Friday, 15 March 2013

Taddington Travelogue

And so to Taddington, a Derbyshire village tucked away 1,100 feet above sea level, that could look charming if it made the effort. 

It grew around farming and quarrying for limestone and lead. From 1863 to 1967 the village was served by Millers Dale railway station, some two miles away, which was on the Midland Railway's extension of the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway.

Its main attractions are Five Wells, a chambered tomb topped by a cairn, and the 14th-century church, with the remains of a 7th-century Celtic cross in the churchyard. We didn’t bother.

Notable local buildings include Taddington Manor and Marlborough House. Fields around the settlement show evidence of both Celtic lynchett terraces and of Mediaeval strip farming. Kinky.

What first greeted the Wednesday Wanderers, however, was a pair of skinny, tights-wearing legs sticking out from the wall of the Queens Arms meeting point, like some undernourished burglar making his escape through a ventilation shaft.

I think the members of the Tidy Village committee should have a word.


We set off at 9.47am, turning right coming from the pub car park and walking up the main road.
After 120 yards we turned right onto a footpath across some fields, climbed a wall and turned right again.

This brought us to the A6 which we crossed and went straight on. At a crossroads of tracks we went straight on again, over a stile and down a steep embankment which Mr Davison described as a “dip” but which, if snowed over, would have tested Franz Klammer.

We went through a gate and onto a track where we turned left. After 50 yards we went right, climbed a wall and found ourselves facing an ice covered pond.

The opportunity to revisit Mr Davison’s Jesus impression was too good to miss.

It was a year or so back when the Wanderers’ answer to Evel Knievel tried to walk on ice on the canal near Marple golf club, Stockport and ended up soaked.

Although egged on, here, he was a bit more circumspect and after an ominous cracking noise retraced his steps immediately. What a wuss.

I think Dynamo can sleep easily.

Mr Davison walks on water…for a second or two.

We negotiated a wall and were afforded a wonderful view of a valley. Cressbrook Hall was away on our right.

We walked along a limestone wall which Mr Rooney described as “Chasing the Devil” because we were actually following a lead mine’s “vein”.

This was Millers Dale, a popular beauty spot in the Peak District of England, much of the area being preserved as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

 Millers Dale

Nearby is Ravenstor and Cheedale, both popular with rock-climbers. Just to the north of the Dale lies the village of Wormhill and the lesser known valleys of Peter Dale and Monk's Dale.

The local landmark is the viaduct, first built by the Midland Railway in 1866. Increasing traffic meant that a second viaduct parallel to the first was built in 1905, increasing the number of tracks to four.

The area is of great interest to geologists, particularly where the strata have been exposed by quarries and railway cuttings.

In Station Quarry, which is owned by the Naturalists Trust, two layers of limestone can be seen, separated by a bed of shale. At one point there is a dip in the lower layer, possibly from a watercourse, millions of years ago. This is filled with the shale and a large limestone boulder can be seen within it. Elsewhere in the area there are signs of lava flows from long-ago volcanic activity.

As we descended what looked like a harmless track Mr Rooney and Mr Davison were both fallers.
We went down some steps and turned right onto an old railway track.

This, indeed, was the former Buxton to Matlock line which later became the main rail route to London.

It is better known now, of course, as the Monsal Trail, about 8.5 miles (13.7 km) in length, starting at the Topley Pike junction (in Wye Dale, 3 miles (4.8 km) east of Buxton) and running  to Coombs viaduct, 1 mile (1.6 km) south-east of Bakewell.

It follows the valley of the River Wye and runs parallel to the A6. For many years the Trail could not trace the trackbed  as rail  tunnels had been closed for safety reasons, such as at Monsal Head and Cressbrook, meaning that the Trail was diverted.

The tunnels were walked by Julia Bradbury as part of BBC TV's Railway Walks: The Peak Express.
Many resulting access points and diversion paths were unsuitable for those using cycles or wheelchairs or with difficulty walking due to steep uneven stone steps or narrow paths.

Plans to make the tunnels safe and re-open them to the public were given the go-ahead at a cost of £3.78m and the tunnels were opened officially for use on 25 May 2011 at a ceremony at the Headstone Viaduct (they had actually been open 12 days earlier).

As a consequence, the Trail is now virtually level (though the former diversions are still usable, if desired).

Below, to the left, is the notorious Litton Mill, downstream from Millers Dale station, where orphans from major cities were abused by Ellis Needham, with the graves of many to be found in local churchyards.

Here the Wanderers split into three. The main body, led by Mr Davison, took a path on the right, over the first two tunnels. Mr Rooney took a path to the left. Your diarist and Mr Cunliffe decided to walk the tunnels and were afforded the sight of hundreds of ice stalactites.

 The splintered groups converged about 500 yards after the second tunnel and entered the third tunnel - Headstone - as one.

Train drivers back in the day used to say when they emerged from this tunnel  (coming the other way to our walk) that they thought they were “in the Alps”.

As this was long before Judith Chalmers was born, we must assume their knowledge of the Alps was limited to picture books. But the simile is fully justified.

