Croker Hill and the Dane Valley (04/12/2011)
Most of us left home in heavy rain so we were pleased to find the weather at Langley cloudy but dry. Eight of us started the walk and the same number finished - Lewis and Linda, Julie and Tracey (all new members), Quentin, John, Duncan and myself.
Passing the first of four pubs, St Dunstan's Inn, we made our way out of Langley via Cock Hall Lane and Ridge Hill. We met the first of several muddy patches after Ridge Hall Farm but then found the Gritstone Trail had been improved by Foxbank Farm. It's a steady climb onto the ridge and Croker Hill where we were met by strong winds but fortunately the rain continued to hold off.
We stayed on the Gritstone Trail to cross the A54 and onto Wincle Minn, where we had splendid views over the Cheshire Plain. We then descended into Greasley Hollow on a path that was apparently new to most. The track took us past the deserted farm Mareknowles where we stopped for elevenses well sheltered from the wind. After crossing Shell Brook we encountered a small herd of black cattle who had done a very effective job of turning the track into a muddy quagmire. Just after Nettlebeds Farm I was emulating the Duke of Plaza-Toro who led his troops from behind:
In enterprise of martial kind,
When there was any fighting,
He led his regiment from behind
(He found it less exciting).
Meanwhile, an advance party (naming no names) took us on the FP to Whitelee Farm, missing out on the slippery path to Barleigh Ford that I had planned to use. This unplanned diversion knocked nearly a mile from the route, but, given the weather that hit us after lunch, I don't think anyone was complaining! Instead we walked a pleasant (unmuddy) route (not one I had recce’d) that delivered us to the footbridge over the Dane.
The Dane Valley was as picturesque as ever and the beer at the Ship (in Wincle) was also welcomed by most of the party. The first drops of rain came as we put away our packed lunches, but the rain began in earnest from 1.15pm as we climbed out of the valley above Bartomley Farm. From then on, through Hammerton Farm, passing our third pub the Wild Boar, through Longutter and over Brown Hill, the rain, driven by a cold wind, battered us all the way.
Shunning the easy route on the ridge, we walked down Withenshaw Lane as far as the stand of beech where we took the right FP via High Lee Farm where we encountered more mud! The fourth pub on the route was the Hanging Gate. We resisted the temptation to enter and ploughed on via the Gritstone Trail going north to Langley via Lees House Farm and Greenbarn. Somewhat bedraggled, we reached the cars at just after 3pm.
I hope our new members enjoyed the walk, despite the rain after lunch and that we will see them all again on South Manchester group walks in the New Year.
(13.5 miles; 2,100 ft ascent)
Sunday was not the best of days for photography; Duncan was only able to offer this one (click to enlarge):