Options for doing the route were: a) Jog/walk in a day, b) Backpack (Hotel/B&B) over two days, or c) Backpack (Camping) over two days.
Sudden high temperatures blew-out the jog/walk idea – I’m not fit enough anyway. I’m such a tight-arse that the hotel/B&B idea was rejected…..that left backpacking with a tent. And so it was.
In order to go lightweight I chose to use my Terra-Nova Laser Competition for the first time. I had no idea how to pitch the thing properly – I chose the phone-a-friend solution and it worked. Thanks Judith!
Family responsibilities meant that I couldn’t set out until the evening. Daytime temperatures reached 27degC so a late start was a good move.
At 8pm I parked the car in Disley railway station car-park, ignored the Ram’s Head and shouldered my pack. Heading south (and uphill) I was glad to have left my start until late, it was still very warm even at this late hour.
There were good views over Lyme Park, Stockport and Manchester. This is a cracking time to walk. Ask Denis, he knows these things.
Bollington soon hove into view. The Gritstone Trail only touches the outskirts of the town before climbing steeply up to the Saddle of Kerridge to White Nancy, a folly built in 1817 to celebrate victory at the Battle of Waterloo. Two years late, but what the hell, eh?
No pictures of White Nancy – it was too dark.
Dropping off the saddle a bit early (well it WAS dark) I had to walk a couple of hundred yards on tarmac before regaining the correct route. It was 12.45am. Never mind.
The next two miles were a delight, even in the dark. There were good tracks and footpaths, one particular path crossed a lovely meadow. Well I think it was a lovely meadow, the absence of moonlight meant I needed the head-torch more than I wanted which was a shame. I find I can often see so much more walking in the dark without a headtorch, once your eyes adjust to the darkness. A headtorch generates a lot of glare, effectively blotting out much of what you would otherwise see. Note to self: next time I go out on a night-nav trip, bring a compass with luminous bits. I managed without but it was a faff.
My plan was to go to Teggs Nose and drop down to Ridgegate Reservoir to camp. Even with my Alpkit Gamma headtorch, a seriously good bit of kit, it was a no-no. It’s a stony track and I was tired, it was 2am. The chance of tripping on the decent in the dark was just too great. I chose to camp on some lovely flat grass just far enough from the visitor centre.
The tent was up in not a lot of time (thanks again Judith!) and after a wash down (Ask Alan. Or Phil) I covered myself with my sleeping bag and drifted off to sleep.
I got up around 7am and after a coffee I packed and was away by 7.45am. A mountain-biker had stopped to chat as I packed, he was off on a ride from Macclesfield to Buxton and back again – planning to be back home before his wife was out of bed!
The next substantial up of the walk was to Croker Hill and Sutton Common. On a clear day the telecomms tower on the top is visible for miles around, almost as distinctive as the outline of Shutlingloe. It’s a good but hard pull to the top in such hot weather. I didn’t see any other walkers out on this trip. Obviously they weren’t as daft as me.
South of Croker Hill, the route follows Minn Edge Lane, a green lane traversing the length of Bosley Minn. To the west, across the Cheshire Plain, Jodrell Bank white parabolic dish shone brightly in the strong morning sun.
The Trail leaves Bosley Minn towards it’s south end, but I’ve run around here before and well remember the killer strength nettles. For the sake of a few hundred yards of tarmac I diverted slightly and enjoyed a nettle-free passage. Good eh?
Another climb – this time up Bosley Cloud, another very distinctively-shaped hill. It was now burningly hot, and although I still had plenty of water on board I was finding the going tough. I don’t do heat very well at all, and this was hot, hot, hot. Views from the top were good, Frodsham and Helsby Hill were just visible through the heat haze.
An hour later it was hotter still and it was clear that I was going to have to wait for some hours for the temperature to drop. By that time I’d have run out of water and food – and still have another 8-9 miles to walk into Kidsgrove.
Executive decision time. I waited another half-hour and set off walking west, into Congleton and it’s railway station. It was the only sensible choice. I wasn’t enjoying the walk now and it was getting harder and harder.
The very excellent Queens Head in Congleton, a very short walk to the railway station, provided a pint of cold water followed by a pint of TT Landlord in very good nick. I’d have stayed longer but I just wanted to get home and have a cool bath. I’ll go back to the Queen’s, it’s a proper pub with a good selection of proper beers and real ciders.
I ended up doing 26-27 miles, all of which was lovely – it was only the extremely hot conditions that buggered it up for me.
I’ll do it again, but only in more appropriate weather. The Gritstone Trail is a cracking route through some glorious countryside. You should do it.