walking the cheshire ring

a canal wanderer

walking the cheshire ring

Over the past three years, I have walked on or off The Cheshire Ring with an intention of doing it either in a clockwise or anti clockwise direction starting at the Ashton Canal. It turned out that I walked the ring in no intended order as friends and family wanted to join me. I had opportunities to enjoy a number of return visits to the Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals. We didn’t literally follow the “ring” either way due to logistics i.e. transportation and in some cases we had to park the car at a nearest town and get the bus/train to the canal.

My Cheshire Ring walking experience is split into two articles and will be featured in separate editions.

Ashton Canal

My friend and I walked on the canal from Portland Basin, Dunkenfield Junction, in Ashton Under Lyne to Manchester City Centre. The stretch is approximately seven miles long where we walked through Audenshaw, Droylesden, Claydon, Beswick, Ancoats and eventually Manchester.

Initially we had concerns about walking the canal because of reputations of past events and incidents concerning boaters from bored young local residents. However we had no issues whatsoever and we met friendly locals and walkers enroute. We found the canal pleasant and interesting and seeing Greater Manchester’s suburbia and its industrial past. A lot of regeneration has happened around the City Centre particularly its warehouses and industrial buildings. My father had cruised this stretch when he was on a boating trip with friends a few years ago.

Lower Peak Forest Canal

Lower Peak Forest CanalI have walked this canal twice and thoroughly enjoyed this stretch. I remember how interesting the museum at Portland Basin was and pleasant Bridge View Café is for its homemade cakes and drinks. From there we crossed the canal via the footbridge to the junction where the Peak Forest Canal begins. Crossing the River Tame over the Dunkenfield Aqueduct we began our walking along the canal. I always remember the canal for its aggressive Canadian geese and more so, on my second visit, when we were greeted with the many goslings. The goslings are rather cute though they probably turn aggressive and unfriendly like their parents!

The Lower Peak Forest Canal passes through Hyde and Haughton Dale Nature Reserve where the canal becomes more scenic. Just before Romiley we transverse the 167 yards Woodley Tunnel, Canal’s only tunnel with a towpath and we had to use our torch to guide us. Dad and I took a stop at the Duke of York Pub, a welcoming place for refreshments on a very warm day. Afterwards we continued on passing Hatherlow and reaching the Hyde Bank Tunnel. We had to divert there are walked overland to the other portal and soon after we reached the Marple Aqueduct. The aqueduct is designed by Benjamin Outram and I noted on my second visit new railings on the other side - they may not be naturally and aesthetically pleasing to the structure but it’s a good thing for boater’s safety. As it’s so high up on the aqueduct we were able to look down to the River Goyt and look up to the Marple Viaduct where we saw a couple of passing trains. It’s beautiful scenery all around.

A short walk after we reached the beginning of the Marple Flight of locks and we ascended up the first half of the locks to where Station Road is. Logistically it’s a good starting/finishing point for walking the Peak Forest Canal.

Macclesfield Canal

Macclesfield CanalThe Macclesfield Canal, built in 1831, is one of the most beautiful canals I’ve ever walked. It is a canal where one sees that they are in the ‘middle of nowhere’. We began our journey by ascending up the remaining Marple flight of locks up to Marple Junction. We crossed via bridge to begin our walk on the ‘Macc’. We did the whole canal in three stretches with the first one from Marple to Macclesfield.

We passed Goyt Mill and the villages of High Lane (We stopped at the Bull’s Head Pub for refreshments), Higher Poynton, Four Lane Ends (I once stopped for a drink at the Miners Arms Pub) and Bollington. We enjoyed refreshments in its quaint and cute Happy Valley Cafe at Clarence Mill in Bollington and passing the Adelphi Mill we eventually reached Macclesfield after approximately 11 miles with well earned stop at the Puss In Boots Pub.

Our second stretch was from Congleton to Macclesfield which is approximately 10 miles. I remember when I walked the stretch for the first time it was on a very hot day and my second time with my Dad wasn’t any cooler. The challenge was there isn’t really any shops/pubs/facilities canalised to have refreshments except very near Macclesfield. There was a closed down Pub, Fools Nook, at Oakgrove which would have been a perfect stopping point. The stretch was pleasant with the Congleton viaduct in the distance before crossing the River Dane via the aqueduct and the Bosley Flight of locks. We ascended up the locks towards Oakgrove and going under the stunning Folden Bank Bridge we eventually reached Macclesfield.

For the third and final stretch for completing walking the canal we started from Congleton and finished at Harding Wood Junction (where the Macclesfied Canal meets the Trent and Mersey one). From Congleton and via the Dog Lane Aqueduct and the town’s wharf we walked the remaining seven miles or so. When I visited the stretch the first time I did a side trip to Little Moreton Hall and enjoyed checking out the exterior though I didn’t want to pay a fortune to look inside. A pity really but couldn’t justify the price for the limited time I had to look around. We stopped at Scholar Green to have drinks at The Bleeding Wolf Pub. We crossed the Trent and Mersey Canal via the Poole Aqueduct and reaching Harding Wood Junction. On my first trip I enjoyed a celebratory drink for completing the canal at the Blue Bell Pub in Kidsgrove and had a little look at the Harecastle Tunnel at the Northern Portal. There I met Derek, the tunnel keeper, who gave me a map for walking over the tunnel (wouldn’t have known then that I’ve since done the walk).

What is unique about the Macclesfield Canal are the stone mile markers that show the distances from Marple to Hall Green and its beautiful roving bridges. We met a number of very friendly passer-bys including boaters (a couple offered me a glass of water as it was a very hot day), dog walkers and I met the cute deaf bull dog, Molly, who was sweet and soft as a brush and I remember how friendly the marine shop owner between Marple and Macclesfield .

Our walking adventures featuring Rochdale, Bridgewater and Trent and Mersey Canals on The Cheshire Ring will continue in the next article.

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About Dawn Smallwood

Dawn Smallwood offers us a personal look at canals through a series of walks. She includes some local history, comments on social and industrial landscapes, and gives recommendations for local attractions and places to eat or drink. She also raises a great deal of money for charity.