Long Walks in July 2019

3 July 2019 Prestbury Leader: Beryl, Length of walk: 10.0 miles, Driving Distance: 36 miles, Number walking: 13

Today’s walk report is from guest editor Graeme Coyne, who stepped in to replace the regular reporter, who went to watch his 9 year old grandson emerge as the new Andy Murray. Possibly, but he will need more coaching.

Graeme supplied a map with the route highlighted which would be a useful addition to the walk history. However, potential copyright violations make it impossible to publish maps unless they are from sources that are authorised to be free of copyright. Thinking caps on everyone!

Click on this link to see the route on a map

A day for sunscreen and hats and yet the hardened walkers are equipped with waterproofs and fleeces; and probably gloves if you looked hard enough. Some members are missing as they are leading walks in the Sandbach Walking Festival.

We head north past the sewage works; yes Prestbury residents are just like you and me, and continue towards Mottram Hall. There we spot a group playing football on a full sized pitch, they must have been lost. But no, they look like proper footballers. One of our group tries and fails to return an errant football that had cleared the massive nets behind the goal. We roll it under the netting instead and return it to a member of the Lincoln City League Division One playing staff. Pre-season training is well underway.

We walk alongside the golf course and remark how standards have dropped. Golfers wearing breeks used to wear long socks and tweed caps or deer stalkers. These new golfers should be given penalties for slipshod behaviour; short socks and striped panama hats will never do.

We continue to stroll uphill through the woods and have fun avoiding the brambles, nettles and biting insects, perhaps we should wear trousers next time. At last we find a bridge to pose on, fine pair of shoulders, show ‘em off. Then back down hill to a small lake inhabited by ducks, geese and a kingfisher, no that’s wrong it’s a heron. Time for lunch and a snooze for some of us before the walk to Hare Hill and back toward Prestbury.

We are surprised by a detour around the new King’s school complex and realise none of us qualify for entry in 2020, what we need is more diversity. We move on quietly.

On the way down to the village we pass extravagant new houses guarded by loud dogs, CCTV and heavy gates. Look what you could have won.

The other twelve members crossed to road to the pub unaided, a kindly Lollipop lady takes pity on me and escorts me across the road to the pub. Every good walk deserves a libation. We have vacancies for three members if you are interested.

Graeme missed out the Scrabble 3 letter word, which, given the remarks about the sewage works, should have been KAK faeces


17 Jul 2019 Chatsworth Leader: Ralph & Bill, Length of walk: 9.5 miles, Driving Distance: 40 miles, Number walking: 16

Click on this link to see the route on a map

The weather forecast looked promising until 6pm and the weather was sunny or overcast throughout the walk.

Chatsworth House is the home of the Cavendish family. Sir William Cavendish married Bess of Hardwick in 1547 and moved from Suffolk to Bess’s native county of Derbyshire, where he purchased the Chatsworth estate. The couple began to build Chatsworth House in 1552 using the great wealth he had acquired from his position in the Exchequer and also (allegedly) from taking advantage of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. Anyone with republican tendencies will be pleased to hear that this thieving rogue (allegedly) is an ancestor of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

Their son William purchased the title of Earl of Devonshire from James I in 1618, reportedly for the sum of £10,000. The king was a bit strapped for cash. Ignore any stories you hear about a transcription error applying the title of Duke of Devonshire to a Derbyshire landowner. The titles are very mobile. The previous duke held it only from 1603 to 1606, when he died without legitimate children.

Ralph gave strict instructions about where to park at Chatsworth but some drivers had parked 20 yards away from this spot. Fortunately Ralph calmed down quickly.

The initial section climbed up a set of steps in cool woodland which gave out to the clearing where the hunting tower sits. Any thought that this would be the site of the coffee stop proved optimistic as the group moved on to the side of one of the lakes. This was a good move as the cool water provided a splendid backdrop while the group demolished the THREE cakes that Kath had brought to celebrate her birthday. Linda had a birthday recently as well she deferred to Kath. This shows how flexible people can be about linking cake provision to birthdays. After Kath expressed concern about carrying the cakes up the steps, the back marker offered to take care of them. She declined the offer.

Another lake nearby was created in the early 18th century as the Great Pond but is now called Swiss lake and Swiss Cottage sits on the far side. One page of the Chatsworth website says the lake was named after the cottage and another page on the same website says the opposite. Whatever the truth of the matter, it’s all about marketing in the end.

While crossing Beeley Moor, the group passed a sign to Hob Hurst’s House but it was not on the route so its identity remained a mystery. Hob Hurst’s House is a Bronze Age barrow that uniquely is rectangular instead of the normal round shape. The name of the barrow implies that the devil (Hob) lives in a house on a wooded hill (Hurst), but there is no evidence of satanic connections. No doubt someone in the Derbyshire Tourist Board could make something up.

When the barrow was excavated in 1853, it held a stone-lined grave containing some scorched human bones plus some lead ore.

Summer is not a good time to visit this Scheduled Ancient Monument, because it is covered in heather and bracken.

Ralph had warned that lunch would be late (i.e. after noon) and he made it even later so that the party could sit by the side of the Derwent near the bridge upstream of Beeley. The party spread out over the riverbank and a rotting log.

On the way up from the river the group stopped to fill water bottles from a tap on the edge of a cottage. The water appeared to be clean…

Some distance from the path lies “Russian Cottage”. This was built in 1855 following the gift of a model of a Russian farm to the 6th Duke from the brother of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. A review on Trip Advisor says that the beds are too small for anyone over six foot tall. It may be that when the builders scaled up from the model, they didn’t quite get the dimensions right.

