Tuesday 3 July 2012

On the Edge of the Peak District - A Circuit from New Mills

Distance: 32km; Ascent: 800m; mainly dry and overcast; Solo

With the Saunders now less than a week away, I decided that I should really get out for a long walk as it had been 4 weeks since my last hill-walk!  I had negotiated the day off from work and all I needed now was a plan.  With the forecast not sounding particularly pleasant for the high ground, I settled on a varied circuit from New Mills that would take in the Millennium Walkway, Lantern Pike, Coombes Edge, Werneth Low, Etherow Country Park and the Peak Forest canal; a significant amount of this would be new ground for me, which is always good!

Therefore I was up early today in time to catch the 7:02am train, which after 20 minutes or so deposited me at New Mills Newtown station.  I wandered down to a bridge over the River Goyt to reach the Millennium Walkway, which as its name suggests was opened in 2000 to provide a footpath link to The Torrs, suspended high above the river.

New Mills Millennium Walkway
I soon reached The Torrs, where there is one of the few outdoor climbing crags that stays dry in the rain (as it's underneath a road bridge!).  At the confluence of the rivers Sett and Goyt it was interesting to see that a small hydroelectric plant had been built since my last visit several years ago.  According to the information sign, Torrs Hydro as it is called is the first community owned and funded hydroelectric scheme.  It uses an Archimedes screw, nicknamed Archie, to generate the electricity and apparently it has generated 520,000 kWh of electricity since starting operation in September 2008.

Archie the Archimedean screw (inside the cage) at Torrs Hydro, New Mills
I continued to follow the path down the left bank of the River Goyt to reach the start of the Sett Valley Trail, a disused railway line that runs to Hayfield at the foot of the western slopes of Kinder Scout.  I followed it around two-thirds of the way to Hayfield before branching off left to follow the Pennine Bridleway as it ascended up the hillside on the north side of the valley.  After some steepness I reached the summit of Lantern Pike, from where the views were excellent!

Viewfinder on the summit of Lantern Pike
Just as I was about to leave Lantern Pike the sun broke through for the first time today and it remained sunny for much of the next hour of so as I followed the Pennine Bridleway northwards before cutting off left to reach Cown Edge and the start of another section of access land. 

Entering access land
Now I decided that it would be nice to walk along the top of Coombes Edge and given I was on access land I thought nothing about cutting across the moorland to reach it.  However when I did I found a barbed wire fenced barring me from accessing the path and I hence walked parallel to the path for a while hoping that I might find a crossing point.  I soon came to a fence junction, but all three fences were topped with barbed wire with no obvious crossing point and checking my map confirmed that every side of the three fences was since access land!  Having noticed that the second fence was incomplete in a couple of places all I had to do now was cross the first fence.  Remembering Alan's encounter with barbed wire a couple of years ago, I very carefully stepped over the fence at a lowish point and soon was on the path with no barbed wire related injuries to show for it :)

Coombes Edge
The path along Coombes Edge was pleasant with contrasting views north towards the Black Hill and Chew Valley moors and west towards the urban conurbation of Greater Manchester.  After following the edge to its end I descended on good paths surrounded by wild flowers to reach Charlesworth where there was a strange scarecrow in fancy dress outside the Methodist Church.  Now I've seen scarecrows in fancy dress before at the Kettlewell scarecrow festival but this one appeared to be all on its lonesome.

Wild flowers on the way to Charlesworth
A strange scarecrow in Charlesworth
After following the busy A626 for just over a kilometre, I turned right down a narrow lane followed by a steep woodland descent to reach a footbridge over the River Etherow.  Once on the far side, I began my final ascent of the day up through Back Wood to reach Werneth Low Country Park.  I've been here a couple of times before for pleasant strolls with good views of the West Pennine Moors and the Peak District; however today the rain threatened and I decided not to linger.  So, after a quick visit to the summit of Werneth Low / Idle Hill (HuMP), I picked up a good bridleway heading for Compstall.

Werneth Low
Summit of Idle Hill / Werneth Low
Soon it began to rain for the first time, but it only really drizzled for 15 minutes so I didn't bother with waterproofs.  And anyway it was one of those days when it was quite humid and I'd probably end up just as wet if I donned waterproofs!  After picking up a permissive footpath I soon reached Etherow Country Park and descended to reach the River Etherow for the second time today.

Weir on the River Etherow
After wandering alongside the river and lakes I reached the main road at Compstall, but luckily my onward route only involved a couple of hundred metres of road walking.  I picked up the Midshires Way, which I followed down to an Iron Bridge over the River Goyt, which was possibly the first cast iron bridge in the north-west when it was built in 1813 and apparently it is now of national importance as the only remaining iron bridge of its type in the north-west.

Brabyns Park Iron Bridge
After crossing Brabyns Park in the gathering gloom (although the rain never materialised), I picked a way up through the woods to reach the Peak Forest Canal just before it crossed the railway.  The section through Marple was quite impressive with a flight of 16 locks (although I had already missed the first four).  At the southern end of the locks I reached the junction with the Macclesfield canal on the edge of Marple.

Peak Forest Canal on southern edge of Marple
The trains back from New Mills only ran every hour and after consulting the map and the timetable I concluded that I could probably make the 15:50 train if I got a move on!  Therefore I walked quickly along the towpath of the Peak Forest Canal, with hardly any photo stops, and the tactic worked but only just as I only arrived on the right platform just as the train approached!  It had been a good and quite varied walk and I had managed it all without having to put waterproofs on, which was quite impressive given the weather forecast!


  1. Interesting walk.

    And interesting comments about access land. Of course this is one of the issues about making full use of this new (ish) resource - it isn't always possible to know whether a route picked from a map is passable on the ground. As far as I know there is no obligation on anyone to ensure that there is - there is only trial and error on the part of the walker. Obviously there has to be some point of access into/out of the access land, but nothing beyond that. It's one of the challeges facing the "off-piste" walker! :-)

    1. Thanks for your useful comment. I suspected that this was the case with fences on access land, but it is still slightly annoying especially as the fence looked to have been replaced pretty recently. Oh well, at least it wasn't an electric deer fence :)

      And I still had an excellent day's walk :)

  2. I've also had similar access land issues around Hayfield, but it still sounds as if you had a decent day out.....

    1. Yes I still managed to have a good day out, although I wish I hadn't tried to cut the corner as I wouldn't then have had the fence issues! But not to worry, I shall remember next time I am in the area...