Reporter: Bill Matthews
Leaders: Helen & Brian Richardson
The rendezvous point for this popular club walk was Clarence Mill, Bollington, built for the Swindell’s family in 1834 alongside the canal completed in 1831 and extended as the cotton industry grew immensely in Bollington and around. It is an easy place to find, towering as it does above the town. 'No problems, then, for the 15 members arriving by car at the ample car parks but it was an unexpected initial steep climb for myself! The mill now houses small businesses and the Cafe Waterside Ltd whence we would return.
Largely Bollington consists of charming old stone property where several old mills flourished. In its own right, it is worth a brief tour for its numerous grade 2 listed halls, houses, canal bridges and industrial architecture.
Initially our route passed by the memorial gardens where we were reminded that it was well dressing week, the main subject displayed being the Battle of Waterloo. Passing by the Cheshire Hunt cottages as the sky brightened, we were making our first ascent to Gausie Brow and Harrop Wood. Those members (most) who had decided to wear shorts now realised the significance of their decision as the horse flies came out to play. 'But looking on the bright side there were no nettles. Looking back South Westwards towards Rainow, is another Billinge Hill. The connection to the 11 June Billinge club walk near Wigan is the Billinge family name which seems to originate from Billing, a Parish of Peterborough, with other connections to Liverpool and as far as Kent. Currently, the closed Billinge Quarry has a rather mysterious significance. Laborious enquiries by locals under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that there is a secret Bunker where the Government sometimes stores Safety Cartridges, whatever they might be. The casual observer could not detect anything striking at the old quarry. The site owner is Edgar Bros. of Macclesfied, one of the oldest UK importers and wholesaler dealers in firearms; an official supplier to the M.O.D.
The next short stiff climb to Charles Head took us up a narrow gully where smaller and the 4 dogs almost disappeared in deep grass. At the lower end of the gully we mused about walkers being swept away by the forlorn abandoned silage bale which had apparently rolled down the 'no escape' path.
After another mile on the skyline permissive path, there was a short break awaiting the dog owners who were obliged to make a detour. At this point there are two Dykes across a stream. Brian Richardson explained how he and other voluntary workers for the footpath society had struggled hauling pipes and a large quantity of very large rocks from the Todd Brook valley below. Well done, Brian! I remember that it was a very boggy crossing.
Lunch in perfect conditions was taken at Waggonshaw Brow overlooking the tip of Lamaload Reservoir on our route to the South. To the East, petite Jenkins Chapel (Baptist, Built by locals 1733) lay at the junction of 3 ancient tracks called Salters Ways and used by packhorses carrying salt. Hence the adjacent hall is called Saltersford Hall (c 1593) built for the Stopford family.
The following 2 miles downhill brought us unexpectedly into Rainow village and soon we were making the final stiff climb to the Saddle of Kerridge reminding us that we had done enough exercise for one Saturday. Here, for the first time we encountered more members of the public visiting famous White Nancy summerhouse / Folly. There were 360 degree views back along the Gritstone Way and as far as Shropshire. Normally painted white, today it was decorated with pictures of soldiers and the word Waterloo. The Folly has served to celebrate various occasions including being painted as a Christmas pudding and a Father Christmas. It was constructed for the Gaskell family 210 years ago with a table and stone benches in a single room. There are stones around the perimeter showing points of the compass but there is no longer interior access. During 1940 The Royal Signal Corps. did experimental cathode ray tube transmissions from here. White Nancy is named after Nancy Gaskell and is also the name of a local flower.
On the descent into Bollington we briefly lost slightly over eager Andrew who was ahead, as we did a 'sly' retro-route but he soon reappeared.
In Bollington it became clear why we must be back at the Mill Cafe by 4 pm. There was an impressive presentation by Helen. We were all treated to tea / coffee and scones with accompaniments to celebrate her birthday. It was the perfect end to a beautiful walk.
As I cycle homeward along the Middlewood Way, I amazed some walkers with my telescopic eyesight by slowly reading the word 'WATERLOO' on White Nancy nearly one mile away!