Gavin Miller, Trustee
This article is from Signpost 63, Winter 2019
It WAS dry when we left Macclesfield. The first indication that July's PNFS longer walk may not go to plan was when the board at Macclesfield Station showed the connecting train from Manchester and Stockport was running late. This could mean missing the bus up to the Cat and Fiddle where we were to start walking. In a fine example of the sort of (non-)integrated transport we are used to in this country: the Buxton bus no longer calls at Macclesfield station except on Sundays. However, with what counted as a sprint for holders of bus passes, all seven of us made it up the hill to the bus station, even getting there before the bus. 'Ah, good, it's all going to be fine after all' I thought. WRONG
'I wouldn't bother' said the bus driver when I told him we were going to the Cat and Fiddle. 'Anyway, you're not dressed for it' he added, looking at my bare knees below my shorts. 'It's a snorkel outfit you need for up there'. I had been quite pleased with the walk when I did the recce on a fine summer day. Up over Shining Tor, down to Pym Chair, then past Windgather Rocks, up to Charles Head, then down to Bollington and along the canal back to Macclesfield. Lots of fine views over rolling countryside and a hatful of PNFS signs and even a PNFS funded footbridge along the way.
As we stepped off the bus on the day, it was not raining, but it clearly had been a lot earlier. Visibility in the murk was about ten yards. The first few minutes led us back down the road to reach the track towards Shining Tor. We tried to dodge the spray from the juggernauts looming out of the mist towards us, not always successfully. After about 20 minutes we reached Shining Tor and I told those who didn't know it about the 360 degree view. There was still a 360 degree view of nothing but mist.
A drizzle had started and I suggested we might use the stone bench there to change into our waterproof trousers, but in true rambler style we chose to pretend it wasn't raining. We hadn't got far down the paved path before we changed our minds and had to accept that it really was raining. It was coming at us from the west in great sheets, as near to horizontal as makes no difference. When the paving ended we were walking on tracks which had become rivers and paths which were ponds.
After about 90 minutes of this, near Pym Chair, we had a conference. There was no sign of a let-up. The leader tried to consult his map, which quickly became a sodden useless lump. There were no dissenting voices to the suggestion that we shorten the walk. Plan B was to head downhill to Whaley Bridge, this having transport back to Macclesfield and Manchester/Stockport and importantly we would have our backs to the wind. We were not too proud to take the road past Windgather Rocks, rather than the adjacent footpath, and we could just make out the rocks above us in the gloom. At a road junction with a sign invitingly reading 'Kettleshulme' we had another conference. 'Does Kettleshulme have a bus service?' 'Yes' replied Alan, 'the same bus as we'd get from Whaley Bridge'. 'Kettleshulme it is, then.' The road into Kettleshulme was awash as we splashed our way down to the bus stop. Half an hour to the bus. 'Where's the pub'?
'Are you open?' we asked timidly as we peeped through the door. 'Yes, if you don't want food. The kitchen's flooded.' We went into the dry warmth. Some ordered the cup that cheers, others the glass that cheers, and we were kindly allowed to eat the butties we had brought with us. It was still raining when we left and the bus was a welcome sight to bear us back to Macclesfield.
There are some long memories amongst PNFS members and one or two of those present were kind enough to remind me that I have 'form' in the matter of weather. You see, the first walk I ever led for PNFS was also aborted in similar circumstances, but it had NOT been dry when we left Littleborough Station. The plan had been to walk up the Roman road to the Aiggin Stone, the Pennine Way over Blackstone Edge, Windy Hill down to Hollingworth Lake then Littleborough. By the time we reached the Aiggin Stone, we were utterly drenched and could barely stand up in the wind. At that point we gave up and dripped back to Littleborough, where I made my first acquaintance with the Red Lion. It was an 'If you don't remember it, you weren't there' kind of day. One or two WERE there and suggested I might be acquiring a reputation for this kind of thing. The Littleborough walk was later rerun without mishap and perhaps I'll get the chance to complete this walk on a better day. I was lucky to have good-humoured and stoical companions on both occasions and, if you've not yet joined us for one of our monthly walks, don't be deterred. You will be made welcome and conditions can hardly be as bad again. And things could really have been worse. This was, after all, the day the dam at Whaley Bridge threatened to burst. It STILL wasn't raining when we got back to Macclesfield, though.
Next: Breamfield DMMO
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