Same area, similar walks, different seasons4th March 2014
In June and September of last year, I undertook two walks that followed similar routes. Both started from the Cat & Fiddle Inn between Macclesfield and Buxton before going over the top of Shining Tor. From Cheshire’s county top, I dropped down to Lamaload Reservoir and it from there home that the routes diverged. My recollection of the weather on both days was similar apart from clouds hijacking the sky more effectively on the June day. In fact, inspecting photos has revealed much more cloud at the start of the June walk than I had thought so it was of little surprise when it got very handy at blocking the sun later on in the day.
There was another similarity too: prior weariness from the course of life. Though some good weather came at the end of May that was a harbinger of the summer to come, my energy had been sapped so I spent more time indoors than should have been the case. The Saturday of the Spring Bank Holiday weekend even saw me watching Terry Abraham’s excellent The Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend instead of being outside in the sunshine. With the summery weather outside my window, watching winter scenes did feel a bit odd and it took until Sunday evening before I got myself out and about. As I trotted up to Tegg’s Nose, the heat was more like that of summer and I enjoyed a pleasant evening around there before I returned home again. Shutlingsloe and its surroundings just looked resplendent in the evening sunshine.
The sunny summer and the aftermath of my mother’s passing had come together to ground me in September too and much of the rest of the year was taken up with sending out memorial cards of her to near relatives and anyone who gave us support during what was a tricky time for our family. There also was a major project kicking off at work that worried me, so that added to the load on my mind. Between all of these, I was flattened, but the last Sunday in September saw me out and about from the middle of the day until light failed. It was a stunning day with sunlight as strong as on a summer’s day before the lengthening night made its presence well felt.
After that Spring Bank Holiday weekend torpor, I mustered up the energy to commence a stroll from the Cat and Fiddle Inn at midday on Sunday. Though forecast to be sunny, clouds got in the way for much of the afternoon. Even with a limited supply of sunshine, a walk remains a walk and I enjoyed what was ahead of me. Also, I was trying out a then new Pentax K5 II to see what it could do. Prior to that, it had been out on evening strolls in the Riverside Park in Macclesfield, so this was its first away trip.
The way from the Cat and Fiddle Inn to the top of Shining Tor is very familiar to me and I suspect it is the same for many others who appreciate the hills lying between Macclesfield and Buxton. Of a weekend, you’ll never have it to yourself like I had on a weekday in December 2007. Then, I went all the way from the Cat and Fiddle Inn to Whaley Bridge via both Shining Tor and Cat’s Tor before dropping by Windgather Rocks into Kettleshulme and then leaving the unpleasant B5470 to follow the opposite side of Toddbrook Reservoir into Whaley Bridge. It is a walk that I fancy repeating even if I already have described it on here already.
What I had missed on that walk and any before it was a quick way from Shining Tor down to Lamaload Reservoir. The boundary of open access land overlaps with it as does a walk, so either might explain how I missed it for so long. After reaching the top of Shining Tor, I sought out this right of way and immediately set to losing the height that I had gained while taking in all that lay around me. That included the western flank of Cat’s Tor as the sun dodged and ducked through cloud cover to issue intermittent lighting on the landscape. After reaching a saddle where a footpath towards the A537 crossed my line of travel, it was time to gain a little height again before I lost it again for good when dropping to the reservoir.
Once across the splendidly named Hooleyhey Lane, I dawdled by the reservoir in search of photos. With a long evening available, there was no need to rush so I lunched at the same time. Unfortunately, the cloud cover left slim pickings for making the sort of the photos for which I was hoping so I eventually got going again and made my way towards Rainow. That took me through woods to the north of Lamaload before I crossed a field, losing height as I did so. From this point, I was minded to head towards Ginclough and then to drop through Rainow by road. What changed my mind was the passing of a lad on a quad bike who I fancied leaving go his merry way undisturbed.
Instead, I got myself onto the works road using the public footpath diverting away from the works yard itself. This led me by Snipe House and onto Berristal Road before I reached the B5470 to the east of Rainow. The sun did its utmost to break out from time to time and delighted the senses whenever the feat was managed. The air was that of a peaceful summer’s evening and it’s the sort of sensation that lingers in a mind like mine. Looking behind me reminded me just how much wilder my surroundings felt at the start of the walk and how they contrasted with the relative domestication of the tree-lined fields that I was passing. Lamaload had been where moorland turned to pasture land and the latter was to accompany me most of the way home.
Crossing the B5470, I made as if to follow the Gritstone Trail north only to stay on a bridleway that took a lower course along Ingersley Vale with the River Dean for company as it had been since I left Lamaload Reservoir behind me. Others had the same idea as me but we were never in each other’s way either. In time, I was deposited on the road near another stretch of the Gritstone Trail. From there, it was on tarmac into and through Bollington until I reached the Macclesfield Canal. Before I joined that, there was a stop at a shop for an ice cream that was enjoyed in Bollington’s war memorial gardens.
