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.
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.