Sadly, only Andrew was able to join me on a gloriously sunny summer’s day for this postponed (from snowy 22 March) ramble around Alderley.
Two and a half months make a huge difference. Everything is now pretty dry, the buttercups and other flowers are in full bloom, and the trees are in full leaf.
We started from the National Trust car park, wandering past The Wizard restaurant, whose former name, the Miners Arms, gives a clue to the industrial heritage of the area, to reach the site of the Armada Beacon. There’s a plaque here now, but from 1779 to 1931 a square stone building adorned this spot, at 200 metres (650 feet) above sea level on the highest part of the Edge.
For many years the Beacon stood out above the trees on the western edge of the woods. In earlier times, when the Edge was a bare and treeless heath, the mound was visible for miles around, and the Beacon appears on Saxton’s 1577 map of Cheshire. It was no doubt used to signal to the Helsby, Frodsham and Runcorn beacons the coming of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
The square building on top of the mound, which was blown down on a windy December night in 1931, is said to have housed a huge iron pot full of pitch that could be lit at a moment’s notice to repel raiders.
These days the lush Cheshire countryside and woodland blocks most views when the trees are in leaf, though occasional glimpses of Manchester’s city centre buildings are gained through the hazy summer light.
Today our route took us to the north east of Mottram St Andrew, through field paths still laden with dew despite the hot weather, to cross the River Bollin by Mill Farm.
Here the River Bollin has seriously eroded its banks, resulting in a long term diversion of the Bollin Valley Way – a 23 mile marked footpath from near the source of the river above Macclesfield to the point at which it drains into the Mersey/Manchester Ship Canal system near Lymm.
We found our way, having been this way before, and weren’t fooled this time by the routing of the path down somebody’s driveway. Lunch was taken on return to the Bollin, from where we strolled up river, past Prestbury’s sewage works, to cross by a bridge near Spittle House.
The buttercups are stunning just now.
Our route took us up to Legh Hall, past some ponds, and along a path that had been carefully marked out across a field “to protect the privacy of the residents”.
It seemed a bit strange, but perhaps they have suffered from indiscriminate picnickers. We gave them the benefit of doubt, though Andrew did complain that the path wasn’t wide enough for him! (He hasn’t yet learnt how to comment on the blog, so can’t answer back!)
Further on, the path leading back to Alderley Edge has always been narrow, but unlike some Cheshire pathways, it’s protected from the farmer’s plough.
We returned past the Engine Vein, pictured below, which a few years ago was an ugly open scar, where a line of early mining pits was excavated in around 1900. After being fenced off, it now looks grassy and benign, hiding centuries of mineral excavation.
Numerous old tools, dating back as far as the Bronze Age (2500 to 800 BC) have been found hereabouts. Many minerals are found here in the space of a few acres, including copper, lead, iron, zinc, silver, arsenic, silicon, barium, vanadium, and magnesium, in a variety of forms, mainly as thin films coating the pebbles and grains of the porous sandstone. From the Engine Vein, later galleries and levels amounting to 22 miles in length, reach out beneath the Edge.
There’s much more history to this place, but that’s enough for this instalment!
We were back at the car park soon after 2.30, after this most pleasant of bimbles – about 16 km (10 miles) with 250 metres of mainly unnoticed ascent, taking just over 4 hours. Here’s the route:
Next – a 9 km evening walk on Tuesday (tomorrow) – meeting at 7.30 at the Information Centre near Delamere Station (SJ 546 703). All are welcome.