- Start: Kettleshulme
- End: Kettleshulme
- Country: England
- County: Derbyshire
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub: None on walk. Pub in Kettleshulme
- Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer OL24
- Difficulty: Medium
Keith Carter explores the corner of the Peak District National Park which lies within Cheshire
It's easy to forget that part of the Peak District National Park is in Cheshire. Typical Peak scenery of wild moorland, gritstone outcrops and low river valleys are not what one associates with Cheshire but recent forays of mine have brought me in touch with the wilder side of the county.
Think of the Peckforton Hills, Macclesfield Forest, Tegg's Nose and Shutlingsloe and then compare their terrain to the canal towpaths and paddocks of the Cheshire Plain and you begin to appreciate the wide diversity the county offers to walkers.
Turn off the A6 at signs for Whaley Bridge and a mile or two beyond, the village of Kettleshulme awaits in the valley of the River Todd. The old Salt Way from Nantwich and Middlewich through to Sheffield and Chesterfield passed through the village and the Swan Inn must have been a welcome watering hole for the men driving the packhorse trains.
Our walk starts a couple of miles out of the village high on the moors at Pym Chair reached along a rising narrow lane past the jumbled outcrop known as Windgather Rocks, a popular climbing venue ideal for beginners. Continue ahead until a car park is discovered at the roadside kindly provided by the Forestry Commission. Who Pym was is in some doubt with some maintaining that he was a preacher in the mould of John Wesley whose sermons were delivered from the rocks nearby while others have it that he was an infamous thehighwayman who preyed on travellers crossing the deserted moors. It's a name that appears elsewhere in the Peak District but why? We can only wonder.
1. Leave the car park and turn left for a few paces to a junction and turn right, the road immediately descending off the hill to arrive at a crossroads at the bottom where a tiny chapel shelters among trees. This is Jenkin Chapel, Saltersford, another reference to the salt loads carried this way. Built in 1733 the chapel could be mistaken for a house with a tower, so simple and spare is the design both outside and in where the plain whitewashed interior and oak pews speak of centuries of devoted worship here. The door was open, a rare event these days and inside was a sense of peace and tranquillity.
2. From the chapel, take the left hand of two signposted paths both of which go to Kettleshulme. Ours goes via Green Booth Farm and we start by crossing a stile next to the signpost. The route across the rough fell pasture is only faintly discernible, the marsh grass clumps thick and abundant and the gaps in between grazed in a determined fashion by sheep. So wet is the ground cattle would soon poach it into a mud bath as we shall find later in the walk. Mind you the prolonged rain this year has given the fields no chance to dry out and walking boots or even wellies are a must for this walk in these conditions.
3. Head across the first field and into the next via a gate then look ahead to where a farm can be seen surrounded by trees. Head for it and on reaching the farm gate keep right outside the boundary, the path leading us to a stile then between two stone barns, neither in good repair. Past the second, keep left and go through a new hand-gate into a field. Keep along a right hand boundary as far as a metal plank bridge across a dike and beyond it a stone stile to cross a wall. Cut across the corner of a field to a fence corner and pass under high tension cables.
This field was full of Yellow Rattle, a plant that gets some of its nutrients from neighbouring plants so greatly improves bio-diversity and restricts grass growth by allowing other species to thrive. Also known as Cockscomb, it's a great addition to any wildflower meadow and since I am in the process of developing one I collected a handful of seed heads to take home. I'll let you know if they germinate next year.
4. Our walk continues and at a gate barring our way we come across a tidy farmstead which the footpath diverts around to the left between barns following arrow way marks.
Negotiate a series of three gates through sheep pens and enter a field by a stile. Go through the next field keeping slightly left, cross a further stile then follow a right hand boundary. Climb a stile that leads into a dell and cross a footbridge over the Todd Brook. It was here that we ran into some boggy ground thanks to recent heavy rain. I've no doubt it would be much easier to cross in dry weather.
5. Make for a barn ahead, slightly to the right of it and on reaching it there is a stile with way marks offering a choice of two directions. We should go left and follow along a left hand boundary as far as a metal gate and stile. Keep ahead and at a converted farmhouse an access track starts leading past several houses and farms, becoming surfaced then joining a moorland road opposite a bungalow called Autumn Croft.
6. Turn right here and begin the two-mile hike back to Pym Chair car park. We pass right beside Windgather Rocks where the climbers can be seen indulging their passion for risking their lives. The rocks don't look too sheer and I'm sure I could clamber up them like a human fly.
(Don't exaggerate. Ed.) I used to fancy myself as a rock climber in the days before all the fancy equipment they have now when a pair of tattered plimsolls and mother's clothes line was all we would need to get up the severest faces.
This road walk back to the car is mainly uphill so may require a rest or two to admire the views. This is fine country rising to the summit of Shining Tor, at 1834ft the fourth highest in the Peak District. If you need refreshments once back at the car you can drop down to Kettleshulme or stop in Whaley Bridge on the way home and make plans for visiting this superb area again.
Area of Walk: Circular walk from Pym Chair near Kettleshulme
Distance: 5 miles
Time to allow: 21/2-3hrs
Map: OS Explorer OL24 The White Peak
Refreshments: None on walk. Pub in Kettleshulme
Wheelchair/pushchair access: Not suitable