Hello people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here reporting on a hike from the Goyt Valley in the Peak District. With lockdown restrictions partially lifted we were permitted to travel a bit further for our exercise. We were still restricting ourselves to Cheshire and the edges of the Peak District, closest to our home. The Goyt Valley is a hiker’s paradise. It is criss-crossed with footpaths that take in the hills, valleys and watercourses in this pretty area of the Peaks. It took us almost an hour to reach Errwood Reservoir car park and we arrived as spaces were rapidly being taken. It’s a popular area in normal times and even more so as so many people are still not working, due to the pandemic. The morning was cloudy and muggy but, the temperature was forecast to rise as the day progressed. So, we set off early and arrived at our parking place by 0915.
The Goyt Valley, formed by the River Goyt, is on the border of Cheshire and Derbyshire, between Macclesfield and Buxton. Its source is on Axe Edge Moor with the river feeding two reservoirs in the valley, the Errwood and the Fernilee. We had parked in the Errwood Reservoir car park, which is at the side of The Street, a roman road, which runs along side both reservoirs. The reservoirs were constructed to supply the Stockport area with drinking water. Fernilee reservoir was completed in 1938, after the village of Goyt’s Bridge was flooded and the nearby Errwood Hall was demolished to, allegedly, prevent pollution of the water. Errwood reservoir was completed in 1967 to increase the availability of water to the area. The Errwood Sailing Club have their base on the opposite bank of the reservoir.
The reservoir water levels were very low when we visited but, the local anglers were out in their numbers, fishing at the water side. We walked along The Street, a Roman road, until we crossed Shooter’s Clough Bridge and entered Errwood Hall car park, on our right. My dad stopped for a few minutes to read the information board in the car park, as he always does. He decided to have a mooch around Errwood Hall ruins while we were close by it, because, initially, we were going to visit it at the end of our trip but, the number of people arriving in the car park indicated that it would be busy later in the day.
After meeting a person with three large hounds, my dad put me on my lead for a short distance. We walked along the footpath, alongside the stream running down Shooter’s Clough, for a short distance, until we arrived at a stream crossing. I had no hesitation in jumping into the cool running water. Oh, it was good!
A few hundred yards along the track we came to the entrance to Errwood Hall. The hall was built for the wealthy Grimshawe family, Manchester merchants, in 1840. It was a large and beautiful country house with amazing views in the Goyt Valley but, it only stood for 100 years due to being demolished in 1934. The ruins consist of one or two wall fragments, steps and foundation stones. It is easy to imagine its former grandeur as you walk around the site. Allegedly, the gamekeeper shot and killed a burglar in the hall in 1847. The ruins are said to be haunted and possibly not the best place to spend an overnight wild camp!
My human decided, at this point, to trust me to hike off-lead again. I was wearing a GPS tracker in case I decided to ‘do one’. So, it was squirrel and bird hunting for me, not that I ever catch any. Perhaps I need to go on a course. I stay close to my dad nowadays, so he doesn’t panic too much. He puts me back on my lead if he feels unsure about what I am up to or if he decides that it is too dangerous. I don’t know why he worries because I am not going anywhere. I have got it cushy and he would be under my thumb, if I had one!
On leaving the hall we continued uphill along the forest track. We turned left to follow the path marked ‘Stakeside’, at a crossing of footpaths, as we entered a clearing. The path took us uphill through the deciduous woodland and after a couple of ‘Z’ turns we passed through a gate onto Stakeside. The path led gently uphill, alongside a tall drystone wall, with spectacular views across the moors and back into the valley to Errwood reservoir. The wind was in our faces as we hiked the mile to our next waypoint but, it was refreshing as the temperature was rising. My dad laughed at me as my ears were flapping in the wind. A bit rude of him I thought. I didn’t laugh at him as his rucksack became caught on a kissing gate earlier and he had to take it off while two other hikers patiently waited for him.
As we reached the crest of a hill, we could see the Cat and Fiddle pub across the moorland with the cars and motorbikes zooming past on the Buxton Road. We turned left, through a gate at a signpost pointing to Shining Tor. It was a well defined stone covered path with a plastic mesh underlayer to prevent erosion by the thousands of boots that tramp along it. It felt spongy and my dad said that it was like walking along a shag pile carpet, whatever that means!
On our left, over a drystone wall, we had great views of Shutlingsloe in the distance. I have to admit that I was more interested in the birds that were flying just above the sea of cotton grass. After half a mile of a gently rising footpath we reached the summit of Shining Tor, the highest point in Cheshire at 559 metres tall. From the summit we could see the city of Manchester, the Cheshire Plain, North Wales hills and over the Derbyshire Peak District. Shutlingsloe pointed to the sky a few miles away while and the radio mast on Croker Hill was visible over the gritstone outcrops. After a short break, for a drink of water, we moved on along the ridge toward Cat’s Tor.
The path to Cat’s Tor had been laid with large stone slabs to form a pavement of sorts to prevent erosion. The surface makes for an easy walk but, I still managed to take the odd detour through peaty puddles and streams. The summit is at 552 metres above sea level and shares similar views to Shining Tor. A few yards away from the highest point, in the shelter of a drystone wall, we stopped for a while to eat our lunch. I was hungry and scoffed all of my food before I stared in anticipation as my dad ate his sandwiches, banana, Mars Bar, Twix etc. This big boy can eat for England and did he share his feast? Well, I did manage to scrounge some scraps.
We met a few other hikers as we set off toward Pym’s Chair as this is close to a road with a car park. Pym’s Chair was named, as legend states, either after a Highwayman or a preacher who gave sermons from this point. We could see Windgather Rocks in the near distance, a popular climbing area. Nowadays, Pym’s Hill is a popular place for day hikers and cyclists who want to test themselves on The Street. My dad told me about how he has climbed this hill on his bike years ago. It must have been quite difficult on a Penny Farthing. Ha!
The next section of our hike would take us along the footpath that runs parallel and alongside The Street. This was a gradual downhill walk until we turned right off the road toward St. Joseph’s Shrine. The small round building is nestled in the pine trees behind Errwood Hall. The building houses a small shrine of Spanish mosaic tiles dedicated to St. Joseph. It was built in 1889 in memory of Dolores, who taught at the private school owned by the Grimshawes. We didn’t attempt to enter the building because my dad had seen a YouTube video where the oak door was locked but, on returning home, he discovered that it is unlocked. Ah well!
From the shrine we could have walked through the woods back to the reservoir but, we decided to return to The Street and to follow this route to the car. The day was heating up rapidly by this point so, we quickly dropped down the hill, in the shade of the trees, to the car. My dad had intended to drop his rucksack off at the car and to walk around Fernilee Reservoir but, as the day was a hot one, we thought that it would be more sensible to save that for another day. Maybe a winter walk with snow on the ground instead of melting tarmac.
The drive out of the valley gave us the opportunity to spy some hiking routes for the future. It is a very picturesque road climb to the Cat and Fiddle but, we were amazed at the throngs of people who had come to visit the area. Our next visit will probably be when the majority of people have returned to work and when the weather isn’t so glorious. It was a perfect hike in a picturesque part of the Peak District. Till next time!