Long Walks in December 2018

5 Dec 2018 Gawsworth  Walk Leader: Beryl, Length of walk: 8 miles, Driving Distance: 12 miles, Number walking: 15

Beryl was pleasantly surprised that so many walkers turned up to join her; the weather was wet and forecast promised more of the same. Sensible people were at home cataloguing their book collection or anything that can be done in a dry room. We were so keen to get to grips with the soggy conditions that everyone set off before Bill arrived to take the money. This was a mistake; we should have told him we were on the way but enthusiasm overrode logic. Bill and his flock eventually met and parked up between Gawsworth Hall and the Harrington Arms.

We immediately left the road and squelched south to North Rode. The leader assured us that there was no shelter at all on the route but Dave had other ideas. Using his renowned technical expertise he opened the porch door of North Rode church so that a few of the party could take a drink in dry conditions. The rest of us had to take what shelter we could find under dripping yew trees.

After this interval we walked down to the dam that holds back the fishing pond with the giant plug hole. There was some speculation as what would happen to someone who fell into the plug hole but the risk could be averted by inserting a turbine to generate electricity. We moved on without incident to the site of North Rode station, which in the olden days (before 1962) sat at the junction of the Churnet Valley railway and the main line to Manchester. Nothing remains to show a station was there.

We walked through a flooded low part of the road to reach the Macclesfield Canal just above the Bosley lock flight which features 12 locks in the space of 1.25 miles to lift the canal boats 118 feet. We were at the top of the flight and we walked the canal north to our lunch site at Danes Moss nature reserve.

On the way we saw some workers engaged in dredging soil from the canal bottom. As we passed they were all busy gazing into a huge machine which wasn’t working and wondering why. We wanted to ask how they managed to dredge without making a hole in the canal bottom but they were busy with their problem so we passed on. They did appear to be dumping the spoil on a nearby field. A fine example of recycling! Later we passed a barge in the centre of the canal which held a digger but nobody was with it.

Bill took some pictures of our soggy picnic before we climbed the biggest incline of the day – the footbridge over the railway. This took us into Danes Moss which had been a source of peat for fuel but is now a nature reserve containing 7 species of sphagnum moss, 11 species of dragonflies and damselflies and 19 species of butterfly. That is what has been recorded there but as we tried to avoid the remains of the narrow-gauge railway used to remove the peat and keep out of the muddiest parts of the path, we probably missed the important features.

The return trip took us into the grounds of Gawsworth Hall where we passed the statue of Robert Peel. This used to stand in Peel Park Salford but was removed to make way for an extended technical college in 1954. Christopher Richards bought the statue and displayed it (all except the missing left hand) by the footpath in 1969. Christopher is the son of the Cheshire historian Raymond Richards, who acquired Gawsworth Hall and restored it after World War II.

Apart from a few minutes while we walked the canal towpath, the rain was constant and it is to be hoped that everyone’s gear will be dried out for next week. Then we can do it all over again.

The picture of the plug hole in snow was obviously not taken on the day and its copyright is attributed as follows:

The Fish Pond overflow, North Rode Manor

cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Peter Turner – geograph.org.uk/p/3314061

12 Dec 2018 Anderton Boat Lift to Acton Bridge  Walk Leader: Keith, Length of walk: 8 miles, Driving Distance: 15 miles, Number walking: 15

The walk was structured as a walk to Acton Bridge along the canal, a return along the River Weaver and an optional 3.5 mile stroll round Marbury Country Park. In an exercise of democracy quite out of keeping with the present UK government’s performance, the group decided, before setting off, not to take up the optional section.

With the day set to be a leisurely outing we set off along the Trent and Mersey Canal, which opened in 1777. We gazed down at the Cosgrove Business Park and then passed through the woods below Barnton. In the gap between the woods and the Barnton tunnel we were able to see the houses being built on the site of the Wallerscote Works. This site started producing sodium carbonate, mainly for making glass and soap, in 1926 and has now been razed for housing.

Barnton Tunnel has no towpath so we had to walk over the top to reach the other end. When horses pulled the boats, they had to follow the same route that we did while the men pushed the boats through pressing on the tunnel walls. Our reward was a stop for refreshments which Bill augmented by passing round a bag of chocolates. Ralph took a picture to record our joy.

A few hundred yards further on, we climbed over the Saltersford Tunnel. This was obviously laid out by the apprentice because there is a kink in the middle preventing someone on a boat entering at one end from seeing if there is another boat coming the other way. A cunning system operates now to allow boats to enter the two ends at different times. One of the pictures explains the system.

After the tunnels the landscape was largely empty fields in the valley of the River Weaver, while the wildlife included kingfishers. Our passage was enlivened by the various dog owners we met; one wanted to tell us about his recent walking holiday in Patagonia – very windy! , and the other was desperate to stop his dog from bounding all over us. Some of the more unkind walkers encouraged this lively mutt to attack the back marker, who had left his defensive pole in the car.

In the middle of nowhere we passed a boat covered in a wide variety of junk including a large quantity of apples. The windows were all boarded up and the junk had overflowed onto the towpath. Very curious!

As we walked the footpath down to the swing bridge at Acton Bridge, the traffic on the A49 came to a halt and we learned later that a small boat, with a radio aerial tall enough to interfere with the bridge, had forced the traffic to halt while the bridge swung open.

Acton Bridge is the name of the structure as well as the nearby hamlet and Wikipedia says “The village was called Acton in Delamere until recent times, when it was changed to Acton Bridge to avoid confusion with Acton near Nantwich”. That doesn’t make sense but there has been a bridge here since 1751; the swing bridge was completed in 1933.

We followed the riverside path to Saltersford locks passing some mysterious pipework that carried labels belonging to the MoD. One of the fields we passed contained lots of feathers and a team went to investigate the partial carcass of the bird from which they came. Since the feathers were white and the wings were enormous, the bird was probably a heron. Good news to anyone with a fish pond.

At last we stopped for lunch at Saltersford locks, where most walkers sat on the edge of the lock with our feet on the deck of a boat. Although the boat was tied up, it moved in and out giving the curious feeling that the land was moving rather than the boat. Moored next to our support was the boat that had disrupted the A49. This was the “Duke of Normandy II” which had come from the Caledonian Canal where it towed boats. It was completed in 1934 for the German customs service, drafted into the German Navy when war broke out and eventually operated as part of the fleet defending Jersey. The War Department seized it as war booty in 1945 and it was sold to the States of Jersey, who used it to replace their tug “Duke of Normandy” which had been built in 1903.

On the final leg of the riverside walk we saw, on the Wallerscote weir, one of the cormorants that Keith promised. After another picture on the Winnington swing bridge we climbed the hill to the canal and returned to the car park.