilities when it came to capturing views of Shutlingsloe.
Suggesting sounder ground, the flags were lost after Cat’s Tor and road was encountered at Pym Chair. At this point, I headed to Kettleshulme rather than Rainow as was the case of my previous trip. The ground was more or less thawed out from here onwards. A mixture of public and permissive paths got me to Windgather Rocks where more photographic action took place before continuing the public/permissive path and tarmac mixture, I reached Kettleshulme. Having more daylight with which to play, I chose to continue to Whaley Bridge. Although I largely avoided the remarkably unpleasant B5470, the tarmac/footpath mixture continued and care with a muddy descent to reach Todd Brook meant that I didn’t more mud than I did. My journey was eventually to take me by Toddbrook Reservoir while making for Whaley Bridge and its train station. A railway journey round by Stockport was enough to get a very satisfied Irishman home.
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