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.
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.