A long distance route on my doorstep: Gritstone Trail30th August 2007
As if to prove that long-distance trails can be found anywhere, there is one in east Cheshire that passes not far from where I live. This is the 35 mile (56 km) Gritstone Trail and it starts at Disley before following the western fringes of the Peak District all the way to Kidsgrove in North Staffordshire.
While it is possible to complete it in two days, spreading it over three days seems a sounder proposition. Suggested sections are shown by the overview maps listed below. They live on the website of Cheshire County Council who maintain the route; smart new waymarking signs have been erected recently so they are looking after it. There is a cloud hanging over the future if HM Government has its way: CCC and all borough councils are to be replaced by two unitary authorities for East Cheshire and West Cheshire. We’ll see how things go…
The trouble with things local to you is that you don’t pay them the sort of attention that they would get if they were further away. As if to prove the point, my progress along the GT was far from concerted until very recently. That said, there have been longer walks along the route and ones that come to mind include: Bollington to Disley, Rainow to Sutton Common, Tegg’s Nose to Kerridge, Sutton Common to The Cloud (not far from Bosley or Congleton) and The Cloud to Kidsgrove. As it happens, there have been many other shorter ones where I followed it, particularly on the stretch between Kerridge and Sutton Common. In fact, it was a short stroll between Bollington and Kerridge that completed the trail for me. Yes, there are times when I do allow things to become that bitty…
Here are some details of the longer ambles:
Bollington to Disley
This was one of those first of the year strolls on a January day with some snow on the ground. In fact, the thoughts of sunny skies with snow about could have been what tempted me out in the first place. In the event, the sun never did make it through the clag that abounded on that day. Field trekking was the order of the day between Bollington and Brink Farm and that seemed to take the longest, possibly because progress along a good track took me to Lyme Park felt a bit quicker. It was getting dark as I made my way from Lyme Park into Disley but I do seem to remember that the skies had cleared by then. What I more keenly remember is my lazy testing of boots on a patch of ice: the result momentarily involved having my legs positioned above my hips. I need say no more…
Tegg’s Nose to Kerridge
From a start of year stroll to an end of year one, a sunny December afternoon tempted me to walk from my house to Tegg’s Nose and I drank in the views from there: Shutlingsloe was clearly visible in the winter sunshine. A spot of down and up progress took me by Rainow from where it was uphill as I made my way towards the White Nancy, a folly usually painted white that is one of Cheshire’s most famous landmarks. It used to be possible to enter it but vandalised put paid to that opportunity. Speaking of vandalism, someone must have thought it funny to paint the thing pink once; it got a mention in the Macclesfield Express but the good people of Kerridge and Bollington were anything but amused.
Rainow to Sutton Common
A hot sultry August day saw me have grand designs on a walk from Rainow to Rushton Spencer. Everything was going fine as I plied my way from Rainow, navigational challenges being overcome as I went, until I started making my way up Foxes Bank and Sutton Common. Feeling less than 100% on Sutton Common itself, I decided to return home at that point and a little lie down was enough to restore order: Walking on hot sunny days is never the best plan but the prospect of pleasant weather still seems to draw me out. Another valuable lesson learnt…
Sutton Common to The Cloud
The walk actually started out from my house with a variety of connecting footpaths being used to reach my starting point on the GT. The day was to be a hot and dry affair with the sun making its way from behind the clouds at times. This journey took me round by Langley until I reached Foxbank Farm. However, my rendezvous with the GT was to be delayed as a result of subsidence on the way up to Sutton Common. So, more footpath and road tramping followed before I was to reach the A54 and the trail in question, busily resolving any navigation uncertainties that raised their heads along the way. It was to some time before I left tarmac behind, though, as I enjoyed the views from the quiet Minn End Line before I headed back onto more foot friendly surfaces at Hawkslee. The off-road hiking was set to continue, apart from crossing the A523 near Rushton Spencer, until I found myself on the private road leading to Raven’s Clough. Feeling the effects of my exertions on what was by now a hot and sunny August afternoon, I elected not to surmount The Cloud on my way to Congleton but to stick with the tarmac option. A short wait in Congleton preceded a non-too-long way home for a well deserved after walk rest.
The Cloud to Kidsgrove
A short bus ride dropped me off sooner than I expected and I was about to continue along the road to get my bearings when a friendly gentleman put my mind to rest. My walk was starting in Eaton and I was using the Dane Valley Way to reach where I left the GT on my previous journey along its length. The DVW is yet another of Cheshire’s longer distance paths and actually begins in Derbyshire, Buxton to be more precise, before it reaches the source of the said river and follows it to Middlewich in the centre of the county. Once I overcame my navigational doubts – there was another a little further on from my starting point that was soon answered without any inconvenience to anyone else, it was uneventful hiking all the way to the slopes of The Cloud. It is not a very high hill and it slopes were soon ascended, and the top was ablaze with flowering heather and panoramic views were in ample supply. I even took some lunch atop it with the sounds of silage making percolating up from below.
Having got away from the delights of The Cloud, I dropped down to Timbersbrook, where a former industrial site is now a delightful woodland park. A spot of field crossing took me on to the bed of the former Biddulph-Congleton railway. After a short stroll along its level length, I was to leave it for a climb up Congleton Edge on my way to Mow Cop. Again, views over the Cheshire Plain were offered in abundance. Having an older edition of OS Explorer 268 with me, I had to keep my concentration up since it showed the GT terminating in Mow Cop. Though I still broadly knew where I should have been going, I kept my eye out for any helpful waymarks; there was no problem as the authorities have been dutiful. I reached Scholar Green and picked the first of the canal paths that were to take me all the way to Kidsgrove train station; Kidsgrove is where the Macclesfield Canal meets the Trent & Mersey one.
It was a successful end to a day that began with somewhat doubtful looking skies that produced a dusting of rain as I neared The Cloud. Though clouds abounded, the day remained dry from then on and the sun was able to make its appearance at times. Even so, the temperatures never truly exceeded those suitable for walking.
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