Beyond some rare breed sheep and a lengthy refreshment stop, we passed several trees laden with red berries, no doubt awaiting a hungry flock of migrating birds.
Sunday, 1 September 2019
Beyond some rare breed sheep and a lengthy refreshment stop, we passed several trees laden with red berries, no doubt awaiting a hungry flock of migrating birds.
Friday, 30 August 2019
Sunday, 8 May 2016
I had the pleasure of Andrew’s company again for this morning stroll from Danebridge through the wonderful countryside of the Roaches and Dane Valley areas, though this short excursion didn’t reach the actual Roaches!
Instead of our usual direct route past Hangingstone Farm, we chose on this occasion to use the path leading up to Snipe, with good views past lambing sheep to the undulations of Bosley Minn.
Before heading directly north to reach Hanging Stone, the track passes Park House, with fine views across the fields to our objective.
A brief but stiff pull up the escarpment leads to the Hanging Stone, and its memorial to Lt Col Henry Courtney Brocklehurst, killed in active service in Burma in 1942. I’ve written in more detail about this here, here and here. By coincidence I’ve just finished reading John Sweeney’s novel ‘Elephant Moon’ set in Burma in 1942. It’s about a party of schoolchildren who attempt to escape from Burma into India in the face of a Japanese invasion. I enjoyed it immensely.
Hanging Stone enjoys good views to the south. No recorded hangings have assailed the placid serenity of this Cheshire countryside.
Two kilometres along the ‘ridge’, we reached the junction with a lower path that can be taken by those without ambition. Looking back, Hanging Stone, some 70 metres below us, is just about visible in the distance, to the right of The Cloud’s bold outline.
Today’s short walk saw us reaching a narrow lane below Bearstone Rock and the Roaches. Sadly, despite the warm weather, there was no ice cream van parked here today. So we sat on a rock and enjoyed a cuppa and some cake.
Turning as if on a sixpence, we descended to Forest Wood, below Back Forest, serenaded by cuckoos, following the signposts to Lud’s Church, an unmissable highlight of this walk.
The links given above direct readers to postings that provide a detailed history of this wonderful chasm. It was a little damp today, but nothing that the old Keen Targhee trail shoes couldn’t cope with.
We met a few people this morning, mostly in Lud’s Church. After passing through the chasm, we headed towards Gradbach to join the footpath beside the River Dane for our stroll back to Danebridge. We’d enjoyed views towards Shutlingsloe for much of the walk. Here’s one of them.
A ‘dog lady’ had warned us about ‘mud’. She was correct, but there were always ways around or over it, including one or two boardwalks. The budget seems to have expired in the middle of this one.
Towards Danebridge, the woods were full of bluebells – only a short walk from the bridge for those who just want to enjoy the flowers.
Soon we were in sight of our destination, which was heaving with people now, having been virtually empty when we set off at ten o’clock.
Adjourning to the Ship Inn (see earlier links for its history whereby it is associated with one of a number of vessels) was a mistake. The drinks were pricey and our ‘sandwiches’, which took over forty minutes to arrive, turned out to be tooth risking crispy ciabattas with chunky chips. We’d have preferred a simple, honest sandwich! But others may enjoy the fayre here, and it was friendly enough so don’t be put off.
Here’s our route, one that I regard as a classic outing and am always pleased to repeat – about 11.5 km with around 350 metres ascent, taking 3 to 3.5 hours.
Click on the map for a slightly larger version.
Thanks for your company, Andrew, and note that this is the third of a series of four short morning walks, the final one being on Wednesday 1 June – another classic route, should anyone wish to join me:
7.5 miles (12 km) from the car park at Trentabank (beyond the Leathers Smithy in Langley) - SJ 961 711, starting at 10.00 am. (Parking may be available by Ridgegate Reservoir but make sure you use the marked spaces or you will get an expensive ticket.)
