Monthly Archives: January 2017

BOLLIN VALLEY WAY. Into the Mersey.

Ashley to Partington.

Arrived back in Ashley courtesy of my son on his way to work. A long surfaced bridleway had me off to a good start as the sun rose to a beautiful day. I was not expecting too much from this stretch so the blue sky was a bonus. Again the few walkers I met were dog walkers. A stretch next to the M56 was distinctly noisy and poorly waymarked, the River Bollin looking a little worse for wear. Things improved as I entered Dunham Massey estate, the path on a flood bank as the river meandered through the fields. There was a perfect example of an Ox Bow lake. The brick walls of the hall gardens up to my right hid any views and I didn’t have the inclination to divert into the grounds, magnificent as I know them to be from previous visits. Crossing the river at Bollington Corn Mill I wandered through the hamlet of Little Bollington too early for the Swan with Two Nicks to be open. A cobbled lane led to the Bridgewater Canal and then fields took me across to the village of Dunham Woodhouses. Here to stay nearer to the river in its last few miles I diverted onto the Trans Pennine Trail, an old railway on this stretch, and walked quickly to Heatley where the Bollin disappears across fields in to the Mersey Ship Canal. I followed lanes to the canal and then a pleasant path into Partington and a bus back to Piccadilly. A great walk improved by the start at the source.

Last view of the River Bollin as it disappears to the Mersey.

Last view of the River Bollin as it disappears to the Mersey.

The Mersey Ship Canal.

The Mersey Ship Canal.

 

BOLLIN VALLEY WAY. The middle stretch.

Prestbury to Ashley/Hale.

Rush hour.

Rush hour.

Having braved the morning rush hour at Piccadilly I was back at Prestbury before 9am. Spent the first half hour adjacent to the largest sewerage plant I have ever seen. All was quiet, I really mean quiet after all that commuter bit, as I rejoined the ‘way’ – I saw nobody till Wilmslow. That was apart from the lady with a plum in her mouth who instructed me how to open a difficult gate in her garden obviously designed to deter walkers. Nice house by the way.

Recent floods have eroded the banks of the river and attempts to restore the channel have been made – why not let nature take its course. There was a perfect example of an oxbow lake further on today.

Arriving in Wilmslow I went up into town to find a coffee, the first place was a Waitrose store which I thought would host a cafe but only offered an expensive machine which sufficed. Refreshed I returned to the river and a popular walk along it. Dogs and elegant ladies. I fell into step with one of the latter with her equally elegant terrier Spikey – he mistook me initially for a postman and yapped loudly. Having made friends I was escorted through the grounds of Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate – fascinating and worthy of a return visit when the gardens are open. Thanks to my anonymous guide. Strangely the official Bollin Valley Way doesn’t use this section of river bank but the North Cheshire Way does.

Quarry Bank Mill.

Quarry Bank Mill.

Styal Village.

Styal Village.

Quarry Bank Gardens.

Quarry Bank Gardens.

I returned to the river and had a roller coaster trail  – at one point alongside it and minutes later up steep steps high above. This continued for some time until I realised I was below one of Manchester Airport’s runways and had to disappear into  a tunnel under it. Emerging the other side I climbed up to a view point to be told by an ‘observer’ that an A380 flight was taking off – it was dramatic when it appeared – Massive. Planes continued taking off every couple of minutes as I walked on through reclaimed wetlands and woodlands on the airport perimeter. I have to say they know how to make mud in Cheshire. Strangely I found walking in the vicinity of the M56 more noise polluted than the airport environment. Speeding up to catch a 4pm train I made some simple navigation errors around Hale golf club and the back tracking lost me valuable time so as I walked towards Ashley the train disappeared. Luckily the Greyhound pub provided a warm welcome for the hour wait for the next train and reflect on a hugely enjoyable 14miles.

 

BOLLIN VALLEY WAY. Out of the forest.

Source to Prestbury.

Baby sitting duties in Manchester brought me down this way so I took the opportunity of exploring a new area. A dark early morning start from home on the bus and then trains transported me to Cheshire. When I researched this route on the LDWA site I was surprised to see it started in Macclesfield town, what about the true source of the River Bollin up in Macclesfield Forest? The helpful taxi driver dropped me off in Standing Stones car park high in the Forest. In thick mist I had to take a compass bearing to find the right path out. Amazingly within 50m I found a stream gurgling out of the hillside, was this the Bollin? I decided it was and began my walk down it. From my map I expected to be following lanes for a few miles but to my delight there were new paths everywhere and I was lucky that some took me through the forest in the right direction. The reservoir walks were popular with dog walkers,  above would be Teg’s Nose but no chance of a view today. Dropping into a a hidden valley the Bollin Brook picked up pace. Here I came across Gritstone Trail signs, a walk I enjoyed many years ago. A little further and I walked below the canal used by the Cheshire Ring walk, more recently completed.

