I still cant remember where I first heard about the Gritstone trail.
It was a while ago, and Tony and I were really keen to do it. Its roughly a 3 day trip, and the problem was originally with the cost of the accommodation. At the time, money was tight (as it always is I supposed) and £110 for a room for just one night, moved the overall cost, outside our price range.
So, we put it off for a while, and did other things.
By complete co-incidence, my friend Lyndsay actually lives in the village of Rainow, and the walk passes through there. She gave me a shout, that a new pub had opened, and they were doing a twin room for 1 night, with breakfast, for £50.
If we could do the first 2 days of the walk, and do the 3rd another time, so we’d only need train-fare, £25 each and money for food and ale (and we’d get to meet up with Lyndsay and finally see her village).
All systems go…
We meet up and Manchester Piccadily railway station (one of my favourite railway stations, and featured in 19 things I like).
The idea, is to get the train to Disley, walk to Rainow, stay over, walk to Congleton and then get the train back to Manchester Piccadily. Annoyingly, its one of those trains where they only do day returns, so I had to get 2 singles, which I thought was very expensive.
As we got on the train, at 8am on a Saturday morning, a “right on” couple were there with their 2 children. One of the children started crying, and the parents decided to raise the child’s spirits, by singing. They were actually singing so loudly, that they made more noise than the child and proceeded to take over the carriage !.
As we leave the train, we wander along. The weather is absolutely fantastic, and I’m really enjoying the trail, and catching up with Tony (I mean hearing about what’s been happening, not physically catching him, he’s not that fit !)
Hot on the heels of his 2004 production, bathrooms around the world, Tony began work on his latest installation. It has no title at the moment, but seemed to me to involve photographing just about every sign that we came to, no matter how relevant (or completely irrelevant).
We wander into the entrance of Lyme park. I think the last time I was here, I was 19 doing orienteering with Fairbridge Drake.
We wander passed Lyme park hall. I was surprised to hear, that this is the largest house in Cheshire.
Outside, there’s a sign that says coffee served in the National Trust cafe from 10:30am. Inside it appears to be closed, even thought its 10:40. We see someone from the National Trust, and ask him about it. He says “it opens at 11” then turns his back on us and walks away. I couldn’t help wondering if his bosses (trying to run a charity, in the worst recession for 80 years) knew he was treating paying customers (and members of the national trust, who pay monthly by direct debit, in my case) this way.
One odd thing about me. I have many cupboards in my house, but I never leave the house, if one of them is open.
Obsessive compulsive ?.
I don’t agree, I just don’t like things left undone or hanging in the air. In this case, I cancelled my direct debit, and emailed the subscription department to tell them why.
We walk further, and after about a mile, realise we’ve gone the wrong way. This is happened to us before, and we’ve always tried to push forward, and rejoin the route. It never seems to work, and with the benefit of our experience, we simply walk back a mile, and pick up the correct trail.
Walking farther, we arrive at Bollington. There are a couple of nice pubs here, so we pick one, and then text Lyndsay, to tell her where were going to meet.
Overlooking the town, is White Nancy (don’t make the mistake I did and call it The White Nancy. The locals will all think your an arse). It was originally built to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo (or I think more accurately, to commemorate the British victory there, it would be pretty pointless if we’d been trounced by the French and then started celebrating it with monuments !).
it at the top of an enormous hill. Tony decides that instead of taking the path that “snakes” up the hill, were going to walk up it in the straight line. Due to his excellent fitness, he is of course able to dance up there, whistling as he goes, while I gasp for breath.
Once on top, there are spectacular views all around, and we see that wn has been painted up for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Back down the hill, we get lost (I know you must be wondering how on earth that can happen, but once your back in the built up part with houses and factories, its pretty easy to do). A local woman, laughs when we tell here were lost (she looks at our expensive boots, walking clothes and trekking poles as she does this).
I bite my tongue, thank her for her help, and head to the pub, to meet Lyndsay.
