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!

Lyme Park: Beyond Late Arrivals and Fading Memories

2nd August 2013

A walk from Bollington to Disley last November that I have yet to share on here has been the cause of getting me pondering past visits to Lyme Park, and afternoons spent around Tatton Park late last year accentuated this. So, I have plundering fading recollections to collate what remains of them on here before they degrade any further. The amount of effort taken to recall happenings from more than ten years ago was brought home to me during my yet incomplete act of adding photograph dates to the photo gallery you find here. They have yet to make their appearance anywhere other than the test version that I have of this website; Ireland and Scotland are covered so Wales and England remain outstanding and there’s a good collection of photos for those nations on here. It’s just as well that I have this as a place of reference for those occasions when the troubles of life have erased memories that should be retained.

August 28th, 2000

Things were simpler in my early days because there weren’t many trips away and even these could be associated with some other even to extract a date. Take the English & Welsh Summer Bank Holiday weekend of 2000. The Sunday saw me head on my first-ever trip to Wales, where I pottered towards the Swallow Falls from Betws-y-Coed on a day when the weather steadily improved after a damp start. There was a visit to Llanrwst and Gwydir Castle too, so it was a fairly full day. Also, my memories of it aren’t too patchy and having a compact camera that added dates to the photos that it took helps reconstruction of recollections too.

The next day saw me head out on my bike for a journey that eventually took me as far as Lyme Park. That wasn’t as planned as that first encounter with Wales, and my memories of the day are more hazy, too. It was sunny until I passed Rainow, before becoming less and less satisfied with the ups and downs of the landscape and the B5470; a road bike with no first gear and untrusted brakes is not an appropriate companion around those parts. There were good moments took and Rainow’s a pretty place that I keep revisiting. There also was a stationery Massey Ferguson tractor that looked like it dated from the 1960’s, and it was operating a backhoe loader without any throttle applied behind the engine’s idling speed, a strange state of circumstances.

My cross-country route after that is lost to me, but a wetting from a passing shower beyond Pott Shrigley has stayed with me. One turning for Higher Poynton was passed before I used another, and that’s where I needed to don waterproofs. They weren’t needed for long, and I next recall coming onto the A6 near High Lane. The entrance to Lyme Park wasn’t far from there, even if it now was getting later in the day. Even with bank holiday traffic and the need for a right turn, it is the long avenue into Lyme Park that was the more memorable.

My Ricoh GR 20 was pressed into action, though the fading light of that time of day exposed its limitations, ensuring that an SLR purchase was made within the following twelve months. The sun still did its best, and I reconnoitred some promising viewpoints for future visits. Those early seeds have come in handy since then, and the ride home along the A6 and the A523 went without incident and was quicker than the way there.


Reading one of Mark Richards’ Fellranger guides reminded me how sunny and dry much of 2003 was (that was when he did the research for it) and I got out into hill country quite a few times as a result. Apart from the low points of running out of colour camera film beside Loch Etive and getting several soakings in Fort William during a foolhardy week in Scotland at the end of July, it is the high points that stand out for me. A Summer bank Holiday Weekend spent around Fort William that featured a stunning walk along the West Highland Way from Kinlochleven to Glen Nevis set that July misadventure to rights, and there were multiple visits to Keswick to sample its surroundings. So many were made in March that the exertions could have run me down to the point of illness that Easter. August then saw a few that poured balm on a psyche wounded by poor look with my choice of week in Scotland. It felt as if my luck had run out with that country and I had been around Oban at the start of November 2002 when there were wet and stormy conditions, so I was wondering if that had blighted me. Any trace of that fatalism has been more than well banished.

With those more notable hill wanderings, it appears that they displaced recollections of visits to Lyme Park, and I now reckon that there were at three of these during 2003. The first was near the end of a walk along the Gritstone Trail between Bollington and Disley early in the year, maybe at the start of February. That trot had me venturing through misty hill country that retained some evidence of wintry weather in places. It was under cloudy skies when I entered Lyme Park, so the conditions were not conducive to photography, and my mind was more focussed on reaching Disley before it got too dark anyway. Quite why I had to discover the point of crampons on sheet ice now only can be explained by feckless fatigue. Even if my legs ended up above my hips momentarily as a result, no damage was done apart from a feeling of bewildered foolishness and self chiding. The right equipment would be put to use in the same circumstances now.

With fading light, there had been no opportunity but to scud through Lyme Park, even if I recall skies clearing as the sun declined. So, while I had passed closer by The Cage than previously was the case, a sighting in better had to wait. While I considered that this was addressed during an autumnal visit, looking through photos suggests that I did it during the spring before leaves appeared on trees. That’s not to say that there has been no autumnal visit like that around ten years ago, but I am having to leave things at that because one’s memory only can take so much scrutiny.

What is more memorable is a visit from July 2003 when I finally had the brighter light that I didn’t have on that first visit and the access that I was denied on those which took place away from the peak season. A cycle along the Middlewood Way took me to Marple, and getting from there to Lyme Park revealed how fatigued it had made me. While at my destination, I paid to access the gardens where some of the BBC’s then recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice had been filmed. An SLR with a selection of lenses had accompanied me, but my use of print film and ever milky skies thwarted the ambitions that lay in my head. The results of my endeavours only were discovered later, so they did not spoil the day. That, and the need to try again, ensured that more encounters followed.

