Long Walks in February 2022

2 Feb 2022 Poynton Leaders: Simon & Lynda, Length of walk: 8 miles, Driving Distance: 25 miles, Number walking: 20

After a journey through obscure, narrow, muddy lanes the walkers arrived at the car park by the Middlewood Way – a walking route converted from an abandoned railway. Another walking group assembled at the same time, but it was easy to keep the two groups apart; the other group was mainly old people.

The walk leaders have a sponsorship deal with local dentists that requires them to issue chocolate delights to the walkers and the sweet trolley came round loaded with treats that soon disappeared into pockets for consumption at the coffee stop. In some case the treats went straight into mouths; some people worry about being mugged and losing the snacks.

The group set off along the Middlewood Way and then joined the Macclesfield canal for a while. The coffee stop was at the west gate of Lyme Park before the climb into the park. Lynda had heard about how muddy the previous walk was and felt she should emulate Linda’s achievement in getting covered in wet earth. She stood on a muddy slope and very gracefully sat down on it and acted surprised as if it was an accident. The picture shows the small extent of the mud, but it is worth noting that by the end of the walk she had acquired far more mud on her trousers simply by walking through the soggy grounds of Lyme Park.

On the way through the deer park, Marie saw some volunteers repairing a dry-stone wall and declared it was her life’s ambition to do that. She trotted over to them and explained her quest. She learned how to join the training course and came away with the details. The excitement of this new hobby may have clouded her judgment when she saw a figure on the roof of Lyme Hall about to hurl itself to the ground. Nearby walkers assured her that it was a statue, but she insisted on a picture to prove her case. The magnified picture shows a sconce emerging from the head of the crowned figure, which would cause anyone to have suicidal thoughts.

The civilised practise of having lunch near a supply of tables, chairs and toilets continued on this walk., as did the occurrence of a plentiful supply of mud soon afterwards. This continued through the wood alongside a stream until the path left the park at the Disley end and set off for the Macclesfield canal.

The group joined the canal towpath by a bridge which had a WWII pillbox built into it. The Official Secrets Act prevented the walkers from knowing if the fortification was to prevent U-boats from entering Manchester or to keep Nazi paratroopers from seizing Lyme Park, but a local hoarder had embellished the surrounding area with all manner of clutter to make it look less military.

On the way back to the car park, the group called in at Nelson Pit visitor centre to use the toilets. The full information about the East Cheshire coalfield was not open on this occasion but the map showing the closed pits was still in place at the entrance.

The chocolate lovers were treated again at the car park and went home well-satisfied with their day out.

16 Feb 22 Lion Salt Works Leader: Stephen, Length of walk: 8 miles, Driving Distance: 11 miles, Number walking: 18

Because February is not a busy time for the Lion Salt Works, they were happy to allow the walkers to use their car park on the understanding that some trade would come their way after the walk ended.

The leader took the group immediately on to the canal towpath, where the recent rain gave an early indication of the ground conditions to come. At the first bridge over the canal, the walkers gratefully took to the pavement of Wincham Lane and set off through the industrial area towards Pickmere and its lake.

On the way they passed the ruins of the Black Greyhound – a famous name for anyone growing up in Northwich in the 1970s.

The ground by the lake has some benches, which were occupied by the early arrivers for the coffee stop. The surface around the benches supports grass but it is heavily trampled by the birds that live on the lake. It was muddy.

The mud didn’t put off a group of ladies who take part in the trendy sport of wild swimming. They need a lot of equipment to keep them comfortable and alive in the water and while they are changing. Two of them agreed to pose for a picture as they went in before the cold water had had a chance to have an effect  on them. A lady coming out wearing a full wetsuit had some skin showing on her face and arms. Where the skin wasn’t white, it was bright red. She said the uplifting effect lasts for about 20 minutes, but none of the walkers fancied being uplifted that way. To the suggestion that a cold shower might be a more convenient way to lower the body temperature, a swimmer felt it was ridiculous and she couldn’t possibly indulge. It does avoid the pond weed though.

The collapse of the footpath by the lakeside meant that the route deviated up to the road and back down Moss Lane. While the group was halfway down Moss Lane, a police car hurtled down scattering the walkers, fortunately without injury. Two officers leapt out and started searching the lakeshore. Neither the startled local residents or the walkers had any idea what had caused their arrival and were all frustrated by their ignorance. The officer that searched along the path taken by the group heading for Great Budworth was visible for a while but eventually disappeared. The walkers tried to help by looking for bloated bodies in the water or a baby in a basket, but there was nothing out of the ordinary.

Upon reaching the road, the walkers had to avoid being splashed by cars making waves in the giant puddle covering the road, before climbing the hill for the path to Great Budworth church.

Some walkers entered the church seeking salvation and when they emerged, there was a count taken. Given that there were only 18 walkers, this only took a few recounts to reveal that someone was missing. Beryl had chosen to sit on a nearby bench rather than stand around and she was quickly located.

Down the High Street lies Budworth Pump, which until 1934 was the only source of water in the village. The spring still flows but now just drains away. A sign in the shelter covering the pump claims that the water is fit to drink, but nobody tried it.

Having walked down the road to Budworth Pump, the group now had to climb up the far side to reach Comberbach to find the path to Marbury.

On the path across the fields, Mick took a phone call and dropped back to talk to his wife. Later the back marker realised he was missing and went back to look for him. The thought was that he had received bad news and had gone back to the stream to end it all. In fact he had scampered up the hill so fast that he had disappeared from view ahead of the leader and the news was that his wife couldn’t find the car keys.

Lunch was taken on the benches under cover near the Marbury Park toilets. This was planned in case the rain arrived, but nobody got wet on the walk.

Having crossed the canal, the walk went through an area known as Northwich Woodlands. This is an area so damaged by previous industrial activity and subsidence that it is fit only for growing trees, but so far they are not very tall.

The café at the Lion Salt Works was still open so the walkers took advantage of the facilities before driving off in the rain.