1 Aug 2018 Teggs Nose and Macclesfield Forest Walk Leader: Paul Hebden, Length of walk: 8.5 miles, Driving Distance: 18 miles, Number walking: 17
The continuing drought has lowered the water level in all the local reservoirs. However the custodians of the lower reservoir below Teggs Nose had a team on the dam wall and they didn’t want walkers getting in their way. This meant we had to walk further down the road into Langley and then climb up another road to the upper dam. This dam has been done up recently and now has a wall low enough to allow Stephen to see the water but too high for Doreen to see over. She will have to ask an adult to give her a leg up.
A workman with enormous tools was adding a handrail to the path up Teggs Nose and had to break off to allow us to pass and this confused Ralph who walked on the wrong side of the handrail to the first gate. To everyone’s relief there was a gap by the gate so that he didn’t to climb over the handrail.
As we slowly climbed the hill some bright spark asked “where is that big white building over there”. It was nearly in front of Beeston Castle but all the maps and apps, that help walkers find their way, were unable to answer this question. Locations that people put forward included Crewe, Northwich, Calveley, Winsford and Middlewich. Drawing a line on a large scale map between Teggs Nose and Beeston Castle reveals that it must be in Winsford or Middlewich. Bill has an app that allows him to point his phone at a scene and see the names of features laid on the view. This revealed that Shutlingsloe was down on the plain whereas we could all see that it was behind him. After spending an inordinate length of time on this fruitless search, we followed the rascals who had shot up in front of the leader.
The visitor centre provided toilets and picnic tables for our recovery before we set off down the hill to Macclesfield Forest. The climb had taken so long that the hungry folk at the back of the group had to eat blackberries to sustain themselves in the long wait for lunch.
Before entering the trees, we passed a farmhouse with a new gate which drew admiring glances and then we plunged into the shady forest emerging on the path down to Forest Chapel. This path used to be cobbled but the stones have come loose and it is now a rubble-strewn endurance test.
Lunch around Forest Chapel was much the same as always; the swallows were still flying into their nest in the porch, the grass is still unmown and we had the peace to ourselves. Stephen took advantage of the peace to lie down in one the empty plots to try the size. When we tried to leave quietly so as not to wake him, he proved to be more alert than we thought. Although we were ready to leave, a local lady turned up to give us a jolly good talking-to. None of our group had signed the visitor book, so, before we could leave, we had to remedy that failure and listen to the tale of how the authorities want to close the chapel.
The rest of the walk went through an area recently logged and raised questions about why the lumberjacks leave the stumps behind after pulling them out of the ground. And why do they leave skinny, dead trees standing in the aftermath of the logging?
After leaving the logged areas behind, we made our way to the Trentabank visitor centre toilets before heading for the car park. The delays mentioned above ensured that Leather’s Smithy received no income from our group.
15 Aug 2018 Darwen Jubilee Tower Walk Leader: Barrie & Bill, Length of walk: 9 miles, Driving Distance: 50 miles, Number walking: 16
The motorway network was in fine working order and took us easily to the Hare & Hounds in Abbey Village. Barrie had agreed with the proprietors that we would order a cup of tea and possibly a teacake after the walk instead of paying a fee to park. Wikipedia says that the village is named after a track that used to go from Brinscall to Whalley Abbey. This is unlikely; although Brincscall is only a mile away, Whalley is 10 miles distant and the other side of Blackburn. The founders probably tried to curry favour with the church authorities.
The path started next to the car park and took us into Roddlesworth Woods, which includes several reservoirs. The first bridge picture occurred over a slipway from one of these. Ralph bravely stood with his camera on the slipway oblivious to the danger of flash flood. However, given the impressive vegetation flourishing on the slipway paving, flooding here is not a frequent occurrence.
Although we didn’t see them, the woods are also the home of the ruins of Hollinshead Hall, which was demolished in 1910. Liverpool Corporation owned the Roddlesworth reservoirs and wanted to link them to its other reservoirs at Rivington and Anglezarke. They dug a canal called the Goit to effect this link but the ancient manor house, rebuilt in the 18th century had to go. A shame that; our group likes old ruins for obvious reasons.
The woods were notable for plentiful blackberries, the absence of silver birch trees and for the presence of a group of pre-school children who insisted on giving Ann “food” made of tree bark and twigs. The children weren’t completely feral; they had a couple of women monitoring their behaviour and a toilet tent. With so many bushes about, we didn’t like to ask to use their tent.
Leaving the woods, we entered Darwen Moor which was the site of our lunch stop target – the Jubilee Tower. This was erected in 1898 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and stands on a hill 1,220 feet above sea level giving views over Lancashire and surrounding areas. To give an even more impressive viewing experience, the tower is 85 feet tall, with access via an internal spiral staircase. None of this height helps if the weather brings low cloud in like it did for us.
Whoever created the path to the tower wanted visitors to spend plenty of time looking at it. The path meanders unnecessarily all over the moor instead of going straight to it. The long approach had not prepared us for the strong wind that swirls around the tower and we tried in vain to find somewhere to sit in relative calm to eat lunch. In doing this Ralph fell over and crashed into Graham causing his head to collide with a sharp rock. However Graham is tough and made light of the hole in his head.