January 2005

For some reason, I got it into my head that I acquired my first ever DSLR in January 2006. In fact, my Canon EOS 10D arrived a year earlier and the fact that a hard drive mishap was the cause of losing photos taken with it in 2005 and 2006 didn’t help for a correct recollection either. Then, film photography was my mainstay, so it didn’t bother my that much, though I now realise that certain files that I could have done with keeping got lost.  Now that I mainly use digital photography, it’s small wonder that I have more than one copy of any image that I create.

Other memories of 2005 weren’t much clearer, even though it was a good year for exploring hill country. That around Llangollen and Dolgellau got to see me a fair bit, and there were successful trips to Scotland too. One weekend saw me trotting across Mull at its narrowest point and embark on a mad circuit that took in Glen Strae, Lairig Dhoireann, Glen Kinglass and Loch Etive. The latter should have been started earlier in the day for I arrived at Taynuilt Hotel looking to book a taxi far later than I’d have liked (a dour Scotsman got me sorted though, and a friendly barman offered to keep me company while awaiting the taxi’s arrival, so all was well in the end). Even with showers frequenting the start of the walk, memorable views were savoured and a combination of film photography and printing off the best digital images ensured that nothing important was lost. A July visit to Skye may have been foreshadowed by an attempted terrorist attack in London (22/7, if you need to ask) when my brother (never the luckiest of folk, it needs saying) was visiting the place, but a memorable trot from Elgol to Sligachan is an experience that I’ll always treasure. The ensuing yomp about the Trotternish may not have been of the same calibre, but it was no disappointment either.

With those highlights, it might be forgivable that I cannot work out exactly whether it was January or February when a walk took me to Lyme Park. A loss of digital records doesn’t help either, but I was testing out the EOS 10D when I did so. The hike itself followed part of the Macclesfield Canal before I veered cross-country to Pott Shrigley. From there, I decided to make for the Gritstone Trail for a sunny entrance on foot into Lyme Park. However, cloud invaded the sky before I stepped onto the long-distance trail to thwart what dreams I had of sun-blessed Derbyshire hills. The visibility certainly was an improvement on what I got in 2003 though, so it was by no means a complete disappointment. Lyme Park may have been under dull skies when I reached it, but a walk had been enjoyed, and that was the main thing.

August 22nd, 2009

Lyme Hall, Lyme Park, Disley, Cheshire, England

Being of a more recent vintage, my August 2009 visit to Lyme Park is better remembered so far, and having a full set of dated photos helps too. To make sure that those recollections are somewhere for reference, I’ll stick them down here, too. In some ways, this was a repeat of that July 2003 visit in that I cycled all the way there from Macclesfield. A combination of the Middlewood Way, the Macclesfield Canal and the A6 saw to that. It may surprise some to learn that I reckoned the Macclesfield Canal towpath to be the least suited of all these for cycling, and that seems to apply to its full length, even if there are those like me who give using it like this a go.

Having come by bike early in the day, I had some time to expend. In many ways, this proved to be the most satisfying of all my visits. Good photos could be made for once using the mix of sunshine and blue skies. While not being tired like on that July 2003 trip, I still relished the opportunity of lounging a while and wondering if long-distance walking actually deprived me of such chances at times. The way home was nowhere near as direct as on the very first visit in August 2000 since I went for a cross-country route under clouding skies. Exiting the Park using a back avenue that wasn’t very suitable for bikes, even mountain ones, and is even less so following a bridge closure, I made my way onto Mudhurst Lane and followed it as it turned into Higher Lane until I reached the B5470. That road in turn was left for Bakestonedale Road into Pott Shrigley, from where I journeyed through Bollington and onto home on very familiar roads after going along a few that were new to me. Because there were steep inclines that I just didn’t fancy because of my lack of trust in bicycle braking or my ability to steer at speed on downhill sections, I often dismounted and walked the bike instead. Given that this was a day out and not a commute, there was little point in rushing anyway, and that was emphasised by my arrival home at a very respectable hour early in the evening too.

November 23rd, 2012

Last November saw me make my most recent visit, and that was the cause of inspiring me to collect these thoughts in the first place. It was a reprise of the walk from Bollington to Disley from early. This time around, I had clear blue skies for much of the walk and some sunshine. Once I had savoured views towards Derbyshire hills under better conditions than I ever had before, I could drop into Lyme Park and linger a little while. Clouds did take over the sky by this time, but I wasn’t bothered. The walk was needed and there was plenty to enjoy while the sun stayed with me. In fact, there is much more to say about this trot, so I’ll leave things at this teaser. The full account is next on my list of trip reports (one that is not afflicted by a patchy memory would be good, at least for later reference) and I’ll not be abandoning Lyme Park either if I can help it. It may feel as if I have seen most of what it has to offer, but there is any harm in revisiting spots with which there is a certain familiarity anyway. If anything, that makes for more relaxation because there is little reason to dash about it, which is a very good thing.

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