5 Jun 2019 Dunsop Leader: Bill & Ruth, Length of walk: 10.5 miles, Driving Distance: 70 miles, Number walking: 12
There is no settlement called Dunsop but the brand is all over the area. The walk started from the car park (with toilets) at Dunsop Bridge and spent some time climbing by Dunsop Fell before returning along the River Dunsop.
Dunsop Bridge is a very proud place. It has a BT phone box bearing a plaque identifying it as the 100,000th public call box installed and it still works. It contains a sign warning callers that the minimum call charge is 60p! There is also a sign announcing Dunsop Bridge as the centre of Great Britain. This prompted the question: “How is that calculated?”.
Wikipedia reveals that there are various calculations that could be used but the one approved by the Ordnance Survey uses the “centroid”. Put simply, the centroid is the point at which a cardboard cut-out of the area could be perfectly balanced on the tip of a pencil. The Dunsop Bridge claim could be based on the centroid for Great Britain (including the surrounding islands but not Ireland) being nearby. This centroid is actually at Whitendale Hanging Stones, 4.5 miles north of Dunsop Bridge.
On the other hand the centroid for just the single island of Great Britain is in a field south of Whalley. For anyone thinking of visiting the various centroids, the United Kingdom centroid (as pictured on the sign in Dunsop Bridge) is approximately 1.5 miles off the coast at Morecambe.
Far from being at the centre of things, Dunsop Bridge is at the confluence of the rivers Dunsop and Hodder in the Forest of Bowland, a largely empty area of Lancashire. Few of the walkers will have heard of either river before arriving. The nearest town known to Cheshire residents is Clitheroe. It takes a long time to drive from the M6 to Dunsop Bridge (and back).
The car park was busy with visitors when the 3 cars arrived. By contrast those same cars were the last to leave. Presumably the Puddleducks tearoom had stopped serving by 5pm, especially after several hours of intermittent showers meant they had no need to deg* the bedding plants.
The walk started on the path along the river Dunsop but soon climbed towards Beatrix Fell. Once away from the river, the walk continued on more or less the same level with Beatrix Fell towering above. The coffee stop was held in a copse just after walkers of above average height had to duck under some oppressive branches. A birch tree in the copse had laid down its trunk as a bench, but, since it had fallen on the edge of a precipice, only the brave took advantage of it.
A plaque by a farm recorded the names of several aircrew who had died in the area during WWII. Bill had researched the names and recorded the type of aircraft involved on his picture of the plaque.
Having walked in the shadow of Beatrix Fell and Burn Fell for some time, the party turned to climb up a zig zag path after passing four female walkers enjoying lunch after coming down. Given that this was well past the official noon lunchtime, you can imagine the torment. After many zigs, zags, pauses and the sound of a cuckoo on the climb up, the sight of the leading walkers setting down their rucksacks caused great cheer at the rear of the party.
As lunch ended, the clouds, which been massing around the party, released a steady stream of rain and the hills that had previously surrounded the site disappeared. Instead of climbing a ridge and immediately coming down the other side, the walkers found themselves trudging through soggy peat and various classes of swamp on Burn Fell. Bill revealed that on 8 August 1967, Dunsop Valley entered the UK Weather Records with the highest 90 minute total rainfall at 117 mm. How did they know to start timing it and why 90 minutes? The rain on the walk was not as intense as that but, combined with the swampy ground on the top and the boulder strewn path going down, it turned down the gaiety level considerably.
Spirits recovered when it became apparent that the remainder of the walk would follow the path down along the river Dunsop. There was no more climbing but the path was still swampy in parts with a couple of waterfalls testifying to the generous supply of water in the area.
A United Utilities hydrology station provided the site for the afternoon rest stop but there was no explanation of the purpose of large concrete baffles in the peaty water below where the river Brennand joined the flow. However a Google search suggested that the baffles help to channel the water to allow salmon and trout to swim upstream.
*DEG water a plant [3 letter Scrabble word]
19 Jun 2019 Styal Leader: Elaine & Kath, Length of walk: 9 miles, Driving Distance: 20 miles, Number walking: 14
The route to Styal involves some back streets of Wilmslow and it was there that the four cars suffered a serious delay to their progress. Traffic lights are a valuable addition to road safety but have an evil streak. They can just take against you and that is what happened at a set of road works. The convoy stopped at the red light and, when it changed to green, started to go. The lights immediately changed to red and a convoy arrived from the opposite direction, emerging round the corner unexpectedly. The red light stayed on while traffic flowed and paused from the other side. Eventually an impatient walker walked round the corner intending to act as a stop / go man but the other lights were so far away that he was obliged to complain to the road workers. This eventually allowed the queue to pass through the blockage and all the cars arrived together.
The day started overcast but the sun eventually emerged after coffee and the usual disrobing occurred for the comfortable wander round Styal Country Park.
The first notable sight was the ancient Styal cross. It is believed to be of medieval origin but its purpose is unknown and it was restored and amended by the owners of Quarry Bank Mill in the 19th century. This moved the cross from the safety of Cross Farm to the side of a road where it was demolished by a car in 1980. At last in 2010 the restored cross was moved to the side of the path by Styal church and unveiled by Terry Waite, a former Styal resident. The news report is silent on whether the driver of the car that demolished it was also invited. A touch of forgiveness is always welcome.
The coffee stop was in the woods by the side of the river Bollin, where fallen trees provided mossy seats for the walkers. After that the group continued to the sound of aeroplanes taking off from the adjacent runway of Manchester Airport although the first actual sighting of a plane was after leaving the country park by the Airport Inn and venturing into the nearby fields.
The walk leaders claimed that lunch would be “soon” but hunger mounted in the ranks. The back marker was spotted trying to seize a horse but it made off.
Eventually the leaders arrived at the chosen lunch site overlooking a lake unnamed on the OS map. Although it wasn’t immediately obvious, the site was well-blessed with cow pats. This became apparent when Bill and Keith rubbed it on their hands and clothes. Yes. It is an odd thing to do.
After lunch the party passed Saltersley Hall a 17th century grade II listed building surrounded by earthmoving equipment. Watch this space. The road from the hall was littered with half inch froglets or toadlets as they hopped from a pond towards the lake. They were lucky to survive the walkers’ boots because the tiny creatures are difficult to spot against the gravel of the road. Further down the road was a kennel for cats and dogs and this was the presumed destination of the many cars that passed the party as they made their way along the narrow road towards Lindow Common.
Lindow Common is an area of heathland with Black Lake in the middle. The water was coloured by peat giving the Old English name “llnn ddu”, which has thankfully been adjusted to be the name of the common. The lake used to be fed by springs but they have dried up and the lake is now topped up by rainfall. To make sure the rainfall stays in place, the council had to seal the lake bottom with bentonite clay. When Cheshire East Council has some money to spare, they intend to remove the birch trees that have sprouted up on the common so that the heather can be restored to its original state. The common used to have a racecourse round it but that is long gone leaving only Racecourse Road as a memento.
The party re-joined the river Bollin at The Carrs (from the Old Norse word kjarr meaning boggy ground) and followed the path back to Styal for a visit to the café. From the bridge the geology students relished the opportunity to see the asymmetrical ripples in the sand by an ait* below. These are preserved in rocks and show the sand was laid down by rivers rather than tides (which create symmetrical ripples obviously).
After the café refreshments, everyone except Keith went back to the car park. The back marker was accused of losing Keith, but he claimed that looking after elderly people in cafes was not in his job description. After wandering aimlessly for a while, Keith called for help and was eventually restored to the flock. Is there something in cowpats that causes disorientation? They are best avoided.
*AIT small island [3 letter Scrabble word]