Wednesday, 16 April 2014
This year’s first ‘daylight’ evening walk covered familiar ground that has featured in other reports – here you will find out much more about the highlights of tonight’s walk.
We’ve had many happy visits to the Ship Inn at Wincle, and whilst the beer was ok tonight the welcome was, well, not very welcoming. There’s a small bar where the barman was chatting to his mates. Either side were large and very empty rooms. We chose the one next to the bar. “You can’t go there, that’s for diners” we were then told, after parking ourselves at an unlaid table for what would obviously be a very brief visit before our walk. So we went to the other large empty room. I wonder why these rooms are all so empty?
Anyway, Graham arrived and we decided that although we’d planned to visit the pub again after our walk, our cars would probably not be welcome in the pub car park whilst we were away, so we left the place, thinking that we could find somewhere more appreciative of our business later.
Graham and I got some good sunset views as we strolled up towards Hanging Stone, whilst Sue and Andrew dawdled just out of sight of the dipping orb. We assembled at the standing stone below Hangingstone Farm – Hanging Stone is in the background.
As we closed in on Hanging Stone, it was silhouetted nicely in the dusk, whilst Sue and Andrew were a blur in the foreground against the Roaches and Hen Cloud as they tore up the path.
From Hanging Stone there are good views towards Shutlingsloe. This is not the best such image that has appeared on these pages, but it does reflect the loveliness of this particular evening. The colour of the sky is ‘dusk blue’, albeit it might appear grey!
By the time we reached the post-glacial cleft of Lud’s Church it was nearly dark. Looking up from the depths of the cleft, the air was thick with bats, some of which are visible here at the top of the picture.
After exploring the cleft we returned through the forest to the entrance, then headed briefly towards Gradbach before hitting the Dane Valley path back to Wincle. A pleasant path, thankfully dry after all the fine weather we’ve been enjoying. Torches were needed in the latter stages through woodland during the post dusk, pre full moon period. A shrew* scurried ahead of us, stopping for a while, frozen to the spot in the light of my Petzl (torch).
On arrival at the cars after 8km with 300 metres ascent in a little over two hours, the worker in our midst decided an early night was needed so no further pub visit was made. We drove home with a blazing yellow moon in our mirrors, passing the Fools Nook in Gawsworth that I’d thought would be a good alternative to the Ship. Sadly the Fools Nook turned out to be closed and up for sale.
A lovely evening in perfect weather. Summer has arrived.
[I forgot my camera, hence the rather poor ‘phone’ pictures. Graham’s should be better.]
*I think it was a shrew as it was only a couple of cm long, with a tail more than twice the length of the body. But it didn’t appear to have a particularly long nose…
PS After reading this entry, Graham kindly provided a further two images, taken whilst we watched the lovely sunset from the standing stone below Hangingstone Farm:
Tuesday, 15 October 2013
The thin mizzle that had accompanied me on the slow journey from Timperley gently subsided as Don’s headlamps blinked at me from the direction of Upper Hulme. I’d been waiting for the weather to ease, and Don and Neil’s confusion with the intricate road system of Upper Hulme had given it the chance to do just that.
This was the long postponed re-run of a Plodders’ walk I’d organised on 31 October 2012, when Don was out of action with a broken ankle. I’m always happy to repeat it, but I won’t today be reiterating the copious information provided in that earlier report.
The wind was light, so despite a few showers we could enjoy a sociable stroll around the 17 km circuit, starting on this occasion from the lay-by below the Don Whillans Memorial Hut, which nestles into the south eastern corner of the jagged rocky ridge.
It can be a busy spot, but today we had the whole area very much to ourselves, meeting just one couple twice, the second time at Hanging Stone, where we discussed the chances of encountering wild wallabies. The wartime zoo escapees have probably now died out, but if they are to be seen, it could be on this sort of day.
The sky cleared briefly as we descended into Lud’s Church, enhancing that slightly muddy experience, and we enjoyed our lunches in dry weather on some flat rocks just beyond the rare breeds sheep farm that enjoys a fine position by the River Dane in the distant shadow of Shutlingsloe.
All in all, a very pleasant five hour ‘plod’, in good company with beautiful scenery, despite the autumnal weather.
The images and text from the following links may provide a contrast with today’s visit, some of the images from which are shown below the links.
There’s a slideshow (24 images) here.
Tuesday, 6 November 2012
Lud’s Church is one of my favourite places, and I enjoy the 11 mile walk that also visits Danebridge, The Roaches and Hanging Stone, so it was a pleasure to be asked to lead this little amble with the LDWA’s East Lancashire Plodders.
The walk starts near the Ship Inn.
There are numerous stories associated with the pub, mainly concerning its name. It is thought that Sir Philip Brocklehurst, a relative of Sir John Brocklehurst who owned nearby Swythamley Hall, sailed with the explorer Shackleton on one of his many expeditions to the Antarctic, as an Assistant Geologist, although history states that he may well have been a paying guest. It was often thought that the sign on the Ship Inn related to the famous Endeavour, from a 1914 expedition, but it depicted the Nimrod in Antarctic Ice. Others say that the Ship is named after another vessel, known as the Swythamley, which was owned by a close friend of the Squire, and that the pub was named in his honour.
The current sign seems to have more to do with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight than with the Endeavour!
Despite forecast rain, a good turnout of twelve Plodders - myself, Sue, Reg, Jim, Neil, Nancy, Bernard, Andrew, Paul, Roger, Phil and Allan, assembled at Danebridge for this escape from East Lancashire to the distant land of North Staffordshire.
A crossing of the River Dane at Danebridge was first recorded in 1190, where it was known as Scliderford, meaning a slippery ford. In 1357, Sliderford Bridge was constructed. This was rebuilt in the seventeenth century, using stone. Unfortunately, the new stone bridge was washed away by floods in 1631 and replaced a year later by another, more sturdy, bridge. The present bridge dates from around 1869, and was funded by the two Counties of Cheshire and Staffordshire, with each paying £1,000 for its construction and upkeep. Materials were supplied by the Brocklehurst family, of Swythamley Hall.
Today’s weather was in fact 'fine', albeit a bit cloudy, and we managed the whole walk without the need for waterproofs. Meanwhile it rained in Lancashire. Perhaps we should head south more often! After a few steps we passed Wincle Brewery - set up in 2008 from a redundant milking parlour - where some of us thought we spotted the shadowy figure of erstwhile Plodder 'R Norman', nursing a pail of beer. We left him to it and headed up through autumnal woods to gain a view of Hanging Stone, our first objective.
The Hanging Stone perches on the hillside like a giant fist, a sentinel overlooking Swythamley, on the Staffordshire side of the River Dane. Swythamley Hall stands in a fine park and was originally a mediaeval hunting lodge belonging to the Abbey of Dieulacres near Leek. The hall was granted to the Traffords by Henry VIII in 1540 and became their home and that of their successors, the Brocklehursts. Unfortunately the original house burned down in 1813, so the modern building is a rebuild dating from then. The Brocklehursts had an adventurous history. As mentioned above, one of them accompanied Shackleton to the Antarctic. The Hanging Stone bears a plaque to Colonel Brocklehurst, who was killed in Burma in 1942. A game warden in the Sudan, he started a private zoo at Swythamley when he returned to Britain, and during the Second World War the animals were released into the countryside because there was no food for them. The wallabies from the zoo survived and bred around the Roaches until recently. In fact there continue to be rare sightings, which have surprised many walkers and climbers over the years.
The plaque reads:
“Lt. Col. Henry Courtney Brocklehurst. 10th Royal Hussars and Pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, 1916 - 1918. Game Warden of the Sudan. Born at Swythamley, May 27th, 1888. Killed Whilst On Active Service, in Burma, on Commando. June 1942.
