Why head to the western side of the peak district?
There is varied landscape with less people
On the western side of the Peaks roughly between Macclesfield and Leek there is a quieter region inhabited by lonely farms and rises in the land that give magnificent views. Arguably the landscape is not as dramatic as that around Edale, but I think it is more magical and enchanting. There is a rustic settled feeling that is inter dispersed by rugged wildness. As part of the Peak District it does have its outcrops, looking at the Roaches across the valley from the Morridge road they look distorted and aggressive against the sky, twisted and layered by the modelling of natures creative work.
I decided to head out and explore some of the better known features of the western side of the Peaks. Little did I know that the day I chose was suffering from the back-end of storm Calum from America, and that it would be one of the windiest walks I have ever undertaken.
Starting near Wildboarclough
I parked my car in a car park that used to be a quarry at Lower Nabbs. There was a steady rainfall when I left my car and it was windy, but the weather did not give me any warning of what was in store.
My route took me along a quite road to Wildboarclough, this is a very attractive spot a deep gorge with beach trees on either side and a cheerful brook running through its middle. Although I think it can become a mighty torrent in the winter hence the possible source of the name Wildboarclough.
Near to this water torn scar in the land is Shutlingsloe. This peak is known as the Matterhorne of Cheshire, not because of it’s great height – it is only 506 m, but because it’s profile against the sky is similar that of the mighty Matterhorne.
This peak was my next goal, it is not far from Wildboarclough and the path is pretty straightforward, a short but steep climb to the top. The wind grew stronger and more fierce the higher I climbed, but nothing prepared me for the blast I received as I took my final steps to the top. It was almost impossible to stand steady being buffeted and pushed around by this invisible force, jamming myself against the trig point at its summit was the only way I could achieve any stability to stand and admire the scenery. Even though it was not a clear sunny day the clouds were high enough to give views that were still extensive and worth the effort.
Another walker reached the top soon after me and together we shared the views and the trig point but talking was almost impossible. So we both stood together mutually admiring the storm swept land, silent in our own wind swept worlds.
To Macclesfield Forest
A well laid flagstone pathway led me from the peak to Macclesfield Forest. This is one of the more popular places in this area, unfortunately my path only really took me along the outskirts of this forest leading me to Trentabank Reservoir visitors centre. I have walked in these woods before and know that they are well worth exploring. On this day I could not but help marvel that the trees were not all ripped out of the ground, they seemed to be clinging on to the ground desperately and the noise of the wind blowing through their branches was almost equivalent to a passenger plane taking off.
My next goal was Tegg’s Nose. The southern promontory of this ridge stands out boldly against the sky its ragged slopes are the result of many years of quarrying millstone grit, giving it a harsh profile against the grey sky that is only slightly mellowed by the brown gorse and stubbed trees that cling to its sides and top.
It was a gentle walk past the dark grey waters of three reservoirs before the steep ascent up the slopes of the hill. Again the higher I climbed the more the wind tore at my clothing, I had to take the rain cover off of my backpack before it blew away for ever. I do not think it was quite as windy as Shutlingsloe though it was a very close second and the views were definitely on par.
The top looked like it was worth exploring it is part of a country park, but that was for another day and in better weather.
The Gritstone Trail
My path now followed the Gritstone Trail. this is a long distance path of 35 miles from Disley to Kidsgrove Station, not that I was intending to walk all of it. I only wanted to follow it to the Dane Valley Way.
This part of my walk was probably the most challenging and the most enjoyable. The countryside that the trail passes through is very attractive and engaging even on a day like mine. Thankfully the rain had stopped by the time I had reached the base of Tegg’s Nose which was a relief – not so the wind.
The latter part of my walk on the Gritstone Trail followed a long uphill ridge. This ridge was my nemesis, it was a long trudge that was totally exposed and the wind in all its strength was blowing straight into my face – it was hard work! A few times I was blown to a total standstill and it was knackering struggling to make headway against what at times felt like an invisible wall. It took me much longer than I was planning to walk this stretch, and by the time I reached the radio tower at the top I realised I was going to have to modify my plans. Time, daylight and energy were all running out.
Further south along the Gritstone Trail there is another ridge walk along Minn-end Lane. The lane runs along the top of the ridge for about a mile with some epic views to the south. It was a real pleasure walking along this lane even though the wind was still battling against my progress.
Greasley Hollow and Home
I was a little sad when I turned off of the tarmac lane and headed down hill towards Greasley Hollow. Sad to leave the Gritstone Trail and the views but I was looking forward to getting out of the wind.
Greasley Hollow is very picturesque. Shell Brook runs through it’s middle and along its sides there were many beach trees that were turning a rich colour of brown to carpet the ground it is a narrower crevice than Wildboarclough but similar in nature. What made it even more attractive was the fact that it was sheltered from the wind and I drank in its restful atmosphere as I descended towards the brook.
I had not stopped for a break at all so far on my walk it had just been too wet and windy, it was nearly four o’clock by the time I had reached the shelter of the hollow. I found an ideal spot to stop for a cuppa and a bit of cake that was well overdue.
After my much needed break it was a steady climb out of the hollow to Barlow Hill. It was back into the wind but it was nothing like as strong as I had experienced in the earlier part of the day.
A dull darkness was beginning to settle across the land as I made my way back towards the car park, I had definitely made the right decision to shorten my walk although it was still 15 mile round route in total. The last couple of miles I walked along quite lanes there is very little traffic around this area it was a gentle, relaxed finish to my days walk.
The wind stayed a little calmer as I wondered along enabling me to contemplate the day, it’s highlights and it’s challenges. It had been a tough day but on the whole I had enjoyed its wildness, I was tired and my legs ached a bit but I was grateful for the day and all I had experienced.
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