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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Cloud and the Dane Valley

Walking with; Nobody
The pastoral heartlands of Cheshire have not been very productive walking territory lately, after the electric fences and Somme like mud of Alderley Edge, I pitched up in the hamlet of Timbersbrook only to find my proposed route closed due to dangerous trees and no alternative offered. None the less after a quick re-evaluation I decided to head up to the local landmark hill known as The Cloud which sits at 343 metres and commands fine views of the area. Timbersbrook was once the site of the Silver Springs Bleaching and Dyeing Factory and also has a history of Silk Mills using the clean waters of the stream. However it is now a small, quiet hamlet and the car park is next to a beautiful picnic spot.
From Timbersbrook, I started the short, steep climb through woodland to Gosberryhole Lane. It was chucking it down with rain but as I left the lane and ascended onto The Cloud the view out across the Cheshire Plains were still pretty spectacular. On reaching the Trig Point Shutlingsloe was visible in the distance as was Rudyard Lake (after which Rudyard Kipling was named) and I had great views of a hunting Kestrel and a pair of Pied Wagtails. The Cloud is composed of Chatsworth Grit and covered with heather and would make an excellent spot for a Summer picnic. I continued on the Gritstone Trail towards the Dane Valley through fields of new born lambs and with conditions becoming increasingly muddy and slippery underfoot.
Ravensclough Brook is a spectacular gorge and the narrow wooded path followed its course before dipping down towards the River Dane. I saw a pair of Goldfinch and there were the remnants of what must have been some spectacular bluebells. After following the river for a short while I struck out up the hill towards Peck's House putting up a pair of handsome Pheasants. Road walking isn't always the most edifying activity but in this part of the world where the only traffic I came across was a tractor and a pair of Mallard and the Hawthorn hedges were coming into bloom it was far from unpleasant. I followed a couple more small lanes passing by Cloud Side shooting centre before climbing back up to the Cloud plantation and retracing my steps back to the car and out of the rain!
To view the full album for this walk, please click on the link below;

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brunt's Barn-Big Moor-White Edge-Tumbling Hill-Brunt's Barn

Walking with; David from the Peak District Rangers
The last of my pre-visits with the Rangers took me out towards Sheffield to the village of Grindleford. The Rangers are based at Brunt's Barn named after Harry Brunt, a Deputy National Parks Officer. The office sits just down a track from Grindleford station and the very popular cafe ( which was already thronged with bikers when I arrived. Grindleford was an important point on the packhorse routes which carried salt between the Cheshire salt mines and Sheffield and other Northern cities. In 1588 two Catholic priests were discovered hiding in the village and were executed in Derby, the two, Nicholas Garlick and Robert Ludlum, became known as the Padley martyrs and a chapel in their memory sits next to the office.
We set off climbing steeply from the valley floor and following a stream up through Oak's Wood onto open moorland with fantastic views towards some of the many gritstone edges in the area. We continued onto White Edge Moor where there was plenty of evidence of the old packhorse routes that crisscross the tops round here. The most well known example is the Lady's Cross which stands on the moor and details the ancient routes taken to Sheffield. Our route continued to the outer reaches of the Longshaw Estate and included some great views of a herd of Red Deer silhouetted on the horizon. We carried on to Greaves's Piece and then along the narrow wooded valley beneath Hewetts Bank where other waymark crosses could be seen. We had lunch on the edge of Leash Fen, an expanse of marsh and (reputedly) the site of a village that sank beneath the bog and is immortalised by a local rhyme;
When Chesterfield was gorse and broom,
Leash Fen was a market town,
Now Chesterfield's a market town,
Leash Fen is but gorse and broom.
There was no evidence of a Peak District Atlantis so we continued past a stone circle and over Bar Brook onto the wild top of Big Moor. There were more deer, Curlew, Buzzards and Kestrel as well as a herd of magnificently shaggy Highland Cattle. The Eastern Moors Partnership (RSPB and National Trust) have removed sheep from various areas of the moorland to see how the foliage regenerates and there was already clear evidence of this which made the walk across the tops hard work. Eventually we reached the White Edge Trig point and dropped down off the edge towards Stoke Flat. We followed the wooded fringe of Froggatt Edge up to Tumbling Hill where we had some great views back down to Grindleford before heading back to Brunt's Barn.
To view the full photo album for this walk please click on the link below;

