2 Oct 2019 Whaley Bridge Leader: Stephen, Length of walk: 9.5 miles, Driving Distance: 25 miles, Number walking: 21
Click on this link to see the route on a map
The inspiration behind this walk was the effect of on local businesses of the evacuation of Whaley Bridge residents when the Toddbrook reservoir threatened to overtop the retaining wall, wash it way and flood the town in a thoroughly biblical manner. However, the reservoir was drained, the dam* wall was patched up and the residents returned from exile – but not from Egypt; it wasn’t that biblical.
It was difficult to assess the effect on local business from the ramble through the town, but the car park was packed and some walkers had to park elsewhere.
After the toilet stop by the station the walkers went up Reservoir Road past the infamous reservoir to encompass the area from which the water for the reservoir is gathered. This meant climbing to the hilltops and following them round while with the valley of Todd Brook below.
At the coffee stop Stephen explained dam construction to his eager audience. Essentially you need to talk to a geologist before you start to build the big wall.
At the northernmost extent the walk passed High Peak School for wayward children – marked on the map as a hotel – and then joined the Gritstone Trail. This took the group past the Bowstones that usually indicate a long downward path into Lyme Park but this time led south to the panorama site just south of Sponds Hill. This was the lunch stop which afforded views over Manchester and Cheshire as well as over the valley towards Whaley Bridge. It was a good place to sit in the sunshine but the wind was too vigorous for those facing into it.
The return path crossed the road from Macclesfield to Whaley Bridge and then went up and down various hills to reach Clayton Fold Farm which sells Xmas trees.
One of the routes down included a cobbled section which was also the route chosen by pent-up rain streaming out of the hillside. Doreen had an idea; why not walk down the cobbles and let the running water remove mud and grass from her boots? The reason why not is that cobbles under water can be slippery; these were and Doreen fell backwards into the water. It would be good to show an informative picture of Doreen’s muddy bottom for those who missed the walk but she lacks experience of posing for explicit shots and little mud is visible. Nice shot of the cobbles though.
At Walker Brow Farm overlooking the reservoir was a machine dragging a reluctant horse round a circular course, like an equine roundabout without the choice of stopping. What a splendid idea for the Cobbles in Sandbach! The locals who lack exercise could be enticed in to it with the promise of free flu jabs say and then given a good workout.
The final stages of the walk passed downstream of the dam wall which was encased in building site fencing to stop people seeing how little was going on. A worker on top of the wall wielded a broom though; nobody likes a dusty dam.
*DAM [3 letter Scrabble word] with several meaning that might not all be familiar:
- An embankment to restrain water
- The water so confined
- A mother usually of cattle, horses etc.
- An obsolete Indian coin
- A piece for playing draughts (Scottish)
- A form of damn or damned e.g. damfool
- Abbreviation of decametre
16 Oct 2019 Tideswell and Dales Leader: Ralph, Length of walk: 8 miles, Driving Distance: 33 miles, Number walking: 18
Click on this link to see the route on a map
The low cloud on the journey to Tideswell and the dampness at the start encouraged walkers to don their overtrousers and fix rucksack covers. The sun appeared from time to time to confuse things but the weather was generally kind. The little rain that did fall was a minor inconvenience.
From the car park just south of Tideswell the path went in the woods through Tideswell Dale to Millers Dale then down to the river Wye. The first stop was at Litton Mill where Steve Hewitt celebrated his birthday by issuing Filipino Macaroons, which he had made from a recipe he picked up in an Australian B&B. They were delightfully squishy which is why the recipe appears with this report. The recipe Steve brought from Australia is written in Australian measures. Someone will have to try it out using UK measures. Who likes cake?
The walk leader further added to group gaiety by telling the story of working conditions in Litton Mill. The first Litton Mill was built in 1782 by the notoriously mean Elias Needham from Tideswell. He employed pauper children from workhouses, chiefly in London’s East End. It was a win-win-win situation. The workhouses received a fee for supplying the children, the mill owners obtained cheap labour and the children enjoyed a 15 hour day for 6 days a week with gruel every day. Sadly the career the children enjoyed lasted only until they had completed their “apprenticeship”. They were then dismissed and expected to find another way of surviving.
William Newton was famed as a poet but started as a carpenter with Richard Arkwright, one of the main innovators of the Industrial Revolution. After Arkwright dismissed him, Newton obtained a loan from a fellow poet and became a mill owner. He bought Cressbrook Mill and sought to provide for his apprentices better living conditions than were prevalent at Litton, and he oversaw the construction of model cottages and a village school. However, even at Cressbrook Mill life was harsh. An apprentice reported that any offence resulted in a beating from Newton with “hazel sticks across our bare buttocks and loins till he cut the flesh and made the blood flow”.
Supported by the profit from his mill, Newton was able to pen such joys as his ode of 1818 described as a “supposed soliloquy of a Father under the Gibbet of his son, upon one of the Peak Mountains”. Although this poem caused a stir at the time, dead criminals were finally spared the indignity of the gibbet only in 1834.
The McConnel family later took on Cressbrook Mill and one of them emigrated to Queensland in 1840, establishing a homestead 76 miles NW of Brisbane. He named it Cressbrook and the family established a condensed milk factory there in 1898. One of the ingredients of Steve’s Filipino Macaroons is – condensed milk. See the world-wide connectedness of cake.
At Water cum* Jolly Dale the leader had expected to divert away from the river because it had overflowed the path on his recce. The water was still present but so shallow that it didn’t enter into the boots. This allowed the group to observe a strange machine which lifted leaves from the river then dumped them back again. Nobody could imagine why someone had spent considerable expense on this device but it is in Water cum* Jolly Dale. The name of this area, where the River Wye is dammed to fill the gorge, is so unusual that one would think that the internet would be full of explanations real and imagined. There is no speculation at all.
After Cressbook Mill the path went away from the river heading north up Cressbrook Dale. This meant that the party had to climb up then climb down; several times until they reached the entrance to Tansley Dale. The leader declared that it was lunchtime and everyone looked for somewhere flat to sit. A live topic of conversation was the occupation of the Commons car park in Sandbach by a large group of travelling folk. Various views emerged and it is comforting to hear how tolerant U3A members are of unconventional lifestyles.
Climbing up Tansley Dale brought the group to a farm on the edge of Litton village. The route onto the village high street crossed a tarmac drive. As the group arrived, a young farm worker was cleaning it with a pressure washer and, after pausing to argue with colleagues, she had to watch 18 pairs of muddy boots walk over it.
To stop Litton village falling into decay, the walkers bought tea and cake to eat on the motley chairs outside the shop. This was just as well, since the shops and cafes in Tideswell seemed to close early.
The path back to the car park wandered along a muddy hillside past an unnecessary barbed wire fence before emerging by the sewage works. There was no trace of odour. If the shops keep closing early, maybe nobody is eating.
*CUM combined with [3 letter Scrabble word]
Pictures to follow