Long Walks in February 2019


6 Feb 2019 Leek Leader: Mike & Linda, Length of walk: 10 miles, Driving Distance: 20 miles, Number walking: 17

The walk started from a small but popular car park in an industrial area on the edge of Leek in weather conditions that were unremarkable. There was no rain nor wind and when the sun appeared it failed to impress. The temperature was at the level where layers were removed and then replaced. The car park mainly catered for dog walkers and leads straight into the Ladderedge Country Park, where we trampled the grass but quickly returned to the tarmac of the A53.

We crossed this major route and passed the Westwood Golf Club to follow the channel which feeds water to the Caldon Canal from Rudyard Lake. The lake was created in 1798 to act as a reservoir for the Caldon Canal in a narrow valley by the village of Rudyard. This was named after Ralph Rudyard who was famous for killing Richard III (at Bosworth Field not Staffordshire). The North Staffordshire Railway bought the dam and the surrounding land in 1846 and used it to extend the railway from Uttoxeter to Macclesfield. This brought large numbers of trippers to the lake, including the parents of Rudyard Kipling, who so enjoyed the lake on a trip from Burslem that they named the lad after the cakes they ate there .

After gathering a good supply of mud from the path by the mini-canal, we turned east to go under the dismantled North Staffs railway and followed the river Churnet to the A523.

This is the route into Leek from Sandbach and, after crossing it, we walked down to the site of Tennants Fine Chemicals before climbing the hill above to look over the Sainsburys store. The word “Fine” in the title isn’t just idle trumpet blowing; fine chemicals comprise a major branch of the chemical industry including the esters and aromas that Tennants supply. The founder of the company was a Scottish weaver, Charles Tennant, who invented bleaching powder in 1799 (but not at the newly created Rudyard Lake).

We came down to river level again and, after a friendly local guided us away from a dead-end, we climbed past the Abbey Inn and through woodland to the northern extent of the route at North Hillswood near Tittesworth reservoir. In the woodland we revisited the memorial to Tony Squires. Is this the Tony Squires who started Congleton Harriers?

The site selected for lunch was a pile of concrete railway sleepers by the path, which were piled to give a convenient height for most people to perch on and an upper level for those prepared to climb.  Ralph made friends with a dog that lacked a visible owner but foraged the sleepers for leftovers after we departed. It was the dog that did the foraging, although the pig in the field nearby would have been pleased to join in.

Down we went again to cross the river Churnet and we paused on the bridge for a picture. Sadly the light conditions thwarted this project so Ralph took pictures of Stephen looking like an auf.

We needed to climb more hills and the icy path selected took us up to Ball Haye Green in Leek, where we admired the WWI memorial gates of the playground. We climbed to the A53 which we crossed into Mount Road, a long uphill stretch into the countryside. At the summit we passed the entrance to Kniveden Hall. Although this is a care home catering for vulnerable adults, we were not invited in.

As we made our way to Ballington Grange farm, we spotted a couple of lambs, the first this year. After following the path through the farmyard, we descended towards Leek through woods containing several swings. As usual one walker was selected to try them out.

To enliven the final stages of the walk we strolled through the cemetery before crossing to a pub entitled “Pride of the Moorlands”. It is close to the cattle market and used to be called “The Herdsman” but it seemed uninviting so we passed by through a minibus graveyard to where the North Staffs railway used to go. This led into the industrial area containing the car park.

By a fluke of route planning we missed seeing the famous “plague stone” on Cheddleton Road. This is the 1.25 metre stump of a medieval cross for which a legend has been created: “It is thought that provisions were left on or near the cross for the townspeople of Leek during the Bubonic Plague, and payment was left by the people in bowls of vinegar or urine, to prevent spread of the disease.” In comparison to this, a trip to Aldi is a real joy.

AUF: the child of an elf. Because of the widespread interest in the acceptable 3 letter words in Scrabble, the more unusual examples will feature from time to time in these reports. AUF is the first. If you have any particular favourites, you may nominate them for inclusion.

 20 Feb 2019 Alvanley Leader: Kath & Elaine, Length of walk: 10 miles, Driving Distance: 24 miles, Number walking: 15

In the absence of the usual scribe, Kath stepped in and, as guest editor, described the walk for posterity. The addition of the obscure Scrabble 3 letter words is not Kath’s responsibility.

We started at the White Lion in Alvanley, built around 1700 as a farmhouse.

Crossing field footpaths we paused briefly for a ‘lovely’ view of the Mersey Valley with its busy wind turbines, and the chemical works at  Runcorn.

Joining the Sandstone Trail at the Ridgeway junction, we followed the path (an old sunken lane, of a type found all over Cheshire) alongside Snidley Moor until we reached the path to the Woodhouse Hill Fort which made a good place for “coffee with a view”. The fort was built in the Iron Age by some of Cheshire’s earliest inhabitants. It is the most northerly of seven such forts which lie on or near the central ridge, sites chosen for their commanding views over the plain, and because the sparser vegetation on the sandy soil was easier to clear than the dense forest on the clay-floored plain. Several families would have lived there in huts behind the stone and earthen ramparts which offered them protection in times of attack.

From here we rejoined the Sandstone Trail following the edge with further views of Helsby and the industrial landscape of Runcorn, until we reached and clambered down Abraham’s Leap, huge sandstone steps formed from weathered rock. This area is called Dunsdale Hollow (meaning dung or kak* valley).

Here we left the Sandstone Trail and crossed the golf course towards Mickledale. Crossing several fields, over some interesting stiles (ladders?) we descended into a valley for our lunch spot.

Continuing along the path skirting many fields we rejoined the Sandstone Trail, not far from where we had joined it at the Ridgeway earlier, and retraced our steps for a short distance, but then crossing the Ridgeway and continuing on the Sandstone Trail for some distance. We passed Cliff Farm nestling under Alvanley Cliff. Cliff Farm is a black and white half timbered house (the ‘magpie’ architecture for which Cheshire is known), but not the most authentic example!.

Here the Sandstone Trail follows the foot of Alvanley Cliff, where at one time there were several sandstone quarries, one of which produced the pale stone for the rebuilding of Chester Castle, and the first Eaton Hall, home of the Duke of Westminster near Chester.

As we left the Sandstone Trail Austerson Old Hall came into view. A timber framed house, this has been moved across the county from Nantwich.

Crossing the main road we then took a track across fields, passing Manley Old Hall, to where we joined the Longster Trail, which we followed, across a very recently ploughed and muddy field, to rejoin the road for the last half mile to the White Lion and well deserved refreshment. By this time the sun was emerging from the clouds – nice timing!

The pictures of new lambs trying out their dibs* provides an opportunity to include some of the sheep-related Scrabble 3 letter words. The ewes have not kebbed* and the lambs don’t appear to suffering from gid* or orf*. There is no sign of ked* infestation either.

  • * Scrabble 3 Letter Words
  • KAK faeces
  • DIB one of the small bones in a sheep’s leg
  • KEB to give birth to a stillborn lamb
  • GID sturdy, a disease of sheep
  • ORF a viral infection of sheep
  • KED a wingless fly that infests sheep