Monday, 12 September 2016

Walking over water

I'm afraid we haven't done too much boating since we arrived on the Macclesfield. It's that sort of a canal: so picturesque and so relaxing you simply don't want to rush through it. Instead of boating we've been walking – hence the title.
We moored over the weekend at Higher Poynton, once a mining area but now a spot that's slipped into tranquil rurality. It's a 20 minute walk to the nearest shops and old miners would I'm sure be shocked to discover that Poynton is now a desirable little outlying suburb of Manchester – there's even a Waitrose!
Up at the canal things do get busy at the weekend; it's a popular spot for visitors – there's a mining museum, the Anson diesel engine museum, a little cafe on the towpath and, of course, plenty of boats. There's always more than a few Braidbars around as the boats are built here. And our old chum Iain Bryceland, who used to own the firm, runs the moorings opposite so it was great to see him, as cheery and laidback as ever.
Manchester below us in the Cheshire plain
We went for a stroll over the canal bridge by Braidbar and kept on strolling and strolling steeply uphill until we found ourselves in the 1400 acre grounds of Lyme Park. The views from up here are stunning, especially down across the Cheshire plains where Manchester is laid out in the distance - you can even watch planes coming in to land at the airport.
The house itself is a monumental piece of work – the largest house in Cheshire (even bigger than Wayne Rooney's, then).
Up in the distance at Lyme Park is 'The Cage'
But the walker's target is 'The Cage', a hunting lodge high in the hills where noblemen's wives watched their husbands deer hunting below. It bears a close visual resemblance to the White Tower of the Tower of London where Lyme's then owner Peter Legh XII was twice imprisoned for treason, eventually being freed. Legend is that the design and the name 'The Cage' were a spot of irony on his part.
After a couple of walks around Lyme we decided to go boating again and headed down to the pretty little town of Bollington. Walking would have been easier – the canal was very shallow in place and a couple of bridge holes brought us to a standstill.
Bollington was a major centre for cotton spinning in the 19th century and we are moored by Clarence Mill, one of many that existed in and around the town. Most of the other mills have vanished and Bollington today is a sought after spot, its attractive stone terraced streets gently folded into the contours of a steep sided valley and nicknamed 'happy valley' by its residents.
Brian cools his feet in mid-walk
Walking mission today was 'White Nancy', a curious upside down eggcup of a building built on top of a steep hill to the edge of the town to celebrate victory in the Battle of Waterloo. It's said that it was used as a summer house but god help the poor servants who had to lug chairs and picnic hampers up the steep slopes below it.
The curious folly White Nancy and its far reaching views
It's a short but lung bursting effort but the spectacular views make it all worthwhile. You can see as far as the mountains of north Wales and the Pennine hills to the north and east.
From here a steeply sloping ridge, the 'saddle of Kerridge' (top picture) ran south for a mile, with Macclesfield stretching out below us in the west, before the footpath dropped steeply down to a country lane which headed back towards Bollington.
The overgrown remains of old quarries stretch along the road: trees have grown thickly up among the piles of scattered broken rocks and abandoned diggings to hide the sky and create a dark and forbidding atmosphere like The Wild Wood of Toad of Toad Hall.
Tom Clayton's mysterious chimney
Just short of Bollington a tall and ornate chimney lurked mysteriously in the thick trees and nearby a footpath crossed under the road and down precipitous stone steps. It had to be explored but, sadly, told us nothing more about the chimney – just add half a mile to our route home.
The chimney, Google revealed later, is known as Tom Clayton's Chimney and officially was a ventilation shaft for a coalmine. Except there's no coal mine shaft under there! It's all a bit of a mystery.
So will tomorrow be boating or walking? Who knows.

1 comment:

  1. No one can blame you for going is a great piece of countryside and as you described full of industrial history. Hard to conceive just how busy it was through the 17 and 18 hundreds. There is an old Brickyards near there and seem to recall that they had a chimney for the kilns that had to be located some distance away to create the required updraught due to the surrounding hills. Used to love exploring the wooded hill slopes discovering old tramways and other industrial clues. Yep, and old stomping ground a regular destination when out on the bike.