Monday, 13 August 2018

Bollington to Lyme Park 11/08/18

7.5 miles, via Kerridge, White Nancy, Oakenbank, Hedge Row, Gausie Brow, Brink Brow, 
 Sponds Hill, Park Moor, and Knightslow Wood. 

As it's taken me until August to get myself over to Lancashire, allowing My Sister to complete her year's course of teacher training without interruption, it looks like the plans that I'd conceived for this season for walking with her are probably going to come to nought, like finally tackling the Witton Weavers Way, the green route into Manchester, or decamping her whole family for a day in the Wirral Country Park. Especially as I'm travelling without a plan and after a Friday evening of getting food at Grub in Manchester (a deeply hipster-ish establishment in the shadow of the former Mayfield station) and hitting the local brews once back in Egerton, getting an early start onto any path seems unlikely, but My Sister has a plan to let Dr G and the girls have an outing to Lyme Park, while we hit the edge of the Cheshire hills, not the part of the county that I had planned for my first visit to it, but a very satisfactory substitute nonetheless. So for the first time in a while we set out for a trek into the deeply unknown, as all I know is that we will be somewhere to the south of Stockport down the A6 and that we'll be in the rough and wrinkled part of the county that you always forget to acknowledge when tripping across the Cheshire Plain, and just to add to the mystery we'll be going without a map, as My Sis trusts the OS app on her phone to get us to our destination through terrain that is mostly alien to her too. Thus we start from Bollington, one of those Cheshire town that's much smarter than you might expect, the last bastion of Northern expensiveness before the hills take over on the eastern edge of the county, and we are dropped off at the top of the terrace on Princess Street as we get a bit lost trying to find the carpark on the site of the former goods yard by the side of the Middlewood Way the former MS&LR-NSR joint railway between Marple and Macclesfield. We get going at 11.05am, hopeful at getting this trip down in three hours so the rest of the family doesn't get bored in our absence, getting underway properly once we've hit Grimshaw Lane in the shadow of Adelphi Mill and risen to pass under the Macclesfield canal as it takes the Cheshire Canal Ring off to the south of the county, soon landing ourselves in the suburban quarter of the town as the day looks to bring more warmth that wasn't wholly expected. Letting My Sister and the OS app navigate us, we take a turn among the terraces that must have once lived for the silk and quarrying industries, and are now surely beyond the price range of anyone desiring such a cottage, following Jackson Lane past the Hollin Hall hotel complex and into the village-let of Kerridge, all looking pleasantly Sandstone-y clustered around the Bulls Head inn, with the turn onto Redway Lane revealing the wooded and sharply rising north end of Kerridge Hill, our first target for the day, looming ahead of us.

The Macclesfield Canal Aqueduct, Grimshaw Lane, Bollington.

Kerridge and its looming hill.

I'm sure we don't find the best route away from the country terraces to the route up to White Nancy, but the route we take below the woods reveals us a view across Bollington to its other companion hill, Nab Head, off to the north as well as giving us a first reveal of the plain on which Manchester dwells, revealing its extraordinary extent, a view that expands as we hit the steep turf path that will take us halfway up the slope, adding the wrinkles of the East Cheshire hills to our panorama as we go. Gain a stepped path that will take us all the way up to the 285m summit and the folly of 1817 that caps the hill, looking back across Greater Manchester to the West Pennine fringe, many miles from here as we are actually way further south that I'd have credited it, and as we meet the other lunchtime strollers at the top we can look over the expanse of the Cheshire plain to easily pick out the Clywdian Hills far off in Wales to the west. The brain can also find the radio-telescope at Jodrell Bank, and Fiddlers Ferry power station, advertising the way to Merseyside, while aircraft drop into the landscape on the approaches to Manchester airport, while the view south brings us the moors that cling to the western edge of the Peak District, completely unseen on all my travels and at once feeling so close as to be tangible but still frustratingly remote from my walking fields. We could loiter here in the lunchtime sunshine for a while but we need to move on, as the Gritstone Trail needs to be located, taking us back down the hard path we came up and off into the rolls of hills to the northeast, hopeful that the waymarked trail will do the navigating for us as we roll downhill in the shadow of Kerridge Hill to Ingersley clough on a decent track, bottoming out just upstream from the former bleach works that awaits a makeover, and then pass over the stream to ascend up the other side. This takes us up to the former Ingersley Hall, now Savio House of the RC Salesian Order of Don Bosco, a religious retreat in other words, and we pass around it and the neighbouring High Ingersley farm before dropping to another stream crossing and a sharp ascent through the trees to meet Oakenbank Road, which advertises a detour to the Farm Made Tearooms, and I show myself up as a very different travelling companion to My Sister as, unlike Dr G, I don't make an immediate beeline for additional brews. Pacing on along the lane, past Oakenbank farm, we can look over the equestrian fields to see that we are still clearly in the vicinity of Bollington and White Nancy, off to our west, and the feeling comes on that we ought to be making some progress to our destination by now, so we march to meet the Old Smithy corner on Blaze Hill Road and then seek out the signposts that East Cheshire council have spent a lot of miney on to direct us over the fields to the farm that has recently grown next to the former Cheshire Hunt Inn.

Bollington and Nab Head.

White Nancy.

The East Cheshire Hills to come.

Ingersley Clough and the Bleach works.

Kerridge Hill & White Nancy from Oakenbank.