The final stop on the walk was the village of Edensor, which boasts a café, where most of the group took refreshments. The original village of Edensor was located immediately next to Chatsworth House, but between 1838 and 1842 the 6th Duke had it moved out of sight over a hill. This sounds draconian but one tenant didn’t want to go, so his cottage stayed in Chatsworth Park. What a kind duke!

Ralph had given further instructions that everyone should meet below the church but only one walker actually complied. As a result this biddable walker wants a commendation. This is it. Well done Elaine.

Had she not complied strictly with Ralph’s instruction, Elaine could have visited the graveyard of the church, where she could have seen memorials to most of the Dukes of Devonshire. The graveyard also contains the grave of Kathleen Kennedy, sister of the US president JFK. Kathleen had married in 1944 the eldest son of the 10th Duke, William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington (who used the alias Billy Hartington). Billy was killed by a sniper in Belgium later that year. Kathleen became romantically involved with the 8th Earl Fitzwilliam but this relationship came to a tragic end in 1948 when the plane in which they were flying to the French Riviera crashed in a storm and all four occupants were killed.

On the route between Edensor and Chatsworth House, the group suffered the heartbreaking sight of a sheep gasping its last breaths by the path. While most of the group strode on, three kind-hearted souls tried to ease its suffering. (Yes. Doreen was among them.) The back marker stepped forward with the bottle of free water from the Duke’s tap and while he wondered how to squeeze the precious liquid into the afflicted sheep, the beast jumped up, stretched its back legs and ran off. That was truly powerful water! This was possibly a case of coenurosis – a sheep disease spread by tapeworms – otherwise known as gid*

*GID a sheep disease [3 letter Scrabble word]


24 Jul 2019 Marbury near Whitchurch Leader: Keith, Length of walk: 10.5 miles, Driving Distance: 20 miles, Number walking: 16

Click on this link to see the route on a map

The comprised mainly hot air from the Sahara and the previous day had been hot too. A massive thunderstorm overnight – missed by the sound sleepers – had cooled things down a little and left large puddles in low-lying places. Clouds kept down the temperature until the sun burnt them off.

Just before the starting point was a phone box converted to a housing for a defibrillator. For the avoidance of doubt it was clearly labelled “Defibrillator”. The perpetrators clearly hope that a site chosen for a phone box is also suitable for lifesaving equipment. Happily none of the walkers needed medical attention, although at the end there were several bloody arms and legs from various causes.

The walk started from the splendid new car park at the Swan. The inn itself was rebuilt in 1884 by the grandly named Cudworth Halstead Poole – the squire of Marbury Hall.

Looking south-east towards Comber Mere is a hill on which stands a 66 foot high stone needle bearing an inscription in memory of Viscount Combermere 1773 – 1863. He was a general with Wellington against Napoleon and won two great victories, at Salamanca, Spain, in 1812, and Bharatpur, India, in 1825. These were celebrated by building two inns in Cheshire “The Bhurtpore” at Aston, and “The Salamanca” (now closed) at Wrenbury

The party set off along the edge of Big Mere to the south of the church. The mere is not very big, but the name distinguishes it from Little Mere to the east of the church. Both the Marbury meres and the Quoisley meres are kettle holes. These were formed as giant blocks of ice broke off the glaciers in the last ice age and were subsequently buried by sand and rock washed out of the glacier. When the blocks of ice melted, the meres were left.

As gaunt faces were pleading for a coffee stop, the leader announced that once over the A49, the walk would pause for much needed refreshment. So it was that the group sprawled on the grass by Willeymoor Lock Tavern and enjoyed THREE cakes from Linda. While the walkers demolished the cakes, passing narrowboats provided the background sights and sounds.

The late coffee & cake stop meant that the late lunch barely caused a ripple of complaint. The site chosen was the side of a pond in Bickley Hall Farm. This is an organic farm maintained by Cheshire Wildlife Trust to provide environments suitable for flora and fauna that would be missing under a more intensive farming regime. The resident dragonflies and damselflies provided a colourful flying display over the water.

One of the regular questions on a summer walk is: Is this crop wheat or barley? This is your handy primer for recognising the most common cereal crops on English farms. Grass and maize require no explanation but these pictures of wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape will clarify the differences. The essential feature of barley is the long beard known as the awn*.

The leader warned of the thick vegetation clogging the latter half of the route and brought a pair of shears to combat it. From time to time he would snip away at the impinging prickles and stings to make the way safe. Since Stephen had also noted the warning about thick vegetation, he searched his garage and found a suitable tool. After a lifetime of studying rocks, he was confident that a thin piece of PVC water pipe with no cutting edge would allow him to master the thick vegetation. The Royal Horticultural Society will not be asking him to conduct a follow-up study of its effectiveness. It wasn’t a total failure; he waved it at a group of bullocks that followed the group across a field and it kept them at bay.

Stephen was also ready to deploy his pipe after he received a warning of fractious geese from a couple of walkers covering the Sandstone Trail in the opposite direction. It wasn’t required; our more numerous group may have persuaded the geese to hold back.

One animal that did not hold back was a dog whose large head emerged from an upstairs window to warn off passers-by. Fortunately the dog decided not to jump out of the window and continued to slobber over the curtains.

The last building before returning to Marbury was Hadley Hall, which is distinguished by a weather vane in the form of a sperm whale. Some narrators would make up a story of Herman Melville’s descendants, but the origin of the weather vane remains a mystery. Various online sites will supply them to householders who feel the need.

With water bottles largely empty, the Swan proved very inviting and provided a fitting end to the walk.

*AWN the beard of barley [3 letter Scrabble word]