More ambling along the Goyt Valley12th September 2018
Sometimes, walking routes get reprised very close to each other and this pairing is one of those that, I thought, had been written up earlier but surveying what was posted on here already proves me wrong. It might be that because I have done some pairing of different walks in other trip reports, blending of memories has struck, so let us move along.
A pair of strolls along variations of what otherwise might have been the same route allow an opportunity to find some contrasts and so it is with these trots between Burbage and Whaley Bridge via the Goyt valley. Here is a list: wintery showers versus a taste of summer, midwinter versus the onset of spring, the end of a year versus the start of another and the end of one piece of business versus the onset of another. Each changed the character of my hikes as much as the deviations that I made the second time around so they hopefully will add a little something to their respective narratives.
It is difficult to talk about starting a Christmas break when part of your working life has stopped and another is continuing to what feels like the bitter end. That was the conundrum that surrounded this walk, yet an offer of a half decent day was enough to draw me out of doors after a serene day spent among the Cumbrian fells. In truth, there was to be a lot of the same sensibility about this outing too and that was just as well given how my life was going at the time.
My arrival in Burbage was followed by some fumbling while I oriented myself but I was soon on the track by Burbage-edge Plantation. Height was gained steadily before a wintry shower of rain came my way to test my resolve. As if that were not enough. The wind was strong enough to obscure the words of a passing runner. Thankfully, this was to be the only such stormy weather episode of the day and dry sunny if chilly weather became my lot for the rest of the walk.
Skirting the aforementioned forestry plantation, I continued from Burbage Edge towards Berry Clough with opening views of my surroundings. Sunshine came and went, but my mind was allowed to wanderer but not so far that it interfered with navigation. The path remained clear and became even cleared as I followed the clough downhill. All the while, I also needed to keep an eye on my footing even on an agreeable gradient.
The end of the incline landed me near the waters of the River Goyt where there was a bridge on which I loitered a while before picking up a path in the belief that it might be the desired right of way. That did not prove to be the case but it mattered not a jot. Its boggy way led me across the well-named Goyt’s Moss towards Errwood Reservoir and around by the lower slopes of Wild Moor. The surroundings suggested otherwise, but Buxton only was a few miles away, but the emptiness was just what was needed to experience a much-needed soothing interlude of calm.
By then, the course was the same as one that had been followed before, so there was little need to consult a map and I wandered along tracks and paths until I reached the road that would drop me onto the dam at the end of Errwood Reservoir. Here, I was to linger awhile, especially on the other side before I continued on my way. The last spell of sunshine of the came and I left as clouds blocked it again.
Losing height gained me the shore of Fernilee Reservoir by which I was to process for a kilometre or two. It was not all level going either for I needed to gain some height on the way to the lane that crosses the reservoir dam. Any idea of continuing along the east back of the River Goyt was extinguished by the sight of signs warning of path closure due to work on an asbestos roof. The way by the west bank would suffice and it was on a good track too. Eventually, a way down to a bridge across the river was found so I could follow its east bank to reach Shallcross Wood where I would meet two equestrians coming the other way, though I questioned the wisdom of their following the track that they were using because of the tree cover.
Beyond the wood, the right of way lead me onto the A5004 that would carry me into the heart of Whaley Bridge where I would await the next bus back to Macclesfield. Arriving at the bus stop in plenty of time to do some shopping in a small place that was not too tiny to have a Big Issue seller plying his wares. Light was declining so I was glad to see the bus arrive. Its passage along the B5470 was to cause a missed phone call from my solicitor whose business would need to wait until the following morning.
The same applied to an auctioneer who made contact with me while I was out among the hills, but both matters were sorted quickly enough to close affairs for the year. If it was as easy as that to unwind in the time that was available, 2017 might have been different and life progresses as it does. Between Christmas and New Year, there were to be a few days spent in Mallorca that would have their own story to tell.
Though dampened by rain and having enough wind not to hear what someone else was saying, I persevered and dropped into the Goyt Valley. From Berry Clough onward, much of my route was a reprise of a walk undertaken in October 2013. As if to underline what recent years of tumult have done to my memory, the section along by Fernilee Reservoir had been a blur and I followed the River Goyt from its dam on the western side instead of the eastern one as I did before. Otherwise, there was reward in the form of some sunshine lighting up Errwood Reservoir. Nevertheless, another return is in order and one on a sunny day would be best, since I never have had much luck with the Goyt Valley when it comes to photography. It may mean getting muddy again, but that is a trifle when it gives returns like the ones I often get.
