An assortment of apologies produced a quartet of strollers for today’s morning walk around Marple Bridge. We were pleased to see AlanR, who had set off in the middle of the night to get to the rendezvous point almost on time.
We started from the free car park opposite Brabyn’s Park, picked up Alan at the station, and headed past the tennis courts to join the Peak Forest Canal towpath on a sunny autumn morning.
The aqueduct over the Goyt Valley from which the following picture was taken is impressive in itself; built in 1799 it remains (at 27.4 metres) the highest canal aqueduct in England and the highest masonry-arch aqueduct in Britain. It looks up to the even more impressive railway viaduct that dates from 1865.
Thirty years ago these paths were a favourite route for excursions with my children. Kate would walk, with Mike in a push chair. I remember it being muddy, but not quite this muddy. Both Alan and Graham tested the electric fence on the right.
“Quite a kick” observed Alan.
Luckily the horses in the field weren’t of the kicking variety, though they did whinge about not being allowed to share in the chocolate chip cookies that were being handed around.
Appeased by chocolate, nobody complained too aggressively when told that the episode of mud and electricity was a mistake.
So we returned through the mud to pass in front of Lower Watermeetings Farm on a well marked footpath. We were soon beside the River Etherow, leaving it to climb steeply and cross the road above Compstall. Today’s route then continued along a path I’d not walked before, beside Gigg Brook to a footbridge.
From the footbridge, Sue insisted that I took a photo of these impressive fungi. I’ve failed to identify them I’m afraid.
After taking the narrow lane past Campville Farm we descended Mortin Clough to reach the wide paths of Etherow Country Park. There were lots of people taking advantage of the sunny weather to walk their dogs and children.
Etherow Country Park appears to be a haven for Mandarin Ducks. There were many smart looking specimens, and the ladies were in much better shape than ‘Mandy’, our local lonesome mandarin who thinks she’s a mallard.
There was a mine around here, and several mills, some of which are still standing, as there was plenty of water to provide power. There’s a small lake in the Country Park, which was once the mill pond. Following the closure of the mills the area became one of England’s first Country Parks, later gaining SSSI status in 1977.
We paused for coffees all round at the excellent café at the entrance to the park where ‘special needs’ staff are sympathetically employed.
Across the road is a sad building, the George Hotel.
In days quite long past, when I arranged Wednesday evening walks all summer to provide a mid week respite from stressful work, the George was a thriving pub with good beer and a superb bowling green that always seemed to be in use. Somewhere, buried within several large boxes of photos and negatives, I’ll have pictures of it in that heyday of around 20 to 30 years ago. If I find one I’ll insert it here. Meanwhile, the internet claims that the following image shows the Hotel in its ‘heyday’.
Just up the road, a path leads over an iron bridge into Brabyn’s Park.
The carriage bridge dates from 1813, just a few years after the canal was opened. It’s a historic cast iron structure, made in Salford Iron Works, and it survived until 1990 with very little maintenance. But then it was declared unsafe and a Bailey bridge was used whilst funds were raised for restoration work that was completed in 2008. So I’ve probably crossed by the Bailey bridge (now dismantled) more often than by this lovely old iron bridge.
A stroll beside the river brought us out opposite the car park, with plenty of time for Alan to wander back up to the station and rendezvous with Sheila in Manchester. The rest of us returned home for lunch.
Here’s our route – 9 km with 170 metres ascent, taking about 2.5 hours.
AlanR’s excellent report, featuring much better pictures of the aqueduct and viaduct, is here. Thanks Alan.