A few hundred yards from the third tunnel we took a path to the left following a sign which said “Little Longstone”. We reached a road and turned left, passing an expensive barn conversion on our right, to arrive at the Pack Horse (which opened in 1787, incidentally) at 12.03pm.

There was an array of guest beers, including Kipling (ABV 5.2) at £3.35, Lord Maples and Wild Swan both at £3.10, Black Sheep at £3.05 and Jaipur at an eye-watering £3.55. We left the pub at 12.50pm, turning right and passing the rather pretty church.

At this point by a quirk of my iPhone's camera a dismembered hand seemed to appear in front of Mr Fairman recreating a scene from the 1966 classic horror series Dr Terror’s House of Horrors.

  Mr Fairman and the Hand

Film buffs may recall Tarot card reading oddball Peter Cushing - all scary eyebrows and German accent - foretelling the fates of five rail commuters in this trend-setting horror film. 

While the movie never quite tops its jaw-dropping earlier episode in which legendary BBC Radio DJ Alan Freeman wrestles with a deadly vine with plans for world-domination, it comes close with the episode “Disembodied Hand”.

Christopher Lee is perfectly cast as a pompous, pretentious art critic, particularly fond of lambasting the work of artist Michael Gough. Subsequently he’s hounded by Gough, even after he runs him over and causes the artist to lose a hand.

Was there a subtle nod to Van Gogh (who famously lost an ear) in choosing the fictional name Gough, I wonder?

We passed the Monsal Head Hotel on our left and went down some steps to our left.

We crossed a bridge and found ourselves in the Wye Valley.

Approaching the A6 again,we  crossed it and went straight over and up a hill following a sign saying “Taddington”.

This was a long and quite exhausting climb that took its toll on a few Wanderers.

We reached what appeared to be the top at 2.05pm only to find that a further climb was required and we swung right up a new incline to reach a road.

We walked on to a T-junction where we turned right and the outskirts of Taddington hove into view.

We reached the cars at 2.30pm, de-booted and entered the Queen’s Arms where Chatsworth Gold was £3.20 and Barnsley Bitter £3.

A sign by the fire said it all……

Join me soon for another wander.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Every Bosley Cloud has a Silver Lining

Fancy a wander?


Rambling in North Staffordshire. No, it's not another NHS scandal.

Spring is here! The first snowdrops of the year to be seen by the Wednesday Wanderers were recorded on this enjoyable walk. From snow to snowdrops in just four weeks.

We came out of the car park behind the Knot Inn at Rushton Spencer and walked past a building carrying a plaque which said “Ruston Station 1844”.

The railway station was built for the Leek and Macclesfield Railway and was eventually taken over by the North Staffordshire Railway. It  is now a dwelling house, of course.

I’m sure the Wanderers, like me, admired the coursed and dressed sandstone; banded and shaped tile roof; verge parapets with finials on corbelled kneelers and the circular and diamond shafted corniced stone stacks.

The poor commuters of yesteryear never had the pleasure of a cheery wave from the wide-eyed Polish Big Issue seller and the aggressive  tramp with the Tam o’ Shanter and can of cheap cider.

 We took a path on the right and then went down some steps to the left. We crossed a stream, went over a stile, up some steps and through a wood.

A short climb was involved. This took us to Raven’s Clough.

At 10.07am we saw the snowdrops (above) and worrying also heard gunfire (just a clay pigeon shoot hopefully?).

We went over a stile on the left and Bosley Cloud hove into view.

                                                              Near the top of Bosley Cloud

Another climb was undertaken and this brought us onto a road where we turned left.
At 10.29am Mr Fairman stopped to remove a stone in his shoe, without the aid of a Swiss Army knife or anaesthetic.

We dog legged right and saw a sign which said “to Cloud Summit”.

                                                      View from near the top of Bosley Cloud

We duly ascended some steps and by 10.40am had reached the top of Bosley Cloud.

                                     The Chief Druids discuss how best to get a sacrificial virgin on such a small altar

At 343 metres (1,125 ft) in height,Bosley Cloud is one of the highest hills in the area. Its heather-covered summit plateau is crowned by a trig point from which extensive views over Congleton, Biddulph, Macclesfield, Holmes Chapel, and the Greater Manchester area can be enjoyed.

The Cloud sits at the northern apex of a triangle formed by the broken ridge which runs along the border between Cheshire and Staffordshire and the hills stretching south through Biddulph Moor into Staffordshire. To its north, the River Dane wraps around its lower slopes whilst the A523 road runs to its east through the village of Bosley in Southeast Cheshire.

The place is linked to a phenomenon known as the double sunset ,  an extraordinary astro-geographical phenomenon, which was traditionally seen against The Cloud from the churchyard of Saint Edward the Confessor in Leek, in Staffordshire, on the summer solstice.
In clear weather, the sun sets on the summit of the hill, partially reappears from The Cloud's steep northern slope and soon afterwards sets for a second and final time on the horizon.

The occurrence was first recorded in writing in 1686 by Dr Robert Plot in his book The Natural History Of Staffordshire, and may well have been observed for centuries before then.

