Category Archives: Pennines

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.


Beamsley Beacon and Round Hill.

Two ancients going their own way.

There will be lots of posts with Autumn colours at this time of year, I went abroad a week ago whilst the leaves were green and have returned to spectacular trees. But today I hardly saw a single tree on these bleak moors. The general visibility was poor also but a combination of The Pieman and The Rockman as companions was sure to provide an entertaining day.

I have driven below on the A59 hundreds of time and looked up at the craggy top but I had never ventured up there. By our roundabout stroll we found were reminders of ancient routes long before the present roads. There were numerous old mile/directional stones and many boundary stones suggesting lots of foot and mule traffic at one time. Tracks tend to connect and the places mentioned on the stones give some idea of destinations. What was the nature of peoples travel – monastic or trade routes?  – people certainly wouldn’t have come up here for pleasure. On the map there is also a Roman road shown but no trace of this was passed today. The whole area was rather boggy, an understatement, and progress was slow and must have been troublesome for those who passed before. There is no trace of paved mule routes here, whereas in many Pennine areas these are an outstanding feature. On the map there are mentions of ‘cup and ring’ stone markings but we didn’t notice any, didn’t look hard enough.

Enough of way stones – there didn’t seem to be many obvious paths…Up on the drier heather slope there had been some harvesting of the heather which was bailed up – to be used for what? There was yet another mystery, two detached boot soles.

Having traversed Round Hill [409m] we arrived at Beamsley Beacon itself [393m], a more popular destination being a short walk from the car park. The prominent Beacon was part of the chain of fires that could be lit as warnings during the Napoleonic wars, recent uses of these beacons have been more celebratory. The large stone cairn is thought to be a Bronze Age burial site but has never been excavated. The trig. point bares a memorial to a crashed Lancaster Bomber crew from the Royal Canadian Air Force killed 5th November 1945.Will have to come back for the views.




If I had labelled this post just Plover Hill most wouldn’t have heard of it, whereas Pen-y-ghent is justifiably popular as a walk and as an iconic view along with its neighbour Ingleborough. Yes – it has a Welsh name [hill of the winds] because a version of Welsh was spoken throughout Britain before the Anglo Saxon invasion.Just enjoyed a grand half day’s walk up here. I didn’t get away early as the day was supposed to brighten later – it didn’t – setting off from Horton at 12am. To avoid the unpleasant, steep and crowded direct route from Brackenbottom I used the lanes past old barns and Dub Cote farm to join the bridleway up to a shake-hole named Churn Milk Hole. From here one gets a dramatic view of Pen-y-ghent rising above you, the bands of limestone capped with a gritstone helmet. High up round to the left out of sight is a gritstone cliff where I’ve climbed in past years. A climb called  Red Pencil Direct featured in the Ken Wilson Classic Rock ‘tick’ book, all the climbs here are steep and have a terrific sense of exposure.There are some recent reports of rockfall, it always felt a bit scary with some loose rock and those overhangs above you.

Until now I had seen only sheep but once onto the main track it became a circus of people struggling up, even being pushed up the steep bits, and falling down the slippy limestone bits.  I didn’t linger with the crowds on the summit, 694m, as the mist had come down making it cold and miserable with no views. Going due north along the ridge brings you to the subsidiary rounded summit of Plover Hill, 680m. The sedgy grasses along the way seemed to be taking on an attractive Autumnal colouring. I’d forgotten how eroded and boggy the way was, surprising really as we have had a month of relatively dry weather, any rain and it will be a quagmire!From the summit there were views of Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside as the mist lifted off their tops for a brief moment – the Three Peaks. Leaving the top and heading north takes you down to an extensive limestone bluff  through which the path takes a delightful rake. From here looking into Foxup valley the lines of limestone sink holes following some fault are clearly seen. The whole area must be perfect for geology field trips.

Returning along the valley I just had to make the detour to Hull Pot, a massive hole in the ground with only a trickle of water today.

