Cheshire Walks - Bollington
PUBLISHED: 13:25 09 August 2011 | UPDATED: 11:39 09 October 2012
Keith Carter cheats as the rain threatens the final stretch of a walk around Bollington
Bollington is a wonderful example of a typical mill town worthy of a detailed study for future generations to learn what the Industrial Revolution was all about. When doing this period for history A-level I never imagined places like this.
The North to me was summed up to my satisfaction by the paintings of Lowry but as a Southerner we knew nothing about what Up North really meant. Even to this day I am sure this ignorance still exists and anyone who thinks the North-South Divide is a media construct needs to wake up and have a good look.
The Macclesfield Canal arrived in the area in 1831, mainly to transport quarried stone from the Kerridge ridge, bringing prosperity and soon the railways, with the growth in the spinning of cotton in the three villages that comprised Bollington itself. The quality of the cotton was of the very best, fine Egyptian variety, said to be the finest available world-wide.
So the area grew, mills were built, businesses thrived and the chimneys smoked the whole year round in this little-known part of East Cheshire. Then, as happened elsewhere, the demand for cotton came to be met by India and slowly the growth slowed to a halt and the mills began to close, the quarries to no longer be economic and the coal mines were superseded by higher volumes from coalfields further away.
The Macclesfield to Marple Railway closed in 1970 and you wonder why such a decision was ever taken? Did nobody have the vision to see that railways, once built, will always provide a service for local people? But close it did and once the line was taken up a new use for the route was found. They created the Middlewood Way, an excellent linear track for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders which provides the outward leg of our walk today.
Park at the car park on Adlington Road in Bollington beneath the huge 23-arch viaduct. Once scheduled for demolition, it was saved by local support and sold to Macclesfield Council for 1.
From the car park we climb a stepped path under the shadow of the viaduct to reach the Middlewood Way where we turn right.
The Way has two lanes, one I imagine for horse-riders and cyclists and the other for walkers, but nobody seems to take much notice of the correct decorum other than a vague sense that you keep to the left.
Occasionally some irate cyclist glares at you as if only a fool would walk where they want to cycle but generally an ethos of live and let live exists.
The Way has been well described in a series of interpretive boards giving us the background. We pass a brick hut which we learn was reserved for the line man, a railway employee responsible for one mile of permanent way.
They collected coal fallen from passing trains to burn in their stove to keep warm in winter. Remain on the Middlewood Way, passing under the bridges at Holehouse Lane, Brookledge Lane and Poynton Coppice and then reach a stretch of preserved platform at Nelson Pit which brings us to the furthest outward point of the walk.
We leave the Middlewood Way here and can choose between a pint at the Boars Head and a coffee at the Coffee Tavern, both ideal watering holes.
Then cross the bridge to the right and have a look at the Nelson Pit Visitor Centre where some interesting displays tell the story of steam, stone, coal and canal to good effect. Carry on to the car park and reach the towpath via a gap emerging at the Higher Poynton Moorings.
Among the little-known facts about the 26-mile long Macclesfield Canal is that it has the highest density of boats in the UK. Plenty of them were in action when I visited with my compadre Jim.
Our progress consisted of dashes between bridges, the unsettled weather tending to favour the showers over the sunny intervals. Before long a more prolonged spell of rain caused us to linger, sharing the shelter of one of the bridges with a lady giving two dogs some exercise off one of the canal boats. As her boat came alongside she asked us on board for a cup of tea which we gladly accepted. She and her companions were on the last leg of a weeks canal cruising on the Cheshire Ring. They were from South Wales and made us welcome on board, the first time I have cheated by not completing a walk.
It was good fun but all too brief since Bollington Mill soon loomed up and we made ready to disembark or jump off as you might say. Waving goodbye to our friends we left the canal and took a path down to the road, turning right and then going through the gate to the park on the right.
You go down a flight of steps and cross a footbridge over the River Dean, making your way through the park and beside the cricket outfield to emerge on Adlington Road opposite the car park.
This is not a hard walk and does not involve any difficult route-finding or navigation. Walking in this part of East Cheshire usually involves the canal towpaths and with the proximity of the Middlewood Way we can make a circular walk of it. I would agree it was a bit cheeky to hitch a lift on a passing canal boat but this once I think we got away with it.
Area of walk: Bollington
Start and finish: Adlington Road Car Park, Bollington
Distance: 7.5 miles
Time to allow: 4 hours
Map: OS Explorer 268 Wilmslow, Macclesfield and Congleton
Refreshments: Pub and caf at Nelson Pit, toilets at Nelson Pit Information Centre
The second annual Bollington Walking Festival will be held in October and will include a series of events aimed at encouraging people to pull their boots on explore the great outdoors.
The ten day festival will open on October 21st and will feature 30 themed guided walks for all ages and abilities distances range from two miles to 20 miles as well as talks and other events.
But there are wonderful walking routes to explore all year round in Bollington and some of the best have been included in a book produced by the villages Bridgend Centre.
The book details 14 miles of walks around a circular nature trail across rolling hills and through tranquil woods, including the newly restored Tinkers Clough, Hibbertsbrow Wood and Harrop Wood. It also gives information about the trees along the route.
Ann Mayer, a community and heritage worker at the Bridgend Centre said: The nature trail was created to give young and old a fresh insight into the trees around us and their importance to our survival. Our aim is to encourage a greater appreciation of the local countryside and promote the health benefits of walking.
The main trail is a 13 mile circular walk, made up of four sections. Each section is a walk in its own right and by combining the different sections in a variety of ways, there is the potential to create at least 14 different walks, all starting and finishing at the Bridgend Centre. Lengths of walks vary from 3 miles to 14 miles and all are moderate, some with hill climbs.
* For more information contact the Bridgend Centre on 01625 576311.