An alternative option that didn’t disappoint15th June 2009
I suppose that it might be easier if I lived in Greater Manchester but early Sunday morning getaways from Macclesfield are an impossibility if you are dependent on public transport. Buses don’t move until around 09:00 and train companies must regard Maxonians as right layabouts given that nothing runs north until at least 10:30 (saying that, earlier starts are possible, again at ca. 09:00, if you are heading south). The situation may not be the best but I often contend with it in place of settling into a rant.
That reality means that I need to keep ambitions in check to get something from a Sunday’s wanderings; staying near to home is best. Saying that, the longer hours of daylight mean that you can gain quite a lot even with a later start and my start on the Spring Bank Holiday weekend’s Sunday was tardy. Still, my mind did turn to the idea of popping over to Baslow for a spot of northward hiking to one of the stations on the Hope Valley railway line. In the event, a late bus ensured that connections were to be missed so I popped down to Leek instead. The idea of a long stroll to Buxton became a plaything for my mind before I saw sense and decided to walk home instead, an equally long hike but any concerns about missing trains or buses home can be set to one side when your own exertions are taking you back to your own doorstep again.
The route was to be a variation on a theme taken for a yomp from Leek home on a December day a few years ago, my first proper outing in Staffordshire as it happens. That time, I got benighted on the last stretches, but presence of mind allowed a head torch to light the way and I also helped my cause by sticking to road walking rather than “fooling” around in fields in the dark. This time around, there was much less of the tarmac bashing and I was well home before light failed.
As ever with starting from a town centre, some street navigation was in order before softer surfaces were reached on Leek’s outer reaches. In places, this can require concentration by my vague recollections were enough to see me as far as Haregate where I found a public footpath. Crossing pasture and meadow, the strength of the sun was by now unmistakable. Benches with health messages were placed at irregular intervals along the way. It’s an interesting idea but I was left wondering if they were preaching about the benefits of regular walking to the converted rather than the sedentary types who could do with seeing them. Saying that, I suppose that a spot of encouragement never goes amiss.
The growing season already had been busily obscuring man-made objects like road signs, but public footpaths are far from immune too and it only takes a meadow to obscure the line of a public right of way. Also, my upbringing on a dairy farm makes me feel uncomfortable trampling grassland without there being a need for it and I stuck with the obvious line of trespass. That led me among more of humanity than is usually my habit as I followed a track that hugged the shoreline of Tittesworth Reservoir closer than others that I have followed in the area. Still, that didn’t take too long and the easier terrain was no harm either, though the indentations probably added to the distance being covered.
The next passing point for me was Meerbrook and tarmac was the surface over which I went from the shores of the reservoir to a public footpath making up part of the Staffordshire Moorlands Walks. The crowds were behind me at this point as I carefully picked my way to Greenlane beneath and beside the Roaches. From there, it was on past Roach Side Farm, again with some attention to route finding so as not to disturb their Sunday afternoon before I found a metalled road again near Roche Grange where I found a mock fortune-teller placed out on the side of the road and in the sun. Though there were other (real) folk enjoying the weather like I was, the road was untravelled by traffic until I found a right of way leading to Clough Farm. More of these were stitched together to take me to Danebridge and the late afternoon grew more pleasant. Before I crossed over the River Dane, I found what can only be described as an installation with more scarecrow-esque characters at a fake bus stop and awaiting an infrequent “buz” with humorous signs added to suit. It was all in jest, even if it was a striking reminder of my plans having been changed for me, and has set me to wondering if there was some sort of scarecrow thing going on in this part of Staffordshire of which I wasn’t aware.
After Danebridge, I was back in Cheshire and it was now into evening time. A more direct off-road option was in mind than the one that I followed but it’s never the slips that make for good navigation but the ability to correct them and that definitely the order of things. Even so, I passed through a short piece of shady woodland and reached Hammerton Farm as planned. From there, it was onto the A54 and the Wild Boar pub, which incidentally had opened up the area at its rear for camping. I left the Congleton-Buxton road for more soft surface travel near Longgutter before tarmac bashing took over again. Again, I was following a quiet lane and with good evening views of Shutlingsloe, Sutton Common and Croker Hill. That lane eventually gave me a footway at Higher Sutton (they turn up in the most unexpected places in Cheshire) and my lane took me ever onward towards Sutton, Macclesfield and home. It may have cooled down noticeably by this time, but there were still groups of hostelry patrons out and about, a grand evening (or night as one farming chap said to me and I thought that you only said that when it was dark; it was equally ironic given that I arrived home in daylight this time around) for it.
Service 108 from Macclesfield to Leek.
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