What probably was the first sunny weekend of the year could not do other than lure me out of what felt like a rut. 2017 had started with a flu-like illness before enough was completed in Ireland to satisfy a two-year deadline. Then, my mind turned to sorting out a certain lack of energy and there was a reluctance to pursue more in the way of Irish works. These and what preceded them were blamed for my lethargy rather than signs that my day job was not what I hoped it would be. A spring sabbatical that began soon after this hike was not enough to deal with that so I ended up stepping into “oblivion”: leaving my job to start a career break that would allow for rest and a time for exploration that laid the foundations for how I work these days. Little did I know that quite a year lay ahead of me.
That sunny day in March, I had a decision to make: was it Burbage to Whaley Bridge again or a walk from Disley back to Macclesfield using part of the Gritstone Trail before using other rights of way beyond Bollington? Both options had me torn between but I chose the former for Saturday and the pull of the latter got me out again on Sunday. This was to become a walking weekend.
This time, there was no fumbling on arrival in Burbage, for I knew where I was going next. In any case, it was a release from a bus full of folk tempted out for the day by the predicted weather. From start to end, this was to be a day with plenty of sunshine and rising temperatures. Thankfully, that is how it turned out too.
After coming a little along the now familiar, I stopped a while to organise myself and took in such sights as Grinlow Tower and the busy A537 across the valley floor from me. If this sounds like the weather made it easier for me to look around, there might be some truth in that thought. The same benign conditions also made it easier to deviate from the December route as much as an earlier start and longer hours of daylight. It would have been even better a day later with the extra hour of daylight in the evening time added by the onset of Summer Time. Still, there was ample time on the last Saturday of Winter Time for my needs.
The first variation came soon enough with my not skirting the Burnage-edge Plantation as long as I did in December. Instead, I kept going straight along the track as if destined for Derbyshire Bridge. However, I still left it for the Goyt Valley and did that near its highest point too. The out of action Cat & Fiddle Inn lay before me, but my closest encounter was to be that aboard the bus that brought me from Macclesfield.
My thoughts though were on rejoining the path down to Berry Clough and there was plenty to see in the sunshine as I went on my way. Goyt’s Moss and Stake Side took up most of my field of view until I began to drop along the clough itself. In good time, the now familiar bridge over the River Goyt began to be seen and then reached. After a photography stop, I was on my way again.
This time around, I ensured that I stayed as close to the line of my intended right of way as possible and got better views along the valley too. That there hardly were any marks on the ground from previous stragglers may have made it a more challenging task but it increased the chances of solitary wandering, something that I relish. In something of a freestyle fashion, I found the wall where I would turn right and use as a handrail for further navigation. A clough crossing added a descent and subsequent re-ascent before a more descenting descent followed. While I should have stayed near the wall, I veered away in the hope of more friendly gradients and the chance of a zigzag course. Since I was on Open Access Land, there was no need to stick rigorously to the route of a public footpath anyway.
The cause of that testing descent was another nameless clough and I returned to the wall to continue to one with a name: Wildmoorstone Brook. Crossing that and going uphill again brought me to a reservoir near Goyt’s Lane. While the road would take back towards Errwood Reservoir, I chose a byway in its place and that returned me to more familiar surroundings but I was to add another twist: a footpath going around Bunsal Cob that cut out even more road walking. The knoll itself was not left without further exploratory perambulations to extend the time spent there before continuing to the dam of Errwood Reservoir.
Leaving there, I spotted another path that followed the slope of the dam itself to give a more satisfying start to a stroll along by Fernilee Reservoir. This was the first time that I was doing that without sunshine fading on me or rain showers intruding. There was loitering about its reservoir as I checked if a previously encountered obstruction remained because of work on a building containing asbestos in its fabric. Since the obstacle allowed no further passage, I advised others as much and I retraced steps and followed the same course into Whaley Bridge as I did in December. It was just as unpeopled as I found it on other visits.
It can amaze how a brain records events for the signs of others out enjoying the day as much as I did hardly remain now. Another curiosity is that the exact details of how I got home have been lost too, but any journey would have involved a change in Stockport. Whether that was from bus to train or train to train is unclear now but both are plausible and it certainly was not a direct bus ride to Macclesfield like the previous encounter with the area. The important details persist and it is the ambience of the hike that can be reproduced most readily. Since that often is what draws me, it is just as well and any sense of recalled calm is a godsend when life proceeds along one of its rougher stretches.
Bus Service 58 from Macclesfield to Burbage on both days. Bus service 60 from Whaley Bridge to Macclesfield after the December walk. Bus service 199 or train to Stockport followed by a train to Macclesfield after the March hike.
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