On leaving the tower, the back marker checked that everyone had their poles only for Bill to remind him that he should be wearing his hat. While the back marker searched the tower for the missing hat, Bill was posing in it for photographs.
We left the hill to enter Sunnyhurst Woods, a council-owned park and nature reserve opened in 1903. The trees are not ancient; the area was bare of trees in 1800 but the landowners planted them to provide a shooting ground. Local people were allowed to walk the paths but this ruined the shooting. At the southern end of the woods lies the Earnsdale reservoir, which was built in 1863 but had to be repaired in 2015 to stop seepage. It is a good thing that they did this work; in August 2016 a landslide occurred near the dam wall and is still being shored up.
Anyone standing on Jubilee Tower and looking towards Sunnyhurst Woods would have seen an abandoned reservoir just above where the landslide occurred. This was Sunnyhurst Hey reservoir which was examined in 2008 after a history of seepage, and found to be missing essential components in its walls. United Utilities decided it was too expensive to repair so they dug a big hole in its wall to prevent it filling up and abandoned it.
After the woods we made our way up the hill known as Donkey Brew. (Brew is a Lancashire dialect form of “brow”.) As we neared the top of the hill, Blackpool Tower came into view with the Ribble estuary to its left. The sighting of the tower was confirmed using Dave’s binoculars.
After Bill had cruelly videoed Ralph struggling over a tricky style, Ralph released his inner David Attenborough to capture pictures of three rheas, which were waiting for the autumn migration back to the pampas. The rheas were unwilling participants and Ralph’s patience ran out.
Weather apps had predicted rain at 4pm but occasional light showers occurred from time to time during the day and we reached the car park just before the rain started earlier than forecast. We then took refreshment in the Hare & Hounds including a cup of tea and a teacake.
22 Aug 2018 Crowden Tower Walk Leader: Ralph, Length of walk: 7 miles, Driving Distance: 35 miles, Number walking: 17
There was a gap in the schedule of walks and Ralph decided to fill it with a repeat of the June walk to the same location, which was blighted by rain and mist. Another possible reason for repeating the walk so soon was to see if he could lose anybody else on a walk. Sadly Mike wasn’t with us this time. You can’t blame him; nobody likes being left behind but we did wonder on the way up whether Mike would have sneaked up without telling us to stand at the top in his new boots rustling up some pork steak on a barbecue.
After setting out from Barber Booth Ralph teased us by aiming to climb Jacob’s Ladder but soon reverted to Plan A and we crossed the fields to Crowden Brook. This led us inevitably to climb Crowden Clough, which Ralph described as “a steepish ascent”. He is usually prone to exaggeration but this phrase was economical with the truth. Everyone made it to the top including Steve, who started out with the threat of walking back if his sciatica became too painful. He works in pharmaceuticals so he knows what to take.
On the way up a young person and his 6 year old son passed us intent on climbing rocks and at the top the boy revealed that he had completed the Three Peaks when he was 5. It’s not a competition.
The lunch stop was in dried-out Crowden Brook at a junction of several paths and Ralph confessed that he hadn’t considered the risk of flash floods. It was noticeable, however, that Ralph and Ann sat away from the centre of where the brook would rush, if a sudden storm broke. It was a busy day on Kinder and quite a few small groups passed while we were lunching and on the top. It must have been the busiest walk ever in terms of the number of groups we met.
Bill finished lunch early and wandered off to take pictures. Susie saw her chance and shot forward as well. When the group made it to the top we found her draped on a rock channelling her inner Little Mermaid. Bob spoiled it by climbing up with her; he doesn’t make a believable mermaid. Ralph suggested that there is some sort of completion to see how many people can sit on this rock at one time but we only managed four before Susie started to fret about being knocked off.
In olden times before television and the internet, people had to amuse themselves in the dark winter nights and one of the pastimes they came up with was giving names to rocks. We passed a lot of rocks on the top and those who know these things pointed out the Wool Pack stones (nothing to do with Emmerdale), the anvil and the Noe Stool. This latter boulder looks nothing like a stool but it does overlook the headwaters of the River Noe. Two years ago the back marker climbed on top of it but he didn’t want to repeat the feat this time and upset the 6 year old prodigy.
The sky was overcast but allowed clear views to the horizon when we reached the top but we soon experienced the sort of rain that you can feel but can’t see in the air or on the ground. Eventually it intensified to the extent that we donned waterproofs. This had the effect of causing the rain to cease, whereupon we all started to warm up.
We were on the downhill section now and had to negotiate Jacob’s Ladder. The biblical Jacob after waking from his dream said: ‘How full of awe is this place!’ Our opinion of the path down was similarly awful. But we reached the bottom safely and stopped by the bridge for a refreshment stop where Stephen disgraced himself by throwing a rock into the stream to splash Bill. The things teachers learn in school!
A gentle stroll along the road brought us back to the car park with no one unaccounted for.
The pictures below are from Bill and Ralph.