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Lyme Park Loop

Walking with; Nobody
When I first moved to the North West one of the first places I visited was Lyme Park and it's remained a firm favourite ever since whenever I get the itch for a few miles. The house itself is the largest in Cheshire and is Grade one listed. It was built in the latter part of the 16th Century and modified in the 1720s by Giacomo Leoni and then by Lewis Wyatt in the 19th Century. The Legh family gave the house to the National Trust in 1946 and more recently it found fame as the "Pemberley", Mr Darcy's house in the BBC adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen.
I started out in Disley and made my way towards the Park before beginning the slow ascent towards The Cage, originally built as a hunting lodge and commanding 360 degree views including a herd of Fallow Deer. Bypassing the house I started out on The Gritstone Trail and climbed steadily through Knightslow Woods and out onto Park Moor. The path leads up to the Bowstones, remnants of an Anglo-Saxon cross before following a ridge with beautiful views across the Peak District. It was clear and I could see snow on the slopes of Kinder as well as views all the way to the distinctive profile of Shutlingsloe in the South. It was muddy underfoot but the walking was easy and there were plenty of new lambs and a couple of buzzards to keep me entertained. I dropped down towards Pott Shrigley and then started another climb up Bakestonedale Moor which had great views across to last weeks walk on White Nancy and the Kerridge Saddle. Dropping down past Moorside Quarry I continued down to re-enter Lyme Park at the West Gate and climbed the track through Pursegate Woods which had a few late bluebells and a plentiful supply of Wild Garlic coming through and making the lower half of the track smell like an Italian restaurant.
It started to rain as I reached the carpark and I was regretting my decision not to park on site, but as I pottered on towards Disley I was rewarded with some fantastic views of the stormclouds hovering over Kinder which made the last half mile in a torrential downpour almost worth while!
To view the full photo album please click on the link below;

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mynydd Llangattwg and Craig y Cilau

Walking with; Ruthy
Easter Sunday and what better way to burn off the chocolate based calories than a walk up Llangattock Mountain! We parked the car near the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal and were soon walking down narrow country lanes towards the imposing gritstone escarpment of Mynydd Llangattwg or Llangattock Mountain. The area has been extensively quarried and the initial route followed the old tramlines used to bring limestone down the mountain to be put on canal boats for onward travel. After passing a couple of delightful farmhouses and a lot of bluebells and celandines we arrived at the foot of the first of two short, sharp and very steep climbs up the old tramway. Whilst it was difficult to concentrate on much except putting one foot in front of the other it was possible to see holes in the stone where the tram rails had been screwed into the rock and towards the top of the first incline were the very ruined remains of one of the old brakehouses, an office with a view! We continued our ascent up the second incline to reach the escarpment and a flat trail that followed the contours towards the fantastic natural amphitheatre of the Craig Y Cilau Nature Reserve.
The reserve sits in one of largest upland limestone cliffs in South Wales and is home to Lesser Horseshoe bats who have a winter roost in one of the caves, a species of Whitebeam that is found nowhere else in the world and the Osof Agen Allwedd cave system which for many years was considered the largest in the UK. We saw a couple of Ravens circling the crags and there was clear evidence of the cave systems everywhere. We descended from the amphitheatre following a very rocky path through woodland before emerging at Waun Ddu or Black Bog an SSSI where we saw a Wheatear and had to concentrate hard in order to keep our feet dry. There was also a Buzzard circling overhead as we climbed away from the bog and crossed the minor road into more woodland before emerging in the middle of a field full of lambing Ewes, some of them literally in the process of giving birth! Trying to cause the expectant mothers as little distress as possible we continued across the field and followed a Hawthorn edged path down through more farmland before emerging back onto the canal. All that was then required was a gentle stroll downhill past the square stone chapel to The Horseshoe Inn and a pint of "Brain's".
To view the full album please click on the link below;

