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Ski Club of Manchester Spring Walk — Sunday 28th April 2024

Leader: Joy Parsons

Reporter: Helen Richardson

There was no mistaking the start point for our spring walk: Joy, our walk leader, had judiciously placed a pair of skis at the entrance to her driveway — a very apt signpost! On our arrival, Joy made everyone very welcome, with early birds treated to tea and freshly ground coffee. It was raining, but the weather was forecast to improve later in the morning, so there was no rush to make a prompt start on this occasion.

As the rain eased, we nine walkers donned our boots and waterproofs, and, with Freddie and Fossie, set off towards the canal, which we followed as it curved east and north, until we reached a footbridge close to a rail bridge. Here we crossed the canal, then followed field paths eastwards to the Gritstone Trail, which provided a gradual and steady ascent to The Cloud summit. I have often used this path for descent from The Cloud to Timbersbrook, but never to walk up, and it made for a very pleasant climb.

By the time we reached The Cloud summit, it was dry and much brighter. We paused to enjoy the excellent views in all directions, then sheltered from the strong wind for a refreshment break. Leaving the summit, a path in a southerly direction took us along the Cheshire and Staffordshire border, with the path crossing back and forth between the two counties. Joy told us that Cheshire County had failed to include a section of this path in their definitive map; she explained how Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, — endorsed by witness accounts of local folk, including herself who had used the path for many years, — had disputed the landowner assertion that there was no public path, and successfully claimed it as a ‘lost path’. Thus it was added to the definitive map, and thence to OS maps, so restoring a continuous path along a section where it had been unlawfully blocked.

Soon we reached the Bridestones. These massive pieces of rock are the remains of a neolithic chambered tomb and cairn, dating from about 3000 BC. As if by magic, a local historian appeared and offered to recount their story. He pointed out an etched impression of what might have been an eye of a creature, perhaps a crocodile, and (somewhat fancifully, I thought) told us how “everything comes back to ‘croco’ or ‘crook’ or ‘hook’ “, with an implication of “crookedness”or “criminality” at the “centre of everything”. Fortunately, Joy, with an eye on the time and knowing that we needed to progress, made our excuses, whereupon we all expressed our thanks — and left him to tell his anecdotes to the next unwary passers-by.

Along our way, we stopped for a brief chat with various of Joy’s friends, including one on a horse, and another the current owner of Joy’s previous house. All these little distractions added to the enjoyment, leisureliness and interest of our walk. Much to our surprise, our lunch stop was in a farm courtyard where chairs had been set out ready for us! What a five-star venue! Whilst eating and chatting with the owner, we had two horses and various other farm residents as spectators!

It seemed not long after lunch that we stopped for another refreshment break, — this time at The Talbot (Inn). By this point, we had reached the Staffordshire Moorlands Walks path, which we followed for a while before joining The Biddulph Valley Way along a disused railway line, and so returned to our start point.

Back at Joy’s house, we enjoyed tea, biscuits and cake in her conservatory and pretty garden. The sun was fully out and it hardly seemed like late April, let alone the rather dreary day on which we had set out just a few hours earlier.

On behalf of all of us there “Many thanks, Joy, for an excellent walk and for refreshments before and after! We’re looking forward to next year’s already!”

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