To Church Before Christmas (17/12/2011)
Twelve intrepid souls braved the snow - and threat of road closures - to meet up at Blaze Farm in Allgreave. Once we got going, Roger first took us down the farm track (icy concrete - lovely!) to the green lane above the Clough Brook, which we followed towards Wildboarclough, turning off just before the village to head back uphill. Crossing the A54 below Heild End Farm, we took the moorland track between Midgley & Tagsclough Hills. Crossing the lane at Burntcliff Top, we then dropped steeply downhill (John doing an impromptu luge on the way), to cross the Dane into Staffordshire by Gradbach Mill Youth Hostel.
Following the riverside path west, we soon crossed the Black Brook into Forest Wood; climbing up to Castle Rocks, we stopped for coffee (plus Ingredient X). A party of Venture Scouts arrived, but we already had possession of the castle, so they set up their Blokka bags to shelter in, while we watched bemused - it wasn't actually snowing at this point.
Refreshed, we then took a short switchback up to Lud's Church, the atmospheric chasm in the hillside of Back Forest, named after the Lollard dissenters of the fifteenth century who used to meet there, although the name is possibly much older, commemorating the ancient British god Lud. It is almost certainly the "Green Chapel" of Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, the oldest of the Arthurian legends. Returning past Castle Rocks, we gradualy climbed to the ridge-line, dropping down the other side past the Hanging Stone, through the woods to reach Danebridge.
Crossing back into Cheshire, past the Ship Inn, where some of us had enjoyed a pint a couple of weeks earlier, we then took to the field path past Barthomley Farm, continuing high above the Dane to emerge at the A54 once more, across the valley from Allgreave. Continuing along the lane, we said goodbye to Peter below Hammerton Knowl; he had started his day's walking at Trentabank, and was returning there, via Shutlingsloe. The rest of us crossed over the Clough Brook to the green lane and back up the concrete track to Blaze Farm. Here, joined by Avril, Carol & Dot, we all sat down to a very good Christmas meal. Generous portions of first-rate food, excellent service, superb value for money; the ice cream & other desserts were particularly outstanding. It's probably best to glosss over the christmas cracker plastic frogs that kept flying across the table (you can't take some people anywhere...). We were all feeling quite stuffed as we left.
Many thanks to Roger for organising; sorry that there were a few problems before we actually set out. Thanks to all for coming - weren't the views good as headed home in the late afternoon. If you haven't tried Blaze Farm before then give it a go, even if it's only for the home made ice-cream.
John & Steve
Photos: Duncan & Roger