Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Taking a longer way home

28th October 2012

The Bollin Valley Way is one of those long-distance trails that aren’t marked on any OS map that I have encountered. Most do get recognition at some point, but this one seems not to have got it so far. Given that, it’s just as well that good waymarking is a feature of much of its length so as not to have one using an incorrect right of way. However, it is prone to river bank erosion and that saw me confounded at one point on an evening walk last June.

Getting stuck on a bus that took around two hours that should not have taken it longer than forty minutes can put ideas into your head. The cause was a closure of the M6 that forced everyone onto the section of the A34 and traffic ground to a halt because of it. The sight of a Megabus coach going through Wilmslow was a hint of what was coming and there was no Alderley Edge bypass then.

Then, a bicycle ride would have got me from Wilmslow to Macclesfield is less than an hour. However, the length of time taken had me thinking of another option: walking. One winter’s afternoon saw me following the Bollin Valley Way from Macclesfield and I was surprised at how quickly I got to Wilmslow after a lunchtime start. After catching a bus, it still was daylight when I got home. So, it wasn’t that mad an alternative to being on a bus for two hours at all.

At my previous place of employment, there were times when even the longer hours of daylight in late April and early May were enough to get me trotting through the countryside on the way home after a day’s work. Those escapades had me using a variety of rights of way that included sections of the North Cheshire Way as well as the aforementioned Bollin Valley Way.

Placing all of the above thoughts together, I got my act together of an evening this past June and started my evening stroll by the Bollin in The Carrs, a riverside park in Wilmslow, using part of the North Cheshire Way. There was road walking by the town’s old Anglican church and the war memorial garden before crossing under the railway viaduct and the town’s A34 bypass. Negotiating that lot finally landed me in pasture with soft earth underfoot again, always a good prospect.

Weir on River Bollin near Wilmslow, Cheshire, England

Though the path that I was following was not itself a right of way, but that did nothing to stop any others from using it. In fact, there were plenty of joggers about and I was wondering if I was holding them up by being there. Even a stop to survey a weir was not used by them as a means for getting past me, something that surprised me a little at the time.

On the approach to Vardon Bridge, that path joined a public footpath and it was only on crossing the road near that bridge that I finally left any joggers after me. Though I may have hoped for fewer clouds, there were enough to ensure that any episodes of sunlight were fleeting. As I continued eastwards along the public footpath, there were a few of these moments. Stops in fields full of sheep or cattle needed to be fleeting since animals can get curious, not that I ever dawdled long enough for that to manifest itself.

There were plenty of twists and turns to keep me on my toes before I got as far as Newton Farm. There was a woodland crossing that wasn’t expected from my map before that of a meadow. For whatever reason, the public footpath crosses a lawn at Newton Farm but it caused no disturbance and that’s always nice. The footpath leading to Mottram Bridge was found too and I was there in good time.

However, river erosion wasn’t to help my cause as the course of the suggested diversion left me uncertain enough to return to Mill Lane again and go by road again before picking up another footpath after Willot Hall that took me to another section of the North Cheshire Way near Top o’ th’ Hill. That deposited me at a footbridge and crossing it put me on the Bollin Valley Way again. All that took up time and I have it in mind to go having a look at the lie of the land when I have a longer stretch of time to do so. Avoiding walking along a busy road would be a bonus too.

The rest of the way was familiar to me since quite a few walks have taken me that way. Normally, a sewage works wouldn’t be welcome but it was an unmissable landmark and I needed that after the earlier bout of cold feet near Mottram Bridge. The only drama on the way to Prestbury was a fallen tree that blocked the path. It resulted in a tip-off to a Cheshire East Council ranger that saw it removed on a day that was wet enough to make most of us take cover.

Getting through Prestbury and then to Macclesfield has become so familiar to me that I scarcely need a map to do so. That the right of way stops part way between both places hardly mattered since a well-used path on council land took up the slack. Any Longhorn cattle that were out in pasture or any dog walkers using later stages of the same riverside park did nothing to perturb my delayed course home.

The longer days of midsummer ensure that I still was home before dark, so having a longer walk was no problem. Like many a good walk, there is an excuse for a reprise. Seeing what paths go where around Mottram Bridge and Mill Farm would be good. That errand probably needs a mind that hasn’t been tired by a day at work too and would make a good use for one of the shorter days of winter that are coming to us.

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