Long Walks in December 2016

7 Dec Walk Leader: Keith Haines   Sandbach Quarry, Airport and Betchton Valley   Length of walk: 11 miles  Number walking: 18

Susie had arrived with proper respect for Christmas spirit sporting a seasonal hat depicting a penguin. Ralph was wearing the wrong teeth and mistook it for a panda. For the traditional December walk we set off on foot from Waitrose car park to the traffic lights at the bottom of The Hill. From there we sneaked up the footpath that leads into the residential streets of Sandbach Heath. We marched to Sandbach Heath church, where we entered a field to make our way to Hemmingshaw Lane. This is the private road that carries a public footpath from the A534 below Arclid traffic lights to the quarry currently being excavated for its deposits of silica sand.

The extraction of sand from the ‘North Arclid’ quarry, by the side of the A534, has now ceased after 60 years of operation. The ‘South Arclid’ quarry is sited away from the road but the footpath runs alongside one side of it. We were able to see the massive size of the hole and the extraction activity from which sand is taken under the A534 to the processing plant at the ‘North Arclid’ quarry. Remediation work has started at the other end of the quarry and, when the restoration is complete, there should be three lakes between 2.5 and 6 acres in size. These would have shallow margins to maximise the potential for wetland habitats to develop and 10 small ponds would also be created, primarily to provide habitats for great crested newts.  Around 20 acres of native, broadleaved woodland would be planted, in a number of small copses around the lakes. With any luck, none of the trees will be silver birch.

We passed Arclid International Airport without stopping; there was no activity there so we walked past leaving Mike and Linda to walk back for an early bath. That didn’t apply to Linda because she had to make some mince pies for the Intermediate walk the following day. Since you ask, they were delicious. We walked on to Deanhill Farm on the A533 and at this point we retreated from the road and entered the Betchton valley, where we found a small herd of bullocks; with no activity planned for their day they followed us for a while keeping a respectful distance but stayed in their field, even though the gate was open to allow them out.

The path took us to Forge Farm on the A50, where we repeated the earlier manoeuvre and bounced back off the road and took the South Cheshire Way to Rode Heath. We stopped zig-zagging at this point and joined the canal towpath where Keith had booked a bench and picnic tables opposite the Broughton Arms. They weren’t booked in a formal way, but when we arrived, the dog-walkers who were using them were persuaded to leave. One of the dogs obviously felt there was unfinished business with us, because it returned and made a beeline for Ralph’s pie. We firmly repulsed the beast and the pie was undamaged.

After lunch we followed the towpath to lock 57, where the eponymous ex-restaurant is for sale as a four-bedroomed dwelling. We left the canal at this point and passed the ruins of the Romping Donkey pub.

We kept to the road until we crossed the M6 where we dived back into the Betchton valley. Someone obviously thinks this scruffy area is farming land where stock can be left to graze, but it would make a lovely linear park with the unnamed stream wandering through its middle. After we passed the bridge across the stream several people remembered where Tom nearly fell in last year.

We emerged from the valley by Tall Chimneys and Ralph made us stop for an archive picture with this old vicarage in the background.

With St Mary’s church in sight, we were confronted by a sign that advised in the strongest possible terms to avoid feeding the ponies in the field. They are suffering from Equine Cushing’s Disease. This affects the pituitary gland and is present, rarely, in humans and dogs as well. To prevent ramblers making jokes about deceased actors in horror films, Equine Cushing’s Disease is now referred to as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID). This is a good time to make notes; there will be a test on this topic.

As we reached the farm that overlooks the roundabout below Waitrose car park, we were struck by the amount of stuff that people keep just in case it will come in handy. Expect a documentary film on Channel 4 any time soon. We negotiated these hazards without injury and made a similarly successful crossing of the A534 en masse. Motorists hate running into more than one pedestrian.

Ralph has created one of his usual musical slideshows using pictures from recent months. It is on YouTube and you can see it by clicking here.