A winter wander from home to hills and back again21st December 2008
After my sampling of the Howgills the day before, the continuing run of fine if very frosty weather had me out again. This time around, I stayed local and ventured into Macclesfield’s hilly hinterland. In fact, my walk started and ended on my own doorstep and that happens from time to time. Even though my memory of them was far from photographic, the trails followed were ones that I have often trodden but that was never to dull the satisfaction from being in the outdoors, even if non-completion of pre-Christmas chores did nag a little at the back of my mind.
My first task was to make my way into the country and I left the streets behind to follow the towpath beside part of a frozen Macclesfield Canal for a little while. As it happened, I met up with a collection of characters trying to do some fishing. One spotted my walking poles and commented, jokingly I think (well, one of those with him was laughing anyway), that he could do with a loan of them for ice breaking duties. I carried on, noticing the difficulty that ducks were having on the ice, until the point where the canal towpath is shut following the collapse of a wall; there was a man out walking his dog when it happened and he attributes his not being under the rubble to his mutt’s slowing him down!
Following a now familiar itinerary, I then returned to tarmac again as I continued up towards the Macclesfield Golf Club’s clubhouse to pick up a footpath that rounded both the golf course and the hill that played host to it before dropping down to Langley; that secured my escape from the urban confines of Macc. Shutlingsloe could be seen in the distance with Sutton Common and Croker Hill bringing up the rear behind the village of Sutton. The ground was its customary winter softness at this point and an eagle eye was kept out for any wayward greasy spot that would sweep the legs from under me. The descent took me through more sheltered parts where the overnight frost remained.
A hike right through the village of Langley was needed before I found another escape from civilisation. This led me towards the Gritstone Trail but, rather than following it up to the summit of Tegg’s Nose, I opted for a different way. Picking up a bridleway that led me between Teggsnose Reservoir and Bottoms Reservoir, I continued to round yet another hill before starting on the ascent again after crossing a stream that feeds Teggsnose Reservoir, one of those that I had passed earlier. Another road crossing later and I was on to a concessionary path named Saddler’s Way for some reason. The gradient steepened and the views continued to open out until I made my way to a viewpoint at Tegg’s Nose Country Park. A host of humpy stuff with Shutlingsloe among them lay there as a feast for the eyes.
It was at this point that I started on the Gritsone Trail proper for my journey to Kerridge. As I started crossing fields again, winter started to make its presence a little more obvious with snow remaining along by stone walls. Someone had even fashioned an igloo of sorts and the structure was still very much there to see. A crossing of the A537 saw me go down a rough slope that might have offered plenty of greasy mud had it not been for the fact that it was frozen solid. After the steep descent came an equally testing ascent; appropriately a brook lay in the gash that I needed to negotiate.
That set me well on my way towards Rainow and, soon enough, the said village started to come into view. Imperfect memories of the route were refreshed as I went and the B5470 was reached without any navigational madness. The path on the other side of the road took a little finding with the signpost being a little away from the road and nestled between two houses, a combination that makes it easy to miss and goes to prove that you cannot remember everything.
Following that modicum of route finding, the last stretch of steep ascent for the day awaited and it was on frozen east-facing slopes too. If the sun had ever got over Kerridge Hill, it wasn’t managing it while I was scaling it. The reward for these exertions was a level stroll along a ridge replete with generous panoramic views. As if that is insufficient, the folly that is the White Nancy stands atop the Bollington end of the ridge. The landmark is a simple affair that has attracted its share of vandalism over the years; it is a hollow construction but can no longer be entered thanks to the attentions of some. In recent years, there was a prank that involved painting the thing pink, an act not without its amusement value even if it did put the wind up the locals.
More frozen slopes were crossed on the way down to Kerridge and at a time when it could be seen that the day was coming closer to its end. One more road crossing took me onto public footpaths that led me back on to the banks beside a different part of a partially frozen Macclesfield Canal. Light was really fading by now and I changed over to the Middlewood Way for the short distance to the well-lit streets along which I would complete my walk, with a call to a shop for provisions along the way.
Revisiting those familiar trails turned out to be a very good use of one of the cold crisp dry sunny days that can visit us at this time of year. Other folk were out and about too but they weren’t so numerous as to make the countryside feel anything like overcrowded; many good stretches of solitude were there too to soothe the spirit. It just goes to show that you should never overlook what can be reached from your doorstep.