4 May 2022 Whitegate Leader: Kevin, Length of walk: 9.5 miles, Driving Distance: 10 miles, Number walking: 16 + 1
Before a description of the walk, here is a cautionary tale of what happens when one makes a decision based on insufficient information.
Christine Roche, who famously cycles round Sandbach on her folding bike, used to be a member of the long walking group but left before the pandemic because the pace was too fast for her. However, she still retained membership of a short walk and dine group. Although she had not attended a walk for a while, she decided to venture out in response to the email from the group leader. However, she didn’t note the time she should arrive at Waitrose car park but thought 9am felt right. Thus it was that she arrived at the car park just as the long walking group was leaving. Martyn, driving his Jaguar with 3 passengers, took pity on Christine and asked if she wanted a lift. Indeed she did, but not with the long walking group! Neither party asked where the other was going and Christine joined the 9.5 mile walk round Whitegate instead of a 3.5 mile walk to the Bleeding Wolf, where lunch would be provided.
The walk started from the car park of the Plough Inn, where the new landlord was nowhere to be seen so was unable to respond to requests to open the toilets. The group departed, crossing their legs as appropriate. Although the walk included a number of bridges, the first one was selected for the group picture, making it the earliest bridge picture ever.
The rain soon started and blighted the first half of the walk. This section included paths that some walkers had covered in the recent short walk to the Plough, but none of them could remember it.
The walk was stolen from one commissioned by the Plough, which covers “the seven pools of Marton and Whitegate”. The first one encountered is named Sixes Pool, which caused some confusion.
The route went through the village of Whitegate and across Vale Royal golf course. After safely avoiding the few golf balls flying in the rain, the leader called a coffee stop in the woods hoping that the trees might shield the lemon drizzle cake from the raindrops. As usual, the cake wasn’t exposed for long before it was consumed. The leader does not, like Her Majesty, have multiple birthdays; the cake was to celebrate being alive.
The walk through the woods past Rookery Pool included sections of deep mud but some kind soul had provided boardwalks and planks to avoid it. Nobody fell off a plank, which was nice.
After completing the circuit of the golf course, the leader eventually manged to find the road and crossed to New Pool. Like Rookery Pool this was dug by, or possibly for, the monks of Vale Royal Abbey to provide for their Friday fish suppers.
The section from New Pool to Pettypool includes a long section of boardwalk to cross an area where several streams wander freely over the boggy ground. This was a pleasant change from tripping over the many tree roots on the preceding path.
After leaving the wood, the path took a sharp turn round a cottage and then deviated down a narrow gap alongside the fence to Pettypool. The last walkers had allowed a gap to appear between them and the rest of the group and, when they turned the corner, they saw neither their fellow walkers nor the entrance to the narrow path they should have taken. After some minutes of floundering, they spotted a sign pointing to the narrow gap and were reunited with their fellows so they could complain about being abandoned.
The path led along the edge of Pettypool and up through the woods to the support centre of The Joshua Tree charity. The recce had revealed that the centre’s garden included several picnic benches, so the leader went into the garden to seek permission to use them. This was granted and two of the staff came out to chat. At this point Christine revealed that, because she was expecting a pub lunch, she had nothing to eat. One of the ladies went in and made her a sandwich even though feeding elderly walkers is not one of the charitable aims of The Joshua Tree charity.
The rain continued through lunch but abated for the second half of the walk past the Cheshire Kennels (without being attacked) and the Scouts Forest Camp. More of “the seven pools of Marton and Whitegate” appeared as well as other substantial pools which were not included in the Plough walk leaflet.
One of the seven which the group bypassed was Marton Hole. Even though it was only a short distance from Whitegate Way, the paths from it had been ploughed since the recce and the leader deemed it unsuitable. This prompted a reference to the leader’s last walk in January, where the going was particularly challenging. A gentle stroll along the Whitegate Way and a visit to the toilets at the old Whitegate Station prepared the group for the final challenge of a short but steep hill to reach Beauty Bank and the Plough Inn. With the pub doors now open, the group went in to celebrate.
18 May 2022 Whitchurch Leader: Keith, Length of walk: 9.5 miles, Driving Distance: 18 miles, Number walking: 12
The 12 gallant participants fell in line behind leader Keith for an enjoyable stroll including the southern end of the Sandstone Trail, the Bishop Bennet Way and Llangollen canal. It has to be said Keith’s navigation was perfect unlike the BMW satnav system that somehow managed 2 cars to the start point in Whitchurch.
We meandered the 10.5 miles at an average speed of 2mph which is quick for us. Conditions were favourable as we hurtled past a canal boat near the start and some conversations started about why the ladies rush about with lever for opening and closing locks while the gentlemen captains look serious in their hats.
Peter stood in a well camouflaged hole and the group was instructed to take care. That was the only point of danger apart from a short stretch of a main road with fast moving HGV traffic. Even the cattle we saw couldn’t be bothered to stroll down to make us nervous.
Lunch was taken at St Chad’s Church, the highest point of the walk before we headed south on the Sandstone Trail back toward the canal. Some were encouraged to visit a local hostelry, but we had to rush back so Stephen could have his hair cut and Martyn, his car serviced.
I almost forgot this was an international hike including Cheshire, Shropshire and briefly, Wales. Join us for our next few walks, there are three a month all through the summer months when many U3A activities are curtailed. If you’re lucky free cake may be available.
25 May 2022 Bollington Leader: Stephen, Length of walk: 9.5 miles, Driving Distance: 20 miles, Number walking: 12
Click here to see a map of the walk
The guest editor for this walk is the multi-talented Mike Beck with pictures by Jacqueline. Read on.
Millstone Grit Country – LWG, 25th May – about 10 miles
We started with trepidation – it was beginning to rain and blowing inhospitably and Stephen’s entreaties that it wasn’t that bad sounded overly confident. Nevertheless we ventured on, leaving Bollington along the trail that ran beneath White Nancy. There were ups and downs – more of the former, it seemed – as we trekked to Rainow and continued to loop around the rear of Kerridge Ridge. The men were outnumbered by the ladies on this occasion which gave them the confidence to reject a male idea to ford a stream by the ladies lying down as stepping stones – but we all made it via a bridge instead. We then commenced the ascent up to the Tegg’s Nose Country Park visitor centre where we were able to slump and chomp for lunch – again, it rained and blew. From there we crossed along the top of the ‘Nose’ and down into Kerridge before climbing up through woodland to the top of the ridge. It was blowing seriously by this time but it remained dry and fine and we were rewarded with spectacular views on both sides. Along the ridge to White Nancy’s beehive folly for a photoshoot and then steeply down back into Bollington and cars to, thankfully, take off our boots. Great walk – must do it again some time !