We find a friendly pub called the Cotton Tree in Bollington which has recently been done up. We sit there for a couple of hours chatting about various things. I always consider myself lucky, that I have interesting friends, and they all seem to get on with one another.
Lyndsay fascinates us, with stories of her trip to Kilimanjaro, which Tony has been itching to do for ages.
Its a beautiful day, and we’ve don’t some great walking, talking and drinking. Its time to head back to Rainow, and Lyndsay leads us up a country lane, she regularly jogs up and down during the evening.
Rainow really is a beautiful village.
I can imagine a place that small could get you down a bit, with everyone knowing your business all the time, but in balance, its practically crime free, I didn’t see any litter, and everyone I met was friendly and helpful (looking back, it reminds me of the green and pleasant land reference in the Olympic opening ceremony).
They have a competition each year, to design the best scarecrow, which a changing theme each year. This year the theme was obviously the Olympics, and we saw some of the “creations” as we walked back to Lyndsays house for dinner. Apparently, the winner gets £50, so it would be well worth the effort to the winner.
We go to the Robbin hood pub, and get the keys to our room. Its spotlessly clean, and very tidy (2 unwittingly destroy the 2nd of those traits within a few minutes of arriving).
Boots off, trainers on. Good wash, and a clean shirt, and were set for the evening.
We wander over to Lyndsay house. Its a cottage made of local Gritstone. Lyndsay has beers, and we eat Chilli (her own recipe).
I have a really good time, and am later accused by Tony, of constantly talking about work.
Folloowed up with Sticky Toffee pudding, for desert, were setup for the evening.
I ask what time they do breakfast the next day. Obviously I want to take time and enjoy the walk the next day, but the train from Congleton is the problem. There’s a train at 4pm, and then the next 1 is at 7pm. I really want to make the 4pm train if I can.
They say simply, that the Chef works 7 days a week, so on Sunday, breakfast is served from 9:30. Im usualy up early, but on this occasion, I’ll have a lie in bed, with no guilt.
We get a couple of pints, and are introduced to a chap at the bar, who’s wife used to teach Lyndsay at school. Tony and I get talking to him, and he knows the area really well, having previously been a park ranger.
Just as well, every time someone under 35 walks in the pub, they hug or kiss Lyndsay and as here what she’s been doing, so she’s monopolised for most of the evening (but no matter, these are old friends, not like the hangers on, that frequent my favourite pubs).
Its been a long day, so time for bed. Brilliantly, because its such a safe area, we dont have to walk Lyndsay home (although obviously we offer).
Tony some sh*te on the tv, but I turn it off (to my mind, its like taking heroin away from an adict, and done for his own good).
In the morning, we sit down for breakfast and its certainly worth it. I cant remember 5 English breakfasts that good, in the last 10 years.
We return to the trail, and wander up a steep hill, bidding rainow fair-well (mobile coverage is terrible here, so Lyndsay doesn’t get out great-full thanks for another few hours).
We head onwards to the Teggs nose country park (takes its name from an early Norse settlement).
I end up asking directions from some mountain rescue people on exercise. I’m surprised when they ask to see my map.
Turns out, there actually from Derbyshire. We have a bit of a chat, and they show us their radio and other equipment. Just like the lifeboat crew I mentioned in Tenby, I have nothing but admiration for these people. If you have an extra cash, please consider contributing here.
More windy paths, and then we walk through some forests.
Beyond here, we wander along several open fields. the weather throughout was fantastic.
Time is agains us now, so we cut short part of the walk up onto a high hill and head for Congleton.
Tragicaly, we arrive about 20 minutes too late, and spend the next 3 hours in the pub waiting for the next one.
Back home by 10 oclock, and this leg of the walk complete. Only 1 day of the Gritstone trail left before we can actualy say we’ve done it.
A quick thanks to Lynday for looking after us, and Tony as always for his willing companionship.