|OS Route Map →||GPX Route file →|
Date: 04 Jul 2019
Start: Lostock Gralam station / Finish: Whaley Bridge station.
Note:- The Salter's Way route itself starts at Broken Cross in Northwich (SJ684731) and ends at Saltersford Hall (SJ984763) and is ~28 miles (~45km).
Maps: Explorer 267: Northwich & Delamere + 268: Wilmslow & Macclesfield + 024: White Peak.
|Day 1||Salt plains, Redes Mere, Danes Moss & Langley||24.1miles / 1765 feet (38.8km / 537m)|
|Day 2||Tegg's Nose, Lamaload & Windgather Rocks||10.6miles / 1871 feet (17.0km / 570m)|
A solo 2-day varied linear route based on the historic pack-horse trail of a medieval salt way from its mining source at Northwich on the Cheshire plain to Saltersford Hall in the hills of the western Peak District.
Needing a quick backpack route for a couple of days near to home, I thought of this little known trail published by John Merrill that has gathered dust for many years on our books and, to our knowledge, has never been reported. Most of the Cheshire plain section is new territory of low level country walkling, while the Peak District section presents some new paths and some familiar hillwalking landscapes from a different vantage.
On public transport, Lostock Gralam station seemed a better choice than Northwich for walking to the start of the SW: though a little longer, there is a towpath to follow along the Trent & Mersey canal. To complete this backpack, from Saltersford Hall I ascended to the ridge of Windgather Rocks and descended into the Dale of Goyt to join the Midshires Way northwards to Whaley Bridge station.
Northwich, along with Middlewich and Nantwich, are the main towns historically based on the salt trade and the westernmost section of the SW passes a number of working brine pump installations. Other industrial themes both old and new feature periodically on this route.
From Lostock Gralam station I walked through the village to the A559 where a short way westwards I found the steps down to the Trent and Mersey canal.
The canals were originally built to serve industry and the map shows "Works" adjacent to the towpath here: the first unit on the east bank is a narrowboat wharf and repair yard with a tall wheeled hoist, a reminder of the enduring appeal of an older, more relaxed life on the canal boats where distances pass slowly and are still expressed in furlongs.
In stark contrast is the second, a monstrous, in-your-face chemical plant spanning both sides of the canal, quite imposing in its scale and intricacy of construction if nothing else.
Reaching the road junction at Broken Cross, I left the canal towpath and crossed over to start the SW along Penny's Lane that soon turns left and becomes Cooke's Lane. Being a John Merrill creation, I knew of his tendency to include rarely trodden public footpaths in his walks to increase their footfall lest they be closed due to lack of use, which is commendable but often results in difficulties. I'd never seen this route reported anywhere and I was just hoping for the best…
I found the first footpath sign and stile pointing across to the nearby A556 and I suspected the worst: I'm sure nobody has walked here in an age. I spotted the stile opposite and ploughed through tall dense grasses to the rather overgrown exit that deposited me right on the white edge-line of the fast dual carriageway. That was the easy part.
Hurrying across via the provided gap in the central reservation, I found the next stile into the quiet 'Salt plains' section characterised by crop fields, brine pumping stations and access tracks. The first field of barley, no more than 500m, took ages to cross: the perimeter was deeply furrowed, set hard and allowed to go wild with dense waist-high vegetation. Progress was very slow, lurching forward and shoes squirming around and often dropping into hidden holes. Eventually I spotted the next sign and a fairly easy approach line through the lines of barley planting, joining a good track north-eastwards.
I soon encountered the first brine pump gurgling by the track and arrived at a minor road leading to Hulse Farm and another signed footpath southwards. My heart sank as this was another barley field like the last one. I avoided most of it by following a good path in an arc near the field edge past another brine pump, but the next field offered no such escape and I gave up with it. On the map I saw a track parallel to the footpath a short way east and I followed that instead, turning westwards at a T-junction to pick up the footpath farther on and passing another brine pump. Carefully scanning either side of the track for distant waymarks, I spied the path line and this led to an overgrown snicket down to the road in Lach Dennis.
After Lach Dennis there are no more physical difficulties, except maybe a brief dalliance with a tiny very overgrown footbridge a couple of fields past Snig Hall. Crossing the M6 and following Dams Lane, there is a minor curiosity where the road ends abruptly in a manicured private garden, but the line is correct and crosses a footbridge at the bottom of the garden to a sunken wooded line grazed by cattle.