It was already lunchtime when I walked into Langley, the interesting looking pub was closed so a park bench sufficed. A sign celebrated a William Smith who founded, in 1826, Langley Mill [now derelict] which became the largest silk printing works in the world. There are many humble cottages around presumably mill workers’ dwellings originally. quite a contrast to Langley Hall down the road. The were other signs of past industry – dsc05115

The Bollin has an unhappy journey through the industrial part of Macclesfield, famous for its silk mills. It emerges the other side in a country park which gives easy riverside walking, mainly used by dog walkers, to the village of Prestbury. Along here I picked up the official Bollin Valley Way markers.

As dusk approached I caught my train up to Manchester in time for the rush hour crush on the Metro tram.

 

BEACON FELL CIRCUIT.

It was one of those out of body experiences – I was 11years and cycling as fast as I could around the Teesdale lanes getting strong for some time trialing; then I was in my teens touring various parts of Britain with my mates; now I’m 30 and exploring the Trough of Bowland and further afield doing 100 mile days; next I’m 50 and cycling across Europe on endless adventures. Now I’m off my bike and having to walk up a steepish hill onto Beacon Fell. Bugger.

Today’s circuit from home is about the same distance as the Preston Guild Wheel which I’ve been using recently but with HILLS – over a 1000ft of ascent. Your are on your own here.Still the roads are quiet, the sun is shining and I’m wrapped up against the freezing temperatures.

Beacon Fell is a local landmark and popular with strollers and families. It is one of my regular haunts usually walking as previous posts detail. I had forgotten how impregnable it was on a bike. Still the cafe is open all year. Despite the icy roads it was mainly fast downhill from here on the long way round to Chipping under the Fairsnape Fells. There were a few more hills I’d forgotten about!

and then I’m sprinting to the finish on the Champs-Élysées.

***

As an aside I passed several laneside garages long since abandoned, they were a feature of the countryside 50 years ago. They were never open when you needed petrol  on a Sunday afternoon but their skilled mechanics kept the locals cars and tractors on the road. No plug in diagnostics in those days.

 

 

 

 

TAME VALLEY WAY. 2 Stalybridge to Stockport.

The cobbled steps down into Stalybridge were icy, I crossed the River Tame and continued on the Huddersfield Canal. There is something about canals as they pass through towns, graffiti and rubbish unfortunately abound and here was no exception. The canal has been restored, no doubt at great expense, as part of a millennium project and should be a great asset to the town but sadly it provides a haven for ‘ne’er-do-wells’. Enough said, but we have moved on from…

The river and canal are in close proximity but the route favours the towpath just because of its existence. Crossing from one to the other I used The Alma road bridge constructed in the same year, 1854, as the first major battle of the Crimea War. On the outskirts the usual light industry flourishes and there always seems to be a background hum from the units reminiscent of the sound track from some old Sci Fi movie. Relief came at Portland Basin where the area has been gentrified with living accommodations  and boat trips. Here is a junction with the Ashton Canal heading into Manchester and the Peak Forest Canal coming from Derbyshire – what a network. I had a feeling of deja vu and it was only sitting down with the map I realised I was on The Cheshire Ring which I walked last year Rivers lose there character hemmed in and stagnating through towns and industry  but when I next joined the Tame it was in pastoral green fields. Amazingly these have been created from  what was the largest refuse tip in the area! All that tranquility was soon disturbed by  passing under the thunderous M67 whose six lane highway has replaced a two lane main road. What will we need in another 25 years?  The remaining few miles into Stockport were all surprisingly rural in country parks and close to the River Tame. The problem was with so many well trodden paths and poor signage one had to sometimes make an educated guess as to the route, keeping close to the river seemed to be a good idea. At the end of all these fields I emerged into Reddish Vale where the world and his dogs were congregating, there was a nearby carpark. The ducks were showing their skills at walking on water. A dismantled railway  gave fast walking, I had a train time in sight, before dropping to the River Tame for its finale. Under the M60, as it bypasses Stockport, one would never normally know that the Tame joins the Goyt at the end of its journey down from the Pennines. Having congratulated myself on reaching this point in good time I was dismayed by the length of traffic dodging streets up to the station to catch that train back to Preston. Another two day route completed in perfect winter conditions, apart from the dazzling low sun, and a good start to 2017.