The spectacle is no longer visible from its traditional observation point because of tree interference, but can still be witnessed on the summer solstice from Leek: from the road to Pickwood Hall, off Milltown Way, and less well from Lowe Hill on the outskirts of the town.

Better observation sites of the phenomenon are from the A523 above Rudyard Lake, and Woodhouse Green.  Both of these events and their locations are described in detail in Jeff Kent's book The Mysterious Double Sunset.

A double Sundowner would be more appropriate for the Wanderers.

After a brief stop to admire a metal map that amazingly had not been defaced (vandals clearly haven’t the puff to get up so high)  we took a path to the left and began our descent.

At 10.49am Pie Time was declared and Mr Cunliffe asked if he could “borrow” some loo paper.
None was available but certainly no Wanderer would want it to be returned.

Mr Cunliffe duly disappeared into the undergrowth, presumably armed with either  a handful of grass or that day’s Sun newspaper.

After a full 10 minutes of gourmandising we set off again down the hill.
We went down some steps (11.15am) and followed a sign saying “Gritstone Trail”.
We reached a road and turned left, then took a path on the right.

This brought us into “Timbersbrook Picnic Area”, essentially a large car park with a seated area just about big enough to accommodate a family of four.

Clearly picnics aren’t that fashionable in Staffs.

Back in the day there used to be a bleaching a dyeing works nearby.

Workers would hurry on their break or after work to seek sustenance at a café run by a woman called Old Fanny Moss, which sounds more like a gynaecological condition.

Sadly Google could shed no more light on Fanny, although the search engine did helpfully  throw up a few interesting sites that occupied your diarist for an hour or two.

The tall chimney of the Silver Springs Bleaching and Dyeing Works at Timbersbrook could be seen for miles around before it was demolished by Blaster Bates in 1966.

Water from Timbers Brook was once used to power the silk mill and the old Mill Pool is now a locally important breeding pond for toads. 

According to a council website,  “lucky” walkers might even see a Kingfisher or Heron silently waiting by the waters edge ready to pounce on any unsuspecting fish they spot. Sadly our luck was out.

Within a few hundred yards, however, we did spy a peacock, adorning a very sumptuous abode, as we turned right out of the car park.


What kind of person keeps a peacock on their front lawn (done in a Lloyd Grossman voice) ?
We went left onto the Gritstone Trail, through a kissing-gate and across a field.
This, at 11.55am, brought as to the “half way point” the Coach and Horses, not the Waggon and Horses as Mr Fairman had forecast. A moot point.
Unicorn and Dizzy Blonde, both £3, were on good form.
Mr Cunliffe tucked into his obligatory plate of chips.

                                                                         Tom’s lunch

We set off at 1.38pm, going out of the pub and straight over the road.
We turned left and then right into Cherry Lane.

Within a minute we were approaching Llamaland a large house and surrounding fields featuring dozens of inquisitive llamas and other creatures.

As every schoolboy knows, llamas are members of the South American camelid family and are mostly found in the high altiplano regions of the Andes in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.

They are the domesticated cousin of the wild guanaco and are extensively used by the Andean people and in the past by the Incas, as beasts of burden, for food, for fibre and their hides used as leather.

The British Llama Society has been set up to promote all aspects of llama and Guanaco ownership - good husbandry, breeding, trekking, driving, showing and much more. It publishes a quarterly magazine, Llama Llink, a magazine that surely has been featured on Have I Got News For You.

We then past Overton Hall. We joined a road that came in from the left and after a few hundred yards went left over a stile.

We went up a narrow path with prickly leaves to our left. At 1.03pm lunch was declared.
We set off again at 1.11pm carrying on a straight line past Flowery Fields Farm.
We reached a road and turned right. This was Pines Lane. At a T-junction we turned left. We passed Green Meadows Farm. We crossed a muddy field and onto a road where we turned right.
We passed Deepdale House and took a path on the right (1.50pm).
We crossed a field, reached a road and went straight on.
This brought us to St Lawrence Church, Rushton.

                                                              St Lawrence Church, Rushton

There is a whiff of Midsomer Murders here.
The grave of Thomas Meakin, who was buried in 1781, is the only one in the churchyard facing east.  Thomas, a groom, was in love with his master's (an apothecary) daughter.

The old man did not approve  and eyebrows were raised when  Thomas suddenly died and was hurriedly buried (in Stone, Staffs).

His favourite pony kept returning to his grave and pawing the ground. When his worried friends finally exhumed the body they found him lying face down.

Had he been poisoned and buried alive? The apothecary had the motive and the means. Sadly John Nettles was not around. 

After that, Thomas’s family brought his remains back to Rushton they were reburied at St Lawrence's.

We went over a railway bridge, dropped down a slope and turned right to go under the bridge we had just crossed. At 2.20pm we were back at the cars.

After de-booting we drove to the Old Kings Head at Gurnett, where Speckled Hen and Tim Taylor’s Landlord were both £3.20 and Banks’ was £3.

Join me again soon on another wander.