Here the Gritstone Trail should send us downhill on a pretty direct route across the valley containing Harrop Brook, but the path rights are suspended due the footbridge being out, and thus we have to improvise a detour, even though both of us were expecting the other to opine the wisdom of fording the stream after so much dry weather, sending ourselves along Hedge Row, where various farmsteads have had the rural retreat makeover and the lane provides much traffic despite not really going anywhere. We'll pace along among the hedges in the shadow of the looming Billinge Hill for a distance before we start to snake downhill past Heyhead farm, where My Sister brings the dubious wisdom of gaining ourselves extra sustenance by eating wild Blackberries, eventually meeting the cottage at the lane's end and dropping down the rough track to cross the brook and rise beyond to the yard of Bowerclough farm on the north bank. The straightforward route up the rough face of Gausie Brow is not taken at My Sister's instance as she doesn't fancy facing down the paddock of horses and foals that resides on the steep slope, and thus we detour up the driveway for quite a way before meeting another path that hairpins back into the wild enclosure that draws us right up to the edge of Harrop Wood and then gets very vague indeed as it rises through the trees before becoming apparent again in the high field that completes the 100m of ascent from the valley bottom. Now at High Moor altitude we can still feel like we're in the vicinity of our start line as we pause to water and watch the aeroplane action over Greater Manchester, before we resume the Gritstone Trail route and push onto a more dynamically moorland landscape, passing among sheep and rocky remnants of quarry workings, while being amused that a local name on the map is Andrew's Knob. Follow the marker posts that will elevate us to over 360m up as we sneak around the edge of Brink Brow, before dropping to Bakestonedale Road by Brink Farm, a route know to My Sister as being part of the challenging cycle ride through the wonderfully named hamlet of Pott Shrigley, and we are compelled to pace the road rest for a while before we strike for the finish line, but not before we get a grand old Cheshire moorland view to the south. It's grand to see a view like this for the first time, and even though it's alien to me there's enough to pick out among these elevated ruggles and creases, not least the apparent trees of Macclesfield Forest and the sharp Matterhorn-like 500+m top of Shuttlingsloe, and also out there are the highest points in the county, Cat Tor and Shining Tor, as well as the Cat & Fiddle inn, one of the remotest pubs in the country.

Hedge Row and the valley of Harrop Brook

Horses to avoid on Gausie Brow.

Greater Manchester from the East Cheshire Hills.

Tracking a path around Brink Brow.

The Cheshire Moors, the western Peak District.

A landscape for the distant future, perhaps, which we turn away from as the Gritstone Trail takes us up onto the rise to Sponds Hill, which will put another 50m of ascent onto the day, topping us out at 410m, and a break off from the track can give us a definitive Cheshire moorland profile, with the toposcope revealing that we are at a similar latitude to Whaley Bridge, Chapel-en-le-Frith and the Hope Valley, and thus the distant upland to the east must be the entirety of the Dark Peak, concealing Bleaklow and Kinder Scout at its heart, and with Mam Tor and Rushup Edge at its south. The track goes over the top, where people are hard at work laying out a motocross track on the elevated fields, and there also seems to be grey gunk littered everywhere up here, though its nature is a mystery, with us ensure if it's sheep food, weed killer or some substance to revive the moors after so many weeks of dry weather. We can pass our first Peak District National Park styled sign as we press northwards, which has us both surprised that we are upon it, and are then even more surprised to find that we have been since we passed Oakenbank more than an hour back, and as our elevated route takes us to the upper perimeter wall of Lyme Park our attention can once more wander over Greater Manchester, as we run on to meet Bowstonegate Farm and turn our back on our surprise views of Derbyshire, and missing the ancient Bow Stones as we do so. Hit the National Trust's Lyme Park estate as we enter Park Moor, to lose 100m of elevation in short order as we hammer downhill, getting site to the hunting lodge known as The Cage, but barely even sneaking a view of the roof and chimneys of Lyme Hall itself, as its location really is one of the remoter upscale country piles that we have, at the tip of the thumb of the Peak District's mitten. Enter Knightslow wood for the overgrown picturesque view to the house and bragging about how well my camera photographs among tree cover, and note the many shelters built of branches and twigs, that could easily be the handiwork of My Nieces and their Father, constructed by the path's side as it snakes down to the inner perimeter wall which we pass through to meet the main car park, sitting in the shadow of the 16th-17th century, neo-Palladian-cum-Baroque Lyme Hall, made famous by the 1995 TV version of Pride and Prejudice. Naturally it  has really attracted the crowds today, though we won't be joining them at the house, as we head down by the fish pond to meet the rest of the family as they depart the adventure playground, and roll up to the former Saw mill complex that houses the tea rooms and ice cream parlour to conclude our trip at 2.20pm with tea and cake, a very good, and necessarily sociable, excursion on fresh paths for the both of us and a fine introduction to the last Northern county that I hadn't previously visited on foot.

The rising path over Sponds Hill.

The Dark Peak revealed at a distance.

Bowstonegate and the Lyme Park perimeter wall.

Lyme Moor, with Knightslow Wood and the Cage.

Lyme Hall, with car park.

5,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 3464.8 miles
2018 Total: 371.4 miles
Up Country Total: 3121.1 miles
Solo Total: ????.? miles 

Next Up: Aiming at the Upper Washburn Circuit again!  EDIT: Or Not...

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