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.
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.
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.