Last night a small group of stalwarts assembled in the friendly surroundings of the Ship Inn, Styal, for a short perambulation. Alistair and Sue were clothed as if for a summer evening stroll. The rest of us were too hot in the heat of the November evening.
Why the ‘Ship’? you might ask. The pub actually dates back around 350 years (that’s 120 years before the nearby mill was built) and was once known as the ‘Shippon’, a farm building used to store manure, but became the Ship Inn when the farmer who owned it started brewing for the local people. It’s now known for its much sweeter smelling 260 year old wisteria and the beautiful roses that grow up the front of the building.
A short stroll past some old cottages brings you/us to Styal Cross, about which the following plaque provides a brief history. It’s a good place from which to start a variety of walks, as is Twinnies Bridge on the road to Wilmslow.
Heading towards the chapel, after a few metres a good path slopes off left into Styal’s northern woods.
There are lots of different ways through the woods on a network of paths. We chose to cross a side valley by a newish metal bridge, before reaching Chapel Bridge and another side valley.
This is of course a walk down the Bollin Valley. Badgers can be seen hereabouts, but the intensity of Andrew’s floodlight must have warned them of our presence.
It’s an area of well maintained paths with a thick bed of beech leaf litter – thankfully the only litter spotted today.
After an encounter with Oxbow Bridge, and a few up and down steps, we eventually crossed to the north side of the river at Giants Castle Bridge, where Jim Krawiecki was spotted kayaking his way towards the Atlantic Ocean.
(Jim will be returning from this adventure to give an enthralling talk at Hazel Grove Civic Centre next Wednesday evening at 8 pm.) Details here.
Beyond the Airport Inn, where we finally emerged from the woods, a short walk up the A538 road leads to a field path to the hamlet of Morley, where a lone Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor), which my flower book says flowers between February and May, seemed to have been refreshed by a pile of windfall apples.
After Morley, a thin path led across a newly sown field which bears memory of a thin path between a huge sweetcorn (or was it sugar beet? or cannabis?) crop, to a stile which introduced us to the beady eyes of a bull named Quantas.
After hastily falling over the stile at the edge of Quantas’s domain, we meandered back to the A538 and to the turn to Bank House Farm, which we noticed is up for sale. Perhaps after many years of having to put up with the farm’s moat of mud, walkers may in the future be able to reap the benefits of a drier area that hopefully the new owners will maybe prefer for their own sake.
Beyond the farm, the path improves again as it makes its way down to Quarry Bank Mill. There are good views down to the woods near Oxbow Bridge.
Following the loss of my Merrell Moab GTX shoes in Madeira – they fell apart after 1200 km – my old Keen Targhee II shoes have been brought back into use having long ago been retired to mountain biking duties after 1750 km of use on the hills. [Keen 2 – Merrell 1]
Walkers on this route may relax at the prospect of ‘no more mud’ when they reach this view of Quarry Bank Mill, the splendid cotton factory founded by Samuel Greg in 1784.
A short way up the road, a left turn takes the walker directly back to Styal Cross, and on to the fleshpots of Styal.
Sue and Andrew, having not got enough exercise, decided to take the long route back, but the rest of us followed the route shown below – approximately 7 km with 150 metres ascent. It took us a very leisurely hour and fifty minutes.
Our next (and only planned at present, so suggestions for next year would be welcome) evening walk is our annual 5 km yomp, starting at 7.30pm from Trentabank car park (SJ 960 711), adjourning for Christmas Ale at the Leather's Smithy in Langley. All are welcome.
PS Are you impressed with my trial of the Lumix special infra-red lens software that brings daylight to moonlit images?