 

TAME VALLEY WAY. 1 Denshaw to Stalybridge.

Denshaw, Delph, Dobcross, Uppermill, Mossley, Heyrod –  not names familiar to all. Its freezing and I’m stood outside the Junction Inn on the edge of the Pennines, think ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ country. I find a small waymark and set off down the Tame Valley Way. I love two day mini long distance walks, enough variety and an overnight stay. It’s taken me 5 difficult hours by public transport to arrive here. The metro tram took me out of Manchester to Oldham Mumps Interchange, a grand image which turned out to be a desolate street with a couple of bus stops. I escaped eventually on a local bus into the Pennines. Free at last to set off walking. The infant Tame is a trickle through flooded meadows and yet mills soon appear, they must have been water powered at one time.  Going through the yard of one mill I hear working machinery and looking inside see raw wool being fed into a carding machine and subsequently spun and died. Everywhere things were whirling.

I contemplate mill life in the last couple of centuries before most mills have been demolished or used as storage or one man garage workshops. Before conversion of the manager’s  house into a gated luxury property and the humble mill workers’ cottages into desirable commuter residences. There was ample evidence of those in today’s walk.

These valleys have almost a secret existence these days

Of course I had to get into conversation with an allotment and whippet devotee. One suddenly arrives along the river in Delph, a busy Pennine village of solid stone houses. The chip shop dates back to 1769 – not sure it was serving chips then. Disappointingly my ‘bag’ of chips for eating along the way comes in a polystyrene carton. I’m sure the central library/art gallery was a subject for one of Lowry’s paintings…Anyway onwards along the river through more small settlements with many reminders of their history.The Huddersfield Narrow Canal was joined on the outskirts of Uppermill and the Tame crossed on stepping stones to reach refreshments in the Saints Cafe tucked away in a cobbled weaving square. In the bustling town there is an evocative statue of Ammon Wrigley [1861-1946] a woolen mill worker who won fame for his prose.For most of the afternoon the Huddersfield Canal was followed with the River Tame in close attendance. Short stretches of abandoned railways were also used through reclaimed industrial land, gas works and mining areas. As Stalybridge is approached river, canal, road and railway are hemmed in together, even now the oppressive industrial atmosphere prevails and I was glad to escape to my B & B in Heyrod overlooking the valley.   During the clear day the temperature had not risen above 5° and was plummeting fast. A mistake was to walk north to south into the low winter sun which had me squinting all day. Presumably the same tomorrow.

Reflection of plane's jet stream in the canal.

                             Reflection of plane’s jet stream in the canal.

New Year Miscellany.

Several days have been sunny and cold but windless – perfect for a spot of bouldering at Craig y Longridge. There have been a few more brave souls out on the rock. The crag is owned and managed by the BMC [thankfully for now this acronym has outlasted the suggested change to  Climb Britain] and the climbing fraternity have done us proud, with no antisocial behaviour or littering. However at the parking spot some ‘part time builder’ has found it easier to dump his rubbish in the road than take a trip to the tip.     Happy New Year.

I noticed the above whilst cycling past on a circuit of Longridge Fell roads, much harder than the relatively level Guild Wheel. Thankfully I was alone, I was so out of breath conversation would have been impossible.

Back to the Guild Wheel I was on it again New Years Day, this time walking part of it with a friend who was plotting a short walk in the Fernyhalgh area for his monthly walking group. We found a decent dry circuit with plenty of interest. Passing on route at Ladyewell the old Fernyhalgh School building [now a private day nursery] – my children attended there in the 70s when it was still the village primary, only to be closed against local opposition. There is still evidence of Boys and Girls separate entrances. Nearby is a memorial to local lads lost in WW1, quite an ornate cross for the five.

Ladyewell Nursery. Wikipedia.

Ladyewell Nursery. Wikipedia.

With the same friend a circuit of the Longridge Fell tracks was completed on New Years Eve, we were glad to be in the trees out of the cold wind. The only other people met were dog walkers. A few of the poorer days have been spent at Preston Climbing Wall in a vain attempt to steal some fitness from the season.