18 Jan Walk Leader: Stephen Davies Alderley Edge Length of walk: 9.5 miles Number walking: 21
Kevin demonstrated his total mastery of the back marker role by arriving half an hour after everyone else. His unconvincing explanation for this tardiness involved digital and analogue clock displays. Because of his lateness, Bill Crichton dropped a sock in a puddle while using his phone. What a group!
The Edge at Alderley demonstrates many examples of geology and Stephen explained how it all happened. When we left the Edge and wandered the mean streets of Alderley, he didn’t need to explain the presence of the builders’ vans as residents boost the value of their properties.
The recent rain had made the going rather soft as we headed for the river Bollin, where we stopped for lunch. As we set off after lunch we saw an oxbow lake left by the wandering river but turned away to annoy some golfers at Mottram Hall golf course. You would think they would like someone to take an interest in their hobby and offer helpful suggestions…
We climbed into the wood to the north of Hare Hill and from there we could see the Edge again. We dropped into the valley and made the final ascent to the car park by the Wizard.
25 Jan Walk Leader: Kevin Dean Madeley Centre Length of walk: 11 miles Number walking: 19
We left Sandbach in sunshine but met low cloud as we neared Madeley. This continued for a while until the sun persuaded to clouds to disappear and we enjoyed a day that was mainly sunny, if cold.
After we passed the Netherset Industrial Estate along the track to a farm, a convoy of vehicles passed us and we assessed them as part of the shooting fraternity. Sure enough, they confessed to planning to shoot pheasants but we were well out of the way before the shooting started.
Instead of pheasant, we enjoyed lemon drizzle cake on the edge of the wood known as Hey Sprink. This used to be a deer park for Lord Stafford. The location selected for the feast was under a railway bridge (in case of rain) but the strong wind forced us round the corner, where Ralph dropped his cake (he claimed the cake was structurally unsound). Desperate to avoid accusations of seeking extra cake, he dusted it off and ate it. Invigorated by the confectionery we took the path that drifted slowly away from the main railway line until we came out of the fields into Snape Hall farmyard. There we found a delightful pile of silver birch logs waiting to warm the farmhouse. If it were not for the particulate pollution, I would recommend a major drive to burn more of these disgusting sylvan weeds.
After the farm, we passed the ancient woodland of Whitmore Wood and the adjoining upmarket housing of Whitmore Heath. There is a herd of wild deer in the wood and we saw some of them crashing through the gardens of the big houses. The gardeners will not be pleased. One of the houses was on sale for £1.4 million but it was well out of the sight (and pocket) of walkers like us.
We entered the village of Baldwins Gate to cross the railway. Obviously, nobody can remember why it has this name but the worldwide web contains two theories a) the deer park attendant was Baldwin, or b) Baldwin collected the money at the gate on the toll road. Continuing the confusion, Baldwins Gate is the site of Whitmore station, where the Coronation Scot steam train set a world record of 115mph (Wikipedia) or 114mph (the plaque on the station wall) in June 1937.
The zig-zag path of the walk continued following the railway north, passing a 14 acre building site where 113 houses will be added to the village. We turned away from the railway to enter another housing area known as Parkwood. On the edge of upmarket Parkwood lies a derelict farmhouse and a muddy enclosure containing several inquisitive pigs who were delighted to see us and to feature on Ralph’s photo record of the walk. We left them squealing to follow the path through the wood until we emerged in the garden of a private house. It would be surprising if the residents are pleased to see walkers tramping over their lawn to reach the road, but they currently have the builders in so they have other worries.
At the top of the hill we crossed the road from Parkwood to the open countryside but waited ostentatiously for a cyclist to pass. Since he was struggling to pedal to the top and his companions had dismounted to push their bikes, this was slightly cruel. We must avoid this in future.
It was about this point that the stile count started to increase; this delighted Susie, who insists on climbing stiles when there is a perfectly good way round, but here were comments from some of the older walkers.
The bridge, under which we ate the cake, carried the Stoke to Market Drayton railway over the London to Crewe line until 1956 when it closed after 86 years. Now we crossed it for the first time, which would have provided Ralph with one of his signature bridge shots if conditions had been favourable. Unfortunately, he could not easily reach the trackway which was thickly covered with shrubs and trees growing through the sleepers holding the mossy rails. Even if he could, the posing walkers would not have been visible because of the brambles and branches collapsed onto the bridge.
After a short walk down the slope we stopped for lunch on the ruins of Madeley Old Manor. The site featured a moat of which an L-shaped shallow section remains and had a formal water garden to the west. To the east are some rectangular mounds on which the huts of a WWI prisoner of war camp sat, but we did not see them. Thomas Offley bought Madeley Old Manor in 1547. His great great grandson John Offley married Anne Crewe, heiress of Crewe Hall, and their son John changed his name to John Offley Crewe (money talks) and his son was the fourth generation named John and became the 1st Baron Crewe. The last Baron Crewe had the forename Hungerford after his mother’s maiden name, which explains the roads bearing that name in Crewe and Sandbach. The family abandoned the old manor when they built a new manor in Madeley sometime before 1686 and demolished the old one in 1749 apart from the bit we sat on.
We left the tranquil sunlit valley to cross the abandoned railway again. This time, we walked over a boardwalk through a flooded section of the trackway to make our way to the village of Aston. This was the southernmost point of the walk and the path back to Madeley was an almost straight line, which passed “The Absolutely Fabulous Hat Studio”. Had Lesley realised this was on the route, she would have worn the dress she is proposing for the forthcoming wedding so she could find a match.
We passed under the abandoned railway again and followed Red Lane back to Madeley. Just before we reached the town, we found a hosepipe pouring into a drain to no obvious purpose so we used it to clean our boots. Since the same pipe was pumping out on the recce two weeks earlier, it begs the question – who is paying for the water?
Ralph has been recording the goings-on during our walks and has produced an artistic animated slideshow, which is available if you click here