The canal towpath was a busier place and I had a family in front of me, so my own impatience caused a swap over to the much broader Middlewood Way. Any sunnier interludes made this look like impetuousness but I must have wanted to walk at my own pace and not that set by others at the time. With alternative routes, there was little point in being a nuisance anyway. If there was plenty of room to let everyone enjoy the dry weather and the verdant greenery at their own pace, then it was better that way.
It may have been how far I had walked too because I was relishing progress and looked forward to reaching home where a longer post walk rest could be savoured. It had been a good walk on a good day. Later on, there had been relaxed serendipity that led me back from Rainow by a more interesting if indirect route than just following a road all the way into Macclesfield again. Photos of Lamaload Reservoir had to wait, but that was of little consequence when it was an excuse for another walk later on in the year.
It may have been autumn during the reprise of the Lamaload hike, but there was a lot of the spirit of summer left in the air too. The day was much sunnier than it had been in June and it scarcely clouded over at all, at any point. Again, the start was a midday one, but the finish was a little after dark but I was under street lights by then anyway.
The route from the Cat and Fiddle Inn to Lamaload Reservoir was identical to that followed in June with the exception being that there was more sunshine around. Knowing how long it would take had its uses too with the shortening days. No longer could one dawdle as one could with the longer hours of daylight in June. Still, that didn’t stop me adding a twist to the walk later on either and being in familiar countryside meant that I had a sense of how things would take too. That applied in June and was a reason for much-needed relaxation.
More photographic success also was enjoyed at Lamaload this time around. In fact, the only slight irritation might have been the location of the sun in the sky. While a sun compass probably should have been used, sometimes it takes actual visits to see how lighting on landscapes actually works. With that extra knowledge, you can rethink the time of day for a visit, and I reckon a later one on a summer evening could have its uses so long as I can get home before dark. Buses are in short supply in the evening time so walking time would need to be allowed.
The route I took replicated that of the June walk as far as the foot of the reservoir, but a different course was taken from there. Instead, I followed a public footpath that shadowed the western side of the reservoir and passed Lower Ballgreave Farm. Around there, I fancied picking up another path to get to the A537 but nothing looked too promising and I headed to the single track road leading to Hooleyhey Lane instead. Leaving a Volkswagen camper van to struggle up the incline with cars behind it, I was after traffic free interludes. The narrow carriageway meant that there wasn’t a lot of room when a vehicle came but I made it past Ankers Knowl Farm and found a path across a field in the direction of Greenways Farm.
After crossing both the old and new Buxton to Macclesfield roads, passing the aforementioned farm should have had me on a right of way heading directly for Forest Chapel. However, not seeing obvious signs of passage and, moreover, not wanting to be blundering about next to someone’s house, I returned to the moderately busy Old Buxton Road and found another that skirted Whitehills to take me towards the same eventual destination. The start of that was an inviting, but a soggy sodden patch brought some navigation related head scratching and I might have been the cause of sending a hill runner in the wrong direction before I righted myself and went uphill to reach Charity Lane. Then, Forest Chapel was not at all far away and I dallied a while beside the hamlet’s church before continuing on my way.
Though my direction of travel was towards Shutlingsloe, the elevated vantage point offered by the roadway I was now following was such that I could gaze back towards my starting point. Shining Tor may not be the most distinctive pile but dominated any eastward sight I chose to sample in the evening sunshine. Previous explorations had me sticking on either side of the crumpled landscape that I was surveying but never both. Sometimes, things come alive when you associate them like that.
There was one last hurrah away from tarmac for the day, and I got to revisit sights that I used to see more regularly, especially with a bike in tow. Another departure was being able to attach more accurate names to hills like Yarnshaw Hill and Buxtors Hill as I followed the concessionary path. It may have been getting late for a day in September, but many were out and about still. Car parks around Macclesfield Forest remained busy while some were starting to think about heading home.
My way home was ongoing, but there was one last visit that I needed to make. It was too late for me to make a trip to the top of Shutlingsloe though some were up there in the declining light. A nearby car probably meant that they could stay out later while I made do with a relative close up view of the distinctive hill. A walk from the top of Shining Tor to the top of Shutlingsloe and home again needed to wait, and my legs weren’t too sorry about that either.
Light was well into the process of failing as I paced by Ridgegate Reservoir so I now had a sense of purpose about me. It hadn’t stopped me savouring the ambience of the tree cover on the way down to Trentabeck Reservoir just a little earlier. Next up was Bottoms Reservoir, then on through Langley, by Sutton and Gurnett before the darkness was relieved by street lighting. A head torch was in my possession but not needing to use one is good too. The day had been good.
Bus service 58 from Macclesfield to the Cat & Fiddle Inn
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