3 Oct 2018 Rossendale Walk Leader: Kath, Length of walk: 8 miles, Driving Distance: 60 miles, Number walking: 16
As well as leading the walk, Kath also supplied the notes below to make up for the absence of the usual correspondent. They are nicely done and prompt the thought that we could have a guest editor from time to time to report on what happened or should have happened on the walk.
We started and finished the walk following parts of the Rossendale Way, which is a 45 mile circular route around the boundary of Rossendale. In 1985 a stone was erected at “Top of Leach” which is the highest point of the way, when the way was opened. This stone was reinstated in 2015 when celebrating 30 years of the Rossendale Way. The Way is currently being re-waymarked – so far 650 new markers have been put in place.
Valley of stone
Stone has been quarried in Rossendale since at least the 14th century. There are records of stone being sold in Rossendale in 1341, and rents being paid for quarries in the middle of the 15th century.
Before 1770, quarrying was on small scale close to where the stone was wanted. Farmers needing stone for buildings or drystone walls would find an outcrop and take stone from there.
But very soon Rossendale stone was in great demand locally and further afield. The stone split easily into sheets suitable for roofing slates which led to slate pits being worked as early as 1600.
Demand increased hugely through 19th century with industrial development, leading to larger and larger quarries. The coming of the railways in 1840’s meant the stone could be marketed more widely to large Victorian towns and cities. Destinations included Manchester, Preston and Liverpool, parts of Yorkshire, Birmingham and London, including Trafalgar Square.
At the peak, around 1890-1900, 3000 men were employed in Rossendale quarries, the third largest employer in Rossendale after textiles and footwear. An estimated 2000 tons of stone left the area per week.
Opened in 1848, closed with Beeching cuts in 1966. Relics remain such as the Helmshore viaduct by the textile museum. The group founded to fight the cuts became the East Lancashire Railway, now operating the Bury to Rawtenstall line (steam trains)
One of the world’s first municipal bus services linked Helmshore to Haslingden in 1907.
Musbury / Helmshore
Village dominated by spectacular flat topped Musbury Tor, once the centre of the medieval hunting park – Alden Valley to South, Musbury Valley to North-West, which we walked through. The whole park was said to be worth 13/4 in 1311, and fines were introduced for trespass.
One of the main early tracks that passed through the area was the pilgrims’ route from Holcombe Moor to Whalley (warm and dry!) where there was an important Minster.
During Industrial Revolution, Musbury gradually became known as Helmshore, ideally suited to wool, cotton and linen industries. From 1790s on small mills were built on the river valleys, close to farms – most mill owners were also farmers. By the late 19th century these mills became redundant with the introduction of large industrial mills close to roads and railways, with terraced houses built to house the workers. Housing was mixed with 2 up / 2 down terraces, back to back cottages and top-and-bottom houses.
This area was once a quarry, and is now disused. There are ruins of several buildings and a rebuilt chimney, countless spoil heaps and old workings. A tramway was constructed to carry away stone flagstones.
As a result of the extensive quarrying, the geography of Musbury Heights is greatly different to other hills in the area.
Haslingden Grane Valley (Grane Road)
In the middle of the 19th century, about 1500 people lived in the valley, about 600 in the village and the rest in scattered farms. Limited amount of arable farming, mainly oats, but most kept sheep. Some farms developed into hamlets employing spinners and weavers of woollen cloth.
Reservoirs – First Holden Wood, 1842, at lower end of valley. Soon afterwards Calf Hey was planned at top of valley and the company started to buy up whole farms. This opened in 1860. The third reservoir (Ogden – the river through the valley is the Ogden) was delayed whilst concerns about pollution from upland farms was addressed by closing down farms throughout the valley and planting forests to reduce the rate of run off and improve water quality. The opening of the reservoir in 1906 led to the closure of the Calf Hey cotton mill, one of the few buildings submerged.
17 Oct 2018 Gawsworth to Macclesfield Walk Leader: Christine Roche, Length of walk: 7 miles, Driving Distance: 0 miles, Number walking: 12
Since we took the service bus to Gawsworth, most people had little driving to do. With the memory of the bus breaking down in Congleton last year still fresh, we waited with apprehension for the bus to arrive. It did arrive and it didn’t break down but it arrived in Sandbach 20 minutes after its scheduled time. All our walkers found a seat but the later passengers stood until we left them at Gawsworth. The official name of the stop where we dismounted is Marton Lane but the road on the other side of the crossroads is Maggoty Lane; what a shame the authorities didn’t choose that as the name for the stop.
The leader was talking as she strode along the lane and had to be called back to enter Maggoty Johnson’s Wood, where the path took us past the grave of Samuel Johnson. He wrote poems and plays and performed them in London, but also carried on his profession as a dancing-master in Manchester. During the thirty years of his retirement, he lived in Gawsworth with a faithful female servant. He performed as a jester for the local gentry where, because of his sharp wit and endearing repartee he was granted free license.
He had a tomb built in the wood for his servant but her brother insisted on a Christian burial so it was left empty. When Samuel died in 1773, he was buried in the local churchyard until it was discovered that he wanted to be buried in the tomb in the wood. He was duly disinterred and placed in the tomb. The wood is reputedly haunted by his ghost and with all the palaver about his burial, you can understand why.
The sandstone (Stephen was present) slab on top of Samuel’s grave is inscribed with a long and tedious poem telling how good he was. This so offended the Victorian owners of Gawsworth Hall that Lady Harrington had another plaque erected in 1851 rebuking him. That the sandstone inscription is so clear is due to the fact that it was restored in 1920.
We left the graveside and stopped in Nancy’s Wood on the other side of Maggoty Lane for a coffee stop. It would be fitting to find that this wood was named after Samuel’s faithful servant but that is not obvious.
A short way along Church Lane we turned into a field to reach Woodhouse Lane and followed it until the path to Dane’s Moss. Since we were promised lunch at the Dane’s Moss picnic site we took this path and it was along here that a ladies’ backward was interrupted by a worker on a quad bike. He was kind enough to wait with the men until the ladies appeared.
One of the tables at the picnic site was occupied by an old man so Martyn went to chat to him while the rest got on with lunch. The site was then overrun by several frantic dogs that appeared to be hunting food.
After lunch we took the canal to Gurnett, where we left the towpath and followed the road to Langley. Before crossing the hill over Macclesfield Golf Club’s course, the leader insisted on another refreshment stop and then we found a bridge over the river Bollin, where a kind lady dog-walker took pictures of the entire party on the bridge.
Arriving in plenty of time before the bus left for Sandbach, we piled in to the Wetherspoon’s pub for a drink before catching the number 38 at the bus station. Shortly after the journey started, Stephen realised that he had lost his wallet, so jumped off and returned to the pub where he found it on the floor. Not only did have that good news to celebrate but Bob’s phone awarded him a medal for completing 1 million steps since March. The phone helpfully converted the energy needed for this achievement to 76.1 chicken drumsticks prompting a fierce discussion about the size of a standard chicken drumstick.
The weather was kind throughout the day maintaining an overcast sky with occasional sun but no wind or rain to hold us back.
Ralph had the misfortune to leave his gilet packed with high technology in his car. No pictures from Ralph this time, but Steve stepped up and supplied the gallery below.