Thursday, April 5, 2012

White Nancy not Shining Tor

Walking with; Al
Well, the plan was to ascend up to the highest point in Cheshire, Shining Tor, from the Errwood Reservoir in the Goyt Valley. After the week of glorious sunshine we felt sure the views from the top would be stunning as the beautiful Cheshire countryside stretched out before us. However, Mother Nature had slightly different plans and send us an unseasonal Easter blizzard. We were well equipped and still eager but as each narrow road we tried was blocked by snowdrifts or was already too slippery to make safe progress plans changed and, unwilling to head back for a brew just yet, we decided on the classic Bollington walk, a quick jaunt up to White Nancy!
White Nancy is a folly built in 1817 for John Gaskell jr, allegedly to celebrate the victory at the Battle of Waterloo. It is believed that the structure was originally built as a Summer House and although it isn't possible to enter it now, there are a stone seat and table inside the folly. Over the years Nancy has endured a number of disguises including been painted pink and also as a Christmas Pudding, however today she was brilliantly white and a beacon for us as we climbed out of Bollington.
As we ascended the steps we could see the snow lying on the hills and as soon as we broke cover the wind hit us blowing horizontal sleet and snow which was blasted against any surface in the way (including us). We continued on along the Saddle of Kerridge trying to make use of stone walling for some shelter but were grateful once we started to drop off the ridge and down towards Rainow out of the teeth of the wind! The weather however was pretty unrelenting and we decided to double back to Bollington over the Saddle and down past the impressive Endon Hall built in 1840 and with a Grade 2 listed stable block. Bollington as well as boasting an excellent brew pub, The Vale Inn, also boasts a couple of very good bakeries and a sausage roll and bakewell tart later, the aborted expedition of the day had been long forgotten!
To view the full album please click on the link below;

Monday, April 2, 2012

Crowden Great Brook to Crowden Castles and back via The Pennine Way

Walking with; Cath and Brian from the Rangers
Another stunning day out in the Dark Peak on my third pre-visit with the Ranger service, one more and I'll be eligible for an interview for the training scheme. The Langdendale Ranger Station is based in Tintwistle and sits above the Bottoms Reservoir, one of five that run up the valley and which were used by the Luftwaffe in World War Two to help guide their bombers into Manchester. We were heading out onto Crowden today under blue skies and I was looking forward to my first excursion on this classic peak and the chance to get some views back over to Bleaklow where I'd been on Wednesday.
Leaving the campsite and YHA behind we began by following the Crowden Great Brook. Initially a path runs along the brook but soon the path disappears and it became an exercise in scrambling and carefully picking our way along the banks. Cath told me that they do get Peregrines nesting in the valley, but in spite of seeing evidence of a couple of kills, we didn't see anything bigger than a Kestrel in the air or a Weasel on the ground! After scrambling up a couple of waterfalls, the rock formations known as the Castles came into view and we headed away from the river and up the very steep, calf tightening climb to our lunch spot. It was breezy on the tops but the views as far as Kinder made the climb worthwhile and we were able to watch a few people picking their way along the "new" Pennine Way. Refuelled we struck out North East onto Siddens where we came across evidence of yet another plane wreck on the top, there are over 200 wrecks spread across the Peak District and whilst the majority date from World War Two, the most recent was in 2008! There were great views across to Black Hill, but we had a path survey to complete and so had to save it for another day. We headed west from Siddens over some rough moorland before dropping down to The Pennine Way at Red Ratcher. The path climbed steadily out of the valley and cut across the hill on the opposite side of the brook we'd ascended in the morning. Once we reached Laddow Rocks we dropped down off the path to the "cave", an overhanging bivvy spot closely linked to the foundation of The Rucksack Club and latterly the Mountain Rescue Teams. The Rucksack Club was founded in 1902 "To facilitate walking tours and mountaineering expeditions, both in the British Isles and elsewhere, and to particularly to initiate members into the science of rock climbing and snowcraft", Laddow Rocks was one of the favourite sites for the early members to climb on, but difficulties in rescuing an injured participant led to the formation of the "Stretcher sub-committee" which eventually led to the formation of the Mountain Rescue teams. There were a couple of climbers but we left them and continued along The Pennine Way which was surprisingly quiet given the conditions. We crossed Oakenclough Brook and headed down with the Reservoirs in our sights all the way back down to the campsite and a welcome sit down for a brew!
To view the full album please click on the link below: