…although it kind of should be to be discussing it on this reflector. I’ll explain my justification later.
I had a clear day yesterday. I did fancy a long walk. I did not fancy a long, or even a medium drive. In all honesty, I didn’t really fancy any radio. I nearly went without one of any sort, but at the last second, went back into the house to grab my VHF/UHF handheld. I was glad I did!
I walked 2 miles into Macclesfield town centre, then took the bus to Buxton. I then took the bus towards Leek and Stoke-on-Trent, but alighted at the Winking Man pub, close to the popular IO93ad contesting spot (Merryton Low).
The first part of the walk was along the A53 towards Leek, face-first into driving rain and my first soaking of the day! I crossed the road and took the public footpath up the field behind the Ramshaw Rocks. This eventually led to the south end of The Roaches. I then walked the full length of The Roaches, which is G/HSP-026 in the HEMA programme. I paused at the trig point to call CQ and made 3 contacts. One of these was Paul M0CQE, a regular SOTA chaser of mine. I encouraged him to find the HEMA database on the internet and log this, and his previous HEMA contacts.
Dropping off The Roaches at its north end (the usual car parking spot), I then ventured onto new territory. Crossing over the road, and continuing in a straight line led me onto a fabulous long ridge that I had never walked before. I couldn’t believe it - all those thousands of miles driving to Snowdonia or the Lake District, and here was a stunning ridge walk on my doorstep!
This dropped me into Danebridge, home of the Wincle Brewery, trout farm and the Ship Inn. I went into the latter for a pint - I was absolutely exhausted! The rest and refreshment was entirely necessary though, for there was now a very steep ascent of Wincle Minn to negotiate. Once on the Minn, it seemed a much longer ridge than I ever remembered. Possibly because it is usually done in a car - there is a public road right across its summit.
At least the saddle between the Minn and Croker Hill (Sutton Common) was quite lofty and so reaching the telecommunications tower was not difficult. Here I stopped for “lunch” even though it was teatime! Soup of the day was Baxters Mushroom Veloute. Not had this one before, but it was absolutely delicious.
Coming down off Croker Hill on the PROW through Croker Farm was “interesting”. I got charged at by cattle - twice - managing to escape to the other side of a cattle grid both times. Not what you want on a public footpath even so!
So what about the SOTA link? Well earlier I had the pleasure of a chat with Paul M0CQE, a keen SOTA chaser who I have got to know through SOTA. Now, my phone had run out of charge and I needed to contact home to update them - and arrange a lift, as I didn’t think I’d manage walking back into town and then home as originally intended. I called on 2m and got a reply from another SOTA chaser - Pete 2E0LKC. Through that contact I got Pete’s YL Ann 2E0LMD to email Jimmy and ask him to come on 145.575MHz FM. He did, eventually, and although he couldn’t hear me, Pete QSP’d the messages to him and my lift home was arranged! So it wasn’t SOTA today, but the SOTA community and SOTA spirit was more than useful.
It was also a sharp reminder that you could be missing out on some spectacular local walking by focusing entirely on SOTA, something I have been very guilty of over the years.
Anyway, the plan had been to walk the canal towpath from here back into Macclesfield. Marianne was picking me up at 8.30pm from the Old King’s Head at Gurnett, which is right by the canal. But the canal takes a very meandering route between the two points - whereas Leek Old Road was virtually a straight line. Although the 2 miles of road walking would be less enjoyable than the 3 miles of canal walking, I figured that the former would give me the chance of a pint before 8.30pm (Pete had relayed the message back that Marianne wasn’t coming in for a drink!)
As it was, I downed 2 pints in that 8 minutes of slack time before Maz arrived.
So it doesn’t HAVE to be SOTA. And yesterday wasn’t - strictly speaking. But it was inspired by SOTA, enabled by skills developed because of SOTA, supported in more ways than one by SOTA chasers and combined radio and hillwalking effectively. And it was a lot better for the environment! At some point I’ll try and work out the distance and height gain of the route - but it was a beast - and a classic.