Macclesfield to Leek walk
Reservoirs, Macclesfield Forest, the 'Cheshire Matterhorn', lonely Wildboarclough, the Dane Valley, Lud's Church chasm and the Roaches gritstone escarpment
27.7 km (17.2 mi). Cumulative ascent/descent: 934/876m. For a shorter or longer walk, see below Walk options.
9 out of 10. Time: 7 ¼ hours walking time.
Macclesfield Station, map reference SJ 919 736, is 237 km northwest of Charing Cross, 133m above sea level and in Cheshire East. Leek Bus Station, map reference SJ 986 563, is 18 km southeast of Macclesfield, 192m above sea level and in Staffordshire. Macclesfield Station is on the Stafford to Manchester branch line off the West Coast Main Line from London Euston. Travel time from London is from 101 minutes Mon-Sat, but 2 ¼ hours on Sundays.
Saturday Walkers’ Club: The walk is doable as a daywalk from London with a train no later than 09.00 hours.
OS Landranger Map: 118 (Stoke-on-Trent and Macclesfield) and 119 (Buxton & Matlock)
A tour de force of highlights in the Cheshire/Staffordshire borderlands within easy reach of London.
You rise quickly out of the historic Silk Town of Macclesfield over The Hollins, a modest hill with fine views over the Cheshire Plain and across the valley of the River Bollin to pass a string of reservoirs and enter the enchanting Macclesfield Forest. A steep ascent through the woods brings you out onto the open High Moor and a following easy ascent of the ‘Cheshire Matterhorn’: Shutlingsloe. From there descend steeply into the scenic Wildboarclough and walk back up across another modest hill with quiet pastures into the very scenic Dane Valley by Gradbach Mill, almost at the halfway point.
Buses at the start or from alternative endings on the A53 enable shorter walks.
Bus Line 14 (Macclesfield – Langley, about hourly Mon-Fri, every two hours Sat) enables a start in Langley (cut 3.6 km/2.4 mi and 95m ascent). Alight at the final stop by Langley Church and go back down the road (Cock Hall Lane) for 40m to a three-way junction and turn right along Main Road (50°, signed ‘Macc. Forest 1 ¼’). Pick up the directions on page 6 at the single asterisk *).
The Leather’s Smithy Clarke Lane, Langley, Cheshire, SK11 0NE (01260 252 313). The Leather’s Smithy is located 4.9 km (3.1 mi) into the walk. Open from noon daily. Selling hot drinks earlier, on weekends.
The Crag Inn Wildboarclough, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK11 0BD (01260 227 239). The Crag Inn is located 9.8 km (6.1 mi) into the walk. Opening Hours: ????.
Tea all options
Tea Upper Hulme Ending
Tea Blackshaw Moor Ending
Tea Leek Ending
Macclesfield is a market town in Cheshire East on the edge of the Cheshire Plain with about 50,000 population. It lies on the River Bollin, with Macclesfield Forest to its east, and is around 26 km south of Manchester.
The medieval town grew up on the hilltop around what is now St Michael's Church. It had a silk-button industry from at least the middle of the 17th century, and became a major silk-manufacturing centre from the mid-18th century, for a while being the world's biggest producer of finished silk, with 71 silk mills operating in 1832. To this day, "Silk Town" is Macclesfield’s nickname.
The town is also the original home of Hovis bread makers, produced in Publicity Works Mill on the Macclesfield canal. Hovis derives from the Latin "homo-vitalis" (strength for man) as a way of providing cheap nutritious food for mill workers and was a very dry and dense wholemeal loaf very different from the modern version.
No proof exists that Macclesfield was ever a walled town, and the various streets with the suffix ‘gate’ in the name are believed to be derived from 'gata', Scandinavian for road, which became gate in Middle English.
During the Civil War, in 1642 the town was occupied for the King by Sir Thomas Aston. And in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, Charles Stuart and his army marched through Macclesfield as they attempted to reach London.
