6 Feb 2019 Leek Leader: Mike & Linda, Length of walk: 10 miles, Driving Distance: 20 miles, Number walking: 17
The walk started from a small but popular car park in an industrial area on the edge of Leek in weather conditions that were unremarkable. There was no rain nor wind and when the sun appeared it failed to impress. The temperature was at the level where layers were removed and then replaced. The car park mainly catered for dog walkers and leads straight into the Ladderedge Country Park, where we trampled the grass but quickly returned to the tarmac of the A53.
We crossed this major route and passed the Westwood Golf Club to follow the channel which feeds water to the Caldon Canal from Rudyard Lake. The lake was created in 1798 to act as a reservoir for the Caldon Canal in a narrow valley by the village of Rudyard. This was named after Ralph Rudyard who was famous for killing Richard III (at Bosworth Field not Staffordshire). The North Staffordshire Railway bought the dam and the surrounding land in 1846 and used it to extend the railway from Uttoxeter to Macclesfield. This brought large numbers of trippers to the lake, including the parents of Rudyard Kipling, who so enjoyed the lake on a trip from Burslem that they named the lad after the cakes they ate there .
After gathering a good supply of mud from the path by the mini-canal, we turned east to go under the dismantled North Staffs railway and followed the river Churnet to the A523.
This is the route into Leek from Sandbach and, after crossing it, we walked down to the site of Tennants Fine Chemicals before climbing the hill above to look over the Sainsburys store. The word “Fine” in the title isn’t just idle trumpet blowing; fine chemicals comprise a major branch of the chemical industry including the esters and aromas that Tennants supply. The founder of the company was a Scottish weaver, Charles Tennant, who invented bleaching powder in 1799 (but not at the newly created Rudyard Lake).
We came down to river level again and, after a friendly local guided us away from a dead-end, we climbed past the Abbey Inn and through woodland to the northern extent of the route at North Hillswood near Tittesworth reservoir. In the woodland we revisited the memorial to Tony Squires. Is this the Tony Squires who started Congleton Harriers?
The site selected for lunch was a pile of concrete railway sleepers by the path, which were piled to give a convenient height for most people to perch on and an upper level for those prepared to climb. Ralph made friends with a dog that lacked a visible owner but foraged the sleepers for leftovers after we departed. It was the dog that did the foraging, although the pig in the field nearby would have been pleased to join in.
Down we went again to cross the river Churnet and we paused on the bridge for a picture. Sadly the light conditions thwarted this project so Ralph took pictures of Stephen looking like an auf.
We needed to climb more hills and the icy path selected took us up to Ball Haye Green in Leek, where we admired the WWI memorial gates of the playground. We climbed to the A53 which we crossed into Mount Road, a long uphill stretch into the countryside. At the summit we passed the entrance to Kniveden Hall. Although this is a care home catering for vulnerable adults, we were not invited in.
As we made our way to Ballington Grange farm, we spotted a couple of lambs, the first this year. After following the path through the farmyard, we descended towards Leek through woods containing several swings. As usual one walker was selected to try them out.
To enliven the final stages of the walk we strolled through the cemetery before crossing to a pub entitled “Pride of the Moorlands”. It is close to the cattle market and used to be called “The Herdsman” but it seemed uninviting so we passed by through a minibus graveyard to where the North Staffs railway used to go. This led into the industrial area containing the car park.
By a fluke of route planning we missed seeing the famous “plague stone” on Cheddleton Road. This is the 1.25 metre stump of a medieval cross for which a legend has been created: “It is thought that provisions were left on or near the cross for the townspeople of Leek during the Bubonic Plague, and payment was left by the people in bowls of vinegar or urine, to prevent spread of the disease.” In comparison to this, a trip to Aldi is a real joy.
AUF: the child of an elf. Because of the widespread interest in the acceptable 3 letter words in Scrabble, the more unusual examples will feature from time to time in these reports. AUF is the first. If you have any particular favourites, you may nominate them for inclusion.