Horses he loved and laughter, the sun. Wide spaces and the open air.
The trust of all dumb living things he won, and never knew the luck too good to share.
His were the simple heart and open hand, and honest faults he never strove to hide.
Problems of life he could not understand, but as a man would wish to die he died.
Now, though he will not ride with us again, his merry spirit seems our comrade yet.
Freed from the power of loneliness and pain, forbidding us to mourn or to forget.
Erected by his devoted brother – 1949”
There’s a second, earlier stone plaque at the foot of the stone:
“Beneath This Rock
August 1, 1874 was buried
A Noble Mastiff
Black and Tan
Faithful as Woman
Braver than Man
A Gun and a Ramble
His Heart’s Desire
With the Friend of his Life
The Swythamley Squire”
Swythamley has been convincingly identified as the castle of the Green Knight of the classic mediaeval poem "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and nearby Lud's Church as the knight's 'Green Chapel'. This probably means that the unknown author was connected with Dieulacres in some way.
There is no record of Hanging Stone being used for hanging - the name describes its look rather than its function! However, it did claim one of our number, as Reg decided a low level stroll would be more to his taste today. I think he could smell the beer at the Ship Inn, as it later transpired that he had gate-crashed a Rucksack Club party with some luminaries who were known to him, so whilst we were hauling ourselves over The Roaches he was taking a rare break from leading a Plod in order to get sozzled in the pub.
From the top of Hanging Stone, there's a fine view of Shutlingsloe, the 'Matterhorn of the Peak District', and dramatic photos can be gained of those brave enough to stand on the edge of the stone, which overlooks the Cheshire (or should that be Staffordshire?) plain. We didn't go close to the edge today, for fear of being blown off. Nor did we spot any wallabies.
Phil led the wind blasted group of Plodders along the ridge that is called Back Forest, high above Roach End Farm, beyond which we employed tarmac for a while to take us below The Roaches to Roaches Gate, where we edged out of Phil's slipstream and headed past a hovering kestrel and a group of climbers, below the BMC's Don Whillans Memorial Hut.
We then rose gently up a rocky path to a good spot for lunch with views towards nearby Tittesworth Reservoir, and distant hump of The Wrekin - over 40 miles away. In the far distance the outline of Snowdonia was also just about visible.
The name Roaches has evolved recently from 'Roches' as the area used to be known only 100 years (or less) ago. 'Roches' is the French word for rocks.
The Roaches Estate, which includes Hen Cloud, was purchased by the Peak District National Park Authority in the 1980s to safeguard the area from adverse development. In clear conditions, it is possible to see much of Cheshire and views stretching as far as Snowdon in Wales and Winter Hill in Lancashire. The Roaches are the most prominent part of a curving ridge which extends for several miles from Hen Cloud in the south to Back Forest and Hanging Stone in the northwest. Nearby are the broad hills of Gun and Morridge.
Hen Cloud rose prettily to our south, but some members of this motley group were more concerned about the presence around us of Rock Climbers. "Will I mange OK" asked Jim "I have no equipment." "Oh dear" I replied "the rest of us have ropes and harnesses!" Perhaps that's why Reg dropped out and went to the pub, but even without his fatherly guidance we did somehow manage to scrabble our way up the vertigo inducing cliffs that led eventually to a lump of white concrete at 472 metres, our highest point of the day. As leader, I felt obliged to venture as high as I could, but nobody followed - it was windy on top.
We then started the long descent to Lud's Church and were soon back in the woods, where a well signed path led us inexorably to the back door of this fine geological artefact. Only Andrew by-passed the top entrance, shown at the top of this posting, from where we slowly descended into the main auditorium.
The natural cleft is over 100 metres in length and over 20 metres high in places. The light of day rarely reaches and damp mosses curl down from the walls. Even on the sunniest of days, it is possible to hear the drip, drip of water from the ferns which cling to the sides of the cleft, which has been identified as The Green Chapel – the very place where Sir Gawain met and battled with the Green Knight one New Year’s Day long ago.
Lud's Church is formed within the thick bed of coarse Carboniferous sandstone known as the Roaches Grit, which here dips northeastwards into the Goyt Syncline. The rocks of this area are traversed by numerous roughly northwest-to-southeast-oriented faults and fracture planes. In addition, weak layers of mudstone exist within the sequence. It is along such lines of weakness that a large mass of the Roaches Grit bounding the northeast side of the rift has slipped slightly downhill into the Dane Valley resulting in the open rift. The age of the movement is unknown but is likely to be post-glacial.
It is believed that the chasm was considered by early Pagans to be a sacred place, most likely due to the phenomenon that occurs on Midsummer Day, where only on this day does the sun's light penetrate deep into the chasm. Lud, known as Nud in Welsh, or Nodens by the ancient Britons, is a major Celtic deity associated with many parts of Britain and with the Arthurian Fisher King and, by way of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Green Man.
The area also has a place in Christian history: the Lollards, who were followers of John Wycliffe, an early church reformer, are supposed to have used this as a secret place of worship during the early 15th century, when they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Lud's Church may have been named after Walter de Ludank or Walter de Lud-Auk who was captured here at one of their meetings. A wooden ship's figurehead from the ship Swythamley formerly stood in a high niche above the chasm, placed there by Philip Brocklehurst, then the landowner, around 1862. It was called 'Lady Lud' and was supposed to commemorate the death of the daughter of a Lollard preacher.
A number of climbing routes up the sides of the chasm were pioneered during the 20th century but climbing is now discouraged so as to protect the lower plants that have colonised the damp rock-faces.
In legend, Robin Hood, Friar Tuck and Bonny Prince Charlie are all reputed to have hidden from the authorities within the chasm. Ralph Elliott, local Luddites (known to be active in the area during the Luddite protests), and others have identified Lud's Church as the Green Chapel of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'.
Another legend has it that Lud's Church was named after a horse: supposedly, a huntsman was pursuing a deer and as he followed it on horseback he was led to the chasm. The hunter failed to see the danger but his horse, Lud, did: when the rider went too close, the horse bucked and threw him to his death in the chasm. There are also connected rumours that originate from a similar period in time, suggesting that the hunter that was killed still roams around the woods and the area. It is said that he is covered from head to toe in moss and leaves so the locals called this legendary being the Green Man.
It was a little muddy in places on this visit, but unlike a solo lady walker who appeared to be stalking our party (bizarre, I know, but true) we did find our way past the numerous mossy murals to the front entrance. Here, tea was taken and the remnants of a cake were shared out (most of it having been eaten at previous halts).
From the church, our route casually followed the course of the River Dane, back to Danebridge past a rare breed sheep farm where the farmer’s car registration plates are nearly as interesting as the sheep!
Before reaching the farm, we passed a landslip that in March 2011 looked like this:
Now it looks like this:
Interestingly the water was forced by the original landslip to flow on our side of the river, resulting in further erosion and a landslip (unseen in today’s photo) just below the path from which the photo was taken.
Nature at work!
After the sheep farm, we met Reg, stumbling along after his encounter with the alcoholically inclined members of the Rucksack Club. He seemed pleased to see us, especially when Bernard offered to carry him back to Danebridge. Then Bernard remembered that he had a bad ankle and changed his mind. So Reg had to walk.
Adjourning to The Knott Inn for refreshments, we had our only real mishap of the day, ten minutes proving to be insufficient time for Roger to get his car into a position whereby it was pointing in the right direction. Or did he just change his mind and go straight home? We may never know.
Our route today was about 17 km (11 miles), with 600 metres ascent, and took about 5.5 hours.
Click here for a 43 image slideshow.
Note: The text in blue has been taken from previous postings and from Wikipedia and other sources.