Macclesfield is said to be the only mill town to have escaped bombing in World War II.
A person from Macclesfield is sometimes referred to as a "Maxonian"; these include Blues Musician John Mayall and Ian Curtis and Stephen Morris of Joy Division.
Since 1997, Macclesfield has hosted the annual British Lawnmower Race, held in December.
Bollin Brook/River Bollin
The River Bollin is a 49 km (30 mi) major tributary of the River Mersey. The Bollin Brook springs on the hills surrounding Macclesfield Forest on the western edge of the Peak District, and it feeds a string of reservoirs that supply water to the town. Downriver from the reservoirs it is called River Bollin.
Further along its course it forms the boundary between Cheshire and Greater Manchester. It is culverted under the southern runway of Manchester Airport and joins the Manchester Ship Canal east of Warrington.
Shutlingsloe is a hill to the south of Macclesfield Forest, on the edge of the Peak District and within the Peak District National Park. A steep-sided hill with a distinctive profile, it is sometimes referred to as the 'Matterhorn of Cheshire', and it is the third highest peak in the historic county with an elevation of 506m, commanding a wide panorama across the Cheshire Plain and over the Peak District. In clear conditions the view extends as far as the Mersey Estuary and the Welsh Clwydian Hills more than 60 km to the west, and the cooling towers of the power stations on the banks of the River Trent 80 km to the south southeast.
The name of the hill derives from old English 'Scyttel's hlaw' meaning 'Scyttel's (personal name) hill' and is one of several 'low' names in the Peak District, from the same Old English root that gives rise to the name "Law" for many hills in southern Scotland.
The hill is formed from alternating layers of mudstones and coarse sandstones (referred to as 'gritstones'), which were laid down in a delta system in the Carboniferous period. The summit tor is formed from Chatsworth Grit and the lower slopes from Roaches Grit. Several geological faults run through the hill.
Shutlingsloe is believed to be a Nunatak, a hill whose peak stood above the surrounding glaciers during the Ice Ages, and therefore did not get eroded by them.
The Gritstone Trail (or Cheshire Gritstone Trail, as there are other, less well established, routes in the Peak District under the same moniker) is a 56 km (35 mi) waymarked linear long-distance footpath which follows the most westerly hills of the Peak District from Disley Station via Macclesfield and Congleton to Kidsgrove Station. Managed by Cheshire East (although partly in Staffordshire), the trail involves 1,800m of ascent and is mainly outside the National Park. Most through-walkers take 3 days (stopping at Macclesfield and Congleton) to complete the trail, but an unofficial extension from Kidsgrove to the mainline railway station at Stoke-on-Trent, The Kidsgrove to Stoke Ridgeway, is described in a free ebook.
Macclesfield Forest is the last substantial remnant of the Royal Forest of Macclesfield, a once-extensive ancient hunting reserve on the western edge of the Peak District, although it is nowadays predominantly conifer plantation managed for timber. The hills of Tegg's Nose and Shutlingsloe stand to the north west and south east, respectively; the moorland of High Moor lies to the south and the Goyt Valley lies to the east.
The area ranges in elevation from around 225m to 475m and includes two hills itself: Toot Hill in the east and Nessit Hill in the south. Two reservoirs, fed by the Bollin Brook, supply water to Macclesfield: Ridgegate Reservoir was constructed in the late 19th century, with Trentabank Reservoir following in the 1920s. The latter contains a large heronry.
The Peak District (National Park)
The Peak District is an upland area at the southernmost end of the Pennines.
The Peak District National Park is one of the UK’s most popular, and is located within the boundaries of five counties (Derbys., Ches., Staffs., Yorks. and Greater Manchester). Founded in 1951, it was the first national Park in England. The Park spans an area of around 1,440 km2 (550 mi2) and – despite its name – its terrain consists mainly of rolling hills, farmland, moorland and some gritstone escarpments (the "edges"). It is however significantly higher than much of the terrain in the surrounding area.