The SW marches on eastwards, treading a fair amount of tarmac and skirting the grounds of the Jodrell Bank radio telescope facility, to arrive at the A535 and the entrance to the vast expanse of Dingle Bank sand quarry. I wasn't expecting much of this area, but knowing nothing of the industry, it appeared so odd and revelatory that it turned out to be a highlight of the route, very secluded and peaceful too once clear of the central hub, with some attractive scenery and woodland.
The entrance footpath is signed from the road through woodland well clear of the busy vehicle entrance. This soon emerges onto a track with a good view of the operational centre of the quarry, resembling insect mounds with a feeder channel carrying sand inwards for processing. These 'conveyors' are marked on the map and mounted on motorized rollers, extending outwards deep into the countryside for hundreds of metres to the quarrying areas.
Leaving the quarry area via an attractive woodland path through The Mosses, I arrived at very familiar territory that we often walked when we lived in Chelford. A lane crosses Hackneyplat Bridge to the grounds of the stately looking Capesthorne Hall with its lakes and bridge.
A footpath follows the shore of the easternmost lake to cross the A34 to Redes Mere lake with its Sailing Club and fleet of small boats.
The SW rambles on eastwards to reach Gawsworth village where I bought water and soft drinks at the Community Shop.
Leaving via Woodhouse Lane, a footpath branches off to arrive at Danes Moss Nature Reserve, an area of lowland raised bog that has SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) status. An information board gives brief details about the importance of the bog that has a great density of plant species and is crossed on a raised causeway with duckboarded side paths to explore further. There is another board recording sightings of many bird species.
The path crosses the railway line and joins the Macclesfield canal towpath northwards, Tegg's Nose soon coming into view in the distance.
I left the canal at the signs for Macclesfield Golf Club and ascended Hollins Road past the club entrance to its end at the course. The signed footpath along the flank of Birch Knoll crosses some golfing tracks and traverses the open hillside, giving an easy walk with good views to Croker Hill and The Cloud. In the far distance is the unmistakable outline of Mow Cop (Mow to rhyme with cow).
The path descends to join the road in Langley. I walked through the village to Holehouse Lane leading to the dam of Teggsnose reservoir and the foot of the climb to Tegg's Nose summit. Two major paths start here, I chose the westerly one that follows the Gritstone Trail (GT), climbing quite steeply through the woodland. A notice informs us that cattle now graze this area and I encountered a small group of them half way up, looking quite out of place on the wooded slopes.
I reached a flat grassy shelf away from the path just below the summit trail and made a pitch for the night. The evening sky was quite pleasing but the cloud was beginning to take over.
My hopes of a clear walk through the Tegg's Nose summit trail and a grand early photo westwards were dashed as I opened the door to thick windblown clag, I couldn't see a thing. I rejoined the path to the familiar summit trail that we walked years ago, passing the preserved quarry machinery and glimpsing a misty view towards the climbing rock faces.
I followed the GT waymarks down from the summit trail and over to the visitor centre where the mist had cleared at this level. The SW leaves the road, still following the GT waymarks, to commence the final hilly section. Short steep slopes were deemed too difficult for horse drawn carts but well suited to pack-horses, though their opinions on the matter are not recorded.
The SW parts company with the GT near Newbuildings Farm and descends to an access road. Ascending north-eastwards, the mist was clearing the Saddle of Kerridge with the tiny pimple of White Nancy gleaming at the far end, another old familiar walk. At the footpath junction at Snipe House, there is a 4-way fingerpost with one pointing at the house and the others labelled 'This Way', 'That Way' and 'The Other Way'.
The track gives good views of the hill scenery as it descends to the water works plant serving Lamaload reservoir. There is no public access beyond the cattle grid: the footpath is signed on the right side and circles around the plant perimeter to another sign where the SW ascends north-westwards on a very good path up the slopes of Yearns Low. There was a hazy muted view over the valley to the dam and a foreshortened glimpse of the water.
Passing through Common Barn and descending below Waggonshaw Brow to Erwin Lane, the route makes a final quite steep descent into the valley of Todd Brook, an important crossing point for the old salt traders. A short walk upstream is Saltersford Hall, dated 1593 and the end of the SW.
I continued past the buildings to the footpath climbing around to join the lane to the high point of Pym Chair. From the car park heading northwards, there is a separate walker path along the ridge on the east side of the wall leading easily to Windgather Rocks, breezy as always and today hosting a party of climbers.
At the foot of Taxal Edge I descended eastwards to Overton Hall Farm to pick up the Midshires Way, pleasant easy walking to Toddbrook Reservoir and through the memorial park to Whaley Bridge station.