Along here the Pennine Way is joined but I also realised I was following ‘A Pennine Journey’. This is a relatively new 247 mile LDW based on the journey of the celebrated Alfred Wainwright,  undertaken in 1938, up the East side of the Pennines to Hadrian’s Wall and back down the West side to Settle. His story of this trip is worth reading not only for his own personal observations but also an insight into rural life in the years leading up to WW II. How things have changed.

The enclosed bridleway gave quick walking back to Horton with distant views to Pendle. The clocks have just gone back so dusk came early and smoke was rising from the cottage chimneys, the sign of cold dark nights to come – maybe time to head off to warmer climes.


THREE-IN-ONE – a fulfilling weekend.

It’s that period of the year again, the leaves are turning and the evenings darkening, and it’s time for the annual autumn visit from my old mate Mel.

[ See previous posts to get an idea of what we get up to. — ]

His wife packs his thermals and sends him up North. This year however we are blessed with warm and calm weather so were able to make the best of his visit.

In brief we ate an Uzbek banquet [haven’t posted about my trip to Uzbekistan yet],  a couple of local restaurant curries, a take away Chinese and some bar snacks.

Uzbeck banquet.

Uzbek banquet.

Thankfully interspersed were three good and variable outdoor days’ exercise.

1. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

A long drive over to Wakefield and we arrived at Bretton Hall whose stately grounds act as the backdrop to the YSP,  I’ve been meaning to come here for ages. Hepworth,  Gormley, Goldsworthy,  Moore,  Miro,  Caro, Frink …  they are all here and many many more. A real feast for the senses. We wandered around the grounds in beautiful sunshine like two kids in a sweet shop, new discoveries round every corner.SAM_6069One cannot see everything in one visit and I’ll have to do a separate post on the YSP soon. We were lucky that the spectacular Cummins/Piper ‘Poppy Wave’ installation [from London] was in the park and attracting a lot of visitors.Another stroke of luck was the opening today of several video installations from Bill Viola, these powerful visualisations explore the human condition in a unique way using light and water. The Chapel and the Underground Gallery where they are staged seem to be perfect locations. This show is on until April  – a reason in itself to visit the park. Try this video for an impression of Viola’s work….

2. Fairy Steps Limestone / Dallam Deer Park.

We met up with Conrad [] at Milnthorpe for one of my favourite short walks on a promising morning. The tide was out as we climbed away from the Kent sand banks. I was keen to revisit a fascinating area of water eroded limestone above the large quarry. From there we followed delightful woodland paths to the Fairy Steps – a cleft in the escarpment in which legend says if you don’t touch the sides the ‘fairy’ grants  a wish, fat chance; excuse the pun. Down to the 16th century coaching inn The Wheatsheaf in Beetham for a light bar-snack and a pint of Wainwrights. Dallied in the working 18thC Heron Corn Mill and strolled through the manicured Dallam Tower deer park. A perfect walk in miniature.

3. Walking Preston Guild Wheel and Brockholes Reserve.

Making use of local buses we were able to walk a segment of the Guild Wheel. As we walked down the road to the Crematorium I think Mel had his doubts but we were soon into woodland above the Ribble. Next was the extensive Brockholes Reserve, created from worked out sand pits which has become a local favourite since opening four years ago. We didn’t have time for a full exploration but made use of the ‘floating’ visitor centre for a cup of coffee overlooking the lake and reed-beds. A coot was feeding directly in front of us and proved difficult to photo in half dive. I will have to return here more often this winter to appreciate the wildlife and visit the hides. Up to now we had seen few people but from now on there was a steady stream of cyclists using the path in both directions and enjoying the sunny weather. Level walking alongside the River Ribble and on into the outskirts of Preston. Avenham and Miller Parks have been much improved in recent years and are a credit to the town. Cyclists were flocking to the new pavilion for sustenance. We just kept walking and were soon into the regenerated Docklands area. The Marina cafe served good coffee and we called it a day catching a bus up to town and then one back to our starting point. I’ve ridden the 21miles of the  Guild Wheel several times but now realise how easy it is to walk segments using the radial buses, you certainly see more walking.