The Peak District is formed almost exclusively from sedimentary rocks dating from the Carboniferous period. They comprise the Carboniferous Limestone, the overlying Gritstone and finally the Coal Measures, though the latter occur only on the extreme margins of the area. In addition there are infrequent outcrops of igneous rocks including lavas, tuffs and volcanic vent agglomerates.
The northern Dark Peak (whose geology is gritstone) is one of the most famous landmarks in the Peak District National Park, known for its exposed and isolated tracts of moorland, as well as its expansive rolling plateau which is covered by cotton grass bogs and heather moorlands. The soil of the area is composed of moorland peat which provides the perfect environment for the plant life in the area. The areas to the flanks of the high moorland host numerous copses which are composed of Oak and Birch.
The southern White Peak (whose geology is mainly limestone) is another distinctive area within the park due to its gently sloping Limestone plateau, crisscrossed by the Limestone Dales. The Dales provide the areas’ drainage and vary in steepness throughout the area.
Peak District Boundary Walk
Created by the Friends of the Peak District, the Peak District Boundary Walk is a 305 km (190 mi) waymarked circular long-distance footpath which broadly follows the boundary of the National Park along existing footpaths, tracks, quiet lanes, former railway lines and a canal towpath. A guidebook and an extensive website help in breaking the journey into stages. https://www.friendsofthepeak.org.uk/boundary-walk/
Dane Valley/Dane River
The Dane River is a tributary of the River Weaver (and therefore the Mersey) that originates in the Peak District at Dane Head on Axe Edge Moor, close to the source of the River Goyt just to the south west of Buxton. Flowing southwest, it forms county borders for around 16 km (Cheshire/Derbyshire, then Cheshire/Staffordshire), before flowing west through Congleton. The point on the river where the three counties meet, at Panniers' Pool Packhorse Bridge, is called Three Shire Heads. The bridge and the waterfalls on the River Dane southwards are very picturesque, and frequently feature on calendars.
The name of the river (earlier Daven) probably derives from the Old Welsh dafn, meaning a "drop or trickle", implying a slow-moving river.
Lud's Church is a deep chasm penetrating the Roaches Millstone Grit bedrock on the wooded hillside of the Back Forest above Gradbach, in Staffordshire, in the Dark Peak. Over 100m long and 18m deep, it was created by a massive landslip when all but the upper third of the slope has slipped forward towards the River Dane.
The thick bed of coarse Carboniferous sandstone here dips northeastwards and the rocks of this area are traversed by numerous roughly northwest-to-southeast-oriented faults and fracture planes. In addition, weak layers of mudstone exist within the sequence. It is along such lines of weakness that a large mass of the Roaches Grit has slipped slightly downhill into the Dane Valley resulting in the open rift. The age of the movement is unknown but is likely to be post-glacial.
The chasm is mossy and overgrown from top to bottom, and wet and cool even on the hottest of days.
The Lollards (followers of John Wycliffe, an early church reformer), are supposed to have used this as a secret place of worship during the early 15th century, when they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Lud's Church may have been named after Walter de Lud-Auk who was captured here at one of their meetings.
It is also believed by some to be the “Greene Chapel” of the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
The Roaches (from the French les roches - the rocks) are the central part of a prominent curving rocky ridge above Leek and Tittesworth Reservoir, which extends for 6 kilometres from Hen Cloud in the south to Back Forest and Hanging Stone in the northwest. The rock formations of the Roaches rise steeply to 505m, and along with the adjacent Ramshaw Rocks and Hen Cloud they form a gritstone escarpment popular with walkers, rock climbers and fell runners. They are formed from a thick bed of coarse sandstone ('gritstone'), which occurs widely across the Peak District and takes its name, the Roaches Grit, from this location.
In clear conditions, views stretch out over much of Cheshire to as far away as Snowdon and Winter Hill/Lancs.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
Aug-21 Thomas G
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk