After failing to take advantage of yesterday’s sunshine, I looked out to another blue sky day and couldn’t resist the opportunity to check out the text for another of Jen Darling’s ‘Pub Walks in Cheshire’ routes.
I’ve been walking this particular route for many years, starting in the 1990s when I followed some of Jen’s routes from the first edition of her book. I used them as ideas for Wednesday evening walks in those days.
Today’s morning walk started from the door of the Leather’s Smithy and headed around Ridgegate Reservoir. It has been windy, but not today – a calm frosty morning with cloud slowly building, until towards the end of the walk there were flurries of snow. It didn’t feel cold though.
If you come at a weekend, you may be lucky enough to find a kiosk selling drinks etc in the Ranger Centre car park, but today it was quiet here.
There’s a 50 metre path loop past this new sculpture, and an older one, to some picnic benches beside Trentabank Reservoir, from where the bird life in the trees and on the water can be observed at leisure. Well worth the minor diversion.
There follows a fairly steep climb through Macclesfield Forest on the path signposted to Shutlingsloe. Several people were struggling up the path, and I met others on Shutlingsloe. After that – nobody.
Here’s the view looking back to Nessit Hill after leaving the forest.
From roughly the same spot – the well constructed path climbs amiably until the final few metres to the summit
On the summit, the air was cooler and I didn’t spend too long admiring the frost adorned plaque in memory of Arthur Smith, a local rights of access campaigner. We should pause to consider that without the efforts of people like him, we may not have the present wonderful array of paths to choose from for our leisure time wanderings. On the descent, I met a couple who are walking the 190 mile Peak District Boundary Walk – by way of a series of day walks using two cars or public transport.
Here’s the summit, with the plaque on the left, and a view to the south to the hills around Leek.
The text for Jen’s third edition was fine, but since she wrote it some new metal kissing gates, such as this one on the descent to Wildboarclough, have been installed. The demographic of people out in these and other local walking areas seems to have changed to a point at which some walkers have become sufficiently infirm (and influential) to trigger the authorities to remove some of the characterful old style ladder and step stiles, replacing them with ugly new kissing gates.
The Crag Inn used to be a farm, and I remember the pub closing and efforts being made to convert it back to a private house, but for the time being it continues as a public house – a popular place in summer, but it must be difficult to make a living here.
Across the valley, Berry Bank clearly faces north!
Good paths through fields of cropped grass soon lead to the path to Oakenclough, which actually goes along a road for a while after the sign in the next picture.
As you rise up Oakenclough, Shutlingsloe comes back fully into view after having been a little shy since the descent to Wildboarclough.
By now, the Croker Hill aerials have returned to view, as have the Jodrell Bank telescopes. Today a purple-grey haze lay over Greater Manchester, whose tall buildings could just be discerned.
Meanwhile, a high point is reached at about 370 metres. It’s downhill all the way from here, initially down a lovely sunken lane to The Hanging Gate.
The Hanging Gate is currently closed. However, the ‘For Sale’ sign has gone and the website shows encouraging signs regarding a re-opening. Perhaps Jen should email Louis (email@example.com) to discover more.
Soon after dropping down from The Hanging Gate, our route joins the Gritstone Trail – following well signposted paths until just after a house called Throstles Nest. Here, we turn sharp right into a narrow valley, then ascend to re-join the path around Ridgegate Reservoir for the final few metres of this excellent walk. If you miss the turn, the Gritstone Trail takes you to the Langley road, where you turn right to get back to the Leathers Smithy.
Here’s the route – 12 km with about 400 metres ascent. It took me 2.5 hours, but most folk will savour the delights of this walk in up to 4 hours.