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Stalybridge walk - Carrbrook and Swineshaw reservoirs

PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 April 2017

Higher Swineshaw Reservoir

Higher Swineshaw Reservoir

not Archant

Head for the hills above Stalybridge, says Howard Bradbury, on a walk best tackled on a crisp, clear day.

Highland Cattle: those horns are handy for scratching an itch Highland Cattle: those horns are handy for scratching an itch

Some of my favourite walks have taken me to the high vantage points from which you look down over the Cheshire Plain. Tegg’s Nose in Macclesfield, the Saddle of Kerridge, near Bollington, Bulkeley Hill on the Sandstone Trail and, of course, Alderley Edge all allow you to peer down on a landscape seeming like a green patchwork quilt.

I’m embarrassed to admit that, despite growing up only three miles from there, I’d never previously considered clambering up the hills above Stalybridge to see what the view might be like. The answer: it’s spectacular! All the hardest work in this walk is in the first half hour or so, after which you look round and see a considerable portion of north west England laid out before you: Cheshire and the Welsh mountains in one direction, the Lancashire hills, including the whirring wind turbines of Scout Moor above Rochdale in another, and, turning round, the bleaker uplands of the Peak District.

On a fine day, we saw less than a dozen people in the two hours it took to do this walk around Harridge Pike. We did, however, see several Highland cattle, which was a pleasant surprise.

Before heading for the wide open spaces, have a look at the signs telling of Carrbrook’s heritage as an early adopter of the industrial revolution. This area had many thriving cottage industries - weavers working in their homes - before the first mill was built here in the 1770s, harnessing the power of the hill stream. Calico printing came here in the early 19th century.

Walkerwood Reservoir above Carrbrook, near Stalybridge Walkerwood Reservoir above Carrbrook, near Stalybridge

You will see evidence of another local industry on this walk - stone quarrying which dates back to the 16th century. The scars on the local hills attest to the excavations which yielded the stone to build many of the mills and homes hereabouts.

The Walk

1. Our starting point is the Castle Clough car park at the top of Buckton Vale Road, Carrbrook, Stalybridge, postcode SK15 3PJ. Walking back out of the car park, bear right and then immediately left into Long Row. At the end of the street, turn right and at the mini roundabout, go straight ahead following the signpost for the Pennine Bridleway, bearing left up the cobbled track running beside a housing estate. After a couple of minutes, at a junction of paths, turn right, uphill, following the Pennine Bridleway sign.

Brushes reservoir Brushes reservoir

2. You will see a house on the right up the hill, but, about 50 metres short of this house, go left crossing a narrow stile into a field and head uphill parallel with a dry stone wall to another stile bearing a sign informing you that you are entering an environmentally sensitive area of managed moorland. Dogs are prohibited here except on public footpaths.

Keep heading uphill though the heather. The path becomes indistinct and the going can be tough here with lots of stones and boggy areas underfoot. The compensation, when you look back, will be those panoramic views over several counties. Keep heading uphill and you will come to a more recognisable gravelly track at right angles to the direction in which you have been heading. Go left along this track, which then curves round to the right and gently uphill.

The hearty food and warm atmosphere at Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar is worth a detour. The hearty food and warm atmosphere at Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar is worth a detour.

3. Cresting a hill, you will see pylons ahead and more panoramic views over the Cheshire Plain opening up to the right. The Higher and Lower Swineshaw reservoirs come into view too. Follow the path snaking down to the reservoirs and after crossing a ladder-like stile, bear right along the road beside the lower reservoir. Around 100 metres later, go right over another ladder-like stile on a track leading towards pylons.

4. Stay on this track for quite some time, passing above Brushes Reservoir and then Walkerwood Reservoir. Near the end of that latter reservoir, the path meets another track. Bear right uphill. At a wooden gate, go straight ahead onto a path marked Pennine Bridleway, Carrbrook 1. Keep to this and you will eventually arrive back at the cobbled lane beside the housing estate. Retrace your steps down to the road and left into Long Row to reach the car park.

Compass points

Area of Walk: Carrbrook, Stalybridge.

Distance: 4 miles

Time to allow: 2 hours

Hazards: The early section of the walk has uneven, steep and boggy sections.

Map: OS Explorer OL1

Refreshments: Although it’s a couple of miles from the area of the walk, Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar (Platform 4, Stalybridge Railway Station, Rassbottom Street SK15 1RF ) is an unmissable rest stop. It’s a genuine Victorian station bar - a time capsule full of railway memorabilia, serving real ale and hearty food.

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